No one can deny the traditional music of China with a long period of time with many dynasties. Musicians developed various types of rhythms as well as musical instruments in order to discover the beauty of music over centuries along with the history of this country. There are “keynotes” about Chinese traditional music that we have to dig deeper into including classical traditional performances, folk music, and ethnic music. Knowing more about Chinese arts and music is the way to unlock the mysteries and the beauty of this country.
In this post, we will go through the basic knowledge about the national treasure of China – traditional music, which holds the secrets of the culture and the hidden charm of the largest country in Asia.
The Philosopher of Music
Mentioning to Chinese traditional music, we shouldn’t forget to mention Confucius – the China’s foremost philosopher of music. He is believed to live more than 2.500 years ago. He is considered one of the first philosophers that were keen on music at the time. He set the base for Chinese music over thousands of years and so on. He was a talented musician who could play several types of complicated musical instruments as well as a dedicated music teacher who trained many well – known musicians and song composers at his time. Under his instructions and guidance, people knew about the purpose and the meaning of music and how to define “good music”.
With people worldwide, music is a kind of art and is used mainly for enjoyment and entertainment. However, from the Zhou Dynasty in China, music was used as a way to propagate the government’s ideology and set the pillars of society.
According to Confucian teachings, educating someone is about letting him knows all the rights and wrong without forcing him to learn by heart but understand fully. The best way to do it is to start with poems, emphasize with ceremonies and finish with music.
Apart from the educating purpose, traditional music in China also play a crucial part in rites and rituals of the dynasties. With a country like ancient China, the functions of ceremonies and rituals were ultimately important, that’s the reason why music is a tool used to help conduct and govern people. Music was used in ancient China to optimize the social life of people as well as assure happiness and utility.
Nowadays, traditional music in China is divided into 3 main types according to their performances, instruments, and musical unique features:
- Chinese opera music is the most special one with theatrical performances combining with stage performing skills and other factors
- Orchestra music or Chinese ensemble is for cultured audiences
- Solo instrument performance
Each one of these has its own unique factors that make it special and plays an important part in the world of Chinese traditional art. Briefly speaking, Chinese opera is the way actors and actresses tell a story by acting and singing with visual effects while Chinese focuses more on the emotions of audiences by performing live singing and instrumental performances. Solo instrumental performance is considered a small branch of Orchestra music but more specialized in playing one certain type of musical instrument. To know more about these 3 main types of Chinese traditional music, well will have closer look at all of them.
Chinese Opera Music
Many people in China believe in Confucian teachings which use music as a method of educating and optimizing the society and not to amuse, but that was a long time ago. Nowadays, Chinese Opera music is literally meant to entertain its audiences. There are many types of Chinese opera, but we can mention 2 main types of them which are Beijing and Sichuan opera.
The stage is divided into 2 main parts. The first part is for performers who often wear makeup, go on stage and sing directly for the audiences. The second one is the ensemble. Normally, there is a small ensemble which is responsible for playing music and sounds for the whole play.
An ensemble consists of about 6 to 7 musicians. They don’t even need to see the sheet because they have to know almost all the play and every single note in each performance. The ensemble always performs from memory without the help of music sheets or reminder. That’s also the requirement of a musician when doing this job.
Traditional Music Ensembles
The ensembles in China today can play both styles of music according to the demand of the orchestra manager. Sometimes they play traditional music and other times they perform Western and modern music. In fact, with the development of music in China, some orchestras have hosted some shows that use traditional instruments to perform Western-style music.
With the help of none – traditional instruments such as piano, traditional music have developed and reached a whole new level with a better number of audience. The music doesn’t sound like it used to be 200 to 400 years ago, but the styles are better at being up – to – date with the world of modern music as well as easier for people to listen to.
Chinese art focuses on solo instrumental performances a long time ago. That’s why this is still the advantage of Chinese traditional music in comparison with other countries in Asia. Solo performers are often specialized in ancient and traditional musical instruments to perform both old and new pieces of music. They are considered the masters as in other types of art.
In fact, there are many facts that you might not know about Chinese traditional music as well as Chinese culture. Traveling to China, you must not skip a music tour when going to Beijing since it will give you a really different look about this country. Try to discover the culture here and you will love China as your own hometown. Good luck and enjoy the traditional value of the world.