The terms ‘musicology’ and ‘ethnomusicology’ in Chinese usage are not as separated as in the West. Because most Chinese music researchers, as far as this article’s scope is concerned, study their own music, they are musicologists from their point of view (as insiders), but ethnomusicologists in the eyes of their Western colleagues (as outsiders). In the following, the term ‘musicology’ is preferred.
After repeated defeats by foreign powers in the late nineteenth century, there were attempts to modernize the country by introducing Western technology and ideas, including the methodologies of modern music research. Wang Quangqi (1892–1936), a student of the Berlin School under Curt Sachs and Erich von Hornbostel in the 1920s, was the first to apply its musicological methods to the study of Chinese music. His ultimate goal in studying music, as in so many other areas, was to create a new national music comparable to the West. Similarly, the sporadic collection of folksongs and teaching of folk music were all for the purpose of improving traditional music and creating new music, not for musical analysis or research. During the Sino-Japanese War and the civil wars of the 1930s and 1940s, both Nationalists and Communists emphasized collecting folk music for patriotic purposes, inspiring mass movements by way of folk or folk-like music. Nevertheless, several prominent modern musicologists emerged in the 1940s, including Yang Yinliu (1899–1984).
It was not until the 1950s that institutionalized music research began with the establishment of the National Music Research Division at the Central Conservatory of Music (founded in 1950). After several changes of name and a period of closure during the Cultural Revolution, it was reopened in 1973 as the Music Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of the Arts. Yang Yinliu subsequently became the director of the Institute. To this date, it remains the leading music research institute in China. Other prominent directors/musicologists were Huang Xiangpeng (1927–97) and Qiao Jianzhong (b. 1941). Since the 1950s, in fact, all major conservatories have established music research institutes and offer musicology degrees. With very few exceptions, all of the research is concerned with Chinese music, which includes music of the Han majority and that of the fifty-five ethnic minorities. A major event in the history of modern Chinese musicology was the ‘First National Symposium of Ethnomusicology’, held in Nanjing in 1980. It was the first time the term ‘ethnomusicology’ was ‘officially’ employed by scholars, though some questioned its use. It also marked the beginning of the influx of post-war musicological ideas and research from the West. By now, however, musicology/ethnomusicology has become a firmly established discipline with many promising scholars and a purpose that is purely academic and scholarly.
In addition to the above-mentioned Yang Yinliu, whose major contribution is to ancient music history and music theory, other musicologists of the 1940s and 1950s include Shen Zhibai (ancient history), Yin Falu (ancient history) and Li Chunyi (music archaeology). Since the 1970s, a large number of musicologists have emerged: Huang Xiangpeng (music archaeology, theory), Yang Kuanmin (folksong), Qiao Jianzhong and Miao Jin (geography of music), Du Yaxiong (minority music and methodology), Mao Jizhen and Tian Liantao (minority music), Shen Qia (methodology), Wu Zhao (qin, music archaeology), Gao Houyong, Yuan Jinfang and Wang Yaohua (music genres), Ye Dong, Chen Yinshi and He Changlin (cultural studies), Wang Yuhe and Liang Maochun (modern history), among many others.
The journals published by research institutes now belong to the highest level of music scholarship. These include: Musicology in China (Music Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of the Arts, Beijing), Music Study (Beijing), Journal of the Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing), Chinese Music (China Conservatory, Beijing), The Art of Music (Shanghai Conservatory), Huang Zhong (Wuhan Conservatory), Jiao Xiang (Xi’an Conservatory), Explorations in Music (Sichuan Conservatory), Journal of Xinghai Conservatory (Guangzhou). A journal published in Los Angeles, Journal of Music in China (Music in China, Inc.), specializes in translating into English major research articles from the above journals.
Shen, Qia (1999). ‘Ethnomusicology in China’. Journal of Music in China 1 (October): 7–36.
Tang, Yating (2000). ‘Influences of Western Ethnomusicology on China: A Historical Reevaluation’. Journal of Music in China 2.1 (April): 53–72.
Wong, Isabel K.F. (1991). ‘From Reaction to Synthesis: Chinese Musicology in the Twentieth Century’. In Bruno Nettl and Philip V.Bohlman (eds), Comparative Musicology and Anthropology of Music: Essays on the History of Ethnomusicology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 37–55.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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