Music education in China: In search of social harmony and Chinese nationalism

Wing Wah Law*, Wai Chung HO

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically examines how interactions between social changes, social harmony, and historical memory shape school music education in China. As a historical review and documentary analysis, it traces the historical development of music education and examines the Chinese government's role in such interactions over time. The article argues that the Chinese government uses music and music education as an influential nation-building system to enrich the politics of memory. In particular, it adapts the nation's past for political ends, and passes on state-prescribed values to its citizens with a view to legitimising its power. The dynamics and dilemmas that challenge school education result from two divergent aims: (1) to combine the functional education of Confucianism and nationalism so as to encourage social harmony and maintain national myths; and (2) to encourage popular and other world music with traditional Chinese music by using multicultural teaching strategies in music lessons. The question remains how to balance ideas of social harmony, musical cultures and nationalism in school music education in the contexts of current Chinese education policies, teacher education and the globally oriented economics of China today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-388
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Music Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education
  • Music


Dive into the research topics of 'Music education in China: In search of social harmony and Chinese nationalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this