Hokkien pop

Last updated
Taiwanese pop
Hàn-jī 台灣歌
Pe̍h-ōe-jī Tâi-oân-koa
Tâi-lô Tâi-uân-kua
Common name
Hàn-jī 台語流行音樂
Pe̍h-ōe-jī Tâi-gí liû-hêng im-ga̍k
Tâi-lô Tâi-gí liû-hîng im-ga̍k

Taiwanese pop (Chinese :台語流行音樂), Tai-pop, T-pop, Minnan Pop and Taiwanese song (台灣歌), is a C-Pop genre sung in Taiwanese Hokkien and produced mainly in Taiwan. Hokkien pop is the most popular amongst Hoklo people in Taiwan, Mainland China, and the Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

C-pop music genre by artists originating from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

C-pop is an abbreviation for Chinese popular music, a loosely defined musical genre by artists originating from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Others come from countries where the Chinese language is used by a large number of the population, such as Singapore and Malaysia. C-pop is sometimes used as an umbrella term covering not only Chinese pop but also R&B, ballads, Chinese rock, Chinese hip hop and Chinese ambient music, although Chinese rock branched off as a separate genre during the early 1990s.

Taiwanese Hokkien language

Taiwanese Hokkien, also known simply as Taiwanese, is a variety of Hokkien Chinese spoken natively by about 70% of the population of Taiwan. It is spoken by the Taiwanese Hoklo people, who descended from immigrants from southern Fujian during the Qing dynasty. The Pe̍h-ōe-jī (POJ) romanization is a popular orthography for this variant of Hokkien.



The three main language subgenres[ citation needed ][ who? ] within C-pop (Chinese popular music) employ Cantonese, Mandarin and Southern Min (Minnan). However, the historical origin of Taiwanese pop comes from a Japanese enka base instead of a Chinese shidaiqu base. [1] Also, because it developed from traditional Japanese enka, it is become complicated with its varieties.

Cantonese standard dialect of Yue language that originated in the vicinity of Guangzhou (Canton) in southern China

Cantonese is a variety of Chinese spoken in the city of Guangzhou and its surrounding area in southeastern China. It is the traditional prestige variety and standard form of Yue Chinese, one of the major subgroups of Chinese.

Standard Chinese, also known as Modern Standard Mandarin, Standard Mandarin, Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese (MSMC), or simply Mandarin, is a standard variety of Chinese that is the sole official language of China, the de facto official language of Taiwan and also one of the four official languages of Singapore. Its pronunciation is based on the Beijing dialect, its vocabulary on the Mandarin dialects, and its grammar is based on written vernacular Chinese.



Under Japanese rule (1895-1945), Taiwanese music continued from previous period and developed its new form. By the 1930s, vinyl records of traditional music, such as Taiwanese opera, Peking opera, Nanguan, and Beiguan were popular. [2]

Taiwan under Japanese rule Period of Taiwanese history

Japanese Taiwan was the period of Taiwan and the Penghu Islands under Japanese rule between 1895 and 1945.

Taiwanese opera form of traditional drama originating in Taiwan

Taiwanese (folk) Ke-Tse opera is the only form of traditional drama known to have originated in Taiwan;also known as Hokkien opera. The language used is a stylised combination of both literary and colloquial registers of Taiwanese Hokkien. Its earliest form adopted elements of folk songs from Zhangzhou, Fujian, China. The story elements are traditionally based on folk tales of the southern Fujian region, though in recent years stories are increasingly set in Taiwan locales. Taiwanese opera was later exported to other Hokkien-speaking areas.

Peking opera Chinese opera style

Peking opera, or Beijing opera, is the most dominant form of Chinese opera which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It arose in Beijing in the mid-Qing dynasty (1636–1912) and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century. The form was extremely popular in the Qing court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China. Major performance troupes are based in Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The art form is also preserved in Taiwan, where it is also known as Guójù. It has also spread to other regions such as the United States and Japan.

A new business model of popular music industry began, when Kashiwano Seijiro, who led the Taiwan branch of Columbia Record Company, began to market their records in new ways, such as marketing songs with the promotion of silent movies. Kashiwano also recruited and made popular musical talents such as Teng Yu-hsien, Yao Tsan-fu (姚讚福), Su Tung (蘇桐), Lee Lim-chhiu, Sun-sun and others. They produced important titles such as Bāng Chhun-hong (Longing for the Spring Breeze) and The Torment of a Flower (Flower of a Rainy Night). Equally competitive was the Taiwan branch of Victor Records, delegated by the influential Lin Ben Yuan Family, and headed by Chang Fu-hsing. With talents such as Chen Ta-ju (陳達儒), Victor produced important titles such as White Peony (白牡丹).

