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Chou Wen-Chung Distinguished Lecture on Chinese Culture

21st Century China Center named this lecture after the esteemed Chinese-American composer, teacher and cultural ambassador, Chou Wen-Chung (1923-2019). Chou was the first Chinese composer to achieve international recognition. His ground-breaking works defy cultural categories and inspired generations of composers. UC San Diego Music Department is the recipient of several dozen historically significant percussion instruments from the Chou Wen-Chung estate. 

Chou Wen-Chung Distinguished Lecture on Chinese Culture presents scholars and artists with the belief that arts and culture are important to promoting mutual understanding between China and the U.S., a belief that was shared by Chou Wen-Chung who established the Center for U.S.-China Arts Exchange at Columbia University in 1978.

Face to Face with Pipa Virtuoso Wu Man

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023 from 4-5:30 p.m. PT (In-person)
Register (In-person only event)


Wu Man, pipa virtuoso

Wu Man is recognized as the world’s foremost pipa virtuoso and leading ambassador of Chinese music. She has carved out a career as a soloist, educator, and composer giving her lute-like instrument — which has a history of over 2,000 years in China — a new role in both traditional and contemporary music. In this conversation, Wu Man will focus on how she found new inspiration in her fruitful collaborations that led to the creation of new musical works.

The discussion will be in English, moderated by composer Lei Liang, Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Music, and percussionist Steven Schick, Distinguished Professor of Music. The event will feature a performance of vis-à-vis, a duo composed by Lei Liang for Wu Man and Steven Schick.

Wu Man, acclaimed as the world's foremost pipa virtuoso and a prominent advocate for Chinese music, revolutionizes her ancient instrument's role in both traditional and contemporary contexts. With over 2,000 years of history, the pipa gains new life through her solo performances, educational endeavors, and compositions. Wu Man also pioneers multimedia projects, preserving and promoting China's rich musical heritage. Her works have garnered her international recognition, receiving accolades such as Musical America’s 2013 “Instrumentalist of the Year.” Wu Man's expertise spans classical and contemporary pipa music, collaborating with eminent composers worldwide.

Spiralis logo Thanks for the generous support of Spiralis Music Trust to make this distinguished lecture possible.


Redefining Music: Traditional Guqin Music in Performance and Scholarship

May 2, 2023 | Video
Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, UC San Diego Music Department

Speaker: Bell Yung, emeritus professor at the University of Pittsburgh; affiliate professor at the University of Washington
Moderator: Lei Liang, Chancellor's Distinguished Professor of Music at UC San Diego

In this unique talk, which featured both a musical performance and a discussion of China's musical tradition, Bell Yung, professor at the University of Washington, examined one of China's traditional instruments, the guqin. China’s guqin music is historically associated with the literati, who left volumes of treatises, essays and poems explicating their philosophical views of music. This talk and performance explained how music for these individuals was both intellectual and expressive art, shedding new light on the limits of what music can be.

bell-yung-portrait.JPGBell Yung, an ethnomusicologist specializing in China, is an emeritus professor at the University of Pittsburgh and affiliate professor at the University of Washington. He has published 10 books and more than 100 journal articles, book chapters and reviews in English and in Chinese. His most recent publications are “The Scholar and the Courtesan: songs on the Pearl River’s Flower Boats” and “From humble beginnings to qin master: the remarkable cross-fertilization of folk and elite cultures in Yao Bingyan’s dapu music." His biography of his qin teacher Tsar Teh-yun, "The Last of China’s Literati," was recently published in Chinese. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a Ph.D. in musicology from Harvard University and an honorary doctorate from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Sounds and Images: Rediscovering Chinese Art via Music

The inaugural Chou Wen-Chung Distinguished Lecture on Chinese Culture (Register) on May 17 will feature two distinguished scholars of Chinese music: Lei Liang, composer and Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Music from UC San Diego will present his work on Chinese landscape paintings at Qualcomm Institute, and Joseph Lam, ethnomusicologist from the University of Michigan, will deliver a lecture that interprets the paintings in the contexts of late Ming court culture and with theories of iconography and ethnomusicology, offering answers on the ways the paintings visually capture and preserve state processional music, a performance and discourse of Chinese emperorship and being.


  • Joseph Lam, Professor of Musicology, University of Michigan
  • Lei Liang, Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Music, UC San Diego

The Chou Wen-Chung Distinguished Lecture is part of a two-day event celebrating the works of an esteemed Chinese-American composer, teacher and cultural ambassador, Chou Wen-chung (1923-2019). On May 18, UC San Diego’s Conrad Prebys Concert Hall will present the world premiere of a percussion concerto inspired by the invaluable collection of percussion instruments donated by the Chou Wen-Chung Estate.  Distinguished Professor of Music Steven Schick will lead a performance of Chou Wen-chung's classic percussion quartet, Echoes from the Gorge, as well as Lei Liang's double bass concerto Luminous, featuring internationally renowned bassist Mark Dresser. This is a free event and open to the public. You may RSVP for the May 18 performance here.  

This Chou Wen-Chung Distinguished Lecture on Chinese Culture is organized by the 21st Century China Center at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy. For more information on China activities, as well as recordings of previous webinars, please visit


Joseph S.C. Lam is a professor of musicology at the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at the University of Michigan. A musicologist and sinologist, Lam specializes in the music and cultures of Southern Song (1127-1279), Ming (1368-1644) and modern China (1900 to present). Lam’s recent publications include chapters and articles in “Senses of the City,” Yinyue yishu/Musical Art, “The Ming World,” “Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness” and “How to Read Chinese Drama.” Lam’s “Kunqu, A Classical Opera of Contemporary China” will be published by the Hong Kong University Press in late 2022.

Lei Liang is a Chinese-born American composer whose work has received accolades from academia and music critics. Liang is the winner of the 2011 Rome Prize and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland Award, a Koussevitzky Foundation Commission, a Creative Capital Award and the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His concerto for saxophone and orchestra, Xiaoxiang, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2015. His orchestral work A Thousand Mountains, A Million Streams won the prestigious 2021 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. Liang leads an annual collaborative program on Chinese art and music between the 21st Century China Center and the Music Department.