Using Performing Arts for Ideological Ethnification in China and Abroad

Brief communication

Cao Feng,                            

Chief Research Engineer, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., People’s Republic of China

Address: 76 Xinhua Road, Changshou District, Chongqing, 401220 China


Article ID: 020240307

Published online: 21 November 2018




Quoting (Chicago style): Cao, Feng. 2018. “Using performing arts for ideological ethnification in China and abroad.” Beacon J Stud Ideol Ment Dimens 1, 020240307.

Language: Chinese

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In the article, it is demonstrated that musical performing art can be one of the ideological means of national communities formation. The comparative analysis of the number of documented public musical performances in China, Europe, Russia and Americas in 1700–1960s and the quantity of the documented public speeches of national ideologists, is carried out. Their correlation is discussed.

Key words: performing arts, music, ethnification, nation, nationalism, national identification, patriotism, citizenship, culture, Chinese traditional culture, cultural revolution in China

Extended summary in English


The role of musical performing art in forming national identities, is considered. We put forward an assumption that the time range of creating a national community, in most cases, can be identified by the revival of the musical performing art in a given community. This revival may be identified by a surge in the number of public use of musical culture. That can include public singing, writing new popular and military songs, holding musical events, participating in musical life of the community in question, e.g. partaking in amateur and professional music performances: festivals, carnivals, Church processions, military parades, operas, ballets, concerts etc. We are basing our approach on the concept of ‘interpretive activism’ introduced by Peter Stamatov. We suppose that nationalist leaders often used musical performing art as an ideological tool for more efficient forming ethnic national communities on the basis of national culture, the culture that should have been distinct from the other national cultures. That was the case for China (since 1920s), USA (the late eighteenth – the late nineteenth centuries), many countries of Europe. We argue that the most effective results were achieved in China during the revolutionary wars, Italy and Germany in the nineteenth century.


We investigated the similarity in the change in the number of public speeches of national architects and public musical performances. We used archived statistics. Of course, we evaluated only documented speeches of national leaders and those cases of musical performances that were recorded in the press. These changes (public nationalist oratories and public musical performances) are not always synchronous. But for the countries studied, the following trend is clearly noticeable, a sudden increase in public musical activity in a particular national community more or less coincides with the growth of using ideologies of national identification. We determined three groups of countries with the following types of time succession of the two processes concerned: 1) the rise in the number of nationalist speeches < (earlier than) the surge of public musical performances; 2) = (approximately at the same time); and 3) > (later). Some examples are represented by the following national communities: 1) Latin American states; Japan; 2) China; Russia; 3) Italy, Germany.


After that, on the basis of data obtained from the press, we investigated the social composition of the visitors of public musical performances. We paid attention to the representation of different social classes (nobility, bourgeoisie, clergy, intellectuals, peasantry, fabric workers) in the attendance of the documented public musical performances. We found out that the evenest representation of the social classes studied, was achieved at the times of the most active processes of national formation. These time ranges coincided with the time intervals of increase in the amount of public nationalist speeches. We conclude that the social composition approach may be the second methodology of identification the time of the nation appearance. This methodology is as flexible as the first approach proposed by us and described above, the technique of counting the cases of public musical performances documented in the press.


Summing up, we note that the musical performing art can be one of the most successful factors in the creation of national culture and one of the most powerful ideological instruments of ethnification and nationalism.


This is also true for the People's Republic of China. The use of revolutionary musical culture by the Communist government of Mao Zedong, the creation of new populist songs, operas, operettas, ballets, symphonies, oratorios and cantatas in the 1950s (before the Cultural Revolution) caused a swell of pride for the new Communist China among the Chinese. This led to rallying the Chinese nation around the Communist ideology in 1950s.

© 2018 Cao Feng.
Licensee The Beacon: Journal for Studying Ideologies and Mental Dimensions.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( that permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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