Ah Bing (Chinese: 阿炳), also known as Hua Yanjun (Chinese: 华彦钧), a blind musician specializing in the erhu (two-stringed Chinese fiddle) and pipa, died on this day.
He was born in August 1893 in Wuxi in east China’s Jiangsu Province to a Taoist priest, Hua Qinghe. His mother was a widow, and her re-marriage to the priest had been resented by her family. She remained depressed and died when Ah Bing was only four years old. The priest was good at playing musical instruments and initiated him into the world of music. By the age of 18, Ah Bing’s skill had been acclaimed by other musicians and he was dubbed as the “Little Heavenly Master”. Specialized in flute, pipa, erhu and drum, Ah Bing could play more than 300 pieces of music and he was also good at singing.
After his father died, Ah Bing succeeded him as a priest. But his activities in playing with local bands displeased other Taoists, and he was driven out of the temple. Later, he was forced to perform solo on the street. In his thirties, Ah Bing lost sight in both eyes due to illness. He then became an itinerant street performer.
Ah Bing became famous for incorporating topical issues into his music and songs. During the period of the Northern Expedition, he wrote a song “Overthrow Big Powers” played on the pipa. And after the War of Resistance against Japan broke out, he often played patriotic music on the streets of Wuxi. He also wrote a song satirizing the corruption of the KMT government. He compiled and played 270 pieces of folk music in his career.
After the founding of new China, the government sent professors to record Ah Bing’s music. Six pieces was recorded, three played by erhu and the rest by pipa.
Ah Bing’s most famous piece is entitled “Erquan Yingyue” (Moonlight on the Second Spring), named after a spring in Wuxi. The erhu solo is considered as a classic and has been performed and loved by people ever since.
In 1979, a movie telling the story of Ah Bing’s life – “Erquan Yingyue” was premiered. And a concert was held on September 11, 1983 on the 90th anniversary of his birth to celebrate this Chinese folk musician.