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Mandopop (simplified Chinese: 华语流行音乐traditional Chinese: 華語流行音樂pinyin: Huá Yǔ Liú Xíng Yīn Yuè) is a colloquial abbreviation for "Mandarin popular music". It is also referred to as Mandapop. It is categorized as a subgenre of commercial Chinese-language music within C-pop. Mandopop was the first variety of popular music in Chinese to establish itself as a viable industry. As the name implies, Mandopop features songs performed mainly in Mandarin Chinese. Consumers of the music include fans, especially Mandarin speakers, in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and other countries.

Taiwan is the leading producer of Mandopop with Taipei as the industry's hub. Teresa Teng, the Mandopop queen of 1980s, was Taiwanese, as is A-Mei, one of the chart-topping singers since 2000. The liberalization and democratization of Taiwanese society in the 1990s enabled wider dissemination of the product, a larger audience, and a greater diversity of styles. Mandopop is a huge profit-making industry that encompasses and drives Asian trends in costume design, dance choreography, video, packaging and aggressive marketing.

Most of the reputable international Mandopop performers, lyricists, composers, producers and labels are based in Taiwan. Taiwan's Mandopop scene attracts talent from Europe, America, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hongkong , Mainland China and elsewhere. Taiwan is today regarded as the "Cradle of Mandopop" and it continues to drive trends in Mandopop development internationally.




The origin of commercial Chinese-language music began with the gramophone, a technological innovation brought to Tibet Road in Shanghai by a Frenchman named Labansat[1]. Baak Doi (Chinese: 百代pinyin: bǎi dài) was the first record company to serve as the backbone for the young industry.

1920s: Birth of shidaiqu

Mandarin pop songs in the 1920s were called shidaiqu (時代曲 - meaning music of the time, thus popular music). They are considered the prototype of any Chinese pop songs[2]. Location wise, Shanghai was the center and quintessential hub for mandopop. Li Jinhui is generally regarded as the "Father of Chinese Popular Music" having established the genre in the 1920s[3]. Buck Clayton, the American jazz musician also worked alongside Li. Some music enthusiasts, however, may suggest that Shidaiqu is the basic form of all Mandarin pop songs up until the transition to Cantopop. The Bright Moonlight Song and Dance Troupe established by Li, is also the first modern musical division to be integrated into the Lianhua Film Company in 1931, making it the first pop music division to enter any Chinese film industry.

1930s–1940s: The Seven Great Singing Stars era

The original "Seven Great Singing Stars" in the Republic of China period secured the place of the genre in Asian society. The singers' style was unlike any Chinese-language music that had come before it. The young film industry took advantage and engaged singers for acting and soundtrack roles. Zhou Xuan (Chinese: 周璇pinyin: Zhōu Xuán)is generally considered the most remarkable Chinese pop star of the era due to her successful dual singing and film career. This generation saw female singers rise in popular estimation from "song girls" to "stars"[3]. The era came to an abrupt end when Japanese armies occupied Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II ensued.

1950s: The split

In 1949 the People's Republic of China was established by the communist party. One of the first actions taken by the government was to denounce popular music as pornography[4]. In the mainland, the communist regime would begin suppressing pop music to promote revolutionary songs.

The Chinese Nationalists' retreat to Taiwan following the Chinese Civil War had established the Republic of China on Taiwan and its capital city Taipei as the new center of Mandopop. Taiwanese youth were drawn to popular styles from abroad in part because the Japanese, who had governed Taiwan since the end of the nineteenth century through World War 2, were themselves keen consumers of international entertainment. Popular songs necessarily employed Mandarin after the war, though, because Taiwan's new rulers, the KMT, mandated its use, forbidding Japanese and restricting the use of Taiwanese, the actual mother tongue of most of the island's residents.[5] Where Taiwanese pop had existed in the shadow of Japanese pop during Japanese rule, it now operated in the shadow of Mandopop during KMT rule.

1960s: Political era

The 1960s was a highly politically tense era. Some songs in Taiwan such as "Today cannot return home" (今天不回家) by Yao So-yung (姚蘇蓉) were prohibited.[6]

1970s–1980s: Rise of the industry

Mandopop became more popular within mainland China after Deng Xiao Ping opened China's doors to the world. After the open door reform in mainland China, mandarin pop music became a popular genre for many mandarin speakers. More young people in China started to enjoy pop music.

