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China

China

Geography & Topography

Capital: Beijing

Area: 9,706,961 km2

Population: 1,353,821,000

Languages: Standard Chinese

Religion: Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese Folk Religions

Currency: Yuan

 

History

China is situated in Asia and is the most populated country in the world with 1.3 billion people, recognizing 55 minorities. The capital of China is Beijing where the famous Great Wall of China is located. The majority of people speak Mandarin, and the national animals are the giant panda, crane, golden pheasant and Chinese dragon. Chinese civilization is the oldest ever recorded, there is existing proof that primitive human beings were living in China over a million years ago. The country has a recorded history of over 5000 years. The arising of civilization occurred in the Yellow River Valley which was a milestone for the people who began supporting themselves mainly through agriculture and live stock raising. The Chinese started smelting bronze and iron 3000 years ago and their culture started flourishing, thinkers and philosophers started to emerge and Confucius became one of the most influencing thinkers in China. From 221 B.C. until 1840, China went through many different dynasties including the Yuan dynasty, the Ming dynasty and the Qing dynasty until the Opium Wars. China had an important impact on world civilization because its the place where 4 major inventions took place including: Gun powder, paper, printing and the compass. Following more than two millenniums of dynasties and another century of feudal society, the People Republic of China was created in 1949 and adopted its ‘Open Door Policy’ in 1978, putting an end to 5000 years of self-seclusion.

Performing Arts

Most of China’s traditional music is influenced by rural traditions and is comprised of wind and percussion ensembles featuring bowed instruments and plucked strings. At the beginning of the 19th Century a lot of Chinese music was influenced by Europe’s classical music with symphony orchestras forming in many cities and musicians adding jazz influences to their music. From 1949 to the 1990’s, when the Communist party was established, folk music was used to create revolutionary songs in order to educate the rural population and this was the only form of music allowed in China. Today the country has quickly taken to new music such as pop, hip hop, underground rock and punk. China is also well known for its opera, hugely popular in Beijing, involving high pitched vocals accompanied by string and percussion instruments


The most recognizable instruments in traditional Chinese music are:

culturalinfusion/soundinfusion-Guqin

A musician plucking the Guqin during a performance

Guqin: Guqin, meaning ancient stringed instrument, is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as the ‘father of Chinese music’. It has a 5000 year old history and was a favourite amongst scholars and emperors.  It is a wooden instrument consisting of seven strings and sounds are produced by plucking open and stopped strings. Sliding tones are often made to produce a sound similar to a slide guitar. Since it is a very quiet instrument, the Guqin is usually played on its own or with singing, and today a microphone is often used to amplify the sound.

culturalinfusion/soundinfusion-erhu

Erhu, a two-stringed bowed instrument, also known as the Chinese Violin

 

Erhu: The Erhu is a two-stringed, bowed instrument, sometimes referred to as the ‘Chinese violin’.  It consists of a long vertical stick-like neck with two large tuning pegs at the top where two strings are joined to a small sound box at the bottom, which is covered by python skin.  A horse hair bow is drawn back and forth along the two strings to form a sound.


Dizi: The Dizi is a Chinese flute widely used in Chinese folk music and opera. It is often called the Chinese bamboo flute because it is made out of bamboo; however others have been made out of wood and stone. Similar to the flute you might be accustomed to, the Chinese flute has an additional hole which is covered by a tissue of reed (bamboo skin). This generates a louder and brighter sound, ending with a buzzing, nasal tone.

culturalinfusion/soundinfusion-dizi

Dizi, a chinese flute often made by bamboo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Gun powder was first discovered in China where it was used to make fireworks.
  • Paper and ice cream were first invented in China.
  • During Chinese New Year, a life-sized dragon puppet is manipulated by a team of people to perform a dragon dance to drums and music.
  • With over a billion inhabitants, China is the world’s most populated country.

Chinese community in Australia:

More information on the Chinese community: