Music Genres in Chinese

Posted on 26. May, 2016 by in Uncategorized

Music (音乐 – yīn yuè) is a huge part of my life. From playing cello, percussion, and guitar through my school years, to following my favorite bands around the country, to attending music festivals in the US, China, and Indonesia, music has always played an important role in my life. How about you?

Do you like listening to music? (你喜欢听音乐吗?- nǐ xǐ huan tīng yīn yuè ma).

What kind of music do you like? (你喜欢什么音乐 – nǐ xǐ huan shén me yīn yuè)

Naxi orchestra jammin' out in Lijiang.

Naxi orchestra jammin’ out in Lijiang.

To help you answer that second question, here are 20 different genres of music in Chinese:






lìng lèi



lán cǎo



lán diào



gǔ diǎn



xiāng cūn

easy listening




diàn zǐ



mín yuè

heavy metal


zhòng jīn shǔ



xī hā



jué shì



gē jù



liú xíng



shuō chàng



jié zòu bù lǔ sī



léi guǐ



yáo gǔn



líng hún



chuán tǒng



shì jiè

Note that for basically every genre, you can add the word for music to the end, i.e. 古典音乐 (classical music), 摇滚音乐 (rock music), or 世界音乐 (world music). This isn’t always necessary, however. The word 民乐 (folk music) already has the character for music in the name, 说唱 (rap) is perfectly fine on its own, as is 歌剧 (opera). If the conversation is clearly focused on music, you’ll be understood whether or not you add the word 音乐 onto the genre. Just don’t be surprised if Chinese people have no idea what you’re talking about if you mention something like bluegrass or world music – these genres simply aren’t very common.

Not surprisingly, pop music definitely reigns supreme in China. Rock, folk/traditional, and electronic music are all quite popular as well, and there are definitely developing electronic, heavy metal, and rap/hip-hop scenes popping up around the country. There are even Chinese reggae bands out there, such as my personal favorite, Long Shen Dao (龙神道). Check them out in a “Streets, Beats & Eats” episode on Beijing:

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If you’d like to learn more about Chinese music, check out our series on Chinese instruments:

Better Know a… Province (Hubei)

Posted on 25. May, 2016 by in Uncategorized

We’ve already visited Hunan, so it’s only natural that our next stop be “North of the Lake,” as we head to Hubei (湖北 – hú běi).


Longhua Temple in Wuhan.

Longhua Temple in Wuhan.

The area that is today known as Hubei was home to Neolithic cultures, as evidenced by painted pottery that was excavated there. During the Spring and Autumn Period, the area was part of the State of Chu. The Chu would go to war with the Qin, who eventually won and formed the first unified empire of China. During the subsequent Han Dynasty, modern-day Hunan and Hubei formed a province known as Jingzhou (荊州 – jīng zhōu). Control of the area would change numerous times in the following centuries, with the name and borders changing as well.

During the reign of the Mongols, the area was known as Huguang (湖广 – hú guǎng) covering Hubei, Hunan, and parts of Guangdong and Guangxi. The Ming Dynasty would later drive out the Mongols, and their version of Huguang was basically modern Hubei and Hunan combined. The Manchu Qing Dynasty split Huguang into two provinces in 1644.

In 1911, the Wuchang Uprising (武昌起義 – wǔ chāng qǐ yì) ended two millennia of imperial rule in China, overthrowing the Qing Dynasty and establishing the Republic of China. During World War II, the province was split as the eastern section was conquered by Japan while the western area remained under Chinese control.


Hubei on the map.

Hubei on the map.

As its name would imply, Hubei is north of Lake Dongting (洞庭湖 – dòng tíng hú). The province is landlocked and shares a border with Hunan, Chongqing, Shaanxi, Henan, Anhui, and Jiangxi. The terrain of the province is quite varied – it has countless lakes and rivers, mountain ranges, and plains. The Yangtze River enters Hubei from the west via the Three Gorges (三峡 – sān xiá). It’s split into thirteen prefecture-level divisions, one autonomous prefecture, and three county-level cities. The provincial capital is Wuhan (武汉 – wǔ hàn), which was once three different cities split by rivers.


Hubei has a humid subtropical climate and has four distinct seasons. Winters are dry and cool, while summers are hot and humid here. Spring and autumn are quite pleasant, and are probably the best times of year to visit. Most of the rain falls throughout the summer months here.


Around 60 million people call Hubei province home. The population is almost entirely Han, but there’s a considerable amount of Miao and Tujia people living in the highlands in the southwest. There are also Hui people (Chinese Muslims) in the northern parts of the province. Not surprisingly, Wuhan is the most populous city, with around 7.5 million people.


