"China has a very rich tradition of folk song and folk music, arising not only from the Han Chinese people but also from the peoples of many other ethnic groups living there. Starting in 1950, a major programme of recording such music has been undertaken, a programme still ongoing today. Over 7,000 hours of material from more than 50 nationalities have so far been recorded, which form the most comprehensive collection of Chinese traditional and folk music.
A significant part of the collection includes folk music from Tibet, Uighur folk music from Xinjiang, music of the Miao, Dong, Yao and other ethnic groups, and the Hua Er folk music of Gansu-Ningxia area. Also recorded are Taoist and Buddhist religious music. Recordings have also been made of classical Chinese music, especially a major programme of recording music for the Qin, and recordings of Xi'an Drum Music. Another major programme has been the recording of local variants of the Chinese Opera tradition. Many of the folk traditions recorded in this collection are at risk as the local cultures which underlie them slowly succumb to the pressure of world culture and the dominant culture of the great cities of China. In some cases, indeed, the recordings in the collection are the sole surviving record of a musical culture already otherwise extinct. If the recordings were to be lost, there would remain no record of that culture. This archive, inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 1997, is of great importance as the music of China is a major part of the world musical heritage. Continuing research, which can only be done by using this archive, is vital to our understanding of world music and its development."