Tan Dun was born in 1957. During the years of the Cultural Revolution, he worked in the village and collected rice. Mastered traditional Chinese instruments on his own. He worked as an arranger and performer in the troupe of the Beijing Opera. In 1978, he entered the Central Conservatory in Beijing, having passed the strictest selection (Bachelor, 1983; Master's Degree, 1985). His understanding of modern academic music came through the lectures of invited to the Conservatory leading composers of the time such as Goehr or Takemitsu. He experienced the profound influence of Takemitsu music.
In 1986, he moved to New York. In 1993, he graduated as a Ph.D. from the Columbia University (composition class of Chou Wen-Chung). In the United States, he discovered the music of John Cage and the minimalists.
In 2000, together with S. Gubaidulina, O. Golijov and W. Rihm participated in the collective International Project commissioned by Bachakademie (Stuttgart) compositions on the theme of Bach "Passions".
In 2008, he took part in the YouTube project creating the world's first symphonic Internet orchestra, for which Tan Dun wrote the symphony "Eroica". His other works are "Marco Polo" (1996), "Pioneer Gazebo" (1998), "Tea: The Zephyr of the Soul" (2002), "The First Emperor" (2006), music for the film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000, The Academy Award for Best Original Score).