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The Liujiaoxian: Taiwan’s Unique Hexagonal Fiddle

Last Updated on 2023/11/30

Liujiaoxian (六角弦) – The Hexagonal Fiddle of Taiwan

The Role of Liujiaoxian in Modern Taiwan.

The Liujiaoxian (六角弦), also known as the hexagonal fiddle, is a unique two-stringed fiddle primarily used in Taiwan. Resembling the jing erhu, another traditional Chinese instrument, the Liujiaoxian has been integral in the musical landscape of Taiwan, especially in the context of Taiwanese opera and folk music.

Historical Context

During the Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese government in Fujian Province imposed a ban on Taiwanese opera tunes and instruments. In response, Taiwanese opera artists like Shao Jianghai and Lin Wenxiang switched to singing ‘Improved Tunes’ (later known as ‘Duma Tune’ in Taiwan), which primarily included the ‘Zasui Zi Tune’. Due to the ban on Taiwanese instruments, these artists used the Sanxian and Dongxiao from Nanguan music, replacing the Yueqin and Pinzi. The main string instrument, previously the Kezixian or Daguangxian, was replaced by the Liujiaoxian.

Design and Construction

The Liujiaoxian is similar in appearance to the Jing Erhu. It is crafted from fine woods like rosewood or ebony. The instrument’s soundbox is covered with python or snake skin and uniquely, it doesn’t feature sound holes. This construction results in a bright, clear, and penetrating sound. The soundbox’s hexagonal shape is the source of its name.

Usage

In Minnan opera, the Liujiaoxian is often used to play ‘Improved Tunes’ and is preferred for its ability to express lyrical, soft, melancholic, and mournful passages. Although the traditional Kezixian and Daguangxian have been reinstated in modern times, the Liujiaoxian still holds a significant place in Taiwanese music.

In the 1990s, the Liujiaoxian was introduced to Taiwan and began to be used to accompany Duma Tune and various other melodies. Master string players like Ke Mingfeng, Liu Wenliang, Zhou Yiqian, and Chen Mengliang have used the Liujiaoxian extensively. Liu Wenliang is known to have crafted his own Liujiaoxian. The instrument is particularly favored in Minnan for playing lyrical tunes in the mid-range and traditional trumpet string parts in higher positions.

References

The development and use of the Liujiaoxian in contemporary Taiwanese opera music have been extensively researched. Key references include the master’s thesis of Zhou Yuzhen, “The Influence of Traditional Musicians on Contemporary Taiwanese Opera Music,” which includes interviews and photographs. Additionally, the study “Taiwanese Opera Huqin Music Research” by Lai Dakui, conducted at Nanhua University’s Institute of Aesthetics and Art Management in 2003, offers valuable insights into this unique instrument’s role in Taiwanese culture.

Source: Baike Baidu

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