Beijing (CNN)When Liu Yuan started playing the sax in the mid-1980s, few people in China knew what jazz was.
"There were only four or five professional jazz musicians in Beijing," Liu recalls. "It was brutal."
Bars and clubs were rare in the city.
Liu says he had to "beg" the few bars that existed to let them perform.
But the music that originated in the U.S. African-American communities in the late-19th century as an emotional reaction to racial oppression has taken root in China's capital over the past two decades and there's now a vibrant and fast-developing jazz scene.