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Huayin Old Tune-The Earliest Rock n’Roll

Have you ever seen the joint performance of Chinese singer Tan Weiwei and several senior artists of Huayin Laoqiang Opera in 2016 Spring Festival gala? And do you like watching Chinese opera? Today, I’ll introduce a traditional form of Chinese opera- Huayin Old Tune to you?

What is Huayin Old Tune?

The Huayin Laoqiang opera, keeping a history of hundreds of years, is the earliest China rock & roll and one of the most archaic operas in China. It was listed as China’s intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture of China in 2006. The skills of the opera were passed down to blood relatives through the male line, notably the Wang family and the Zhang family.


  • quaint, tragic, vigorous and bold in music style.
  • themes usually involving romances, war and politics, reflecting the lives of people living in northwestern China.
  • “roaring” rather than “singing”
  • melodies reflecting the enthusiastic and unrestrained way of life


Laoqiang descended from the chanties of boatmen who sang work songs to synchronize their movements and accompanied the songs by rhythmically beating pieces of wood together, working the Yellow River and Wei Canal 2,000 years ago.

Two performing forms

  • Laoqiang Shadow Puppet Theater

Over the centuries, Lao Qiang shaped other oral traditions – most significantly, shadow puppet theater. Shadow puppet plays means “leather shadow play” for the carved leather figures which dance across a backlit screen, acting out operas based on mythology, religious beliefs, folktales, and history.

Known locally as “Zhang family drama”, the craft was passed down through male members of the Zhang clan of Quandian (Shuangquan Village), with a recorded lineage to 1820.

  • “Original Folk Music” 原生态民歌

Lao Qiang “original folk music”, musicians dressed in peasant costume sing rousing choruses written for this new style of performance. Extras crouch on the side smoking long-stemmed pipes and slurp noodles from large ceramic bowls.

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In China, there’s a great push now to revive traditional folk arts and bring them into the 21st century. And now we are trying our best to protect our traditional culture and lead them to the world.

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