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
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 NeoDaoism 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
• 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
“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
(1) The vibration of
ether; the purer air
near the celestial
(2) Vibration of air in the
lower atmosphere
closer to the earth
Chinese and Indian Instruments
Da Tang Gu (C)
Tabla (I)
Chinese Musical Instruments
Chinese Flower Drum-percussion
• 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.
• 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
• 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.
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
Dizi have an extra hole that can be
covered with a buzzing membrane.
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
The Veena
*7 strings, 24 frets
*Made of jack wood
*Gourd resonator at end
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
•Made of 6 or 7 open finger holes.
Indian Percussion Instruments
• 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
• 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
• 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
• Today it’s a major world religion..about 330
million people believe in Buddihism.
• Bow to Allah 3 times a day
• Memorized chants that they say….
• 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
There are 3 kinds of religious music that go along with the three
major religions:
1. 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)
2. Buddhism: uses chants to express their feelings towards
Buddha, or they are silent in meditation
3. Islam: bow down to Allah 3 times a day, they have chants
memorized..that they say each time.
4. Christianity: sing praises to God whenever, there is no set
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 is an oral tradition, taught
directly by the guru, or teacher, to the disciple.
• Raga: the melodic form upon which the musician
• 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
*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
--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
*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
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

ChinaIndia - University of Kentucky