Although historically the piano has been associated with Europe and the west, it has become a leading musical instrument in China over the years. Pianos were initially destroyed as being part of a symbol of the capitalists. But today, an estimated 40 million children are learning to play the piano in China motivated by the success of pianists, Lang Lang and Li Yundi.
Before the People’s Republic of China
Dating back to the Qing Dynasty, the piano was first introduced in Shanghai in 1850. Students studying abroad encountered western musical instruments in Japan and brought them back home. During the 20th century, the piano became more popular where teaching schools began to set up. Those majoring in music went to study piano in eastern parts of the US. Dr. Xiao a historical figure became the father of modern music in China. He got a permit from the government to establish the first music institute in Shanghai. The National Conservatory of music provided professional piano music education to students with an emphasis on other instruments as well.
After the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, the government sent other composers to sharpen their skills in the Soviet Union. New conservatories were set up to facilitate the education of piano music which resulted in various styles of piano music. Later developments advocated for the Chinese people to conserve their musical language in as much as they were studying foreign musical instruments.
Cultural Revolution Period
The cultural revolution of 1966 that lasted ten years saw the government ban all of the forms of art related to western culture. The government was shifting from all western ideas and values which extended to musical instruments. Training schools were disbanded, and everything related to western culture was considered bourgeois. Only musical compositions that had political content and praise were allowed. During this time, Chinese genres of classical music developed with bamboo and stringed instruments added.
Post Cultural Revolution Era
The death of Chairman Mao brought the Cultural Revolution to an end. The ease of political tension with the west allowed for the reintroduction of piano and other instruments teaching. The aftermath made composing remain directed to Chinese music and composition. The change came in 1978 with Deng Xiao who supported western classical music. Since then, great works of western classical music has been admired in China with six times more the number of American children signing up to learn piano. Now pianos are in high demand in China.
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