Minority Cultural Identities in the Political Environment of Contemporary China "Musical Expressions in Performances"

Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted (Opt-Out)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Asian Studies

Second Department


First Advisor

Jennifer Matsue




Minority, Love, Musical Expressions, Dance Performances, Cultural Identity, Erotic Music Activities, Han Majority, CCP, Multiethnic Political Environment, Diversity


This is a two-part project: in the first part of my thesis, I exam Chinese minority’s identities through distinguished musical expressions by minority musicians and Han musicians in modern media in my paper. As for the second part, I design a full-on student recital, in which I perform five ethnic love songs of the Mongolian, the Lahu, the Miao, the Yi, and the Uyghur minorities and a characteristically identifiable Han piece.

Love is an important component in human society. However, the concepts of love are interpreted in multiple ways depending on different cultural backgrounds. For example, the contrast between the West’s and the East’s and variations just within a nation. In China, the Chinese nationalities are made up of 56 diverse ethnicities, one Han majority (98% of the population) and 55 other minorities (2% of the population). Han culture is the dominant influence that forms the mainstream culture of Chinese society.

The Han civilization is indeed profound and developed, but considerably rigid and reserved in terms of showing inner emotions and indigenous feelings at the same time. Take love as an example, Han people embrace the idea with conventional attitude and perform it in implicit manners. While the Han emphasize the necessity of subtlety on love, the minorities take the exact opposite direction. To minority people, love is brightness, explicitness, naturalness, and openness. Such ideology is deeply incorporated and clearly displayed in their musical festivals and cultural gatherings, in which they embellish and reinforce the folkness in their cultural identities through musical expressions. Nevertheless, it is crucial to notice the difference that local ethnic minority artists translate their identities in a respectively bolder and more freestyle, original means and Han musicians tend to define the minority roles through a Party-controlled policy and CCP-orientated standardization. In general, the paper is an analysis of the diverse geographic identities of Chinese minority nationalities in musical performances in contemporary China and an exploration of the contrast between the indigenous and realistic images of the actual lives of minority people and the filtered and idealized minority appearances through the interpretation of the PRC/Han majority. The purpose of the project is to compare the differences between the Han and ethnic minorities in terms of the ways they understand and express love. Additionally, the discussion goes further down to the examination of phenomena such as the CCP’s efforts and intentions to create a quasi-Arcadian identity (rustic, cheerful lifestyles) for the 55 minorities to fit in public expectation.

MY recital performance covers five pieces of love songs of five specific minorities, the Mongolian, the Yi, the Miao, the Lahu, and the Uyghur, featuring on the 21-stringed Chinese zither. These music, written by musicians from either Han or minority backgrounds, convey messages that should not be ignored. Although these pieces are categorized as minority folk songs/dance music, they are composed to fit in the strategy of the central government. Also, the fact that they are created in a rather Han-ized interpretation of minority culture (bright and cheerful melody) and made to perform on the distinctively Chinese musical instrument, guzheng, complicates the nature of the music.

2018_YangY2..pdf (371 kB)
This is the program of my recital, which is the second part of my thesis.

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