Rhapsody in Red: The Path of Western Classical Music In China

Jindong Cai, Gretchen B. Kimball Director of Orchestral Studio and Associate Professor of Music,Stanford University

Please send your RSVP to, and let us know at your earliest convenience, or by 6/3 at the latest, if and how many plan to attend.  Space is limited.  Reservations will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis.

Western classical music first came to China 400 years ago. Since its arrival, it has almost always served a non-musical purpose - missionaries used it to convert, emperors to impress, intellectuals to change China, and Communists as a propaganda tool.  Indeed, over the years Western music has become so closely intertwined with Chinese politics that the two are sometimes hard to separate.

 We will begin this story with the arrival of the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who presented a clavichord to the Chinese emperor and began a long tradition of Western music performance and study in the Forbidden City.  We will then go to the post-Opium War era when China’s first symphony orchestra was created and the first conservatory was founded in Shanghai. We will explore how music became political when China was engulfed by WWII and musicians began to use music as a tool for fighting the Japanese and spreading Marxist and Maoist propaganda.

We will also explore Soviet influence in the 1950s, the destruction of Western music in the Cultural Revolution, and the creation of the “revolutionary model operas.”  We will explain how a whole new generation of Chinese musicians emerged after the Cultural Revolution, see how music and the performing arts are flourishing in China today,  and finally consider how the outside world might react to the coming return of China as a global cultural power.

We will have some music performance on video/audio, but we should have some live performances as well.

Sunday, June 05, 2011 | 3:00 pm — 4:30 pm
Campbell Recital Hall, Braun Music Center, 541 Lasuen Mall, Stanford University

Stanford Chinese Faculty and Family Club