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The dissemination of Western music through Catholic missions in High Qing China, 1662-1795

By Jia, Shubing

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Date: 2012
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Place of publication: Bristol

Summary

PhD dissertation Music Department, University of Bristol, UK.

Abstract:In the mid-seventeenth century, China entered its last dynastic heyday of economic prosperity and territorial expansion. This special period in Chinese history is called the High Qing, when China was ruled by three generation of Manchu Emperors. This was also a period of fast-growing Catholic expansion in the Far East. At that time, influenced greatly by Western missionaries, China saw a metamorphosis in its traditional thinking about the investigation of the natural world. In many fields, Western scientific endeavour made rapid progress in the High Qing. Western music, as a traditional European discipline, was for a time widely introduced into China in various theoretical and practical forms. On the one hand, skilled missionary musicians such as the Jesuit Tomás Pereira and the Lazarist Teodorico Pedrini joined with High Qing officials in fruitful collaboration to produce the first treatises on Western music theory in Chinese. On the other hand, performances by European musicians brought Western music to the court in such forms as instrumental sonatas, while a wider public particularly relished the sound of the organ. The spread of Western music in the High Qing widened Chinese intellectual thought and enriched imperial multiculturalism. However, the growing interest in Western music coincided and intertwined with a disastrous succession of imperial bans on the preaching of Christianity in the High Qing. This gave rise to a complex web of interactions between missionary musicians and Manchu Emperors, mixing intriguing anecdotes of exotic musics and complex personal relationships. This thesis attempts to explain how and why the twin phenomena happened during the two centuries. Moreover, it will examine this current of exuberant foreign music against the religious impact on Chinese society, grounding this on a balancing of diverse Chinese and European sources, and emphasizing that this was to some considerable extent a mutual exchange.

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