Famous general's life rings out in symphony

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)


A concert featuring Guan Yu is debuted at the National Centre for the Performing Arts on Dec 15. [Photo by Wang Ruirui for China Daily]

A concert about famous Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) general Guan Yu was held at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Dec 15, portraying the events and key moments in his life in symphony.

The concert was performed by the Yuncheng Troupe of Traditional Music from Yuncheng city in Shanxi province and the China Broadcast Traditional Orchestra based in Beijing.

This was the first time that Guan Yu has been featured in a symphony concert.

Yuncheng is said to be the birthplace of Guan.

Guan is so worshipped throughout the country that a Chinese saying goes: "Every village has a temple of Guan Gong".

Guan was one of the most prominent generals of his time serving under the warlord Liu Bei. He played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han, of which Liu was the first emperor.

Liu Bei was said to be a descendant of the Han royal family and his state of Shu Han was regarded as a legitimate extension of the previous dynasty. This confirmed Guan as a warrior for a righteous cause and distinguished him from other generals in the same period.

Known for his exceptional valor and loyalty, he was deified as Guandi or Emperor Guan.

Regarded as a sage for his military achievement, the status of Guan was elevated to the same as that of Confucius, who is deemed as a sage of culture and education, in later dynasties.

This elevation led to nationwide worship of Guan, and his many virtues have been praised.

However, residents in today's Shanxi province, especially in Guan's hometown Yuncheng, are among the most fervent believers. The city has held 31 sessions of the Guan Gong Culture Festival, attracting people throughout the nation to pay homage.

Yuncheng's artists began to compose the Guan Gong-featured symphony in early 2019. It involved the participation of more than 70 people, including musicians, local opera artists and literature and music critics.

Renowned musician Jing Jianshu, a native of Yuncheng, is the leading composer of the symphony.

Before composing the symphony, Jing spent more than two months visiting 13 counties and cities in Shanxi, talking with local opera artists and ordinary residents, drawing inspiration from their understanding of the historical figure.

"As the music is meant to be performed for ordinary people, it has incorporated many folk elements," Jing said. "Before its debut in Beijing, the symphony was performed for locals in Yuncheng, and revisions were made according to the suggestions of the locals."

Li Yali contributed to this story.