Nippon Columbia record label

Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd., often pronounced Korombia, TYO: 6791, is a Japanese record label founded in 1910 as Nipponophone Co., Ltd.. It affiliated itself with the Columbia Graphophone Company of the United Kingdom and adopted the standard UK Columbia trademarks in 1931. The company changed its name to Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. in 1946. It used the Nippon Columbia name until October 1, 2002, when it became Columbia Music Entertainment, Inc.. On October 1, 2010, the company returned to its current name. Outside Japan, the company formerly as the Savoy Label Group, which releases recordings on the SLG, Savoy Jazz, and continues to operate as Denon. It also manufactured electronic products under the Denon brand name until 2001. In 2017, Concord Music acquired Savoy Label Group.

Teng Yu-hsien Taiwanese composer

Teng Yu-hsien was a Taiwanese Hakka musician. He is noted for composing many well-known Hokkien songs. Teng gave himself a Japanese-style pen-name as Karasaki Yau (唐崎夜雨) and a formal name called Higashida Gyōu (東田曉雨). Teng is regarded as the Father of Taiwanese folk songs.

Lee Lim-chhiu Song writer

Lee Lim-chhiu, or Lee Lin-chiu in Mandarin, was a Taiwanese songwriter. He was born in Taipei, graduated from the public school in 1922 and did not receive any further education. Lee was the writer of Bang Chhun Hong, a well-known popular Hokkien song which was composed by Teng U-hian. Additionally, he also wrote some other songs such as Su Kui Hong (四季紅) and Po Phoa Bang (補破網).

This new business was led by a new generation born under Japanese rule. They received Japanese modern education, and were exposed to western musical styles and ideas. Some were active in the new music because of their interest in politics, in resistance against Japanese and in support of native culture.

However Taiwanese pop was soon set back. As Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, non-Japanese songs were banned, and talents were required to write songs (and change previous songs) for military propaganda. The situation worsened in 1941 when the Pacific War broke out. US bombings of Taiwan (called Formosa at the time), poverty and shortage of raw materials hit the business hard, and many talents were drafted away. This period ends with the end of World War II and handover of Taiwan to the Republic of China in 1945. [3]

Second Sino-Japanese War military conflict between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from 1937 to 1945

The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945. It began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937 in which a dispute between Japanese and Chinese troops escalated into a battle.

Pacific War theatre of war in the Second World War

The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. It was fought over a vast area that included the Pacific Ocean and islands, the South West Pacific, South-East Asia, and in China.

Retrocession Day day marking the anniversary of the end of Japanese rule over Taiwan on 25 October 1945

Taiwan Retrocession Day is an annual observance and unofficial holiday in the Republic of China to commemorate the end of 50 years of Japanese rule of Taiwan and Penghu, and their claimed handover to the Republic of China on 25 October 1945. However, the idea of "Taiwan retrocession" is in dispute.

1950s–1960s: Political interference and censorship

Taiwan's period of White Terror began after the February 28 Incident of 1947 and declaration of martial law in 1949. The Kuomintang had lost the Chinese Civil War and proclaimed Taipei as the temporary capital of the Republic of China. All facets of Taiwanese culture that were not of Han Chinese origin were under scrutiny. In particular, the government discouraged use of Taiwanese languages [3] (see also Taiwanese Hokkien§Politics). As a result, native Taiwanese pop music was no longer in development.

In Taiwan, the White Terror was the suppression of political dissidents following the February 28 Incident.

On 19 May 1949, the Governor of Taiwan Province, Chen Cheng, and the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of China (ROC) promulgated the "Order of Martial Law" to announce the imposition of Taiwan martial law. Until the order was lifted by the President Chiang Ching-kuo on 15 July 1987, Taiwan had been under martial law for more than 38 years, which was qualified as "the longest imposition of martial law by a regime anywhere in the world" at that time.

Kuomintang political party in the Republic of China

The Kuomintang of China is a major political party in the Republic of China on Taiwan, based in Taipei, that was founded in 1911, and is currently an opposition political party in the Legislative Yuan.

In the 1960s, Taiwan Television was barred from airing more than two Taiwanese pop songs a day. [3] [4]

1980s: Lifting of martial law

By the early 1980s, Tai-pop remained popular only among the older generations and working class; Mandopop had benefited from government promotion of Standard Chinese in gaining appeal with the younger generation. [1] After the lifting of martial law in 1987, local Taiwanese culture was allowed to flourish, and major changes came to the content and social status of Tai-pop songs.

