Music in Chinese

from Ancient China until Today

By Sujanti Djuanda – Chinese teacher at

Traditional Chinese music began 7000~9000 years ago, based on the bone flutes found in China.

Most traditional Chinese music used the pentatonic (five-tone, do-re-mi-so-la) scale, whereas the heptatonic (seven-tone, do-re-minor-fa-so-la-ti) scale is usually used in northern Chinese folk music.

Chinese music was developed in the Chinese dynasties. For example, in the Tang Dynasty, Chinese music was enjoyed by people at fairs organized by religious temples. In the Song Dynasty, classical opera such as 南戏 [nánxì] was performed in theatres and tearooms.

In the Yuan Dynasty, 杂剧 [zájù] – poetic drama set to music was flourished, and traditional musical instruments, such as the flute, the pipa, and the zither, were developed. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the classical operas were quickly developed in different regions.

Pop music in Mainland China was revived after the reform by Deng Xiao Ping in the 1980s. Currently, Chinese music boasts a combination between traditional and pop music. There is a wide range of Chinese pop music being produced, and the traditional music is still kept alive.

Here are some famous Chinese Songs:

1. The Moon Represents My Heart by Teresa Teng

Short Description:
“The Moon Represents My Heart” (also known as 月亮(yuèliang=moon)代表(dàibiǎo=to represent)我的(wǒde=my)心(xīn=heart)) is an anonymous Chinese song that was originally sung by Teresa Teng 邓丽君(Dèng Lìjūn) (1953 – 1995) in the late 1970s and became one of her best-known hits.

This song was one of the first popular foreign songs in Mainland China under the new Open Door Policy. According to The New York Times, it is one of the most famous Chinese pop songs of all time.

2. Good Bye My Love by Teresa Teng

Short Description:
“Good Bye My Love” (also known as再见(zàijiàn=good bye)我的(wǒde=my)爱人(àiren= sweetheart)) is one of the classics that most Chinese are familiar with. It was composed by Hirao Masaaki, lyrics by Nakanishi Rei and sung by Teresa Teng 邓丽君(Dèng Lìjūn) in 1975. It also became one of Teresa Teng’s best-known hits.

3. Fairytale by Michael Wong

Short Description:
The Fairy Tale (Chinese:童话(tónghuà= fairytale)) was composed and sung by Michael Wong 光良(guāng liáng). For the lyrics, he asked about 30 lyricists for suggestions, and finally the song was finished with lyrics he wrote himself.

After this song was released in January 2005, it immediately became a hit at the Baidu 500, the top download for 15 weeks, and the most famous Chinese song in the 21st Century.

4. Olympic song “Beijing Welcomes You”

Short Description:
Beijing Welcomes You (Chinese:北京(běijīng=Beijing)欢迎 (huānyíng=welcome) 你(nǐ=you) was composed by Xiao Ke 小柯(xiǎo Kē) and original lyrics were written by Lam Jik 林夕(Línxī) as a theme song for the 100 day countdown of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

5. Friends by Emil Chow

Short Description:
Friends (Chinese: 朋友(péngyou)) was composed by Liu Zhi Hong刘志宏(Liúzhì hóng), lyric by Liu Si Ming刘思铭(Liúsīmíng) and originally sung by Emil Chow 周华健 (Zhōu Huà jiàn= Zhou Hua Jian).

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Music in Chinese

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