A brief introduction to Traditional Chinese Classical Music - The differences and common ground between Classical (literati) and Folk traditions from a Historical Perspective
This is a famous painting "Listen to the Qin" by the Emperor Huizong (1082~1135)of the Song Dynasty, one of the greatest artists in Chinese history.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of music traditions – classical and folk. Music from the “classical tradition” refers to art music or “sophisticated” music composed by scholars and literati (or intelligentsia) in China’s historical past. Chinese classical music often has thematic, poetic or philosophical associations and is typically played solo, on instruments such as the qin (commonly known as guqin), 7-string zither with over 3000 years of well-documented history, or the pipa, a lute with over 2000 years of history. Traditional music in the classical sense is intimately linked to poetry and to various forms of lyric drama, and is more or less poetry without words. In the same manner as poetry, music sets out to express human feelings, soothe suffering and bring spiritual elevation. The instruments demand not only a mastery of technique but a high degree of sensitivity (and inner power) to evoke the subtle sonorities and deep emotional expression that rely very much on the left hand techniques (such as sliding, bending, pushing or crossing of the strings to produce typical singing effects and extreme dynamic ranges), where synchronized ensemble playing is virtually impossible without losing certain subtlety. This type of music has come down to us as an oral tradition from masters to students, although written scores that combine numbers and symbols representing pitch and finger techniques respectively have been in use for nearly two thousand years. For instance, the earliest scores for guqin we still have today were from the third century. However it is almost impossible to play directly from the score without first having learnt from a master..... (more in http://www.philmultic.com/English/Chinese_music.html )