ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: Music and Movement in China!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Music and Movement in China!

Hi, I'm Jedda from This Little Project.  One of the things that I love about being a musician and a dancer is that it brings me full circle in what I am learning about. It's one thing to read about a place in a book. But if you really want to get to know a people you've got to listen to their music and language and watch (and try!) the movements of their people's dance. That's where you will find a true reflection of a people's traditions and culture.

I hope that you will enjoy traveling around the world-in the comfort of your own home-to learn about cultures as well as the joy of music and movement and dance with your children and students!

Since I can't share my personal library with you, I'll be sharing some links online. Some come from youtube, which can be a great resource. Please be cautious and supervise your students/children when they view them.

Today we will be learning about the music and movement in CHINA!

When I visited China a few years back it was as a pianist. I performed with other American pianists in a diplomatic friendship-building kind of a trip. We performed in joint concerts with Chinese kids and teenagers. Oftentimes the Chinese musicians performed on their traditional instruments instead of the "western" instruments that we are familiar with. It was incredible to watch and learn about!

The first instrument I want to share with you is the Erhu. It is similar to a violin in the sound it makes. I play the violin as well and purchased an Erhu while I was there to try and learn it.  But it is VERY different to play!  The bow is set between 2 strings. The cylinder at the bottom of the instrument is hollow and covered with snake or alligator skin to amplify the sound. Listen to how beautiful it is! Note: this is a "western tune" played by a Chinese instrument.  It was the best close-up of the playing that I could find though. Below you can here the Erhu play again more traditionally.

This is another instrument that the chinese performers shared with me. 
 It is called a Chinese Zither

Here are 2 videos of traditional Chinese music as a group of instruments for you to enjoy:

Since I am also a dancer, I was very excited to see some Chinese dancing too while I was there. The movements remind me of the culture and music of China.  The videos below are some of the more common types of traditional Chinese dance.

Here is a Chinese Ribbon Dance:

This is a Chinese Fan Dance:

And finally, a Chinese Umbrella Dance:

Now YOU Try!

Some things you really have to try to appreciate or understand them.

These activities will help you do that!

Try making a fan and dancing with it like you saw in the video.  You can use stamps or color it before you fold it if you would like.

Try holding some curling ribbon (or any kind) in your hand and dance with it.  Try to make different shapes and try using different hands while you dance around the room to the music on the other videos.

If you are feeling crafty, try making a fortune cookie from felt or paper.

You might also like to try using chopsticks or having rice with your dinner.  I can't think of a meal that I had in China that wasn't served with rice.  You might want to use your chopsticks for other foods first though.  Picking up rice with chopsticks takes a lot of practice!

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Chinese music and dance today!


  1. Thanks for sharing all of these resources and the music! I love seeing Erhu performances - such a cool instrument!

    And how neat that you traveled and performed on the piano. I dreamed of doing that as a teen - you must be really good!

  2. So interesting to see this post. Esp as I have one son that plays the erhu and gaohu, and also a very traditional Beijing Opera instrument called the Jinghu. ;D And no, we don't live in China. haha. I also have one son that plays the violin! Yeah, we have quite a contrast at home.

  3. Wow! This was so much fun to watch! We love all kinds of instruments and love learning the names of unique ones too! Thanks so much for this post!

  4. MaryAnn and Karmeleon-It's so fun to me to hear that you know about these instruments! I still have my erhu but no one to teach me how to play it. I'm so impressed with your musical family!

  5. Wow, what a fantastic post! We are moving with our three children to China this summer for three years. I can't wait to share this with my kids. Thanks for sharing!!

    :)rachel at