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We had an absolutely perfect day with our tour guide - Rogin Luo - who took us for a hike along The Great Wall! Didn't know what to expect and were thrilled to have him as our guide. Very imformative, knowledgable and fun! We go to experience a part of The Great Wall that was unrestored and see all its natural beauty. Got a long history lesson along the way!

After the hike, we all went to lunch at a small place at the bottom of the hill. Located in a house, we ate lunch in the proprietors bedroom! What a hoot! Rogin is the Best of the Best! This tour company delivered for us and we are extremely grateful.

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Home  »  China Travel Guide  »  Beijing Culture  »  Folk Music  »  
Tongzhou Canal Boatmen Chant

Tongzhou, situated in southeast of Beijing, is the north starting point of Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, together with Great Wall were two great projects in ancient China. Grand Canal starts from Hangzhou in the south to Beijing through Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei and Tianjin. With a total length of more than 1794 kilometers, Beijng-Hanzhou Grand Canal is the longest and oldest canal in the world.

According to historical records, Tongzhou has always been the traffic thoroughfare. Tongzhou Canal Boatmen Chant (通州运河船工号子) is a kind of folk music created by boatmen to improve working efficiency. Boatmen chant was handed down based on the way of family, mater and apprentice and mutual learning.


















Tongzhou had water transportation as early as Qin Dynasty. As one of the important wharfs, Tongzhou was the east gate assisted Beijing. In Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, Beijing was established as the capital, when water transportation got to a period of great prosperity. At that time, each year, 20,000 grain boats connected together as far as 10 meters by head to end. Majestic chant rises one after another, accompanying the huge fleet of ships.

Canal boatmen chant is the vivid memory of history and one of important cultural sign of canal culture and Beijing culture. Up to now, there is still successor after hundreds of years’ heritage. Zhao Qingfu, a 74-year old the singer of canal boatmen chant, he learned chant from his father and uncle who were taught by Zhao Qingfu’s grandfather. He learned all these boatmen chant at the time of 9-year old.

Leading chanter gained special treatment, position and higher salary on boat. Under the consideration of benefit, leading chanters always fostered his descendant to be leader of the boatmen chant. The second way is mater-prentice system. Leading chanter taught the chant to his disciple working for him. The grandfather of Zhao Qingfu once received leading chanter’s disciple. In addition, some boatmen working together learned chant mutually.


















Content of boatmen chant
Canal boatmen chant is greatly various, 22 pieces of which have been collected including: unmoor chant, thrusting chant, sculling chant, relaxing chant and so on.
Unmoor chant: sang before setting sail.
Sculling chant: When boat moved deeply, boatmen yelled while shaking propeller. The rhythm is succinct and quick.
Relaxing chant: sang when boatmen got rest. The chant is free and arbitrary.


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