Ten best-known ancient Chinese melodies

The following are some of the most famous melodies from the Middle Kingdom. Each piece of the music has a story behind it, and thus forming a specific aesthetic and spiritual enjoyment. Begin this journey and immerse yourself in the unique charm of traditional Chinese music and instruments.

Please note that this list is not exclusive or academic, and the tunes are selected by its popularity.

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Mei Hua San Nong

There are three overtones that are repeated on three different sections of the Guqin instrument, hence the name of Mei Hua San Nong (three overtones of clubs).

By singing the pureness, fragrance, pride and fortitude of clubs, this tune praises people of great nobility and high ethics. The first half is relatively slow and relaxed, demonstrating the composure and static beauty of the flower; while the latter half is more rapid and hurried, depicting the tenacity of the plant. The violent contrast between the two parts adds to the attractiveness of the tune.

Shi Mian Mai Fu

Shi Mian Mai Fu, or ambushes on all sides, is a large-scale Pipa tune based on a historical story. There is still no agreement about when the tune was composed, but historical records show that it should be no later than the Tang Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago.

Ambushes on all sides describe the Gaixia War in 202 BC, in which Xiang Yu’s army fell into the ambushes on Liu Bang’s troops. Xiang Yu, who was defeated and killed himself, was still considered as a hero by many. This tune is a representative of Pipa songs.

Xi Yang Xiao Gu

The name of Xi Yang Xiao Gu literally means "desolate drum at the sunset," yet it is a representative ancient Pipa melody. The tune was adopted and renamed to "the moon night of spring river and flowers" around 1925 by Shanghai Datong Music Society, which integrates various static and moving scenes, contributing to the colorfulness of the music. The poetic landscape expressed in the acoustic way usually fascinates the listeners.

Yu Qiao Wen Da

Dialogue between a fisherman and an woodman. There are more than 30 versions of this tune, and some of them even came with lyrics. The current music score was from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The music describes the Q&A-style dialogue, in which a rising tone indicates a question, while a falling tone an answer.

Windows Media Player is required for playing all the music here.