When travelling in Yunnan province, many people are impressed by the melody of the Bai ethnic love song: The Rippling Brook or "xiao he tang shui" in Chinese. Maybe the song has been given several alien names outside China, but you must be familiar with its rhyme. People do like it just because it is indigenous to Dali.
Countless ethnic songs have been created in recent decades to publicise the ethnic culture of the entire province. There are at least two I like best: one is The Rippling Brook; the other one is The Children of Five Golden Flowers. The Rippling Brook originally circulated in Mizhi, a small town in Midu County, Dali, where you can see the quaint Bai ethnic compounds standing next to each other. Now, it is one of the most-enjoyed folk songs in Yunnan.
Compared with other famous ancient towns and villages, Mizhi I think is a good place to escape from the dull and hustling concrete world. Villages with tile-roofed houses, lucid springs, and farmlands overgrown with coles in spring are what the town features. This town is a small basin nestling among mountains. Rustic as it is, it was once an important station on the Ancient Tea-Horse Trail from the south of Yunnan to the far northwestern Tibet.
Wensheng Street is the most historic part here. 700 metres long, it was renamed "Wen Sheng Jie" street in the 21st year (1932) of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Early in the Tang Dynasty, a journey starting from here could be connected to Kunming, Sichuan and Chang'an (nowadays Xi'an).
Walking along the street, you will see a natural limpid spring where former horse caravans are said to stop to quench thirst. Locals call it Pearl Spring because the bubbles vividly resemble to strings of real pearls gushing from the bottom. The water of the spring is usually fetched by the locals for cooking, and interestingly, many restaurants in this area serve Tofu dishes cooked with the water.
Beside the spring is a riverlet called Yaxihe River. This small river originates from Guihuaqing Valley (Osmanthus Valley) at the foot of Taiji Mountain, 15 km from the local council. The valley gives off tangy smell of Osmanthus fragrance, and attracts swarms of bees and butterflies to collect pollen in blooming season. The oldest Osmanthus tree here is said to be planted in 1796, and locals believe they'll get good lucks after “cuddling” it.
The archaised former residence of Mr Yi Yigong, the versatile composer of The Rippling River, born in 1924, is also located near the street. As Yi Yigong recalled, when he was composing one night in 1947, a local melody of Mizhi reminded him of the moon, mountains, forests, breeze and winding rivers of his hometown. No wonder he gave a moon-related name to his masterpiece at the beginning, because I guess he was then somewhat homesick.
19 km from the local council is Taiji Mountain, with the summit being 3,064 meters above sea level. It is the most famous site of Mizhi, including up to 23 temples, halls and shrines of different sizes. It is also said to be the refuge of Xi Nuluo who was the founder of the Nanzhao Kingdom (738-937) in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Ascending to the peak rewards escalated views of the landscapes around and flaming sunrise in the morning.
Hometown of Love Songs
Mizhi is dubbed as the "Hometown of Huadeng opera". Many places of Yunnan have kept the tradition to perform Huadeng opera, such as Kunming, Yuxi and Yao'an. During the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival, locals here spend their own carnival-Huadeng Festival, which is pretty similar to a temple fair on which a sea of people can be seen playing, shopping, singing and dancing.
In fact, many local love songs, especially the Bai’ ethnic’s of Dali, can be heard in the movie The Children of Five Golden Flowers shot in 1990 and starred by Wang Chang’e and Chen Tianlu. If you have ever watched the Five Golden Flowers (shot in 1959) starred by Yang Likun or The Children of Five Golden Flowers, you can imagine the scene though The Rippling Brook doesn't match a movie yet. In both movies, the shooting locations of which are mainly the Er’hai Lake and Bai ethnic villages around, most love songs are sung in an antiphonal way.
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