Although jazz has been slow to take root in China, by the late 1990s a significant number of Chinese musicians had adopted the genre, an international jazz festival had been established in Beijing, and numerous jazz clubs were thriving in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Appropriately, China’s first encounter with jazz came during Shanghai’s ‘Jazz Age’ of the 1920s and 1930s, when visiting jazz stars such as trumpeter Buck Clayton performed for largely expatriate audiences in the city’s foreign concessions. Local musicians soon embraced the imported genre, most famously the Peace Hotel Jazz Band that played in the hotel’s opulent ballroom. Filtered through jazz-influenced musicians such as Jin Huaizu (a.k.a. Jimmy King) and the prolific composer Li Jinhui, echoes of jazz were audible in much of the popular and film music of the day. After the 1949 revolution, Shanghai’s jazz musicians were stigmatized as purveyors of a decadent foreign art form and silenced by an insular Communist regime. Jazz remained virtually non-existent in China until its revival during the cultural thaw of the post-Mao era, when the now elderly Peace Hotel Jazz Band resumed playing to packed houses in the expensively refurbished hotel ballroom.
Jazz gained a small but enthusiastic following in the 1980s and 1990s, fuelled by the increasing availability of jazz recordings from abroad and public exposure to expatriate and touring jazz musicians. Perhaps the first noteworthy jazz statement from a new generation of Chinese musicians was pianist Gao Ping’s recording Jazz in China (1988); though only marginally ‘jazz’ by most standards, this early effort was nevertheless significant for its emphasis on improvisation. In 1993, German expatriate Udo Hoffmann staged the inaugural Beijing International Jazz Festival.
Though not the first event of its kind in the Chinese cultural area—a distinction held by the Macau Jazz Festival, now more than twenty years old—the Beijing International Jazz Festival has grown into a major annual event featuring leading international performers. The festival has provided a showcase for Chinese jazz musicians, as well as opportunities to study and play informally with visiting artists, and has inspired similar events in other Chinese cities. Concurrently, jazz clubs have opened in Chinese cities from Beijing to Chengdu.
The most influential modern Chinese jazz musician is Liu Yuan, a virtuoso saxophonist who first came to prominence as a member of the band of Chinese rock icon Cui Jian. A vigorous and assured improviser in a conservative bebop vein, Liu Yuan appears regularly at festivals and smaller venues and has performed alongside such visiting jazz luminaries as Wynton Marsalis. Other notable Chinese jazz musicians at the turn of the millennium include pianist Liang Heping, saxophonist Jin Hao and Hong Kong-based guitarist Eugene Pao. Worldwide, Chinese musicians such as Wu Man, Min Xiao-fen, Liu Suola and Wang Yong are actively exploring cross-cultural improvised music. In the jazz motherland of the United States, critically acclaimed Chinese-American jazz musicians—including Fred Ho, Jason Hwang, Jon Jang and Francis Wong—are pioneering the integration of Chinese instruments and musical concepts into the open structures of jazz.
Rea, Dennis (1997). ‘China Witnesses a Sudden Vogue for Jazz: The Land Tour and the Emergence of Jazz in China’. Chime 10/11 (Spring/ Autumn): 129–38.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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