Human Geography of Hainan: ?Do Lingao people only sing “Li Li Mei”?


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Click here to listen to Li Li Mei

Lingao people’s entertainment is also related to its geography and human culture. Lingao county is near to the river and sea, and thus its land is flat and fertile. Living with the sea, Lingao people can enjoy seafood and the agriculture products are extraordinarily plentiful. Therefore, Lingao people even have a heavy meat flavor for breakfast so that steamed suckling pigs can also be the main course for breakfast. And the entertainment of Lingao people is rich and colorful as well.


Lingao people have a special preference for Lin Opera


Lingao dialect has its own system. Compared with Hainan dialect, there are a small number of people who speak Lingao dialect on Hainan Island. However, Lingao's inheritance of traditional culture in the Central Plains of China has a deep foundation and clear context. Lingao historical and cultural celebrity, Wang Zuo, has always been the pride of Lingao people. The construction scale and long history of Confucius temple in Lingao County are rare on Hainan Island. And the schools scattered in various villages and towns of Lingao are mostly related to the connection of Confucius temple. Lingao people have remained obvious traces of advocating culture. Thus, their entertainment is quite rich in culture and all-round. Apart from square dancing and Karaoke, people in the villages and towns near the sea, such as Xinying Town and Diaolou Town, also enjoy Hainan Opera, Lin Opera, Li Li Mei and Puppet Show. Why do Lingao people who live on the seaside appreciate Hainan Opera? Lin Qinghai, chairman of Lingao Writers' Association, said that one reason is that they are in good economic situation and can afford to hire Qiong Troupe; another reason is that they have a wide range of knowledge and cultural vision.


There are at least 13 troupes in Lingao County. The number of actors in these troupes varies, and each troupe has its own characteristics, but all of them have formed a harmonious competitive situation in accordance with market rules. These troupes focus on Lin Opera, which creatively integrates the beauty of rhythm with “Li Li Mei” and also combines many characteristics of the local art forms in Lingao. For example, in terms of tune, Lin Opera absorbs the joy of folk song “Small Cattle-Herding” and the boldness and unconstraint of Puppet Show "ah luo ha". Because of their innovation, Lin Opera is more popular with young people than Puppet Show. Besides, Lingao troupes’ talents are usually versatile. They can perform not only Lin Opera but also Puppet Show. According to the market demand, some troupes have gradually become "amphibious" troupes or even "multiple operas" troupes.


Lin Opera usually sings in Lingao dialect and is popular in Lingao dialect regions, such as Lingao, Chengmai and Haikou. After Lingao's custom of "putting wood on the shoulder, witches and wizards sing and echo" developed into Puppet Show, this kind of opera has been very popular with people in Lingao dialect area. In the late 1920s, in Xinying, Nanbao and other places in Lingao County, some people introduced Lingao dialect into Hainan Opera's tunes and Cantonese Opera “Banghuang Tune”, trying to create a different type of opera . Some actors even put down their puppets and only sang on the stage. Such kind of opera was later called Lin Opera. When listening carefully, audience can feel that Lin Opera and Qiong-opera are similar to some degree. But the biggest difference is that the lyrics sung by the male protagonist are especially forceful, while the lyrics of the female horn become more gentle, tender and deeply grieved. Now, Lin Opera has become a popular opera in the county.


The puppet show was once splendid


As for Puppet Show, Lin Qinghai said that most people watching puppet show are elderly people. Lingao Puppet Show (folk opera) is sung in Lingao dialect (Thai language). It is distributed in the areas of Lingao, Chengmai and Danzhou in Hainan Province, and in Bopian, Zuntan and Shizi Road in Qiongshan, as well as in Changliu, Rongshan and Xiuying in the suburbs of Haikou. The Puppet Show has its advantages of the lower performance cost. Inviting a Hainan Opera troupe to perform costs tens of thousands or even about 20,000 yuan a night, while a puppet troupe only costs several thousand yuan.


Although puppets become alive when they are played, the puppet show, after all, is a performance in which actors carry or hold puppets but their eyes and mouth cannot move, so that it is not comparable to a live-action show. What's more, the script of the puppet show is often a routine of a scholar in misfortune and a miss with amorous feelings, and finally the scholar gets high school champion but the couple break up , which is not popular with young people. Anyway, for decades, puppet show has been the main character in the entertainment activities of Lingao people.


In the 1970s, Lingao County once invited experts from Beijing to try to improve the so-called shortcomings of puppet show. For example, if actors carry puppets for a long time, their shoulders will be tired. Thus, some parts of the puppets were replaced by paper models. Such changes were once effective. The eyes and mouth of puppets could move, and actors would no longer be so tired when carrying or holding puppets. The improved puppet show became popular for a period of time. But later on, perhaps they did not want to change the original quality of puppet show, so they gave up the paper models. Now the puppet show is back to its original appearance.


The puppet show once had a glorious time in the past. In the 1980s, Lingao County organized a group of intellectuals to participate in the improvement of puppet show, sent people to study outside the island, and encouraged and supported local intellectuals to boldly transplant and adapt operas, such as Lin Opera and Hainan Opera, which changed the situation that "Baidu Play" was always the main theme on the puppet show stage and rewrote the long history of lacking intellectuals in the compilation and direction of puppet show. Some plays which reflect the modern life, such as "Sea Flower", "Grandpa Alarm Clock" and the new historical play "Lotus Fairy", have reached a high level on the ideological content and artistic quality. Besides, these plays participated in the national puppet shadow and puppet show performance and won some awards.


"Li Li Mei" has become a new favor




Lingao people’s entertainment is obviously keeping pace with the times, as evidenced by the increasing proportion of Li Li Mei in their entertainment content. Lingao Fishery Song is a kind of Han folk song popular among fishermen in Lingao County. It is also called Li Li Mei, because of the use of the words “Li Li Mei” and related legends. This kind of folk songs has distinct local cultural color and rich rural flavor of Xinying Port area, where the vast Beibu Bay is surrounded by the harbor of Lingao and the fishing villages are very attractive: the rough fishermen on board, the virtuous women at home, the beautiful fishery songs on the shore.


By contrast, Hakka folk songs are a little sad, and the lyrics are usually full of vicissitudes of life. Danzhou Tune is rapid and unrestrained, high-spirited and enthusiastic and some rhythms are like the concertos for emotional development. While Li Li Mei’s tune is rich and full of charm of the sea. Its lyrics is melodious and can express rich and varied emotions. Now Li Li Mei is getting more and more attention from Lingao people, who are keen on singing and spreading it.

Responsible editor: 劉娉
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