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Chinese Music, Traditional Musical Instruments

Ancient Chinese have left a wealth of music instruments and classic tunes. Erhu, Guzheng, Guqin, Xun, Pipa, and other traditional Chinese music instruments may alter your acquired definition of “music”. The great works that have been playing for hundreds or thousands of years may also echo in you.

Melody and tone quality are prominent expressive features of Chinese music, and great emphasis is given to the proper articulation and inflection of each musical tone. Most is based on the five-tone, or pentatonic, scale, but the seven-tone, or heptatonic scale, is also used, often as an expansion of a basically pentatonic core. The pentatonic scale was much used in older music. The heptatonic scale is often encountered in northern folk music.

The variations of rhythm, beat, tone quality, and embellishments in traditional Chinese music are highly distinctive and unlike their Western counterparts. In traditional orchestras, the combination of all the different instruments served to create a harmonious and beautiful auditory atmosphere. Unbelievingly beautiful music was made and is still made. Many instruments can produce purely unique and amazing sounds.

Feature of Chinese Traditional Music

Chinese music was often addressed as “Virtue Music”, “Elegant Music” and “Etiquette Music” in ancient times. In ancient Chinese society, music was not regarded as a way of entertainment, but as a practice to refine one’s virtue. Playing Guqin (Ancient Stringed Musical Instrument) was regarded as one of the primary skills that a scholar had to learn. Chinese traditional culture intensively emphasizes that a musical instrument player pay attention to one’s heart state and virtue, and that one cannot play musical instrument casually.

Traditional Musical Instruments


Pipa has four-stringed lute with 30 frets and pear-shaped body. The musician holds the instrument upright and play with five small plectrums attached to each finger of the right hand. The history of Pipa dates back at least 2,000 years. This instrument has extremely wide dynamic range and is remarkably rich and expressive.The Pipa tunes have very diverse styles, and are traditionally classified as either Wen Qu (civil and mild tone) or Wu Qu (martial and fierce tone).


Xun is a kind of wind instrument. It’s one of the oldest musical instruments found so far in China with a history of more than 7,000 years, and play a important role in world music circle. The instrument has been found along the Yangtze River and the Yellow River as Neolithic relics, and is believed very popular in ancient China. The ancestors used a kind of oval stone with naturally formed holes on it to hunt the preys. When thrown it at the animals, the stone produced a whistling sound as the air flowed through the holes, which could have provided inspiration for early wind instruments.

Horse-Headed Fiddle

The Horse-headed fiddle is a bowed stringed-instrument with a scroll carved like a horse’s head. It is popular in Mongolian music. With a history of over 1,300 years, it even influenced European string music when Marco Polo brought one back from his travels through Asia. Its wide tonal range and deep, hazy tone color express the joy or pathos of a melody to its fullest.


The Erhu, also called ‘Huqin’, was introduced from the western region during the Tang Dynasty. During the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), it was refined and improved and new variations appeared. It was also an important instrument for playing the melody of Beijing Opera. Its music is usually very expressive and touching, especially when you feel down and blue.

When playing, the player usually stands the Erhu on his lap, and moves the bow across the vertical strings. The well-known music ‘Two Springs Reflect the Moon’ was created by the blind folk artist Liu Yanjun, also named A Bing by the people. Though he could not see anything of the world, he played his Erhu using his heart and imagination. This melody conjures up a poetic night scene under the moonlight and expresses the composer’s desolation and hope.



Suona, a very expressive reed instrument with a conical metal bell, is very popular in China’s vast countryside in funeral, wedding, and other celebrative occasions. The Suona has a distinctively loud sound and is used in many Chinese traditional music bands. Meanwhile, it is also an indispensable part of a number of local operas in Hebei, Shandong, Liaoning, Shandong, Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Guangdong provinces.

Modern Chinese Music

Today’s music in China is quite similar to that of modern Western’s. Just like young Westerners, now young people in China attend the concerts of famous pop stars. Modern orchestras play both adapted versions of traditional pieces and classical and modern symphonic compositions.

In modern music, many traditional facets still remain. Many traditional instruments are used in conjunction with popular instruments of Western cultures. The mixing of traditional instruments with western instruments creates a wide variety of euphonious sounds and rhythms, and the mixing with western styles of singing creates unique sounds. Many modern artists also incorporate traditional melodies into their songs, so even music using only popular Western instruments sounds different. The mixing of Western and oriental styles with traditional instruments and other instruments allows for the creation of an endless scope of expression with modern music.

Chinese Kung Fu, Chinese Traditional Martial Arts

Kungfu, also called Wushu or Chinese martial arts, is the fruit of Chinese people’s wisdom. It is a traditional Chinese sport which applies the art of attack and defence in combat and the motions engaged with a series of skill and tricks. It is also an important part of Chinese traditional culture and is the unique “martial art” in the world. Chinese Kungfu has exerted a great influence on the world.

In Chinese, Kung Fu can be used in contexts completely unrelated to martial arts, and refers colloquially to any individual accomplishment or skill cultivated through long and hard work. In contrast, wushu is a more precise term for general martial activities.


Chinese Kungfu has a long history in China, which originated from the productive labor of our ancient ancestors. In their hunting activities, they gradually developed the skills of splitting, chopping and pricking. This kind of primitive skills of both offensive and defensive are the basis of the martial arts.The Martial Arts we recognize today as Kung Fu had their origins in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. During the following Qin and Han Dynasties, wrestling, swordplay and spear skills became well developed and were popular among civilians and troops. Following the Song Dynasty, various schools, boxing styles, movement sets and weapon skills flourished.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, martial arts flourished. In 1985, the first International Marital Arts Invitational Tournament was held in Xi ‘an, and the Preparatory Commission for the International WuShu Federation was established. This is a historic breakthrough in the development of Chinese martial arts. In 1999, International Martial Arts League was invited as a member of International Individual Events Federation by International Olympic Committee, which was the sign of Chinese Martial Arts walking global.

