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The Yin and Yang of Chinese Music Historiography: The Case of Confucian Ceremonial Music

  • Joseph S. C. Lam


On 28 September 1990, the city of Qufu, Confucius' home town in northeastern China, celebrated the philosopher's 2541st birthday with the performance of a reconstructed ceremony of ritual offerings, music, and dance. Presented on the terrace of the Hall of Great Achievements (Dacheng dian) of the Confucian Temple in Qufu, the performance was propitious but controversial. While most of the participants and audience appeared to have approved the ceremony as efficacious, some critics contested that it was inappropriately ‘touristy’ and included many inauthentic details. A few even condemned the performance as a misrepresentation of historical sacrifices to Confucius. As a music scholar invited to attend the performance, I found the contrasting reactions and criticisms enlightening because they represent a characteristically vigorous Chinese tradition of pursuing historical truth with its proliferation of written documents about the Chinese past. Above all, the reactions and criticisms highlighted, for me, the roles music performances played in historical understanding of the musical past.



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The Yin and Yang of Chinese Music Historiography: The Case of Confucian Ceremonial Music

  • Joseph S. C. Lam


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