Playing a Pipa
History of Chinese Music - Page 1

This is the body of vocal and instrumental music composed and played by the Chinese people. For several thousand years Chinese culture was dominated by the teachings of the philosopher Confucius, who conceived of music in the highest sense as a means of calming the passions and of dispelling unrest and lust, rather than as a form of amusement.

The ancient Chinese belief that music is meant not to amuse but to purify one's thoughts finds particular expression in the cult of the qin, a long zither possessing a repertory calling for great subtlety and refinement in performance and still popular among a small circle of scholar-musicians. A famous Qin scholar once said, "Though the qin player's body be in a gallery or in a hall, his mind should dwell with the forests and streams."

Also, traditionally the Chinese have believed that sound influences the harmony of the universe. Significantly, one of the most important duties of the first emperor of each new dynasty was to search out and establish that dynasty's true standard of pitch. A result of this philosophical orientation was that until quite recently the Chinese theoretically opposed music performed solely for entertainment; accordingly, musical entertainers were relegated to an extremely low social status.

Lady Playing the Pipa