The Flower Drum and Other Chinese Songs is a book of Chinese folk songs and culture that was created by Chih-Hsiang Chen, Chin-Hsin Yao Chen and published in 1943. This thesis is comprised of three major chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of the Chensí book and their lives and an introduction and conclusion. Chapter 2 presents information regarding Americanís treatment of Chinese immigrants and stereotypes of the Chinese. The Chens immigrated to America during a time of political turmoil in China and strong anti-Chinese sentiments in America. Between 1850 and 1940, Americans were known for treating the Chinese poorly and had passed a variety of anti-Chinese laws that culminated with the Chinese Exclusion act in 1881, which was renewed until its repeal in 1943. In addition to anti-Chinese legislation there were also a variety of Chinese characterizations present in the American media, of which Pearl S. Buckís The Good Earth, the Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer and the Charlie Chan novels by Earl Biggers are examples. Of these three examples, the latter two mostly contain negative stereotypes of the Chinese. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States entering into World War II, American attitudes and sentiments towards the Chinese began to change since China was now an American ally.
The Chens book was published soon after America entered into World War II, and during the war-time years Americans became interested in learning about the cultures of their allies and their foes. The John Day Company, the publishers of the Chensí book, during this time became one of the foremost publishers of books on the Far East, and a brief history of The John Day Company is part of the next chapter in this thesis. Chapter 3 also contains information regarding the events surrounding the publishing of the Chensí book, ideas for marketing the book, biographical information about the authors, and an examination of the collaborative efforts were part of the creation of this book. The Chens, who were both well-educated, were able to make many connections with prominent literary figures like John Hall Wheelock and Padraic Collum and important musicians and composers like Charles and Ruth Seeger, Nadia Boulanger, Henry Cowell, Harrison Kerr, and Hanns Eisler.
Chapter four contains an analysis of the music, art, and cultural and historical sections present in the Chensí book. The Chensí book is split into five major sections, and each section contains a piece of art and cultural and historical information about the pieces contained within. Each of the folk songs presented in The Flower Drum and Other Chinese Songs has been arranged for voice and piano with both English and Romanized Chinese texts below. Mrs. Chen states in her preface that she has tried to imitate the various Chinese instruments that would usually accompany these songs in her accompaniments. A variety of musical examples are presented and compared to both Mrs. Chenís descriptions of the original accompaniments and modern performances of these folk songs. The conclusion also discusses these modern performances as well as the importance of this book in American musical history.