Popular Music and Youth Culture in Modern China

Popular Music and Youth Culture in Modern China

Autumn 2014
Zhejiang University


Dr. WANG Jing

College of Media and International Culture
Research Area:Socio-Cultural Studies of Music and Arts in China, Media and Culture in Asia

Course Description

This course focuses on China’s popular music culture contextualized in post-Mao, neoliberal China. There are several advantages in exploring China’s contemporary socio-cultural-political milieus from popular music. Popular music includes a range of music genres from rock music, jazz to hip hop and urban folk music, thus it is one of the largest and richest public spheres in China today. Popular music is everywhere: broadcasted daily non-stop on local radio and TV programs, sold on CDs, downloaded from the Internet, performed live in bars, clubs, livehouses, stadiums, sung and danced to in karaoke bars, discos, and bars, and written by critics in newspapers, online, and in books. Different social, cultural, political forces—such as the state, the mainstream, the entrepreneurs, cultural elite and dissidents—all use popular music to establish identity, express beliefs, aspirations, feelings, and to interact with others. As such, popular music culture provides us a unique opportunity to find out what contemporary Chinese people, particularly the youth culture (as the major consumer of popular music in China) think, feel, experience, do and want to
do. It also allows us to analyze more complicated issues of class, power, gender, money, taste and etc.

This class will be conducted in a mixed lecture/seminar+fieldtrip format. In the first half of each class meeting, the instructor will present basic background issues and themes of that week’s topic. The second half of each class will be more interactive, with in-class discussion based on the readings and discussion questions submitted ahead of class. There will be two fieldtrips in the class. We will go to a large-scale music festival in either Hangzhou or Shanghai, and visit one of the primary music venues in Hangzhou. These fieldtrips intend to provide an opportunity for students to get immersed in the local culture.


1. Andrew F. Jones, Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz
Age. Duke University Press Books, 2001.
2. Jeroen De Kloet, China with a Cut: Globalization, Urban Youth, and Popular Music,
Amsterdam University Press, 2008.
3. Nimrod Baranovitch, China’s New Voices: Popular Music, Ethnicity, gender, and politics.
University of California Press, 2003

Course Assignment

Students will be assigned in groups to conduct fieldworks with one of local music groups,
including interviewing the music group and attending their live performances. In the last week of the class, students will present their fieldwork, using PPT, edited videos, or reports.







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