Chinese Music is generally divided into two different categories - Traditional music & Folk Music.

Traditional music, refers to the music composed by the scholars, well-educated individuals or monks and they would never be performed in public or for commercial purposes. These music are composed as a means of self-purification, personal meditation, unity with the nature, identification with the values of sages and divine beings, or simply to communicate with bosom friends or lovers.

In ancient time, the Chinese would never allow themselves to be known as “professional musicians”, as it is considered shameful if they had to make a living from music. They only play music for their friends, lovers, students or simply for themselves. Through music appreciations, they can even discover friends or lovers.

Traditional Chinese music is, in some ways, very closely related to Chinese painting. The empty spaces in the Chinese paintings occupy a very important role in harmonising the viewing of the entire painting; it grants the viewers and the players, a space to imagine and a moment to breathe. This is very much similar to use of a musical rest in Western music. It is a contrast between sound and silence.

The flow, the pause and the intonations of Chinese traditional music are very similar to that of the Chinese poetry. It is thus often referred to as poetry without words.

Folk music, on the other hand, are generally vocal or for instrumental ensembles.
Apart from the Han Chinese, there are many ethnic minorities living in every corners of China, each with its own traditional folk music.

Its varieties includes love songs, tales of the olden days, music for folk dances or regional operas. These various folk melodies are gradually becoming a major source of inspiration for the growing repertoire of many contemporary composers.

In the Imperial China's era, well-educated individuals of the elite society were expected to master the four arts, namely, the Qin, Qi, Shu, Hua (which means music, chess, calligraphy, painting respectively) Being on top of the four traditional arts, music holds an important status  in the Chinese culture.

~Written by Boon Sin Ler

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