Folk Songs and Popular Music in China: An Examination of Min’ge and Its Significance Within Nationalist Frameworks

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Li, Belinda
China; Chinese music; Chinese folk songs; Han-minority relations; nationalism; cultural policy; Asian Studies; Folklore; Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures
thesis / dissertation description
This thesis examines the function of music within different theories of nationalism and the appropriation of folk music within the genre of min’ge. Min’ge, a term in Chinese which directly translates to “folk songs”, has generally been defined as oral musical traditions. However, due to the increased politicization of popular music since the 1930s, the nature folk music has fundamentally changed, reflecting its new significance within Chinese nationalism. Through the years, min’ge has become more useful to promoting the goals of the state than representing the musical traditions of the many different ethnic groups in China. This transformation has established min’ge as an important extension of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) cultural policy, and the manipulation of folk music has asserted the CCP’s cultural hegemony. Ultimately, this cultural hegemony has important implications on Han-minority relations and highlights certain dynamics within Chinese nationalism. Despite its limited and distorted representation of minorities, however, the popularization of min’ge has also inspired minority musicians to reclaim their identities through music. Therefore, this paper explores both the cooptation and contestation of state-promoted identities through the medium of popular folk music.