Hua’er is recognized as a truly unique musical tradition capable of uniting nine diverse ethnic groups. Originally conceived as a means of communication between humans and God, Hua’er remains, to this day, an integral part of Chinese folk culture. Like its literal meaning, Hua’er has blossomed into a widely popular folk song tradition with a rich history of five hundred years. It is immensely popular in North West China and the Gansu and Qinghai provinces, and can be witnessed almost anywhere and anytime.
The history of Hua’er is rooted in traditional beliefs and elements of agriculture and sacrifice to the Gods. Gradually, however, the sacrificial element of Hua’er was lost as it evolved into an extremely popular form of folk entertainment. Hua’er has been officially recognized as an integral part of the Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage on 20th May, 2006.
Hua’er owes its popularity to its unique ability to reflect the inner feelings of each singer. The songs paint a beautiful picture for all listeners, describing stories of love, romance, the hardships and rewards of farming life and other wide perspectives. It allows for the expression of spirituality, providing relief from a material existence. However the significance of Hua’er today is declining, a once dominant aspect of folk entertainment is losing out to modern entertainment presented by the mass media. Wide scale migration from villages to urban cities has also influenced the decline of this beautiful tradition. Paradoxically, it is this very migration that is also a major reason behind the acceptance of Hua’er in urban areas. A collection of more than a hundred works relating to Hua’er has been compiled while over 30 years of research has been undertaken to encapsulate its magnificence. Gaining prominence as a platform for self- expression, Hua’er sets the stage for cultural exchange beyond ethnicities, as it walks on its path to being recognized as a part of human culture across the globe.