Discover Folk Music from China

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Discover Folk Music from China is a blog dedicated to exploring the rich and diverse world of Chinese folk music. From the traditional to the modern, we’ll be delving into this fascinating musical genre and sharing our findings with you!

What is Folk Music?

Folk music can be defined as music that is passed down from generation to generation, often within a community or ethnic group. Though it is usually based on traditional melodies and lyrics, folk music is constantly evolving to reflect the changing times. In China, there is a long history of folk music, with different regions developing their own unique styles.

Folk music was an important part of daily life in ancient China. Farmers would sing while they worked in the fields, and herdsmen would play flutes to soothe their animals. Traveling musicians would entertain villagers with stories and songs, and weddings and funerals were always accompanied by music. Over time, different regions developed their own distinct styles of folk music.

The most well-known type of Chinese folk music is probably the erhuang, which originated in the state of Henan during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). Erhuang tunes are elegant and lyrical, often featuring delicate pentatonic melodies. Another popular type of folk music is the qinqiang operas of Shaanxi Province, which are known for their lively rhythms and catchy tunes.

If you’re interested in learning more about Chinese folk music, there are many great resources available online. The websites listed below offer a wealth of information on different types of folk music from all over China.


Folk Music in China

Chinese folk music is a genre of traditional Chinese music. It often consists of ballads, dances and work songs that have been passed down from generation to generation. Folk music often has a strong connection to the history and culture of the Chinese people.

Origins of Folk Music in China

Folk music in China originates from various forms of traditional music, such as Confucian anthems and court music, as well as Tibetan and Mongolian music. Other components of Chinese folk music include the spiritual music of Taoism and Buddhism, and local forms such as Northeastern Chinese (Dongbei) music, Cantonese music and Hakka music.

One of the earliest forms of folk music in China was the daoqing, a type of ceremonial song that was sung during religious rituals. Another early form was guoyue, a type of court music that developed during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Guoyue lasted until the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when it was replaced by qingshangyue, a new form of court music.

During the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic period (1912-1949), Western music began to influence Chinese folk music. This can be seen in the popularity of songs such as “The East Is Red” and “The Internationale”, which were based on Western melodies but with lyrics that promoted Chinese Communist ideology.

Since 1949, folk music in China has been influenced by socialist realism, a style of art that promotes socialist values through positive images of workers and peasants. This can be seen in songs such as “Song of the Yangtze River” and “Ode to the Motherland”, which celebrate the achievements of the Chinese people.

Characteristics of Folk Music in China

Folk music in China is typically associated with the countryside and with rural life. It is often features simple, repetitive melodies and is often based on traditional stories or texts. Folk music in China can be performed solo or in a group, and often features traditional instruments such as the erhu, dizi and pipa.

Folk music is an important part of Chinese culture, with a long history and a wide variety of styles. Folk songs can be found all over China, often performed by local singers and musicians.

Some of the most popular folk songs in China include:

-The Farmer’s Song (农民歌)
-The Love Song of Kangding (康定情歌)
-Horse Racing Songs (赛马歌)
-The Ballad of Mulan (木兰辞)
-Sorrowful Night (哀悼之夜)

How to Listen to Folk Music from China

China has a long and rich history of folk music. Unfortunately, much of it has been lost due to the country’s political turmoil in recent years. However, there are still a few ways to discover and enjoy folk music from China. Here are a few tips on how to listen to folk music from China.

Online Resources

There are a few online resources that can be used to discover folk music from China. One such resource is China Radio International, which offers a variety of programs that focus on Chinese music, including folk music. Another online resource is the website for the Chinese Music Association, which offers a variety of resources for people interested in learning about and listening to Chinese music.

CDs and Recordings

If you want to listen to folk music from China, there are a few ways to go about it. You can seek out CDs and recordings of traditional Chinese music, or you can look for modern interpretations of folk songs.

If you’re interested in traditional Chinese music, there are a number of CDs and recordings available. The China Record Corporation produces a wide variety of albums featuring traditional Chinese music, including instrumental pieces and folk songs. There are also a number of independent labels that specialize in Chinese folk music, such as Old Avenue Records and Flying Fish Records.

If you’re interested in modern interpretations of folk songs, there are a number of artists who create their own versions of traditional tunes. Some popular folk musicians from China include Wu Fei, Zhu Wenbo, and Li Tieqiao. You can find their music on various streaming platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Music.

Folk Festivals

There are many folk festivals in China that are great opportunities to experience the country’s music and culture. Many of these festivals feature folk musicians from across the country, and some even have international performers.

The Beijing International Folk Music Festival is one of the most well-known festivals in China. Held every summer, the festival features musicians from all over the world. In addition to performances, the festival also has workshops and other events that allow visitors to learn more about the music and culture of China.

The Yunnan Folk Music Festival is another popular event that takes place in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. The festival features music from different ethnic groups in Yunnan, as well as from other parts of China and countries around the world. The festival also includes dance performances, storytellers, and other events that showcase the province’s rich cultural heritage.

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