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Musical Instruments
(L to R) Li Lingting and Mo Ming, a <i>lusheng</i> player and maker, pose in their village in Leishan County, Guizhou Province, 2014.
(L to R) Li Lingting and Mo Ming, a lusheng player and maker, pose in their village in Leishan County, Guizhou Province, 2014.
Photo by Josh Eli Cogan, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution
“There are more than 40 procedures involved in making a lusheng, from harvesting the bamboo from the forest, to making the instrument sound.” —Mo Yanxue, master lusheng builder/father of Mo Ming, Festival participant

The polyphonic strains of the lusheng are common accompaniments to rituals, festivals, and dances of several ethnic communities in southwest China. The lusheng is a mouth organ made of bamboo pipes—each fitted with a metal reed—that are connected to a blowing tube made of hardwood. The instrument can be as short as four inches or as long as 20 feet. A professional model can have more than twenty pipes. In Miao communities, the lusheng (called qeeg in their language) is a “talking instrument” whose musical tones mimic the tones of speech. It is also considered an important means for communicating with the divine and deceased.


Mo Ming莫铭 is a musician and fifth-generation lusheng mouth organ maker from Paika, a village in Guizhou Province that is famous for lusheng making. He majored in lusheng performance at Guizhou University and has helped innovate on the traditional design of the instrument by combining stainless steel and bamboo. His uncle, Mo Yanxue, is a recognized master instrument maker who can make lushengs of more than twenty pipes.

From the Festival

China is the world’s most populous country and second biggest economy. Its rates of industrialization and urbanization are unprecedented. The largest rural-to-urban migration in human history is underway as people move from the countryside to seek work in China’s expanding cities. People face both new opportunities and daunting challenges as they adapt to shifting circumstances and try to reconcile the dynamics of development with cultural and ecological sustainability.

The 2014 Festival program highlighted REUNION and BALANCE, traditional principles that are of greater value than ever in China. Reunions animate and sustain tradition. And as people are increasingly separated from one another by the demands of work and education, they find ways to reaffirm ties to community and cultural heritage both in their daily lives and for special occasions. A traditional Chinese perspective posits that all things - everything from one’s health to a community’s welfare - depends on a balance of internal and external forces. In China today, people are navigating the transformations that emerge from modernization and from frictions between work and leisure, past and present, development and conservation, and global, national, and local traditions.

More than a hundred culture bearers from China participated in the program. Representing 15 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities, as well as some of the largest and smallest of the 56 officially recognized ethnicities, they provided a window into the country’s diversity. They demonstrated how people sustain a rich range of traditions even as communities are disrupted by migration, natural disaster, and the pressures of contemporary life. At the Festival, they demonstrated the artistry with which balance and reunion are realized within and across communities, and between humans and their environment - both through the changing seasons and in a changing world.

James Deutsch and Sojin Kim were Program Curators; Jing Li was Program Coordinator; and Joan Hua was Program Assistant. Advisors and consultants included: Joan Auchter, Rachel Cooper, Robert Daly, Melanie Fernandez, Yong Han, Bill lvey, Joanna C. Lee, Jing Li, Jun Liu, Adriel Luis, Shengde Ma, Jean Miao, Rodrigo Fritz, May Sun, Sue Tuohy, Jingqiang Wang, Sally Van de Water, Lihui Yang, Yuan Yang, Nora Yeh, Juwen Zhang, Zhizong Zhu, and Nina Zolt.

The program was produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in padnership with the China lnternational Culture Association, working with the China Arts and Entertainment Group. Additional support was provided by the West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong SAR; and the Guizhou Provincial Department of Culture.

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