People speak pretty standard Mandarin in Hubei. When it comes to the local culture, traditional Chu opera (楚剧 – chǔ jù) remains very popular. Check out a clip to see what it’s like:

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Wuhan is the educational and cultural center of the province (and central China in general). It’s home to many universities, temples, art museums, and more. When it comes to the cuisine of the province, the most famous dish is without a doubt steamed Wuchang fish (清蒸武昌鱼 – qīng zhēng wǔ chāng yú).

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An interesting factoid about the people of Hubei is that they’re known as “nine-headed birds” (九头鸟 – jiǔ tóu niǎo). This comes from a saying, “In the sky live nine-headed birds. On the earth live Hubei people.” (天上九头鸟,地上湖北佬 – tiān shàng jiǔ tóu niǎo, dì shàng hú běi lǎo). The mythological birds are said to be aggressive and hard to kill, so apparently that describes Hubei people as well.

Famous Places

Along the Yangtze River

Along the Yangtze River in Wuhan.

For many, the highlight of visiting Hubei comes in the form of a cruise along the Yangtze River. The province is also home to the Three Gorges Dam (三峡大坝 – sān xiá dà bà), the controversial project which is the world’s largest hydropower project.

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Yellow Crane Tower

Yellow Crane Tower

Another popular attraction is the Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼 – huáng hè lóu) in Wuhan, a traditional Chinese tower which has been rebuilt many times over the years.

Those seeking to experience the great outdoors should head to Shennongjia (神农架 – shén nóng jià), a nature reserve located between Daba and Wudang Mountains.

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While it’s not one of the most famous or popular areas of China, Hubei is home to diverse landscapes, ancient culture, and is vitally important in Chinese history.


Top Beijing Attractions

Posted on 23. May, 2016 by in Uncategorized

There’s lots to see and do in Beijing, as the Chinese capital is full of some of the most important and famous attractions in the entire country. History buffs, foodies, art aficionados, shopaholics, and party animals can all find something to do in the ‘Jing. While there’s enough to do in Beijing to keep you busy for years – trust me, I tried – there are certain places that just about everyone wants to visit on their first trip to the city. Five places in particular attract hordes of tourists on a daily basis – Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and of course, the Great Wall. We’ve covered all of these places on the blog throughout the years, so here are the posts and the videos for you to check out to explore Beijing from the comfort of your home or office.

Tiananmen Square (天安门广场 – tiān’ān mén guǎng chǎng)

The 4th largest square in the world.

The 4th largest square in the world.

Tiananmen Square is the center of Beijing, geographically and symbolically. The place where Mao Zedong established the modern PRC in 1949 is the 4th largest square in the world, and it is high atop everyone’s list when visiting Beijing. Learn about the history of the square, its important landmarks, and more in this post.

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The Forbidden City (故宫 – gù gōng)

Inside the massive Forbidden City.

Inside the massive Forbidden City.

Former home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Forbidden City is one of the most famous places in all of China. It’s not forbidden anymore, and anyone with enough kuai to buy a ticket is free to explore the massive grounds. Spend a few hours taking it all in, and make sure to add a stop at Jingshan Park to take in the views from above.

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Temple of Heaven (天坛 – tiān tán)

The Temple of Heaven is quite popular with tour groups.

The Temple of Heaven is quite popular with tour groups.

The Temple of Heaven is the holiest of Beijing’s imperial temples, and as such is on the list of travel itineraries to the capital. It also includes a massive park, which is a popular spot for locals to gather for band practice, to do tai chi, or just to chat and play cards. It’s located just south of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, so it’s easy to combine all three for a full day of sightseeing.

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The Summer Palace (颐和园 – yí hé yuán)

Scenic Kunming Lake and the Western Hills of Beijing.

Scenic Kunming Lake and the Western Hills of Beijing.

Once upon a time, the Summer Palace served as a retreat for the royal family to get some R&R and escape from the intense heat of the summer. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1988, being described as “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.” Exploring the gardens, taking a cruise on the lake, or just relaxing on the lawn is a great respite from the bustling city and one of the best places to spend a day out in all of Beijing.

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The Great Wall (长城 – cháng chéng)

Sunset on the Great Wall.

Sunset on the Great Wall.

Chairman Mao himself once proclaimed, “You aren’t a real man until you climb the Great Wall.” Stretching for thousands of miles from the sea out to the desert, it sure is an impressive sight. There are plenty of options for visiting the wall from Beijing, so check this post to read up on them all and make an informed decision. If you’re real adventurous, why not try camping out on the wall? Watch the video to see what it’s like.

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Have you been to any of these places in Beijing? Which was your favorite? Or is there another place in the city that you liked more? Leave a comment and let us know!