Xian shi yue is one of many music traditions indigenous to the culture-linguistic zone of Chaozhou, located on the northeastern tip of Guangdong Province. Xian shi yue is a form of wind-string ensemble music categorically known as sizhu ("silk and bamboo"). Musicians play xian shi yue indoors with a variety of soft-sounding string and wind instruments, accompanied by a few small percussion instruments. Unlike other regional sizhu ensembles, xian shi yue uses mostly plucked and bowed string instruments.
Musicians consider the Xian shi yue core instruments to be erxian/touxian, tihu, yehu, pipa (all two-stringed fiddles), sanxian (three-stringed plucked lute) and the yangqin dulcimer. Percussion instruments include the muban (hand-held wooden clapper), the daban and fuban (a pair of hollow wooden blocks), the zhegu (small drum) and the tongling (copper bell). One person plays all of the first three percussion instruments. Another person plays the tongling.
Xian shi yue has its own tuning , notation system , modal system, melodic structure, ornamentation and techniques of melodic development.
But its most distinguishing stylistic feature is the extensive use of melodic variation . Three kinds of melodic variation are commonly used during performance of a piece:
Xian shi yue mainly functions as entertainment music and is traditionally performed by amateur musicians in the setting of a music club. One finds performances in Chaozhou music clubs and native place associations in places outside Mainland China such as Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries with large numbers of Chaozhou emigrants.