In 1979 Singapore launched the Speak Mandarin Campaign to promote the use of Mandarin over the range of Chinese dialects spoken by various segments of the ethnic-Chinese population. Mandarin songs therefore began to replace Hokkien and Cantonese songs over the radio stations and on television.[7].

Teresa Teng (simplified Chinese: 邓丽君traditional Chinese: 鄧麗君pinyin: Dèng Lìjūn) made Mandopop a true alternative by crossing over both subgenres. Even in the height of censorship, the mainland lifted the ban on Teng in 1986 and proclaimed that "By day, Deng Xiaoping rules China. But by night, Deng Lijun (Teresa Teng) rules"[8]. Her songs were considered "Bourgeois Music" by mainland officials.[9]

The popularity of Lo Ta-yu (simplified Chinese: 罗大佑traditional Chinese: 羅大佑pinyin: Luó Dàyòu) drove demand for the music to new heights. One of the most successful song of the era was Lo Ta-yu's "Tomorrow will be Better" (明天會更好/明天会更好). The song was originally performed in 1985 by 60 singers.[10] It quickly became popular throughout Asia and established itself as a standard. Another song soon followed in 1986 in mainland China called "Let the World be filled with Love" (讓世界充滿愛).[11] At the time these songs were inspired by the United States song We Are the World.[10][11]


Faye Wong (王菲) became the first singer of China to sing in Budokan, Japan; for this reason she is also called the Diva of Asia.[12][13]

Taiwan's Jay Chou dominated almost all categories for a span of a decade


The 2000s began with an explosion of pop idols, mainly from Taiwan. A growing mainland film industry was also hungry for mandopop after decades of suppression. Jay Chou led the popularity of rhythm and blues and rap music in the scene. Other successful singers include Stefanie Sun, David Tao, Jolin Tsai and Leehom Wang. Recent years also saw the rise of bubblegum pop boybands and girlbands from Taiwan to the Mainland Chinese music scene, with commercially successful acts such as S.H.E and Fahrenheit. The national-scale Singing competitions in the People's Republic of China such as the Super Girl contest have greatly boosted mandopop's influence. Mainland China has a fast production of mandopop singer due to their high population of talented pop singers. Pop music in mainland China is currently developing into mainstream society. Since the new millennium, cantopop stars frequently cross over into the mandopop industry in order to increase their fan base. However, it is rare for a mandopop star to cross over into cantopop because it is generally more difficult for a native Mandarin speaker to learn Cantonese than it is for a Cantonese speaker to learn Mandarin. After the incoming of S.H.E and Fahrenheit, the next two popular groups are Channel V's Lollipop and Hey Girl. They are backed by celebrity groom shows of their own.

In recent years burgeoning number of contests have brought an idol concept to the Mandopop industry. Many idol dramas are were also announced to be filmed in 2009, including the Mainland Chinese remake drama of the famous Hana Yori Dango. While some say that this phenomenon is a positive trend for Taiwan to further develop its already flourishing music industry, seeing how this idol concept propelled South Korea so far in their K-Pop development, many others (particularly the older generation in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau) complain that these new "post-80" singers are a disappointment compared to the skill of the older singers. Overall, however, it's clear that Taiwan will remain as the leader in Mandopop for some time with the slow decline of Hong Kong stars[citation needed] and Mainland China's developing music industry which is nevertheless decades behind Taiwan's music industry, despite showing signs of major development and renovation. Singapore's music industry has much room to grow with stepped up efforts to develop a local entertainment scene especially in this decade, led by the success of Stefanie Sun and JJ Lin.


Instruments and setups

The guqin and pipa are some of the first instruments used during shidaiqu's early mandopop era. Today's mandopop arrangements are quite westernized, covering many musical styles, including rhythm and blues, ballads, Pop. A few Chinese pop musicians, most notably Jay Chou, Lin Jun Jie, and Leehom Wang, have experimented with fusing traditional Chinese instruments with western influence.

Influential artists like Leehom Wang and David Tao, who uses both traditional Chinese instruments and mainstream western hip hop melodies has influenced many Asian singers worldwide.


