The enthusiasm of Chinese audiences for Western musicals has been increasing over the past decade. This passion is readily noticeable from a preliminary observation of Chinese theatres, as well as the press and social media in China. The aim of this paper, therefore, is to examine this Chinese audience and its appropriation of this genre, from a social, aesthetic, and cultural globalization perspective. In short, the overall aim of this study is to answer the research question: How and why, in terms of social and aesthetic reasons, are Chinese fans of Western musicals appropriating this genre? This study employed the qualitative research method of purposive sampling, on account of it allowing for an interviewee selection focus on individuals with a basic knowledge of Western musicals and the related fan community. After volunteer interviewees on the relevant social media and fan platforms were selected, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with the respondents, who were encouraged to describe their internal and external audience experiences and theatre fan narratives in their own terms. Discourse analysis was applied to discern individual views on this genre and its political boundaries (Bryman, 2012), with narrative analysis as a supplement. The findings of this paper derive from a combination of Bourdieusian theory on taste distinctions and fan community research within a cross-cultural context. The study found that Chinese audience for Western musicals has a particularly positive attitude toward this genre, achieving aesthetic and intellectual understanding in its experience of it. Chinese respondents commented that they find watching musicals very relaxing and that relaxation brought by musicals is also the important charm of this genre. That preference is related to that Chinese society has a traditional tendency to regard all culture and art as a form of entertainment (Wu, 2016). While valuing the emotional experience of theatre, the Chinese audience has its own particular disposition (Daenekindt & Roose, 2017) toward Western musicals. This audience prefers to devote its passion to theatrical works themselves, rather than to the actors involved in them, paying little attention to Bourdieusian cultural distinctions of taste – especially as it does not share the social and cultural background of European audiences. The genre of Western musicals is, for this group, an attractive cultural phenomenon, around which is built a pure social relationship outside the spheres of kinship and livelihood (Giddens, 1991; Stebbins, 2001). The enthusiasm of Chinese fans for Western musicals is thus revealing of their lifestyle preferences.

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Keywords kunstwetenschappen, cultuurwetenschappen, Distinctions of taste, Cultural globalization, Western musical theatre, Chinese, audience, Aesthetic distance
Thesis Advisor N. van Pocke
Persistent URL
Series Master Arts, Culture & Society
M. Liu. (2019, June 14). Other Hills whose Stones are Good for Working Jade. Master Arts, Culture & Society. Retrieved from