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Chinese Dance and Music

Chinese Dance

Chinese folk dance is a rich and colourful performing art with a long history. There are a great number of vivid dancing figures on stone carvings, frescoes, paintings and other historical relics which were created some thousand years ago. The first Chinese poetry collection 'The Book of Songs' recorded the grand occasion of singing and dancing of young people living in the Central Plains. Court orchestras of successive dynasties often performed dancing programmes of different national minorities and many celebrated singers and dancers appeared. Among the people, folk dance is even more popular, rich and colourful with various styles and forms, some of them reflecting work, love, customs or wars and some depicting natural scenes, flowers and birds. In form, dancing and singing are combined. It is thus very effective and expresses the people's feeling thoroughly.

China has a vast territory inhabited by many nationalities, each of them very good at dancing and singing. Because of different living environments and customs, folk dances of different nationalities and regions vary greatly. They are loved by the people. After the founding of the People's Republic of China , the Chinese government has been carrying out the policy of 'making the past serve the present and foreign things serve China', of 'letting a hundred flowers blossom' and 'weed through the old to bring forth the new'. The government has helped to greatly develop Chinese folk dance by building numerous professional and amateur dance troupes which have been exploring, arranging and creating a great number of programmes and at the same time, through cultural exchange, have been drawing experience from abroad.

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Chinese Music

Chinese music has a very long history. Songs and dances had already appeared as early as four to five thousand years ago in the primitive society, Among the excavated cultural relics, there is an egg-shaped wind instrument: Xun(ocarina), made of pottery clay with six holes in it of the Neolithic Stone Age. Seneral times in Chinese history, musical culture was flourishing in the Zhou Dynasty (11th century-256 B.C.) and large-scale orchestras appeared at court. Musical culture in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) was so developed that it ranked among the best in the world and exerted great influence on the development of music in Japan, Korea and countries in Southeast Asia.

Generally, Chinese music can be divided into five categories: song, dancing-and-singing music, ballad-singing music, Chinese Opera music and instrumental music and each has various styles, types and forms. There are ancient art songs and folk songs in the category of song and folk songs can be further subdivided into labour songs, mountain airs, ditties, epic songs and songs with multiple sound of voices. Even the mountain sough could be so different in style because they developed in different regions with different national minorities. Take Chinese instruments as another example: there were already more than seventy kinds of instruments in the Zhou Dynasty two thousand years ago, and today, more than two hundred kinds of instruments are in use. These instruments are divided into four groups: wind instruments, bowed string instruments, plucked string instruments and percussion instruments. These instruments, all rich and expressive, can be used either as solo or group instruments or as ensemble and orchestra.

National dance drama is a new theatrical form in China though as a performing art which combines dance with singing, it has a long tradition. Much of its repertoire has its origins in Chinese classical operas, traditional dances and folk dances. Carrying forward Chinese traditions and learning from European ballet, Chinese choreographers created a number of dance dramas after the founding of New China.

The Chinese national dance drama has a wide range of subjects, some are adopted from historical themes or fairy tales and some reflect present life. The movements mainly come from classical dances in Chinese operas or images on historical relics as well as from folk dances of all Chinese nationalities. It has now become a rich and flourishing art and won the favour of the people.

Famous and representative dance dramas are 'Silk Road ','The Precious Lotus Lantern', 'The Uprising of Small Sword Society', 'Zhuowasangmu', 'Flying to the Moon' and 'The Pearl Lake'.

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  Information provided by China National Tourism Administration.


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