Music has always been a part of Chinese culture, from the ancient sounds echoing from the Dynastic Era to the modern pop hits that dominate the airwaves. In Chinese mythology, the creator of music was named Ling Lun and built an instrument out of bamboo pipes that imitated the different tones produced by local birds. The existence of several documents from the Zhou Dynasty speak of a well established musical tradition even at this early time. In these centuries, there was an Imperial Music Bureau that was responsible for evaluating the various court, military, and folk music to determine which types should be considered to be representative of the Chinese culture. Many of the folk songs were revered by the rulers of the time and written collections exist that document many of the popular tunes.

While the tradition of Chinese music remained largely unchanged in terms of style, the opening of trade routes saw many new instruments being discovered and incorporated into the famous folk tunes. However, at the turn of the twentieth century, a new musical shift was poised to happen. Many Chinese musicians began to study in foreign countries and returned with the classical music that was popular in many European Countries. This music inspired what is called the Republic of China era and was often a source of controversy as the new sounds were adopted to the Chinese ears. In most of the major Chinese cities, a symphony orchestra was created and the growth of radio broadcasting allowed many of the Western sounds to become familiar to home listeners. In addition to classical influences, many of the musicians started to also add jazz stylings to the traditional Chinese songs.

The Communist take over of China led to a new role of music in society. As all of the new media platforms were controlled by political interests, there were a great deal of limitations on what was considered to be acceptable music. However, after the Tiananmen Square events in 1989, new music began to explode in China, with attention being paid to both the pop and rock genres. However, the rock music movement was largely subdued by the political powers and is still a smaller underground music scene than the pop songs that fill the airwaves. The majority of modern Chinese music is made in either Beijing or Shanghai and the piracy problems of the nation lead most albums to be released in Hong Kong or Taiwan before they are released domestically. To experience the music live, there are two main music festivals in China, the Midi Modern Music Festival and the Snow Mountain Music Festival. Both celebrate the current hits of the year and are outdoor events that draw very large domestic and international crowds.