In the early 20th century after the end of Imperial China, there were major changes to traditional Chinese music as part of the New Culture Movement. Much of what Westerners and even Chinese now consider to be music in the traditional Chinese style can be dated to this period and is in fact less than 100 years old. The modernization of Chinese music involved the adoption of some aspects of Western forms and values, such as the use of Western conservatory system of teaching, and changes to the instruments and their tuning, the composition, the orchestration of music, the notation system and performance style. Some forms of Chinese music however remained traditional and are little changed.

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Chinese orchestra

There was a tradition of massed instruments in the ritual court music form known as yayue since the Zhou Dynasty. This music may be played by a handful of musicians, or there may be more than 200 for example during the Song Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty there were also large-scale presentations of banquet music called yanyue (燕樂) in the court. The Tang imperial court may have up to ten different orchestras, each performing a different kind of music. It also had a large outdoor band of nearly 1,400 performers.

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The modern Chinese orchestra however was created in the 20th century modeled on Western symphony orchestra using Chinese instruments. In the traditional yayue, a single dominant melodic line was favored, but the new music and arrangements of traditional melodies created for this modern orchestra is more polyphonic in nature.

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The Plum Blossom is a patriotic song of the Republic of China (Taiwan) written for the Taiwan film Victory (梅花) (1976) by its director Liu Chia-chang (劉家昌). Chiang Wei-kuo soon rearranged it into The Plum Blossom March (梅花進行曲). The flower was adopted as the National Flower of the Republic of China on July 21, 1964. The song likens the resilience of the plum blossom to that of the Chinese people, which was especially salient during the political conditions of the 1960s. The blossom is a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity, has three stamens symbolizing Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People, and five petals, which represent the five branches of the government.


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