Qinyang Suona is of a wooden oboe like instrument, characterized by a loud volume, clear and rough tone as well as ease-to-use, making it especially suitable for presenting warm and lively occasions and strong emotions like exultation or grief. Keeping abreast with the times, Qinyang Suona has recently incorporated such ancillary musical elements as Menzi (a unique accompaniment instrument in Henan Opera), Shounuo (or Dami), Kaqiang (or Xiaomi), Guanzi (a kind of wind instrument), Koushao (an instrument played in the mouth and cannot be seen from outside), which have substantially expanded its performance capacity and the range of repertoire it can play. Qinyang Suona can be subdivided into three categories: high-pitched voice, alto voice, and low-pitched voice. It can be played in diverse ways. In that locality, in case of wedding, funeral, consecration, business opening ceremony, birthday celebration or other events, suona troupes may be invited to play for lively atmosphere.
It is said that Zhu Zaiyu, a royal kinsman in the Ming Dynasty, has invented "Yanguanzi" on the basis of eight-sound holes (or Bayinkong) in a souna horn, having contributed a lot to the development of China's national wind music. He was said to found "Jinguhui" (an organization studying drums and percussion instruments) in Jiufeng Temple, where all suona troupes over the country gathered on every Sep. 23 on lunar calendar. There are such suona troupes as the "Tonglehui Troupe" and the "Jiajia Troupe" during the late Ming and the early Qing Dynasties, and the "Majin Troupe", the "Maodan Troupe", the "Yinhe Troupe", etc. during the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China, causing great influences in local area. In Qinyang Prefecture, there are old sayings as "The groom hires a red sedan to pick up the bride with the loud music played by the Majin Troupe, and the bride will not step into the sedan if there is no such music" and "The bride waits at home for her groom coming to pick her with Maodan music, and she will not step into the sedan unless the Maodan Troupe is played", reflecting the impact of those suona troupes. Suona troupes within Qinyang Prefecture include four schools in two factions in terms of their region and craft style. The two factions, bordered by Qinhe River, are Qinbei Faction represented by Zhangjia, Hejia, and Majia Schools and Qinnan Faction whose representative is Jiajia School, from which the suona's prosperity can be seen.
Under the impact of the four major families, a constant growth can be seen in both the number and scale of suona troupes and artisans in Qinyang Prefecture. From the founding of new China to 1980s, there developed more than 30 suona troupes in Qinyang，with over 400 people engaged in this trade, presenting a state that people in all townships and villages played the suona. According to incomplete statistics, there are over 300 Suona works in Qinyang. In the modern and contemporary folk and art life, on the basis of the tradition inherited, the folk artists created some new and representative works such as Praise for Hometown (Gu Xiang Song), Lover's Prattle in Jiufeng (Jiu Feng Qing Hua), and Spring in Qinyang (Qin Yang Chun). In December 1997, Qinyang City was awarded as "Hometown of the Folk Art of Henan Province" by the Culture Department of Henan Province, and later it was named by the Ministry of Culture as "Hometown of Chinese Folk Art".
The Xifeng region in Qingyang City, Gansu Province, an intersection of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Ningxia Provinces, is the political, economic and cultural center of Qingyang City. It borders Heshui County in the west and Zhenyuan County in the east, adjacent to Ningxian County, Huanxian County, Huachi County, and Qingcheng County in the south and north.
Qingyang Xifeng Suona music is a folk music mainly played with the suona, and it is also known as the percussion and wind music, passed down from generation to generation by previous folk artisans. It has developed into a unique music type in Chinese folk music with numerous tune names to which Qu are composed (Qupai), huge playing teams, rich folk content and strong local characteristics. Centered around Xifeng District, it is distributed in neighboring Qingcheng County, Huanxian County, Heshui County, Ningxian County, Zhengning County and some townships and towns in Zhenyuan County. In Xifeng District alone, there are 31 suona clubs and 286 people engaged in suona playing. It can be performed in the form of two combinations including "big piece" combination and "small piece" combination. The ordinary bandsmen can master more than two instruments and can be transferred randomly if the whole band is not changed.
The tune names of Qingyang Suona music are various, with plain charm, complete system and unique style. Based on general inspection, there are more than 1200 tune names collected and recorded, among which 496 are included in the Collections of Folk Instrumental Music in Qingyang Prefecture. These tune names can be classified as three categories - the traditional tune names with relatively high instrumental music degree, variations on folk songs, and local opera tune names. The representative works include Pi Hong Gua Hua.
The cultural value of Qingyang Suona is manifested by its uniqueness and extending contents. "Paobao", for example, is one of the forms of expression of rich contents, and it has greatly improved artisans' improvising ability by way of oral instruction, having fully demonstrated working people's wisdom, and having played an important role in carrying on and developing Chinese traditional virtue and enhancing social cohesion. Nevertheless, this unique music type is seriously endangered, so it is imperative to adopt corresponding rescue and protective measures.
贺德义 李金海 姚少林 卢补良 牛其云 刘有生
He Deyi, Li Jinhai, Yao Shaolin, Lu Buliang, Niu Qiyun, and Liu Yousheng