External Influences on the Development of Chinese Music
Throughout modern history, China has always been very, what could be called
‘secluded’ from the rest of the world. While Europeans were traveling the world and
dominating the seas and lesser civilizations, China was an unbreachable wall to external
influences, very much like the physical Great Wall of China. Very self-sufficient and
unwilling to accept the interference of the western world, it wasn’t until more recent
decades that China began to receive trickles of western influence. Thanks to many
historical events, western influence took hold by force within the walls of China.
Politically and socially, the western world began to wreak changes in the world of China.
Alongside these influences, came technological, as well as more importantly cultural
The stringed orchestra as we know it here in America is purely western,
composed of western instruments, playing in a western style, performing works
composed by the great composers of Europe and the rest of the Western world.
Instruments like the violin, viola, cello, string bass, piano, woodwinds, snare drum all
have their roots in the history of the west. Before the western and eastern worlds met, no
one in all of China had any knowledge of such instruments. At the same time, no one in
all of Europe or the Americas had ever seen the sight of or heard the sounds of the erhu,
pipa, or guqin (McComb). In sharp contrast, the modern world sees the fusion of these
two very different cultures on another level.
Early Chinese music was very traditional in the most extreme sense, even before
written music existed, folk songs were passed down through the generations. Studies of
Chinese music throughout history have shown that many of the core music composition
of traditional Chinese music are all repeatedly the same at the core. Every generation