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A Comparison of Chinese and Indian Music


India and China Border


Chinese Language In the oracle inscriptions, one finds many pictographs in their primitive picture forms, for example, for the sun, for the cow, and so on. Together they show that a well-structured script with a complete system of written signs was already formed in that early age.


Major Chinese Religions Taoism Buddhism Islam Christianity


General Facts of India Sanskrit was the classical language of India and is the oldest and most systematic language in the world. Written in Devanagari alphabet Languages Spoken: Hindi (the national language), English, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, etc. Major Religions: Hindu (81%), Christian (2.3%), Sikh (1.9%), Buddhist/Jain/Parsi (2.5%) Important Leader: Mahatma Gandhi (led India towards independence from British rule)


Philosophy of Chinese Music The essence of Chinese philosophy is humanism: people and their society have captivated the Chinese mind since antiquity. Chinese generally see a unity between the individual and the Universe. This harmonious relationship between the individual and the natural world characterizes the entire history of Chinese philosophy. During its 4,000 years of recorded history, Chinese philosophy has gone through four major periods. Classical Age, which culminated in the blossoming of the Hundred Schools during the Spring and Autumn (722-481  bc) and the Warring States (403-222  bc) Periods. I Middle Period (206  bc-960  ad), when Confucianism first emerged supreme in the socio-political sphere, only to give way to Neo-Daoism and Buddhism. Neo-Confucian Stage (960-1850), during which Neo-Confucianism was the unchallenged state ideology. Modern Era, when Marxism and Maoism ousted the indigeneous Chinese schools of thought. Chinese philosophy in the 20th century is still in a formative stage, engaged in a sometimes confusing and chaotic attempt to bring together the whole of the Western philosophical tradition with its own native developments.

Origins of Indian Music: 

Origins of Indian Music The origin of music is said to have come from God himself. Thus, a musician should attain a state of self-abandonment in order that he fuse with the Supreme Reality. Indian music can be traced back to the Vedic hymns in the Hindu temples nearly 2000 years ago.

Philosophy Behind Indian Music: 

Philosophy Behind Indian Music “To us, music can be a spiritual discipline on the path to self-realization, for we follow the traditional teaching that sound is God - Nada Brahma: By this process individual consciousness can be elevated to a realm of awareness where the revelation of the true meaning of the universe - its eternal and unchanging essence - can be joyfully experienced. Our ragas are the vehicles by which this essence can be perceived.” – Ravi Shankar


Philosophy Behind Indian Music *There are two types of sound: (1) The vibration of ether; the purer air near the celestial realm (2) Vibration of air in the lower atmosphere closer to the earth

Chinese and Indian Instruments: 

Chinese and Indian Instruments Erhu (C) Ektara (I) Suona (C) Shenai (I) Tabla (I) Da Tang Gu (C)

Chinese Musical Instruments: 

Chinese Musical Instruments Guzheng-plucking Guqin-plucking Chinese Flower Drum-percussion Dizi-woodwind


Guzheng The Zheng (Chinese Koto) is a famous traditional Chinese plucked instrument which developed from a small instrument made of bamboo originally used by ancient herdsmen. It proved to be very popular even in ancient times, as early as the Ch'in Dynasty (255 BC - 206 BC). The tone quality of the Zheng is mellow and clear.


Guqin The Guqin, a seven-stringed zither, is the oldest Chinese string instrument with 3000 years of history. In Imperial China, a well-educated scholar was expected to be skilled in four arts, qin, qi, shu, and hua, in other words, the guqin, chess, calligraphy, and painting . Since the guqin has historically been viewed as the symbol of Chinese high culture, today only less than two thousands people in China can play it.

Chinese Flower Drum: 

Chinese Flower Drum The history of drums in China is longer than that of wind and string instruments. The character of drum was first found in the inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty.


