Traditional Chinese Opera Meets Javanese Gamalan Music

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for something a little different? How about Traditional Chinese Opera Meets Javanese Gamalan Music? This unique performance is sure to please and is not to be missed!


Traditional Chinese opera is a form of musical theatre that dates back to the 14th century. It combines music, dance, drama, and acrobatics, and is usually performed in Chinese dialects. Javanese gamalan music is a traditional form of music from Java, Indonesia. It is characterized by its use of gamelan instruments and an emphasis on interlocking parts.

History of Traditional Chinese Opera

Traditional Chinese opera is a form of musical drama that has been around for over a thousand years. It is usually accompanied by Beijing opera, which is a type of orchestrated music. In the past, Chinese opera was only performed for the elite class. However, in recent years, it has become more popular and is now enjoyed by people of all classes.


Chinese opera is a form of musical drama and storytelling that has been popular in China for centuries. Though the exact origins are unknown, it is thought to date back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) when it was used as entertainment for the royal court. Over time, it developed into a more sophisticated art form, incorporating music, dance, and acrobatics.

Traditional Chinese opera is known for its colorful costumes and elaborate make-up. The characters are often divided into two groups: the sheng, who are male roles played by men, and the jing, who are female or male roles played by women. There are also a variety of supporting roles, such as drummers and clowns.

The stories told in Chinese opera are typically based on Chinese folklore or historical events. They often feature heroes who overcome great odds to save the day. While the plots may be fictional, they often teach important moral lessons.

Chinese opera was once very popular in China but has declined in recent years due to competition from other forms of entertainment, such as television and film. However, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in this ancient art form, both in China and abroad.


During the Tang Dynasty, Chinese opera saw its golden age. At that time, it was not only popular in China but also in other countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and even India. Many famous operas were written and performed during this period. One of these famous operas is The Butterfly Lovers, which is still very popular today.

After the Tang Dynasty, Chinese opera went through a period of decline. However, it experienced a resurgence during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This was partly due to the fact that many operas from the Tang Dynasty were rediscovered and revived during this time. In addition, new operas were also written and performed.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Chinese opera became increasingly popular in Southeast Asia as well. This was due to the fact that many Chinese immigrants brought their love of opera with them when they moved to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. As a result, traditional Chinese opera began to fuse with local music traditions to create new hybrid genres such as Javanese gamelan music.

Modern Times

Since the 1920s, many changes have taken place in traditional Chinese opera. In an effort to make the art form more appealing to modern audiences, new plot lines and characters were introduced. In addition, traditional Chinese opera was used as a tool for political propaganda during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). After the Cultural Revolution ended, traditional Chinese opera slowly began to regain its popularity.

In recent years, traditional Chinese opera has experienced a resurgence in popularity. This is due in part to the government’s support of the art form, as well as an increasing interest in traditional Chinese culture amongst the general population. Traditional Chinese opera troupes can now be found in cities all over China, and the art form is once again enjoyed by people of all ages.

History of Javanese Gamalan Music

Javanese gamalan music is a form of traditional music from Java, Indonesia. It is characterized by its use of instruments such as the gamelan, an ensemble of percussion instruments. The music is often performed at religious ceremonies and festivals.


Javanese gamelan music has its roots in the ancient court music of Java and Bali. The word gamelan comes from the Javanese word gamel, which means “to strike or to play.” The music was originally performed by percussion ensembles using a variety of instruments, including gongs, drums, and bamboo flutes.

The first gamelan orchestras were probably developed in the 9th century CE, but it is not clear exactly when or where they originated. The oldest surviving gamelan music dates from the 13th century CE, and it is thought that the music may have been introduced to Java from China or Persia.

Over time, the music of the gamelan orchestras began to influence the traditional Chinese opera music of Indonesia. This process was accelerated in the 19th century CE when Javanese musicians began to travel to China to perform for the emperor.

By the early 20th century CE, Javanese gamelan music had become a unique hybrid of Chinese opera and traditional Javanese music. This new style of music quickly spread throughout Indonesia and became one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the country.


