Húlúsī (葫芦丝): A Chinese Musical Instrument

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Sunday, 26 July 2009 0 comments

The húlúsī (葫芦丝) is a Chinese flute like instrument made from the gourd of the cucurbit plant. The hulusi is so named from húlú; a gourd and sī meaning silk.

This instrument is made of up to four bamboo pipes, which include brass or silver reeds, and is enclosed by a wind chamber. The Dai people also know the hulusi as the bilangdao. Often only one bamboo pipe will be used for the drone, whilst one is just for ornamental value.

The hulusi sounds similar to a clarinet and is often described as “hauntingly beautiful”. The soft tone makes it an ideal solo instrument, and is often used to accompany a singing voice.

The hulusi was originally used primarily in the Yunnan province by the Dai and other non-Han ethnic groups but is now played throughout China, and hulusi are manufactured in northern cities such as Tianjin.

There's a touching legend about the cucurbit flute among the Dai people. It is said that in the remote past, a young man of the Dai minority saved his sweetheart from a mountain flood by holding a big bottle gourd and rushing through the turbulent waves. His unswerving loyalty to love touched the Buddha, who inserted bamboo pipes into a gold bottle gourd and gave it to the brave man.

Holding up the gold bottle gourd, the man played beautiful music. All of a sudden, the torrential flood retreated, flowers came out and peacocks were spreading their tails. All things on earth seemed to be sending their good wishes to the lovers. Ever since then, the hulusi has been passed down from generation to generation among the Dai people.

The Dai people are versatile and skilled in singing and dancing. During festivals, they sing songs to the accompaniment of intoxicating hulusi tunes and the music can be heard everywhere. Popular hulusi pieces include Phoenix Tail Bamboo Under Moonlight & Deep within a Bamboo Forest. I include some examples below for you.

Photo Sources:

Flickr: mtbl
Flickr: laurajcole

20 Things not to do with Chopsticks

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin 4 comments

This is a quick guide through the minefield that can be using chopsticks. This is a beginers guide to learning the do's and don'ts of Chinese chopstick etiquette. There are many types of Chopsticks which range from disposable wooden ones at Chinese take-aways and restaurants, Re-usable Bamboo Chopsticks right through to the higher standard, though harder to use Porcelain Chopsticks. You could also buy an entire chopstick set to get you started. The choice is yours, however the etiquette is fairly standard.

"Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything." Mr. Miyagi

So here is Discovering Mandarins 20 Things not to do with Chopsticks:

Do not stick your chopsticks into your rice straight down. It resembles the incense that family members burn to mourn a dead relative. It also resembles an offering which is placed on the alter at an ancestral shrine.

2: Do not cross your chopsticks. In Chinese cultures, this is a symbol for death. Always lay them parallel to each other. When possible use Chopstick Rests .

Do not give food from your chopsticks directly to somebody other's chopsticks. Only at Buddhist funerals where the bones of the burned body are given in that way from person to person. Instead, place the food on an intermediary plate, preferably using a serving utensil or, if none is provided, turn your chopsticks around so the ends that have not been in your mouth touch the food, then give the plate to whomever.

4: Do not pick your teeth with your chopsticks, even if there is no toothpick where you dine. If you must pick your teeth in public, cover your mouth as it is seen as rude.

Chinese etiquette says that you may lift your personal rice bowl close to your mouth with one hand, as you use the chopsticks to push the rice into your mouth.

Do not hit the bowl or plate with your chopsticks. It was what beggars did in ancient China.

Do not point at people with your chopsticks, especially elders, or people of higher status than you.

Do not stick out fingers whilst using chopsticks, as a continuation of the rule above. It is considered rude to stick out our fingers whilst eating.

Do not rub chopsticks together. This is indicative of cheap chopsticks that splinter and is offending.

It is bad manners to wave your chopsticks around aimlessly over the food, trying to decide what to take next.

“Chopsticks are one of the reasons the Chinese never invented custard” Spike Milligan

11: Do not dig under food to get the best pieces. It is also considered bad manners to change the food you have selected after you have touched the food.

12: It is bad manners to spear food with the points of the chopsticks as if they were a fork.

13: It is bad manners to pull the dishes towards you using the chopsticks. Always pick the dishes up or move them by hand.

14: Do not lick, suck or nibble the ends of chopsticks.

15: Do not reach across another person with your chopsticks.

16: Do not eat food directly from the central plate; transfer it to your bowl first.

17: Do not eat with a broken or mismatched pair of chopsticks. If one chopstick does break or cannot be eaten with, take a new pair, not just one to replace it. The Chinese are very superstitious and like things in pairs.

18: Also do not use chopsticks as drumsticks, similar to the rule above, Chinese believe all good things come in twos. Therefore, by separating chopsticks between hands you are disturbing the peace.

19: Do not use chopsticks as hair accessories. The hair accessories are completely different from chopsticks meant for eating. You would look silly with an ornamental fork stuck in your hair...

20: Do not duel with chopsticks; again, they are for eating, and not fighting.

So you best get practising with your chopsticks and your newly learnt etiquette rules. Best of Luck and most of all enjoy your new chopstick eating experience.

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