Ancient and modern

The name Chaqu originated in the court and differed from folk tunes, or from its creator Bao Xiaocha according to another version. As written in a book entitled Miscellanies Within and Outside the Courts Since Emperors Daoguang and Xianfeng written by Chong Yi in Qing Dynasty, Bao Xiaocha, a soldier who had fought in the western regions, invented Chaqu during his travel back from victory. Chaqu was rather difficult to learn. From the reigns of Tongzhi and Gaungxu onwards, its subjects inclined towards renouncing the world.

Chaqu An Old Farmer narrates the idyllic life of an old farmer.


Jixian Chengyun Club

Created in 1979, this is a club of amateur folk art performers. Its forerunner was Shengguo Yiyin Club. In the late Qing Dynasty, Shengguo Yiyin Club, headed by Zhao Junting, used to rehearse in a teahouse in front of Chaoyang Nunnery at Erligou beyond Xizhimen Gate. When the teahouse closed in the 1940s, the club changed its site of rehearsal to Qingpingxuan Teahouse in Xizhimen Inner Street. At that time it was headed by Zhao Junting and Zhao Jingyan. After 1966, the club was dissolved and its members stopped acting. In the autumn of 1979, it was revived in the form of Jixian Chengyun Club, which was headed by Qian Yadong, with its performances arranged by He Jianfeng. The members met in Qian Yadong’s house, and performed in cultural centers, factories and schools of different districts of Beijing.

The club had the following principles: carry on and develop Manchu arts (Danxian, Octagonal Drum and other forms of quyi); be socially beneficial and charge no money. Members rehearsed on every Monday, when Qian Yadong would prepare three sanxian, one pipa, one sihu, one octagonal drum, a set of drums and clappers, and one story-teller’s gavel. He would also buy tea and candies at his own expense. The rehearsal would start at 7:30 pm. and end at 10:00 pm. It would proceed in this way: first, they would sing chaqu one by one; then the performance organizer would invite members to perform whatever song they liked. They usually performed Danxian Paiziqu, Lianzhu clapper talk, Jingyun Drum, Plum Blossom Drum, Iron Piece Drum, and Jingdong Drum. After the songs were over, they would discuss skills. Apart from traditional titles, they also created new songs, such as Chuangwang’s Banner, Painting the Skin, Yang Zhi Selling His Scimitar, Offering Love, Double Cyclists, On Duty (these are Danxian Paiziqu), Gentle Breeze (a Chaqu), and Hu Sanniang and Premier Zhou Enlai (Lianzhu clapper talks). The membership was mobile.