The music of China dates back to the dawn of Chinese civilization with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 B.C.E. – 256 B.C.E.). One of the Five Classics, supposedly edited by Confucius, is the Shijing (Book of Songs), a collection of poems from folk songs or songs performed at banquets or at ritual sacrifices. In ancient China, music was regarded as central to the harmony and longevity of the state. Chinese traditional music is played on solo instruments or in small ensembles of plucked and bowed stringed instruments, flutes, and various cymbals, gongs, and drums. The scale has five notes. Bamboo pipes and qin are among the oldest known musical instruments from China; instruments are traditionally divided into categories based on their material of composition: skin, gourd, bamboo, wood, silk, earth/clay, metal and stone.
Chinese orchestras traditionally consist of bowed strings, woodwinds, plucked strings and percussion. Chinese vocal music has traditionally been sung in a thin, non-resonant voice or in falsetto and is usually solo rather than choral. All traditional Chinese music is melodic rather than harmonic. Chinese vocal music probably developed from sung poems and verses accompanied by music.
New World Encyclopedia