Classification of Chinese Kungfu

Shaolin Kung Fu

Originated in the Shaolin Temple in Henan, this is considered the premier style in China and is widely spread all over the world. Both of its physical exercise and mental training are based upon Buddhist philosophy. The Shaolin Boxing, Southern Fist (Nanquan), Northern Legs (Beitui) and Wing Chun are the representatives of this school.

Emei Kung Fu

Emei Kung Fu originated from the pre-Qin period (the 21st century – 221 BC) in the famous Mt. Emei of Sichuan Province.It is named after the place where it is based, Mount Emei. Emei sect was originally created by a women. With its style stronger than Wudang sect and softer than Shaolin Kungfu, it emphasizes both strength and softness, quickness and slowness, dynamic and static, virtual and actual, ups and downs, lightness and weight.Together with Shaolin and Wudang, Emei is one of the three main schools of Chinese Kung Fu.

Wudang Kung Fu

Wudang Kung Fu was created in the early years of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) by a Taoist named Zhang Sanfeng. It combines the essence of the Book of Changes and the Tao Teh King (Daodejing) of Laozi (an ancient well-known philosopher). Originated in Mt. Wudang, a Taoist holy land, it is of great value to fitness and body-building. By now, it has become popular in China and worldwide, as a kind of fitness sport. Wudang boxing, also known as the Neijia boxing, this kind of boxing is aiming at cultivating the body and health protection. At present, its major skills are well presented by Tai Chi (Taiji), Form/Intention Boxing (Xingyiquan) and Eight Diagram Palm (Baguazhang).

Kung Fu Masters

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is a Hong Kong and American actor, film director, martial artist and the founder of the martial art Jeet Kune Do, one of the Wushu or Kungfu styles. He is widely considered be one of the most influential martial artists of all time and often credited with helping to change the way Asians were presented in American films. He pioneered the Chinese approach to Hollywood, making it possible for westerners to understand and learn Chinese Kungfu, while making action films one of the mainstream films in Hong Kong.

Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan not only represents the brilliant achievements of Hong Kong films, but also has an important influence on the world film industry. He is known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons, and innovative stunts. He is the spokesman of Chinese Kungfu movie, showing foreigners the concept of the hero in Chinese traditional culture, and has opened a window for the world to understand Chinese culture, who become the disseminator of Chinese traditional culture.

Jet Li

Jet Li is one of the most famous martial arts stars in the world today. He had won the national martial arts all-around champion for five consecutive years , later made his debut with the film Shaolin Temple. Jet Li has created classic figures on the screen, Fong Sai Yuk, Zhang Sanfeng, Huo Yuanjia, Chen Zhen, and so on, reputed as a Kungfu emperor by domestic and foreign media . After 1997, he starred in a number of Hollywood blockbusters, joining a-list action star in Hollywood.

Donnie Yen

Yen is one of Hong Kong’s top action stars. Yen has displayed notable skills in a wide variety of martial arts, being well-versed in Tai Chi, Boxing, Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Karate, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wing Chun, and Wushu. In Hong Kong’s action actors and martial arts guides, Donnie Yen is alone into one.

Emperor Guangxu, Whose Life Was Full of Tragic Elements

Emperor guangxu was born on August 14, 1871, as aisin gioro zaitian, the seventh son of emperor daoguang. In 1874, emperor tongzhi died of illness. Since the empress dowager cixi had no heir to the throne, the machiavellian empress dowager chose zaitian (cixi’s mother was cixi’s sister) to continue her reign. In 1887, emperor guangxu was inaugurated. However, real power remained in the hands of cixi, who continued to rule behind the scenes for two years. From the beginning of guangxu’s accession to the throne, he was destined to be manipulated by his adoptive mother, cixi.

During the reign of emperor guangxu, the two most notable events were the Anti-Japanese War and the 1898 reform. In the war of resistance against Japanese aggression, he resolutely opposed compromise and repeatedly forced the qing army to fight with the Japanese. However, he was overwhelmed by the weak and corrupt qing government, which was defeated in the sino-japanese war. After learning a painful lesson, emperor guangxu began to think about the reform to adjust the imperial order and prevent the decline of the whole country.

In 1898, together with a group of reform advocates, he promulgated the state policy and began the reform. Unfortunately, this fierce reform movement lasted only 103 days and was strangled by rival parties that staged a coup against all reform parties. After that, emperor guangxu lost his imperial power again and was placed under house arrest by cixi.

In 1900, the so-called eight-power allied forces invaded China. Facing a deadly crisis, emperor guangxu had decided to stay in the capital to calm people, but before Beijing fell he was taken to xi ‘an by the empress dowager cixi. When they returned from xi ‘an the following year, he was still far away from state affairs. Until 1908, he died of depression and was buried in the tomb of the western qing dynasty.

In short, although the guangxu emperor’s political life was fraught with tragedy, he was seen as a progressive monarch. As a pioneer of capitalist transformation, his deeds broke the ideological prison of feudal autocracy and opened the ideological liberation of China. Therefore, emperor guangxu was regarded as an enlightened emperor who first tried to adopt the western political model to govern China.