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Zhongshan 'saltwater' song

(chinaculture.org/chinadaily.com.cn) Update:2018-12-21

For people from Zhongshan, Guangdong province, the sound of Xianshui is unforgettable. Literally meaning "saltwater", Xianshui is a traditional style of folk music found along the Pearl River, especially in the Tanzhou region.

The region's original inhabitants were mainly boatmen who migrated along the Pearl River and later began farming. People in Zhongshan would sing while they worked either on the land or the water, and their songs eventually gave birth to Xianshui.

Before or after the busy farming season, farmers used to set up a stage and hold singing competitions. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, they would even create a ring of boats in the center of the river on which to hold their singing contests.

However, with the rapid economic development of the Pearl River Delta region, ancient ways of life and the culture associated with them are gradually fading away. There are now fewer than 10 Xianshui singers left in the world, and many of them are over 60 years old.

But in recent years, the local Tanzhou government has started to take the preservation of Xianshui seriously.

Since 2006, primary school music students in Guangdong has been able to study Xianshui after Tanzhou recorded several Xianshui songs and published them as teaching materials.