Home Institution

Lewis and Clark College

Publication Date

Fall 12-1-2014

Program Name

China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities


The Bai people, a minority group in the People’s Republic of China numbering at least 1.8 million, are heavily concentrated in Yunnan Province’s Dali Autonomous Prefecture. Music has historically been a significant part of Bai culture, as Bai musicians across the region enjoy performing Baizu diao, or popular Bai folk tunes, in the form of singing or on various instruments. These diao, or melodies, often describe the lifestyle of Bai people and the region in which they live in and are commonly performed on a threestringed member of the lute family called a sanxian. This study uncovers both the history and culture of Bai people and their musical traditions, but also represents the attempt of westerner to learn sanxian and better understand Baizu musical form. Qualitative research identifies the cultural importance of Baizu diao to the Bai culture as a whole. In turn, quantitative research transposes the melodies of Bai music into a familiar western notation system, which allows for further analysis of the musical form.


Asian Studies | Composition | Ethnomusicology | Music | Music Education | Musicology | Music Practice


Article Location