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A time of rhyme

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-29 07:57
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Musician Xiao He (first from left) and friends perform live in the courtyard of Yong Foo Elite club in Shanghai on June 14, led by Zhang Ruishi (third from right), 90, who sings lullabies and children's rhymes that she learned as a child.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Folk songs and nursery melodies provide a unique insight into culture and what has gone before, Chen Nan reports.

At first utterance, they may not seem like cultural treasures. Harmless ditties, a part of growing up, to be discarded quickly. However, nursery rhymes and folk songs play an important but often overlooked role in children's development.

Reciting Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, The Itsy Bitsy Spider or Row, Row, Row Your Boat provides an entertaining entree into developing language skills. They also give an insight into a time before, a peep into yesteryear.

Ni Mingsheng is 80 years old and understands the significance of preserving childhood favorites. When he was about to sing a folk song, Jiu Ku Miao ("saving withered seedlings"), in an open space on the roof of the Power Station of Art, a contemporary museum in Shanghai, on June 27, dark rain clouds were disgorging heavy rain.

When the outdoor performance was moved indoors, the rain stopped. This scenario resembled a scene portrayed in the song, Jiu Ku Miao: "Rain showers come and go quickly and it saves the withered seedlings. In the southwestern corner appears the rainbow."

"The villagers sang those songs and rhymes while working on the farmland," recalls Ni. "Now, few people sing these folk songs or rhymes and fewer people work on the farmland."

Born in a village in Jinze town, Qingpu district, Shanghai, the octogenarian never completed primary school, but he can still recall the folk songs and rhymes he listened to and sang as a child.

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