Over the past few weeks I have been showing documentaries about the interplay between the Mogao Cave murals and contemporary Chinese art in various spheres of activity: dance, music, painting and design.
One of the main reference points throughout that series was a dance show first performed in 1979 called variously as Silk Road, Flower Rain; Along the Silk Road and Flowers Rain along the Silk Road (丝路花雨).
From humble beginnings this show by the Gansu Dance Troupe has become one of the most celebrated dance shows in modern Chinese theatre, and has travelled the world.
The show has been filmed a number of times (thanks to SukPying for helping me find them), but the one I like most is a film of the show which appears to have been made sometime in the 80s, and which I am including here.
The film has no dialogue as the story and the emotions are all conveyed by dance and mime, but the original has Chinese subtitles. I give a synopsis in English below and those who don’t know Chinese can still follow the story easily enough with its aid.
In the Tang Dynasty, the master painter Zhang, and his daughter saved the dying Yunus, a Persian businessman, from the desert along the Silk Road. However, they were faced with robbers on the way back, and the painter’s daughter, Yingniang, was kept hostage while protecting Yunus.
Several years later, master painter Zhang finally found his long-missed daughter from the Dunhuang Market, where both silk business and dance shows were on. However, Yingniang was a geisha at that time. Yunus remembering her good deed spend a lot of money to redeem Yingniang to get her back to her family.
Master painter Zhang started to paint on the walls of the Mogao Grottoes with his daughter as the archetype, achieving the representative work of Dunhuang frescos of joyful Apsaras playing Pipa on the back. To avoid endangering his daughter, master painter Zhang sent Yingniang away with Yunus to Persia. The mayor of the city was irritated by this and ordered him to paint for the Mogao Grottoes as the penalty.
Yingniang developed a good relationship with the Persians. Yunus was sent to the empire of Tang on a diplomatic mission, and meanwhile took Yingniang back to her home country. Yingniang offered sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, and bade a farewell to the Persians, who were like her countrymen.
In the Mogao Grottos, master painter Zhang is playing Pipa while thinking about his daughter. He dreams that Yingniang has come back and is fascinated by his paintings. Suddenly, the strings broke, which is an ill omen, so he ran off to the border.
Outside the border, under the beacon, the mayor of the city instigated the robber to attack the Persian caravan. Master painter Zhang lit the beacon to see his daughter; however, it was their last sight of each other. Master painter Zhang held up his painting and questions God. He lives forever through the Dunhuang frescos.
During the Friendly Alliance of 27 countries held in Dunhuang, Yingniang dressed up as a dancer and made an accusation against the mayor in front of the Military Governor and all the guests. The Military Governor expressed his anger by killing the potential trouble maker on the Silk Road.
The long Silk Road conveys friendship, the flower rain dances with the rainbow. Wish long-lasting vitality to this ancestor of friendship between Chinese people and people from abroad.
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to see a set of stills click on the screenshot below