Java is a large island in Indonesia, and has been a center of culture and trade for centuries. Javanese gamelan music is one of the most famous and recognizable genres in the world. This traditional music is characterized by its use of percussion instruments, as well as its unique scales and melodies.

Gamelan music has its roots in the court music of the Majapahit Empire, which ruled over Java from 1293 to 1527. Gamelan instruments and musical styles spread to other parts of Indonesia and Southeast Asia during this time. In the late 19th century, Javanese gamelan music was introduced to China by Indonesian students who were studying in Beijing.

traditional Chinese opera with Javanese gamelan elements became very popular in China. This fusion genre continued to develop over the next few decades, and eventually became known as “Javanese gamalan music.”

Today, Javanese gamalan music is enjoyed by people all over the world. It is often performed at weddings, religious ceremonies, and other special events.

Modern Times

Java’s modern history may be said to commence with the Dutch East India Company’s conquest of the island in 1579, although for purposes of this article it is more convenient to begin a little later, with the establishment of Dutch rule in 1619 under the United East India Company. Two events of lasting importance occurred in Java during the first half of the 17th century. The first was the gradual consolidation of power in the hands of a few great landowners, who thus laid the basis for a new class structure; and the second was Christianity’s advance at the expense of Islam, which had been introduced into Java some centuries earlier.

During most of the 17th century, effective power in Java rested in the hands of four or five wealthy families--the so-called Regents--who controlled not only vast landed estates but also important posts in the colonial administration. One member of each family was chosen as head regent (raden patah), and it was this head regent who exercised real authority on behalf of his clan. In addition to their economic and political clout, the Regents were held in high regard because they were regarded as guardians of traditional Javanese values. They were expected to maintain social order within their domains and to uphold adat (customary law), both Muslim and indigenous.

Traditional Chinese Opera Meets Javanese Gamalan Music

On October 12th, the Beijing Opera Theater will be performing a special show that blends traditional Chinese opera with Javanese gamalan music. This is the first time these two forms of music have been combined and the results are sure to be spectacular. The show will feature traditional Chinese instruments like the erhu and pipa, as well as Javanese instruments like the gamelan and rebab.

How They Met

It was a cold winter day in Beijing when the two musicians first met. Li Bai, a young Chinese opera singer, was in town for a performance and was walking around the city when he came across a group of musicians playing gamalan music. He was instantly captivated by the sound of the music and watched the group for a while.

After the performance, he went up to one of the musicians, Javanese gamelan player Ri Suharto, and asked him about the music. Ri Suharto told Li Bai that gamalan music is originally from Java, Indonesia and is traditionally played on a set of instruments called gamelan. The two musicians struck up a conversation and found that they had a lot in common. They both loved music and were passionate about their respective traditions.

Li Bai invited Ri Suharto to come watch his opera performance that evening. Ri Suharto was impressed by Li Bai’s singing and was fascinated by Chinese opera. He was particularly interested in the way that Li Bai used his voice to create different characters. After the performance, the two musicians talked again and agreed to meet up later to play some music together.

They met several more times over the next few weeks and began experimenting with combining their two traditions. They found that they could create new sounds by playing gamelan instruments along with Li Bai’s singing. They also discovered that they could use traditional Chinese opera techniques to add new dimensions to gamalan music.

The two musicians slowly developed a unique style of music that blended elements of both traditions. They called their new style “Javanese Gamalan meets Chinese Opera” and began performing together regularly. Their concerts were very popular and they soon began touring Asia and Europe.

Today, Li Bai and Ri Suharto are recognized as two of the leading exponents of their new style of music. They continue to tour internationally and their concerts are always highly anticipated events.

What Happened Next

The improbable meeting of traditional Chinese opera and Javanese gamalan music turned out to be a huge success! The Chinese opera singer and the gamalan orchestra bonded immediately, and their performance was electric. The audience was transfixed by the unfamiliar sounds and rhythms, and the two groups took home a well-deserved standing ovation.

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