Dizi The dizi is a bamboo flute. It has been suggested that the instrument originated in Asia Minor or Central Asia, over 2000 years ago. It is a unique solo instrument and is also used extensively in ensembles and orchestras. These flutes have 6 open holes and a lovely bright sound. Often dizi players will carry around several flutes for all the different keys. Dizi have an extra hole that can be covered with a buzzing membrane.


Ravi Shankar The Sitar *Long neck with 20 metal frets *6 to 7 main strings, 13 sympathetic strings running below the neck *A gourd at end of neck that acts as a resonator Features


The Veena *7 strings, 24 frets *Made of jack wood *Gourd resonator at end

Indian Bansuri: 

Indian Bansuri bans [bamboo] + swar [musical note] One of the oldest Indian instruments. Mentioned in the Vedas and depicted in Buddhist art. Transverse alto flute made of single length bamboo. Made of 6 or 7 open finger holes.

Indian Percussion Instruments: 

Indian Percussion Instruments


Toaism Not a religion, but a philosophy! Taoists believe that you can’t change the way things are, they trust that nature is in control of all things. Give it time and nature will change it, you don’t have to do anything. For example: “The Ugly Duckling” when he let nature take its course and figure out he was a swan, he was a lot happier


Buddhism Buddah- “Awakened One” His teachings should be honored and that Buddists jobs were to they should try to end all suffering. They do this by following the “Eightfold Path”. Thus is the way to enlightenment. Today it’s a major world religion..about 330 million people believe in Buddihism.


Islam Bow to Allah 3 times a day Memorized chants that they say….


Christianity Monotheism: the belief that there is only one God This one God created everything and is an all-powerful, all knowing God. There is a freedom of religion, but government likes to control it, so it won’t get out of hand. (Ex. Catholics in China)

Religious Chinese Music: 

Religious Chinese Music There are 3 kinds of religious music that go along with the three major religions: Taoism: their music is more peaceful, in that it relaxes the soul, mind and body.It helps one connect with their surrounding (being one with the environment) Buddhism: uses chants to express their feelings towards Buddha, or they are silent in meditation Islam: bow down to Allah 3 times a day, they have chants memorized..that they say each time. Christianity: sing praises to God whenever, there is no set chant

Development of Indian Music: 

Development of Indian Music North Indian (Hindustani) different than South Indian (Carnatic) classical music. North Indian music developed from ancient religious chants and was later influenced by Arabic music in 11th century. Classical music flourished in courts of Indian Maharajas, or princes; musicians, artists, dancers were employed by palaces; little contact b/w court music and outside world; 1920, radio introduced, so music outside of courts, and became popularized (ex. R. Shankar)

Indian Classical Music: 

Indian Classical Music Indian classical music is an oral tradition, taught directly by the guru, or teacher, to the disciple. Raga: the melodic form upon which the musician improvises. Raga: full 7 note octave, or a series of 6 or 5 notes, or a combination thereof. Each raga is associated with a particular mood. A raga is not only a precise framework, but it is also a manifestation of the musician’s inner spirit through accord of melody and tone. Tala: rhythmic cycle of a raga

Indian Concerts and the Nature of Improvisation: 

Indian Concerts and the Nature of Improvisation *Before a concert begins, the artist must take into account their setting, mood, and time limit. *Traditional Recital: --Alap=exploration of the chosen raga (slow) --Jor= rhythm enters and is developed (variation on raga starts to expand) --Gat=fixed framework of the raga (drums enter with tala) --Artist may now improvise as long as they stay within boundaries of raga and tala (this takes many years of training) --Jhala=acceleration of rhythm (for example, the exciting interplay of sitar and tabla)

The Indian Film Industry: Bollywood: 

The Indian Film Industry: Bollywood *Produces the most films per year in the world. *Indian films are like musicals, mostly in Hindi. *Standard film often includes two or three major stars, A Still from Mother India 1957 six songs, and 3 dances. *The songs are often ghazals. *Ghazals: metaphorical lyrics *Lata Mangeshkar: most known female vocalist for Indian pop music; has worked on over 2000 soundtracks.

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