Music in China

Jonathan P. J. Stock

in Chinese Studies

ISBN: 9780199920082
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Music in China

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  • East Asian Studies
  • Asian History
  • East Asian Philosophy
  • East Asian Religions


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One of the world’s most significant historical centers of scientific and cultural innovation, China is today a preeminent center of industrial and economic productivity. The Chinese cultural sphere remains vibrant, and is once again becoming globally impactful. Within the broad field of expressive culture, Chinese music includes a vast panoply of genres and usages: ancient and new; folk and elite; commercial and ritualistic; indigenous, imported, diasporic, and exported. The size and inherent diversity of the Chinese population ensures the sustaining of considerable stylistic and aesthetic variety in all this music, and globally distinctive components include a rich body of ideas about music theory and practice, several indigenous systems of music notation, numerous musical instruments, and many distinctive musical genres. Some of these musical expressions are confined to particular localities or ethnic minority populations; some are the preserve of subgroups of the majority Han Chinese, whether the urban youth, religious practitioners, elite theatergoers, or folk music revivalists. This bibliography provides pathways into this vast field, identifying research sources that serve as initial orientations within a large body of scholarship on music in China. Primarily English sources are cited because this is an English-language resource, but it should be emphasized that there is far more research available in Chinese, as well as significant work in Japanese, Korean, French, and other languages. I also cite books rather than articles, where available, as these have room for greater depth. Any in-depth study will require a working knowledge of Chinese or collaboration with Chinese culture bearers, and foreign-language sources inevitably cite key Chinese items in their references. After a look at accessible overviews and general reference sources, we explore studies of music history. Space is then given to research on a cross-section of representative traditional genres and musical instruments, which is followed by work focusing on more recent developments. A final section presents research on crosscutting issues in Chinese musical scholarship. The selected examples cover the historical and the present day, music from urban as well as rural settings, and expressions from across the amateur-professional spectrum. Although they cannot embrace every subfield or emphasis in Chinese music research, they collectively represent the breadth and depth of contemporary Chinese musical research currently open to readers of English, plus a few key sources in other languages.

Article.  12416 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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