Today, I read about the Westminister Quarters, the chime used by Big Ben in Westminster, London. In that article, I see this assertion:

Most schools in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea play the chimes to signal the end and beginning of periods.

My personal experience in Taiwan, in the Chinese communities of Southeast Asia, and seeing videos of Japanese schools suggest that the assertion is plausible. (Also, anime sometimes play the chimes during school scenes).

The Japanese Wikipedia article on chimes has additional information. The article asserts that in Japan, the chimes were adopted in 1954 by a person named 石本邦雄. The adoption was inspired by the chimes played on BBC radio broadcasts. There is no citation.

I find it interesting that the chimes has mass adoption in a select few East Asian countries, and I think it is unlikely to be mere coincidence. Questions:

  1. What was the reason for the mass adoption of the Westminster Quarters in Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea?

  2. When did these places start adopting the chimes?

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    That melody is insanely popular with chime manufacturers all over the world. You get clocks, door bells and whatnot playing those notes, and -- from personal experience -- I can say that the alternative chimes are usually much more jarring and less pleasant. So it might actually be a case of, "available, and why not?". (The same reason that made Big Ben end up with that chime, as it wasn't the first to use it.)
    – DevSolar
    Mar 13, 2019 at 8:20
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    @DevSolar What pushed me to ask this question was visiting some towns in Southeast Asia, and noticing that the Chinese school was often the only one with the Westminster Quarters as its school bell. When I visited Taiwan, I noticed how common the chimes were. I was wondering if there is a cultural or historical reason for the use of the chimes as school bell in one particular region of the world. I hope you understand the motivation of my question. I was hoping for some illuminating historical answer, but if there is none, I would be happy to accept "available, and why not?" as an answer.
    – Flux
    Mar 13, 2019 at 9:03
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    My guess is .. it is all due to Japan.. Japan went through a mimic team GB phase during Meji Restoration. And Korea and Taiwan at the time, were both under Japanese control. May 29, 2019 at 19:06

1 Answer 1


This is my idea how this happen. Japan during the Meiji Era started the modernization of Japan and started copying everything western. I believe even the sailor suit used by school children was copied from Britain. As for the bell chime, it seems it was started only near 1950s.

According to this site (In Japanese), after WW2 around the 1950s, the school chime at Tokyo, Ota Ward State Oomori 4th Junior High School (東京都大田区立大森第四中学)'s bell used for indicating start and end of class was always requiring repair, they started looking for a new chime. There are already lots of manufacturer that have Music Box (オルゴール) that contains the well known Westminister『ウェストミンスターの鐘』 melody in them. After that chime was used for elementary school nationwide.

Here is the Japansese reference copy.

日本の小中学校のチャイムへ 日本の小中学校に『ウェストミンスターの鐘』が初めて導入されたのは戦後の1950年代。東京都大田区立大森第四中学校では、授業開始・終了のベルがよく故障していたため、新たなチャイムとして、すでに他の産業機器やオルゴールなどでよく知られていた『ウェストミンスターの鐘』のメロディを採用したという。


Note: In Japan the Westminster Quarter is also called by the onomatopoeia word Chin-Con-Kan-Con『キーンコーンカーンコーン』, which is literally what it sounds. That made it difficult to search from the net.

Then South Korea and Taiwan were colony of Japan for 50 years although they were independent country after WW2, I believe since Japan established most of the school institution in the two countries, and given that Japan was the powerhouse economy in Asia after WW2. There is a big chance they copied the chime bell used in school. Still need reference for this.

As for why South East Asian Chinese school also have the same chimes, before the resurgence/opening of china (before mid 90s) most Chinese school in south east Asia follow Taiwan as a reference in their Chinese education. Chinese South East asian children studying in Chinese school would send their children to Taiwan to learn the language and culture. Schools would use Traditional Chinese instead of the now standard Simplified Chinese. I would assume that during these times, they would copy the Westminster Quarters as school chimes from Taiwan during those times and it stuck.

Britain -> Japan -> Korea and Taiwan -> Southeast Asian Chinese school

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    In general, answers should be sourced in some manner. Speculation without supporting evidence doesn't meet the bar for a good answer. You may be able to find documentation around the Japanese school modernization that would make this a good answer. May 29, 2019 at 0:00
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    @StevenBurnap added reference
    – Nap
    May 29, 2019 at 1:08

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