Music education in Shanghai from 1895 to 1945: The cultural politics of singing

Wai Chung HO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article discusses the development of music education in China and the integration of cultural politics and nationalism, using Shanghai, twentieth-century China's most developed city, as a case study; it examines the historical and political processes in Shanghai's music education to show what is cultural about politics and what is political about the culture of singing. Significant internal and external events both have contributed to contemporary Chinese national identity and music education. The former include the 1911 end of the Qing dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China, the 1919 May Fourth Movement and the 1925 May Thirtieth Movement; the latter include the 1842 Sino-British Opium War, the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War and the 1937-1945 Sino-Japanese War. By means of historical review and analysis, this article traces the development of music education in Shanghai and examines the political and cultural forces that have, for many years, informed the integration of collective singing and political (anti-imperialist and nationalist) activities. This article argues that singing (in particular the singing of songs that express popular anti-imperialist attitudes) has played a critical role in mobilising Chinese nationalism in school music education, which has, in turn, reinforced national identity in the face of foreign aggression and fostered nation-building. Chinese intellectuals and musicians were the dominant forces in arousing patriotic sentiments through music education from the late Qing dynasty to the 1910s, whilst Chinese social activists and Communist revolutionaries were powerful promoters of patriotic and revolutionary songs from the 1920s to the 1940s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-207
Number of pages21
JournalMusic Education Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education
  • Music

User-Defined Keywords

  • cultural politics
  • music education
  • Shanghai
  • singing


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