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規則之外:早期中國的古樂與新樂 Breaking the Rules: A Discussion on the Archaic Music and the New Music in Early China


2023/24 School of Chinese Research Student Seminar



Breaking the Rules: A Discussion on the Archaic Music and the New Music in Early China 


Speaker: Miss Fang Wenxin 方文昕 (PhD)
Date & Time: April 5, 2024 (Fri) 17:30-18:45pm
Language: Putonghua
Venue: CPD-3.01, Central Podium Level 3, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU
Mode of Delivery: Face-to-face






The writings on "music" in the early Chinese texts exhibit a tendency towards "valuing the archaic and disparaging the new". The debates among Han scholars on the old and new nature of sacrificial music have aroused curiosity: What do the dimensions of "archaic" and "new" in early Chinese court music signify? In this presentation, we will begin with an exploration on the meaning of Chinese character "yue (music)". Through the interpretation of original texts and unearthed materials, we will delineate the changes in music during the pre-Qin and Han periods, analyzing the historical origin of ancient music and the "irregularity" of new music.


The concept of "yue (music)" in Early China was based on primitive religious environments and specific modes of thinking, closely related but not equal to the art of "sound" as understood today. The Shang people valued sound and recorded the names of music and dance rituals in divination scripts. Their musical techniques were inherited in the Zhou dynasty and gave rise to the establishment of the ritual music system. The Western Zhou music with an elegant and serene style was described as ideal and embodying the law of nature, especially in the Confucian literature. In the following Eastern Zhou period, there was a rapid advancement in the level of instruments and musical performance, yet the emerging new sounds were not recognized by the Confucian. The Han dynasty reconstructed the ritual music system, while the court music was also influenced by flourishing folk music and exotic music. The development from archaic to new not only signifies the transformation of musical forms and styles under technological progress but also reflects the shift of the concept of "yue (music)" from ritual purposes to aesthetic appreciation. The archaic music inherited the ancient religious ritual tradition, possessing ancient formal elements and historical origins, while the new music did not belong to the original ideological system and was excluded from interpretation and recognition.


ALL are welcome*
*Pre-registration (Click HERE) is requested.