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Manzhou Balladeer | Chang Chin-kuei

  • Date:2023-08-23
Chang Chin-kuei

Chinese Name: 張錦桂

Born: 1952

Place of Birth: Pingtung County (Southern Taiwan)

Did You Know?

Starting from zero to becoming a skilled performer, Chang Chin-kuei has been inspired by Professor Chung Ming-kun (鍾明昆), a promoter of Manzhou ballads (滿州民謠), and has been mentored by a recognized national treasure of the art, Chang Ri-gui (張日貴). With passion and determination, she has gradually set down a foundation in music and worked hard to fulfill her mission of promoting Manzhou ballads.

Chang Chin-kuei was born in 1952 in Gangzi Village (港仔村), Manzhou Township (滿州鄉), Pingtung County. Since getting married, she has continued living in this village with her husband. Initially, Chang was completely unfamiliar with Manzhou ballad singing. However, when master singer Chang Ri-gui visited during her work promoting Manzhou ballads in various villages, Chang Chin-kuei started to get in touch with and learn folk singing, gradually laying down her roots.

Chang Ri-gui, an influential singer of Manzhou ballads, came from a difficult background and rich life experiences, which are reflected in her emotionally charged singing. Heir to the tradition of Hengchun (恆春) folk songs, she has shaped the singing style and regional characteristics of Manzhou ballads through her performances and teaching experiences. In 2012, she was registered by the Ministry of Culture as an important preserver of the traditional performing art of Manzhou ballads.


In 1979, with the assistance of Professor Chung Ming-kun, the Manzhou Ballad Promotion Association (滿洲民謠協進會) was established. They actively collected traditional Manzhou folk songs in various areas of Manzhou Township and searched for singers familiar with and skilled in singing the songs. During this process, they discovered Chang Chin-kuei, who could sing a wide range of Manzhou folk songs and even improvise, possessing a delicate and melodious voice full of charm. At the invitation of Professor Chung and the Association, she headed up folk song promotion and teaching in eight villages across Manzhou Township, and systematically organized scattered Manzhou folk songs from various places.

In 1996, Chang Chin-kuei began to follow Chang Ri-gui to learn folk singing. In 2013, she participated in the first phase of the Ministry of Culture's "Important Traditional Art of Manzhou Ballads—Chang Ri-gui Apprenticeship Program," graduating as a skilled performer. She has acquired knowledge and skills in traditional styles, the playing of the yueqin, improvisation, and creating new lyrics. On top of this, while Chang Chin-kuei enjoys performing, she has also tried her hand at writing. During her free time, she creates new lyrics in ancient styles and writes songs that incorporate local rural stories and ancient legends. She joined the apprenticeship program when she was already over 60 years old, but despite the challenge, she worked hard to complete her apprenticeship, becoming a strong assistant in the work of promoting folk songs.

After completing the apprenticeship program, Chang became a teaching assistant for the program and taught folk song clubs in various primary and secondary schools in Manzhou Township, as well as community folk song classes. Over the years, she has participated in poetry composition and singing competitions, achieving remarkable results, and has participated in numerous music exhibitions and exchanges both domestically and internationally.


The songs sung by Chang Chin-kuei resonate with the long-standing cultural traditions of Manzhou, expressing the sentiments of folk songs and the sorrow of early ancestors' lives. Now, based out of the Manzhou Ballad Promotion Association and the Manzhou Ballad Museum, she combines the work of passing along this art with leisure. In 2022, she was registered as a preserver of the traditional performing art of Manzhou ballads by the Pingtung County Government.

Manzhou ballads are one of the genres of folk song local to the Hengchun Peninsula, including Hengchun, Checheng (車城), Fangshan (枋山), and Manzhou Townships. The characteristic style of singing is generally accompanied by yueqin and other stringed instruments. As they mainly express the emotions of early ancestors' lives, these traditional folk songs are often melancholic and sorrowful. Based on this traditional foundation, Manzhou ballads incorporate local folk customs and have gradually evolved into a folk song style with unique regional characteristics. Traditional folk songs are closely related to the lives, leisure activities, and customs of the people of Manzhou Township. However, as time has progressed, and technology along with it, these songs have come under the threat of being lost, with ever fewer people able to perform them.

(Photo credit: Manzhou Ballad Promotion Association)