Academic Commons


Andrew F. Jones. Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001. xi, 213 pp.

Wilson, Dale

Mimi zhi yin, meaning literally "decadent sounds," is a classical Chinese expression dating to the Han dynasty that is used to denote music that is both lewd and harmful. In the ancient Chinese context, sound was viewed as a potential register of the moral integrity of the state. In Republican China, a China humiliated by colonization and oppressed by Japanese military aggression, highly charged political discourse about music was rife with references to mimi zhi yin. A frequent object of such labeling, and the center of vitriolic attacks from both the political left and right, was shidai qu, or "modern song," a Mandarin vocal genre ubiquitous in dance halls and on the airwaves. Dismissed across the political spectrum as "yellow music" (huangsi yinyue), meaning pornographic music, shidai qu became the embodiment of mimi zhi yin, with all of its culturally embedded connotations. In his book Yellow Music, Andrew Jones details the history of shidai qu in Republican-era Shanghai and the media culture through which it was disseminated.Yellow Music is singular as a multifarious study of shidai qu and represents what may be the most up-to-date study of music, politics, and popular culture in Republican China. It is an excellent tool for teachers and students of Chinese music studies, and will appeal to scholars of anthropology, cinema studies, cultural studies, Asian studies, gender studies, nationalism, and transnational studies.

Geographic Areas



  • thumnail for current.musicology.71-73.wilson.524-532.pdf current.musicology.71-73.wilson.524-532.pdf application/download 380 KB Download File

Also Published In

Current Musicology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Columbia University
Published Here
March 27, 2015