Blacklist Studio ventured release the first native Taiwanese album, entitled Song of Madness, in the Mandopop-dominated market of 1989.

One famous male singer from the 1980s is Chris Hung who is famous for One Little Umbrella (一支小雨傘); Hung also produces Taiwanese Christian song albums. Another famous male singer from the 1990s is Chen Lei (陳雷), who made a number of famous songs such as Hoa-Hi Tioh Ho (歡喜就好).

Fong Fei-fei is a famous Taiwanese singer from the 1970s who is a Mandarin pop singer, but also has albums in Taiwanese too.

Jody Chiang is Taiwan's most famous singer and is often referred to as the Queen of Taiwanese pop music. She has many albums and compilations that date from the 1980s to the present. She can be referred to as the Taiwanese equivalent of Teresa Teng (below).

Stella Chang has produced albums entirely in Mandarin and entirely Taiwanese. She made her debut singing Taiwan's School campus songs and is a Mandarin pop singer, but branched out into contemporary Mandarin and Taiwanese songs to reflect her heritage.

Teresa Teng although of mainland Chinese heritage, is also known to have songs in Taiwanese. Unfortunately, these songs have not made it to CDs like her Japanese, Mandarin, and Cantonese songs have. Although Teng is better known for her Mandarin albums, her songs were also influenced by Japanese Enka style and by older Taiwan min-ge songs.

Chen Ying-Git is a famous female singer of Taiwanese Hakka heritage, who has also produced albums from the 1980s through the 1990s like Jody Chiang. One of her famous songs is 海海人生. She sings a famous duet called 酒醉黑白話 with Taiwanese male singer Yu Tian, who also sings in Mandarin.

Other famous Taiwanese singers include Chang Hsiu-ching from Pingtung, who is famous for her song "Chhia-chām" (車站; Train Station) from the early 1990s.

1990s: Reintegration

In 1990, Lim Giong launched the first successful Taiwanese album under Rock Records. It also broke away the tradition by having a new-ballad style instead of the old-enka style. [1]

In 1993, Taiwan's government opened up the broadcasting of TV or radio programs to languages other than Mandarin. [5]

In the mid-1990s, Taiwan became the centre of one of the largest music industries in Asia. The country was the second largest music industry in Asia, in 1998 and 1999, after Japan, before falling to fourth in 2002 due to piracy. Piracy has caused domestic repertoire as a proportion of the market to fall to 50%, in 2001, from an all-time high of around 70%, in the 1990s. [6] Sales of recorded music in Taiwan peaked in 1997, when sales reached US$442.3 million, but by 2008, revenue declined sharply to US$51 million, with piracy and illegal downloads to blame. Foreign songs began to dominate local repertoire for the first time in the mid-2000s, as they did in Hong Kong and Mainland China. [7]


The most popular Taiwanese female singer to date is Jody Chiang, who has numerous Taiwanese albums dating from the early 1980s. Another famous singer in Taiwan also known for her ballads is Chen Ying-git.

Current Taiwanese pop music is becoming more influenced by Mandarin pop and include a wide variety of styles including rock, hip-hop, rap etc. Artists such as Wu Bai, Phil Chang, Jolin Tsai, Eric Moo, Show Lo, Mayday and Jay Chou are known to have Taiwanese songs in their albums. Recently, the rising popularity of the Taiwanese Pop diva Jeannie Hsieh has put Taiwanese Pop to a new level with her dance songs which are very different from the traditional Taiwanese Pop ballad sad songs. Also, Taiwanese black metal band Chthonic has risen to international prominence due to their nationalistic, anti-Chinese themes, as well as lead singer Freddy Lim's ascension into politics.

Certification levels

In August 1996, IFPI Taiwan (now Recording Industry Foundation in Taiwan) introduced gold and platinum awards for music recordings in Taiwan, along with the IFPI Taiwan Chart, which was suspended in September 1999.

The sales requirements for music recordings of domestic, international repertoire and singles differ. In Taiwan, sales of domestic repertoire are higher than international repertoire and singles. Note that music recording certificate in Taiwan is awarded based on shipments. [8]

Albums (unit sales required)
CertificationBefore March 2002Before January 2006Before November 2007Before January 2009Since 1 January 2009 [9]
Singles (unit sales required)
CertificationSince 1 January 2009) [9]


See also

Related Research Articles

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Bāng Chhun-hong song

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The Torment of a Flower 1934 song composed by Teng Yu-hsien

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  9. 1 2 International Award Levels Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine September 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-16