Zhu was born in Tianjin and brought up in Shanghai, China. He began composing in 1940 and pursued composition studies at the Moscow Conservatory in 1955. He is a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory. He has composed for both Western and Chinese instruments and his works have been performed around the world. In 2000 he was commissioned by Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project to compose Silk Road Reverie.
His 1950 revolutionary work Days of Emancipation (翻身的日子, Fānshēn de Rìzi; for banhu and Chinese orchestra) is well known in the West from its appearance on the 1981 CBS Masterworks compilation Phases of the Moon: Traditional Chinese Music.
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