Emperor -Rise of the Middle Kingdom- Original Soundtrack

emperor Album Title:
Emperor -Rise of the Middle Kingdom- Original Soundtrack
Record Label:
Sierra Entertainment
Catalog No.:
Release Date:
September 30, 1998
Buy Used Copy


Jeff van Dyck has made a name for himself as an expert scoring war strategy games through the Total War franchise. However, his strongest published work for the genre is actually Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, a spinoff of the Ceasar city-building series set in ancient China.


As always, van Dyck dives into the musical culture of the location and time that the game is set in – for Emperor, he chooses to mainly work with chamber music-sized orchestrations that pair various Chinese solo instruments with different percussive backgrounds. The result is a lush, intoxicating listen.

“Sunset Ceremony” and “Buddha’s Dream” remain impressive throughout their long playtimes, carried by strong melodic writing and an unerring sense of how to make the most of its ensemble’s alluring tone colours. At other times, the soundtrack also ventures into the realm of the mystical with the help of Western orchestral stylings and electronic manipulation.

Usually reflective in nature, Emperor’s lyrical pieces balance their exotic appeal with a sense of austerity emanating from the ceremonial percussion rhythms that occasionally turn ritualistic, for example on “Himalayan Echoes” and “Attack of the Feng Luo”. The entire soundtrack is sensitively-written and beautifully-implemented.


The Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom soundtrack is the most successful appropriation of traditional Chinese music by a Western game score. The soundtrack CD, available in the limited edition of the game in certain regions, is not widely available. Van Dyck nevertheless provides MP3 downloads of the soundtrack’s pieces through his official website.

Emperor -Rise of the Middle Kingdom- Original Soundtrack Simon Elchlepp

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Posted on April 22, 2015 by Simon Elchlepp. Last modified on April 22, 2015.

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About the Author

A former German film student now living in Melbourne, Australia and working at the University of Melbourne's Architecture faculty - and a passionate music lover with an eclectic taste. Specialising in Western game music, I'm here to dig out the best scores Western video games have produced in the last thirty years.

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