Gourd-shaped Flute of Achang Ethnic Group
The musical instruments of Achangs mainly include gourd-shaped flute (a wind instrument), March flute (also a wind instrument), copper-rimmed stringed instrument, sanxian (a three-stringed instrument), Xiangjiao drum (a drum in the shape of elephant foot), mang luo (gong) and so on. A gourd-shaped flute is made of three bamboo tubes connected with a bottle gourd. Having seven tones, it is loud and clear, and is often used at daytime. As the favorite musical instrument of the Achang people, the gourd-shaped flute and the March flute are often matchmakers that transmit love between young men and young women.
Every year’s farming-free season, days of festival congregations and daily time after working are all the best time for courting and looking for their life-long mate. At this time, a young man will take a March vertical flute in the collar behind his neck or on his side wherever he goes. It may be near the village or on his road to market. He will play a mellifluous melody if he comes across the girl he admires. Through playing music, he asks for her favor to stop and then would go up to talk to her, and ask what her virtuous name is. If she does not love someone else and likes to know him, she would answer his courting implicitly and gracefully. The young man understands tacitly and proposes to accompany the girl home. The girl then would answer by singing “If you are sincere, you should accompany me all the way to the village rather than half the way.” The young man then plays his flute and sings folk songs to accompany the girl home. That is often how a story of pure love starts.
When the sun is setting, a young man would clean and dress himself after lunch, and then goes quietly to the house of his beloved. He plays his gourd-shaped flute to court her and ask her out. Hearing the gentle and familiar melody, the girl loses her calmness and goes to her room to dress up, and then goes out to meet her lover with an excuse. If it is the youth’s first visit, the girl’s sister in-law or mother would even open the door to show her warm welcome. He would be asked to come in to sit near the hearth. With any one else away, the youth and his lover would sit together and sing love songs or talk about their mutual love, and will only say goodbye reluctantly when the chanticleer heralds the break of day.
Of all ages, there must have been innumerable young Achang men and girls led to love and then to marriage by the miraculous gourd-shaped flute.