Chinese Music in Print

From the Great Sage to the Lady Literata


Yang Yuanzheng

ISBN : 978-988-8805-66-2

Film, Media, Fine Arts

January 2023

316 pages , 168 color illus. & 8 tables

  • HK$500.00

Grounded in a desire to bring back to life rare items from the University of Hong Kong’s Fung Ping Shan Library that are entwined within the world of music and to place them in a context of books and images in American, British, and other Asian collections, Chinese Music in Print views the library as a repository not of information but of artifact, and then uses these artifacts as a means for generating scholarly narrative. It begins by assessing seminal texts in the Confucian canon set against the delicacy of the concubine and amanuensis Shen Cai’s calligraphy and poetry. Confucianism was itself a crucial aspect of courtly life, and an exploration of its ritual is the book’s second theme. Vernacular genres of opera and song are represented in the third chapter, while the Great Sage returns in the fourth for an exploration of the repertoire and richness of his favourite instrument, the qin. The final chapter ends the journey with discussion of the legacy of generations of Europeans who have visited China and their contribution to the understanding of a more vernacular instrument, the erhu

YANG YUANZHENG is a Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Hong Kong. Among his recent publications are Dragon's Roar: Chinese Literati Musical Instruments in the Freer and Sackler Collections (2020), and Plum Blossom on the Far Side of the Stream: The Renaissance of Jiang Kui’s Lyric Oeuvre (2019).

“Like the 2021 exhibition called ‘Music in Print’ that preceded it, this exploration of Chinese music history introduces many rare books from the University of Hong Kong Libraries. The essays combine professional expertise in musicology with an excellent grasp of traditional bibliography, which allows the one to illuminate the other. Bravo!” 

J. S. Edgren, Princeton University 

“I am most impressed by the critical reading of the author who excels in classical studies, whose expertise in calligraphy, seals, editions, and other related disciplines in Sinology is admirable. His meticulous investigation into the complicated situation regarding the book printing business of dynastic China is professional and convincing.”

Yu Siu-wah, chief editor of Anthology of Chinese Folk and Ethnic Instrumental Music: The Hong Kong Volume

“Such a wide-ranging but meticulously researched book that now contextualizes the dissemination and transmission of music into the discussion of manuscript and printed culture in China will clearly be an important addition to the holdings of libraries supporting Chinese studies and book studies broadly taken, as well as those supporting the study of music. Obviously, it will be of direct importance for specialists in East Asian book studies and for musicologists of East Asian traditions.”

Elizabeth Markham, University of Arkansas

“This beautifully illustrated and carefully edited book is the first English-language monograph dedicated exclusively to the history of Chinese music as captured through the medium of print. It introduces a host of new sources and methodologies to the English-speaking public, fruitfully complicates established narratives of music history and of print cultures in both East and West, and offers a vital building-block for the creation of a truly global music history.”  

Karl Kügle, University of Oxford