There is a saying that 99 percent of all Chinese are farmers, and it's true that most Chinese music excluding the classical, operatic and art music traditions originates with rural, peasant traditions, and has deep regional roots.
For centuries, farmers in the north have practiced wind-and-percussion ensembles. Ding County of Hebei is famous for artistry in the double reeds: the guanzi (double-reed pipe), the haidi (small oboe) and the suona (Northern oboe). In Xian, the Western Capital of China, musicians for centuries practiced the sheng (a free-reed mouth organ) and di (reeded transverse flute) for joining ensembles called Xian drum music. In the early 1960s, Liu Mingyuan and the Xinying Traditional Orchestra wrote the popular "Years of Happiness" based on rural traditional music.
Eastern China is "fiddle" country, and bowed instruments such as the erhu, zhonghu, and the gaohu are popular as both solo and ensemble instruments. The Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong provinces have produced a lot of fiddlers, including Wang Dianyu, Zhao Yuchai and the influential A Bing (18931950), a street musician famous for his many compositions, including his most famous "Listen to the Pine."
In the south, folk music is often combined with dance. The huadeng is a large class of regional dance. Huadeng is known in the West as the "lantern dance" and translates literally as "flower lantern" -- but has many other names: "jumping the lantern," "playing with the lantern" and lantern theater. The dance is popular in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and their surrounding areas (all in southern or southwestern China). The steps vary from place to place, but the dancers all carry lanterns or fans and they also sing. Huadeng Xi is the lower Lantern Opera. "Yunnan Huadeng" of Yunnan Province, for example, has a very strong instrumental component. Many Huadeng artists are also highly accomplished instrumental players. The yueqin master Li Yongnian of the Yunnan Huadeng Theater Company (Yunnan Huadeng Jutuan) in Kunming was one such well-known figure. Yueqin is the general name for the moon lute, which is round. Li Yongnian's yueqin is the type used in Yunnan Flower Lantern music, has an octagonal resonator, and is more resonant in musical acoustics.
In the 20th Century, music lovers flocked to folkloric zheng (horizontal harp) artistry.
There is Zhao Yuchai from the Northeastern school and the Yunnan school, Cao Dongfu from the Henan school, and Su Qiaozheng from the Southern school. The period 1955-1966 is what historians and musicologists call the Golden Era of Chinese music recording, and some of the most passionate performances in the history of China were recorded. The most successful recordings of that era were made by the Shanghai Traditional Orchestra (He Wu-qi and Ma Shenglong), the Xinying Traditional Orchestra (in connection with the music of Liu Mingyuan), the Qianwei Traditional Orchestra, and the China Broadcasting Traditional Orchestra. Sinyan Shen