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Kid Music Series: Introduction to Traditional Chinese Music

Updated on January 20, 2015
All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching
All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching

Music From China

There is such beauty in the traditional music of China. It ranges from the instrumental ensemble to folk singing. In this article, I will give you my recommendations for both. Being a general music elementary teacher for over 15 years, I've learned from books and from colleagues the songs I taught to children over the years. They are wonderful songs to use during Chinese New Year and also for International Week. For my first grade dance recital, I developed a ribbon dance for Feng Yang Flower Drum Song.

A Brief History of the Chinese Folk Song

All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching
All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching

For thousands of years, the Chinese folk song grew and developed into a modal music system (roughly the pentatonic scale). The ruling class in ancient China valued music so highly that folk songs, military songs and instrumental pieces needed a stamp of their approval to be officially recognized and performed. In addition, the modal system’s harmonious notes linked philosophically and physically to ones social and physical well-being. The tones themselves linked to the four elements (earth, air, fire and water).

Mostly Instrumental

Classical Folk Music From China
Classical Folk Music From China

A wonderful album with good examples of instrumental music. Includes the instrumental Happy Maid that I used I also used for International Week.

 

A Brief Overview of the Chinese Instrumental Ensemble - Instrumental performances could be a soloist, a small ensemble. or an orchestra.

Source

The Basic List of Instruments

  • dizi: bamboo flute
  • erhu: two stringed 'fiddle'
  • qin: seven string 'zither'
  • zheng: multi-string 'zither'
  • pipa: pear-shaped lute
  • sheng: mouth organ
  • paigu: drum
  • other percussion: cymbals and gongs

The modern Chinese orchestra has its seating arrangement in the style of a Western orchestra. It includes more variety in types and sizes of string instruments both plucked and bowed, a woodwind section, drums and percussion, and has added some Western instruments like the cello.

I Love of Chinese Art Song & Folk Song
I Love of Chinese Art Song & Folk Song

Artist: Hsuan Ma

I liked hearing the examples of her singing and the arrangements. She has a sincere love of the traditional folk song. Includes Feng Yang Flower Drum Song.

 

Some Recommended Songs and Albums

Song - Artist - Album

Kang Ding Love Song - Long Piaopiao - Chinese Famous Folk Song

Feng Yang Flower Drum Song - Kim Milai - Dinobone Dinobone Have You Heard? My English version of the song!

Jasmine Flower - Lei Qiang - Chinese Traditional Erhu Music 1 (instrumental)

Jasmine Flower - Little Glittering Star Choir - The Green Poplar and Willow: Little Glittering Star Choir


Album - Artist

Chinese Lullabies - Beijing Angelic Choir Gorgeous singing makes you forget the synthesized background. This was a ritual for nap time.

Sleeping: Music for Efficient Sleep - Shanghai Chinese Traditional Orchestra

Kang Ding Love Song

Jasmine Flower

Jasmine Flower

Gau Shan Ching

Feng Yang Flower Drum Song

Feng Yang Flower Drum Song -Instrumental

Chinese New Years Music

Chinese New Years Music
Chinese New Years Music

From Heart of the Dragon Ensemble I used the instrumental piece Spring Festival for International Week at school.

 

These songs are traditional and but still very popular. You may have heard of some like Jasmine Flower.

Source
All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching
All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching

Jasmine Flower

Such a beautiful jasmine flower,

Such a beautiful jasmine flower,

Branches full of sweet white buds,

Every one loves their beauty.

I will gather some and offer them

To the one I love,

Jasmine flower, jasmine flower.

Hau yi duo mei li de mo li hua,

Hau yi duo mei li de mo li hua,

Fen fang mei li man jy ya

Yeou shiang yeou bai ren ren kua

Rang- wo- lai jiang ni jai shia

Sung gei bie ren jia,

Mo li hua, mo li hua.

All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching
All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching

Feng Yang Flower Drum Song - English

Left hand a drum, right hand a gong,

Holding a drum and gong, come let’s sing a song!

No other song do I know how to sing,

This one and only song ‘Feng Yang’ is it’s name.

Come sing ‘Feng Yang’ yi hu ya hu hay!(sounds of drum and gong)

Der long dang piau yi piau Der long dang piau yi piau

Der piau, der piau, Der piau der piau piau yi der

Piau piau piau yi piau!

Feng Yang Flower Drum Song - Mandarin

Tzuo shou luo, yeou shou gu,

Shou na je luo gu, lai chang ger.

Bie de ger er wo ye bu huei chang,

Jy huei chang ger ‘Feng Yan’ ger.

‘Feng Yang’ ger la yi hu ya hu hay! (sounds of drum and gong)

Der long dang piau yi piau Der long dang piau yi piau

Der piau, der piau, Der piau der piau piau yi der

Piau piau piau yi piau!

All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching
All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching

Kang Ding Love Song

On the lu lu di hillside, Horses lu lu di roam oh.

Clouds float lu lu di over, Kang ding lu lu di town oh.

New Moon Shi-i-i-ning, Kang ding lu lu di town oh!

Pau ma liu liu de shan shang,Yi duo liu liu de yu-n yo.

Duan duan liu liu de jau tzai, Kang ding liu liu de cheng yo.

Yue liang wan-wan, Kang ding liu liu di cheng yo!

All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching
All clip art used in this article is from the booklet 'Chinese Folk Songs' by Yeh Yung-Ching

Gau Shan Ching - English

Mountains so green, streams so blue,

Alishan’s maidens lovely as streams

Alishan’s young men strong as the mountain!

Ah------ Ah-----------------------

Alishan’s maidens lovely as streams

Alishan’s young men strong as the mountain!

Mountains ever so green, streams ever so blue,

Maidens and young men are never apart

Like streams around the mountain green.

Gau Shan Ching - Mandarin

Gau shan ching, jian shuei lan,

Alishan de gu niang mei ru shuei ya,

Alishan de shau nian juang ru shan.

Ah------- Ah--------------------------

Alishan de gu niang mei ru shuei ya,

Alishan de shau nian juang ru shan.

Gau shan chang ching, jian shuei chang lan,

Gu niang he na shau nian yung bu fen ah!

Liu shuei chang wei je ching shan juan.

Have Suggestions for Music? - I'd love to hear it!

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    • Andromachi profile image

      Andromachi 3 years ago

      Great lens. I have become familiar with traditional Chinese the last 5 years and totally love it. I didn't know these though so thank you very much. If you haven't yet listened to I would recommend to you traditional Greek music.

    • Kim Milai profile image
      Author

      Kim Milai 3 years ago

      @Andromachi: That is a terrific idea. Do you have any Greek folk songs that are good for children? If you have any names I would love to hear them and make up an article about them (unless you want to do an article about them yourself?) KM

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