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Nanguan Music Performer | Chen Yen-chu

  • Date:2024-05-17
Nanguan Music Performer_Chen Yen-chu

Chinese Name: 陳嬿朱

Birthplace: Tainan City (Southern Taiwan)


Did You Know That…? 

Due to her devotion to the traditional art of Nanguan (南管) music, Chen Yen-chu was widely recognized and registered as one of the preservers of important performing arts in the country. 


Born in Tainan City, Chen Yen-chu has dedicated many years to the transmission of Nanguan music, becoming an irreplaceable bearer of the culture. She began learning Nanguan at the age of 15, over 60 years ago. She remarked that Nanguan music incorporates Quanzhou dialects (泉州方言) and uses traditional Chinese musical notation called gongchepu (工尺譜). She explained that due to these requirements, in contrast to modern Western musical notation, fewer people are interested in learning Nanguan music, leading to its gradual loss. In recent years, Chen has started collaborating with the National Museum of History on intangible cultural heritage conservation projects. She is actively involved in the transmission and performance of Nanguan, aiming to showcase the beauty of this art form to a wider audience. 


As a student of masters Chang Hung-ming (張鴻明) and Wu Tao-hung (吳道宏), Chen is proficient in all styles of Nanguang music, including Chi (指), Pho (譜), and Khiok (曲). Having served as Chang’s teaching assistant for several years, Chen is an experienced teacher, singer, and instrumentalist. She is especially active in transmitting the knowledge of Nanguan music in southern Taiwan cities such as Tainan and Kaohsiung. 


Originated in Quanzhou City (泉州), southern Fujian, China, Nanguan music is a style of Chinese classical music. It is more sentimental and refined compared to Beiguan (北管), a type of traditional music, melody and theatrical performance, because of its nature as an indoor performance. The tradition spread from Quanzhou to Taiwan and Southeast Asia following southern Chinese emigration. As a highly sophisticated art form, Nanguan music is performed seated. The performance usually starts with a pipa (琵琶) solo, then complemented by the sounds of xiao (簫), sanxian (三絃), and erxian (二絃). In terms of vocal performance, Nanguan emphasizes a higher vocal range and stresses the connection between each syllable and the melody. As a master performer of this art form, Chen is an exemplar in displaying the beauty of this music and its cultural heritage.