Chinese Culture 


 Chinese Culture






Music -- Traditional Chinese Music

Chinese music can be traced far back into history. Around 3,000 years ago, when European music was just experiencing its first breath of life, a complete musical theory and sophisticated musical instruments began appearing in China. The orthodox ritual music advocated by Confucius was largely responsible for this Chinese interest in and mastery of music. By the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), the imperial court set up a Music Bureau, which was in charge of collecting and editing ancient melodies and folk songs. Because of commercial contacts with Central Asia, foreign music entered China and modified as well as improved Chinese music. By the time of Emperor Hsuan Tsung (r. 713-755 A.D.) of the Tang Dynasty, the court organized the Pear Garden Academy song and dance troupe which cultivated a large number of musicians and laid a firm foundation for Chinese music.

As with anything, traditional Chinese music had many different variations depending on the time period, region, and individual. Each imperial court had its own specialty. Each dynasty focused on different aspects of the music. And within each dynasty, different regions and localities possessed their own style of music. As with Western music, solo performances of musical instruments also exist. Some musical pieces are performed slowly to creating a relaxing ambience while others are performed very quickly to mark an atmosphere of excitement and festivity.

a Hsiao, a Vertical Bamboo Flute
The variations of rhythm, beat, tone quality, and embellishments in traditional Chinese music are highly distinctive and unlike their Western counterparts. This is mainly due to the unique sounds and playing styles of traditional Chinese musical instruments. Chinese musical instruments can be divided into four basic categories based on the method by which they are played: blown, bowed, plucked, and struck (i.e. percussion) instruments.

In traditional Chinese orchestras, the combination of all the different instruments served to create a harmonious and beautiful auditory atmosphere. Unbelievingly beautiful music was made and is still made. Many Chinese instruments can produce purely unique and amazing sounds. Some famous traditional pieces have been amassed below for your listening pleasure.

Sound Clips

Liang Zhu Sampler: a very beautiful melody played by an "erhu - want-to-be" violin. This is the same melody to which Chen Lu skated when she won her Olympic Bronze Medal.
Purple Bamboo Melody: a happy and excitable melody played by the whole group of Chinese Instruments - Erhu, Di ' tz, Pipa, and Drums to name a few.
Pass Mountain Moon: a sort of spooky and disjunct beginning melody played by plucked instruments that becomes very fluttery and musical.
New Years Eve: a pretty melody that depicts, as the name denotes, New Years Eve played by an Erhu.
Four Seasons: a song with vocals and music. Notice the singer's style of singing and the background music played by traditional instruments.
Sweet Osmanthus in August: a vocal group of singers with music singing with a more upbeat and "happy" style. This is the type of music probably sung at celebrations.