Traditional Chinese characters are used in Taiwan and Hong Kong while China itself uses simplified characters. While the lyrics may be the same when sung, differing Chinese accents can disrupt the tone and flow. Major Mandopop singers of non-Taiwanese backgrounds from Mandarin-speaking parts of Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia have often adopted the Taiwanese Mandarin-speaking accent for their pieces. This is major downside to singing Mandopop for singers of a Mainland Chinese background. Thick northern accents (e.g. Beijing) often do not go well with contemporary Mandopop songs (unless deliberate in the song) although they may be more adaptable to pre-1970s Mandopop trends.


Mandopop stars

While China has the largest Mandarin-speaking population, Taiwan is the most significant hub of the genre[14]. The trend is that most artists are branded by where they come from regardless of where they were actually marketed. Mandopop stars comes mainly from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore.


Many Mandopop labels exist. These include Rock Records, HIM International Music. Subsidiaries of major companies such as Virgin Records Taiwan are also in the market. In the past few years, mainland labels such as EE Media have emerged to dominate.


Mandopop titles are also available outside of Asia. Chinese communities established in North America have made Mandopop music accessible through local businesses. In the United States, Canada and Australia they are easily found in many major urban areas, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Vancouver, Toronto, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Notable Artists

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Mandopop radio stations

Station Location Frequencies and Platform
All Chinese Hits Internet Radio Silicon Valley, USA Internet radio station:
Kiss Radio Taiwan Taiwan 99.9 FM, 99.7 FM, 97.1 FM, 98.3 FM and Internet live streaming
Hit Fm 90.1 FM, 91.5 FM, 101.7 FM and Internet live streaming
Beijing Radio Stations Beijing 97.4 FM and Internet live streaming
Shenzhen Radio Station Shenzhen 97.1 FM and Internet live streaming
Shanghai Media Group Shanghai 101.7 FM and Internet live streaming
KAZN Los Angeles Sometimes
Yes 93.3 Singapore 93.3 FM and Internet live streaming
883 JIA FM Singapore 88.3 FM and Internet live streaming
MY FM Malaysia Frequencies vary according to location Internet live streaming (also available on iTunes Radio)

See also


  1. ^ Jones. Andrew F. [2001] (2001). Yellow Music - CL: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age. Duke University Press. ISBN 0822326949
  2. ^ Shoesmith, Brian. Rossiter, Ned. [2004] (2004). Refashioning Pop Music in Asia: Cosmopolitan flows, political tempos and aesthetic Industries. Routeledge Publishing. ISBN 0700714014
  3. ^ a b Kakisensi web. "Kakiseni article." An introduction to shidaiqu. Retrieved on 2007-04-26.
  4. ^ Broughton, Simon. Ellingham, Mark. Trillo, Richard. [2000] (2000) World Music: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides Publishing Company. ISBN 1858286360
  5. ^ Taiwanese Pop Songs History. "Taiwanese Pop Songs History." Article. Retrieved on 2007-05-02.
  6. ^ "" 戒嚴統治的前後景觀. Retrieved on 2010-01-02.
  7. ^ Welch, Anthony R. Freebody, Peter. Knowledge, Culture and Power. Routledge Publishing. ISBN 1850008337
  8. ^ Reed, Barbara Edith. Davison, Gary Marvin. [1998] (1998). Culture and Customs of Taiwan. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313302987
  9. ^ "" Chinese pop music since the 1980s p2. Retrieved on 2009-01-05.
  10. ^ a b "" 歷史報道 : 《明天會更好》幕後. Retrieved on 2009-01-06.
  11. ^ a b "" Chinese pop music since the 1980s p3. Retrieved on 2009-01-05.
  12. ^ Faye Wong is All Woman Taipei Times, 26 Nov 2004. Retrieved 4 Dec 2006.
  13. ^ "Dai Si Cong: Faye's Success Continues to be Unparallelled" (Chinese), Xinhua News, 12 June 2006. Retrieved 28 Mar 2007.
  14. ^ Keane, Michael. Donald, Stephanie. Hong, Yin. [2002] (2002). Media in China: Consumption, Content and Crisis. Routledge Publishing. ISBN 0700716149

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