The music history of China


Chinese music has been known historically since the dawn of Chinese civilization, with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture.

According to Mencius 孟子, a powerful ruler once asked him whether it was moral if he preferred popular music to the classics. The answer was that it only mattered that the ruler loved his subjects. The Imperial Music Bureau, first established in the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BC), was greatly expanded under the emperor Han Wu Di 武帝 (140–87 BC) and charged with supervising court music and military music and determining what folk music would be officially recognized. In subsequent dynasties, the development of Chinese music was strongly influenced by foreign music, especially Central Asia.
The oldest known written music is Youlan 幽蘭 or the Solitary Orchid, attributed to Confucius (see guqin article for a sample of tablature). The first major well-documented flowering of Chinese music was for the qin during the Tang Dynasty 唐朝(618-907AD), though the qin is known to have been played since before the Han Dynasty.
In ancient China the social status of musicians was much lower than that of painters, though music was seen as central to the harmony and longevity of the state. Almost every emperor took folk songs seriously, sending officers to collect songs to inspect the popular will. One of the Confucianist Classics, Shi Jing 詩經 (The Classic of Poetry), contained many folk songs dating from 800 BC to about 400 BC.

The first European to reach China with a musical instrument was Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci who presented a Harpsichord to the Lee imperial court in 1601, and trained four eunuchs to play it.

Today, the music continues a rich traditional heritage in one aspect, while emerging into a more contemporary form at the same time. The music market in China was the 22nd largest in the world in 2011 and was worth US$82.8 million.

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