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Taiwan flutist living her best life in Fujian

By HU MEIDONG in Fuzhou, ZHANG YI,ZHANG YI and SHI XUEFAN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-23

2.jpegKe Cheng-yun plays a Chinese flute in Fuzhou, Fujian province. HU MEIDONG/CHINA DAILY

A Chinese flute enthusiast from Taiwan is now teaching others how to play the instrument in Fuzhou, Fujian province, and promoting musical exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Ke Cheng-yun gives about 30 one-on-one lessons a week, and has gained the trust of her students and their parents.

"As long as students have the desire to learn the instrument, I will continue to teach," she said.

Born in Tainan, Taiwan, the 27-year-old is a veteran flutist who started learning to play the zhu di, a traditional Chinese bamboo flute, as a hobby when she was in fourth grade. She developed a passion for it and focused on developing her skills throughout high school and college.

"I like traditional culture, and I think it's necessary for us to pass down precious cultural heritage," she said.

Ke said that playing Chinese folk music in primary school is a common practice where she grew up. While most flute pieces on the mainland praise its stunning scenery, including its beautiful mountains and rivers, as well as its various vibrant cultures, Taiwan songs focus more on feelings and emotions such as love.

"Due to the varying regional flute music styles, teachers will first introduce local folk characteristics before teaching, helping students understand what the composers intend to convey," she said.

Ke's travels on the mainland have helped her understand more about its folk music. She first visited the mainland in 2011, when she traveled to the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

"The bold and hearty personality of the people there is different from us southerners, and learning about their life experiences helped me to better prepare to play a piece about the region," she said.

"Looking down on the region from the airplane window, I saw the river winding through endless grasslands, which was a rare and memorable scene for me," added Ke, who was preparing to go to high school at that time.

During a subsequent visit to the mainland to participate in a cross-Strait exchange event, she also studied with a professor from the Central Conservatory of Music.

In 2018, given the declining birthrate in Taiwan, Ke came to Fuzhou, the closest mainland city to her hometown, to look for more opportunities with the help of her friends.

"There was nearly nothing I had to get used to, as Fuzhou and my hometown have almost the same culture, living habits and accent," she said, adding that apartments in the city that have been set aside for Taiwan compatriots have made their lives more convenient.

Factors including a larger market, the similarities in the culture and living environments between Fuzhou and Taiwan, and various supportive policies have contributed to her desire to live in the provincial capital.

To make it easier for her students to learn the flute, Ke has immersed herself in refining her teaching methods.

"The existing textbooks here may not be suitable for children in kindergarten or first grade," said Ke, who is developing a third textbook to complement the two other existing books that are in use.

While teaching and promoting the inheritance of the zhu di, she has also acted as a bridge connecting flute enthusiasts across the Taiwan Strait.

Over the past five years, Ke has led her students to participate in various performances and competitions specifically aimed at cross-Strait flute learners.

"I believe that texts should only serve as a supplementary tool, while every feeling, subtle emotion and variation between each note can only be passed down through practical teaching, which requires person-to-person exchanges," she said.

One of the most significant events is a provincial children's Spring Festival Gala called Gathering for Cross-Strait Children, where approximately one-fourth of the performers are from Taiwan.

Earlier this year, Ke joined a flute association in Fujian, which provided her with more opportunities to promote cross-Strait exchanges. During a recent discussion, she proposed hosting seminars on the flute by inviting experts from both sides of the Strait to facilitate the development of the instrument.

"Music has no boundaries. It provides a significant platform for people on both sides of the Strait to enjoy the same thing," she said, adding that some friends who have a desire to promote zhu di playing on the mainland are staying in close contact with her.

Luo Jiayuan contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at zhangyi1@chinadaily.com.cn

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