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International Music Resources by Country: China

International Music Resources offers an array of online and physical resources both freely available and/or offered by the George F. DeVine Music Library. The information included in these guides may serve as a starting point for the study and research of
China night city skyline

Citation (1)

Map of China

Map of China

Citation (2)

Listen to Chinese Music

    The Silk String Quartet: Contemporary & Traditional Chinese Music

    Chinese Music Classics of the 20th Century: Pipa I

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music-China

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Vol 7: East Asia

Streaming Video: Dance in China

Streaming Video: Chinese Opera


Facts in Brief

Flag of China

Capital: Beijing

Official Language: Mandarin

Location: The People’s Republic of China covers a vast area of eastern Asia, with Mongolia and the Russian Federation to the north, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to the north-west, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the west, and India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar (formerly Burma), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam to the south

Area: 3.705 million sq. mi

Current Population:1,400,050,000

Climate: China is dominated by a monsoonal regime. Cold air masses build up over the Asian land mass in winter, and the prevailing winds are offshore and dry. In summer there is a reversal of this pattern, and the rainy season is concentrated in the summer months over the most densely settled parts of the country in the east and the south.

Money: Renminbi

Main Religions: Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism

Citation (3)

Chinese Music

Shi poems: 

Written to express diverse emotions and to celebrate various social occasions and interactions, many Tang shi poems are also informative historical records, describing musicians, musical activities and practices.


Buddhist monks played a significant role in the early development of the ‘transformation text’ (bianwen), a narrative genre, a branch of which tells Buddhist stories; it foreshadowed the blossoming of narrative singing in the Song and subsequent dynasties. 


Music flourished under the reign of the great artistic patron Xuanzong (712–56), and the Kaiyuan period (713–41) of his reign is traditionally considered one of the golden ages of Chinese arts. A repertory of 14 large-scale works emerged and was classified as sitting and standing music (libujizuobuji). A refined genre called faqu thrived, incorporating Buddhist and Daoist elements into multi-movement suites; Xuanzong actually participated in the teaching and performance of it.

Ci poetry: 

Ci poetry is so inherently musical that one of its greatest authors is also one of the few documented composers in Chinese music history.Supported by friends and patrons, Jiang created ci songs such as Yangzhou man (Song of Yangzhou), popular ever since its creation.


In addition to ci songs, Song dynasty Chinese also sang a variety of art songs, including the changzhuan, sung to the accompaniment of drum, flute and clappers. This genre is significant because it displays Song attempts to organize individual songs into extended structures: typically a changzhuan includes a prelude, a modally unified sequence of several songs (or an alternation between two individual songs) and a coda. It foreshadows a basic structural principle of Chinese music (qupai ti): by arranging a number of labelled and pre-existent tunes into modally and structurally unified sequences, they can be used as building blocks to create very extensive works, such as a music drama of more than 50 scenes. The individual and pre-existent tunes are called labelled melodies (qupai), whose melodic, rhythmic, rhyme, phrasal and other structure can be adapted to match different texts and expressive needs.

Citation (4)

Composer Highlight

Headshot of Tan Dun

Tan Dun

b. 1957

Tan Dun

Growing up during the Cultural Revolution, he received no schooling or early musical training. For several years he planted rice in a commune. After working as a violinist and arranger at the local opera theatre in Beijing, he was admitted at the age of 19 to the composition department of the newly reopened Central Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Zhao Xindao and Li Yinghai and encountered Western classical music for the first time.

Describing himself as a composer ‘swinging and swimming freely among different cultures’, Tan has drawn inspiration from nature, Chinese philosophy and his childhood memories, a combination that lends his work qualities of timelessness, spirituality and mysticism. The series of works entitled Orchestral Theatre provides perhaps the best summary of Tan's concerns in the 1990s. The cycle aims, in the composer’s words, to restore music’s place ‘as an integral part of spiritual life, as ritual, as shared participation’ through the ‘dramatic medium’ of the orchestra.

 His Orchestral Theatre IV received its première in Tokyo in November 1999 from the NHK Symphony under Charles Dutoit. Subtitled ‘The Gate’, it is a multi-media piece for Peking Opera actress, Japanese Puppeteer, string orchestra and film.

Citation: Tan Dun. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 6 May. 2021, from

Wu Man and Ensemble: Chinese Traditional and Contemporary Music

    Wu Man and Ensemble: Chinese Traditional and Contemporary Music

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(1): "Shanghai Night Skyline" by "Joan Campderrós-i-Canas"

(2): Country Map (The People's Republic of China), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 01 November 2018 from

(3): Country Flag (The People's Republic of China), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 06 May 2021 from

(4): China, People’s Republic of. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 6 May. 2021, from