In the latter half of 2014, members of the Ling family were successively detained by the authorities (see "Family" section below). Moreover, an unprecedented number of high-ranking officials in Ling's native Shanxi province were investigated for corruption and removed from office. Rumours circulated about Ling's own fate. Ling was officially placed under investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (party's anti-graft agency) on December 22, 2014, and dismissed from his position as United Front Work Department head about a week later.[2] The CPPCC then removed him from the office of Vice-Chairman in February 2015, in addition to stripping him of his ordinary CPPCC delegate status.[15]
SHANDONG, East China — The unmistakable wail of the suona pierces the dusk in the village as Wang Ruiyong plays a traditional tune on the double-reed instrument. The elderly funeral attendees approve, recognizing the melody. Yet for nearly five years now, Wang and other suona masters have been recording their repertoire in the fear that the songs could soon be forgotten as their tradition increasingly comes under threat.
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE visiting Finland to make an English-speaker appreciate the value of words borrowed from other languages. Finnish, as I learned during a trip earlier this month, is an agglutinative language, in which parts of words stay distinct instead of fusing together. This makes for very long words, like “kahdenneksikymmenenneksiyhdeksänneksi” (one way to say “29,” according to my guidebook), and considerable bewilderment for a visitor. To me, it might as well have been Klingon, only with more umlauts. Every now and then, though, a light would shine through the darkness: I’d catch something like “hot jooga” or “muffensi” or “grill maisteri,” and sigh with relief.

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For Wang, suona music runs in his blood. Yet even with four generations of suona players among his forebears, it took him years of practice to master even the basics on the notoriously difficult instrument. As a child, he spent months playing cymbals in his grandfather’s band to improve his sense of rhythm. Then, from the age of 8, he started learning the sheng mouth organ to perfect his intonation and dropped out of school to focus on music.
“It’s quite hard for us to find jobs,” Wang says. “We’re not young, and we don’t have other skills.” When he first started doing short-term construction work earlier this year, he didn’t even know how to mix concrete, but other workers were friendly and helped teach him the basics. He doesn’t mind the labor, though it leaves him sore. He feels his cheeks are stiff after days away from the suona — a reminder that he was once a master musician.

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The most successful band in Pingyi County is headed by 29-year-old Liu Ji. In jeans and a tight white T-shirt, with a gleaming stud in his ear, Liu looks the perfect antithesis of Wang, the traditionalist in gray trousers and a loose white shirt. Yet Liu, too, learned to play the suona with a reed and a water basin, he says, practicing through hot summer days until the sweat from his feet soaked prints into the ground. He, too, inherited his band from his family, but he added young acrobats, dancers, singers, and Western instruments.

Several weeks prior to the announcement of the investigation, Ling continued to make appearances on state television in his positions of CPPCC Vice Chairman and United Front chief. On December 15 Ling had penned an article on the Communist theory publication Qiushi brimming with praise for the signature political philosophies of Xi Jinping such as the "Chinese Dream". This was seen by observers as a 'last-ditch' declaration of fealty to the new Chinese leader with whom Ling was thought to have lost favour.[11]