This, being in part of a series of compilations, is the edition of the ancient music of the Yuan Dynasty of Ancient China. A bit of background history prior to the review is needed here.
The Yuan Dynasty was the Mongol run China from 1271-1368 AD, being a division of the second-largest empire in the world to this day, aside arguably from the British empire. The Mongols began as a unified state of Mongolia, before spreading as a huge empire that stretched from Mongolia itself to southern Asia, the Middle East, and even parts of Europe. It was divided around 1262 into four sections due to infighting by Genghis Khan’s offspring and the fact that it was so large a state. The Yuan Dynasty was the Chinese section of the Mongol empire, although existing from the point of the division of the empire, was named the Yuan Dynasty by Kublai Khan in 1271, officially beginning that era of Ancient China. The Song Dynasty was absorbed into the Mongol run Yuan Dynasty in around 1279.
Regardless of all that, let’s take a listen to the music of this time period, and see how it sounds today.
We begin with The Vulture Fighting The Swan (Hai Qing Na Tian E) which kicks off with frenetic stringed instrument playing. It is amazing and interesting listening and tells the musical tale of centuries ago. There is a vast array of what sounds like Mongolian Chinese scales at work. It’s a brilliant way to kick off this historical work. It is very picturesque in its intentions, which is always great to hear. A great piece of Chinese Mongolian instrumentation here. It is so brilliantly played that it makes you question most western music. Brilliant all the same.
Next is the piece Oriole Singing (Huang Ying Ling) which is a larger instrumental palette to boot. It is a much shorter piece at only two minutes or so long, but definitely worth hearing. Historical, Chinese, and moving here. Another great effort. A refreshing listen.
Crow Croaking At Night – Pomegranate (Wu Ye Ti Shi Liu) is a more straightforward and much shorter listen, with a Chinese lady singing in a very beautiful way. It’s a nice and gentle listen to be inspired musically by. A great traditional listening experience.
Ancient Music of the Naxi People: Suite Of The Baisha Xiyue (Na Xi Gu Yue: Bai Sha Xi Yue Tao Qu) is a musical Chinese piece (NOT to be confused as a 20th-century German Nazi music piece, which the author would never write about) dedicated to a culture of many centuries ago. It has a strange musical phrasing to it and unique melodic sensibility. It has a great mixture of flute, orchestral basis, and some excellent playing here. It is very stop/start, which is amazing and surprising simultaneously. An amazing musical journey through time, place, and culture. Moving. Towards the end, some unified singing will take you elsewhere. Excellent stuff.
Next is The Injustice Done To Dou E (Dou E Yuan) which is considerably shorter with double stringed instruments being played in a Chinese Mongolian musical frenzy. It sounds interesting, more so than usual due to the somewhat different phrasing on this instrumental. Another essential listen, and great to hear. Very moving, as usual from this sort of music.
Following is West Chamber Story In Multiple Modes (Zhu Gong Tiao Tian Bao Yi Shi Ma Jian Yang Fei) which sounds like a very old recording showing the depth and breadth of Mongolian and Chinese influenced music. It is a great piece with some female vocals in Chinese. An essential listen for Chinese-Mongolian music lovers. It is a great and touching listen for those who like this sort of music. Epic listening.
The Old Stories In The Tianbao Period In Multiple Modes (Zhu Gong Tiao Tian Bao Yi Shi Ma Jian Yang Fei) is a fresher recording of female Chinese singing with some backing instrumentation. It’s a very decent and inspiring listening experience of music from the past. Great stuff, although it is less than three minutes.
Life Sketch By A Peddler (Jiu Gong Da Cheng) is another similar recording to the previous track, with more female singing and strange Chinese-Mongolian instrumentation in the background. It is much longer in length and a very strange yet entertaining listen. There are breaks in between some of the primary sections of music, make it suspenseful and interesting. Worth hearing. The finale is awesome.
Next along is Recalling The Past At Tongguan Pass (Tong Guan Huai Gu) which is shorter, and has a male singing performance this time, with female backing vocals. There is precise instrumentation in the background and it really sounds inspiring and amazing, to this day. Great stuff, refreshing listening.
After that, we have A Comprehensive Record Of Affairs (Yuan Shi Lin Guang Ji) which is a very short piece of beauty with a great backing track and female singing in Chinese. This is another awesome listening experience, despite the fact that this is a short track. It is another quality listen.
Autumn Meditation: Banquet At The Parting Pavilion (Qiu Si Li Ting Yan) kicks off with some loud percussion and a male singing voice in Chinese. It’s a bit in-your-face, the singing that is. Still, an interesting take on Chinese musical history and culture, even if it is not the best on this album.
Maiden Grievance: Green Skirt (Gui Yuan Cui Qun Yao) is a very short piece under two minutes with a song based background and beautiful female Chinese singing taking you to places elsewhere. It is so wonderful and precise that it demands your attention. Great stuff.
Next is Inscriptions To The West Lake (Ti Xi Hu) which is another short piece with some wonderful string plucking in it, and more female singing and some male singing, too. This is superb listening, a great effort that will take your mind and soul elsewhere. A gentle listening experience towards the end of this album. Beautiful and very good.
Last is The Injustice Done To Dou E: Executing Dou E (Dou E Yuan: Zhan E) which sounds very, very strange for Chinese based classical music. Loud melodic percussion and beautiful female singing kick off this six-minute piece, making it a memorable one. It becomes more straightforward after some time, telling an Ancient Chinese story of legend. A great and interesting way to end off this historical musical album. The drums and percussion indicate the dramatic changes in the music and story tale of Chinese-Mongolian history. Very odd.
Of course, this album is made for Chinese history and culture fans in mind. Most people would easily avoid this sort of brilliant music. However, it is not a bad place to start listening to something different. If you feel it is right, seek this one out. It is a great musical piece of history.