Hong Chou (Artistic Director: The Wave Elements and Pacific Violin Academy)

C. Victor Fung (University of South Florida)


Nation/Culture. China, a country with diverse and vast landscapes, is the third largest and most populous country in the world. Neighboring with fifteen countries by land and six countries along the Pacific Ocean, China covers about 9.6 million square kilometers in land area and 4.73 million square kilometers of sea area. The country includes 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 central direct jurisdiction municipalities, and 2 special administrative regions.  China's political system is “Chinese style socialism” led by the Communist Party and named The People's Republic of China, Beijing is the Capital.


The diversity of landscapes also nurtures the diversity of cultures and languages represented by 56 ethnic groups. The Han ethnic group, being the largest, makes up over 90% of the population of 1.354 billion. Among other ethnic groups, Taiwan's ethnic groups are collectively called the “Gaoshan 高山Ethnic Community” or the “Taiwan Native Communities” (including Taiwan dialect 台湾). They share mostly the same religion, linguistic roots, cultural beliefs with the “Chaoshan 潮汕 and Fujian Gaoshan高山 Ethnic Communities” and other ethnic groups along the southern coastal line in mainland China. This culture is designated as “Minnan Pacific Islands Culture” “南太平洋岛屿文化.”


Politically Taiwan is under a separate government named the Republic of China with Taipei as the Capital. It is recognized by the United Nations as “Chinese Taipei.” The end of Hong Kong as a British colony occurred in 1997, and of Macau as a Portuguese colony in 1999. China then resumed its sovereignty in these regions and agreed to make them Special Administrative Regions, retaining their own governance, currencies, and border controls. The two areas even have different visa requirements for foreign visitors.



Music. China is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations. The establishment of Chinese civilization dates back approximately 5000 years. Historical documents show that music was established as part of the civilization in the ritual for Kings to worship the Heaven and Earth. Court musicians played major roles in establishing the styles of court music, dramas, and dance. Furthermore, the diversity of ethnic groups contributes to the Chinese Huaxia Cultures’ 夏文化 colorful varieties of folk music, pop dramas, theatrical music, and dances. All 56 ethnic communities have their own distinctive musical sounds and dances. The musical influence from the Middle East and India in Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and the Classical music from Europe since the early 20th Century and Western popular music since the late 20th Century have energized the music field of China. An amalgam of musical works in various styles has sprouted to the present day, attracting many enthusiasts, artists, and scholars worldwide.


Music in Higher Education. Music studies are mostly concentrated in the nine conservatories in Mainland China. Two are located in Beijing, one each in Shanghai, Sichuan, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Shenyang, and Xian. Many universities also have a music college, school, or department. They tend to emphasize on more academic studies and a well-rounded education. Whether it is a conservatory or a university’s music unit, they all have a different history, strength, and strategies. Some of them are extraordinarily large in student population, facilities, and faculty, with multiple specializations. Most of them have frequent visits by foreign musicians and scholars.


In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts focuses on performance studies. It offers undergraduate and master’s degree programs, as well as diploma and advanced diploma programs. Four other higher educational institutions offer various bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in music (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Baptist University, and the Hong Kong Institute of Education).


In Macau, the Macau Polytechnic Institute offers an undergraduate degree in music, and the University of Saint Joseph offers a master’s degree in choral conducting.


In Chinese Taipei (commonly known as Taiwan), many universities offer music degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The Taipei National University of the Arts offers programs in performance, composition, musicology, pedagogy, and traditional Chinese music. The National Taiwan Normal University is another highly recognized institution that offers a full range of music programs. Many other universities also offer excellent music programs for performers, composers, educators, musicologists, and ethnomusicologists.


Music in Schools. Due to a strong Confucian influence, school education in China is an important aspect of young students and adolescence. Education is an important avenue to achieve a better life. Students respect their teachers as shown in their behaviors and attitudes. Music taught in the schools is reflective of the local ethnic cultural characteristics as well as non-native elements, focusing on music appreciation to develop students’ aesthetic and performing abilities.


Notable Musicians.


Tan Dun (b. 1957)

Chen Yi (b. 1953)

Zhou Long (b. 1953)

Ye Xiaogang 叶小(b. 1955)

Chen Gang 陈钢 (b. 1935)

He Zhanghao 何占豪 (b. 1933)

Li Huanzhi 李焕之 (b. 1919)

Wang Liping 王立平 (b. 1941)

Zhou Wenzhong 周文中 (b. 1923)

Film and Opera Director:

Zhang Yimou 张艺谋 (b. 1950)


Yo-Yo Ma 友友 (b. 1955)

Lin Zhaoliang 林昭亮 (b. 1960)

Yu LiNa 俞丽(b.1940 )

Chai Liang 柴亮 (b. 1979)

Lang Lang 朗朗 (b. 1982)

Liu Shikun 刘诗昆 (b. 1939)

Sheng Zhongguo 盛中国 (b. 1941)

Li Jiaan 李家安 (b. 1957)

Song Fei (b. 1969)

Song Zuying 宋祖英 (b. 1966)

Teresa Teng 邓丽(1953-1995)


Recommendations for Listening.

Yo-Yo Ma recordings: Silk Road Journey: When strangers meet; Silk Road Journey: Beyond the Horizon;

Tan Dun recordings: Symphonic Poem on 3 Notes; Opera: The First Emperor; Symphony 1997; Water Passion after St. Mathew; The Map; Tea: A Mirror of Soul.

Song Zuying recordings: Song Zuying Solo Concert In Concert Hall, The John F. Kennedy Center, DVD; A beautiful Jasmine; Song Zuying Solo Concert In The Golden Concert Hall, Vienna.

Teresa Teng recordings: Eternal Singing; Forever Collection.

Yu Lina recordings: The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto; The Women’s String Quartet.

Chen Yi recordings: The music of Chen Yi: Symphony No.2 and other works.

Zhou Long recordings: Spirit of Chimes; Flowing Streams: Chinese Folk Songs.


Recommendations for Viewing.

Tan Dun:

Lin Zhaoliang:

Yo-Yo Ma: Arabian Dances:

Lang Lang:

Song Fei:

Lin Zhaoliang:


Recommendations for Reading.

Liang, M. (1985). Music of the billion: An Introduction to Chinese musical culture. New York: Heinrichshofen Edition C.F. Peters.

Lau, F. (2007). Music of China: Experiencing music, expressing culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jin Jie (2010) Chinese Music. Cambridge University Press