Ritual Music in China
Arts and Sciences
Music, Chinese Studies
The integration of Confucian ideologies in China’s ritual music has so far not been thoroughly understood. Music has continually played an integral role in the traditional rituals of China across governmental shifts. Music connected the reigning emperor and his dynasty to his predecessors and their dynasties. In this context, music was one way of claiming authority in society. Like poetry and literature, music acted as a medium for heaven and earth communication, a primary concern of Confucian traditions. Music’s transformative power was viewed as a medium for reaching the ancestors. The analysis of Confucian music in its ritualistic context, as described by Jin Jie in Chinese Music, reveals an emphasis on repetition and minimal harmonization, and also the use of instruments. Repetition in this music reflects the Confucian context of filial piety and why it’s longstanding. In Michael B. Bakan’s World Music: Traditions and Transformations, the guzheng is uncovered as an accompaniment for ceremonies, but it is also viewed as a self-cultivation resource for the individual. The comparative analysis of Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucius ritual music shows similarities as well as significant differences. Daoist and Buddhist music allow variability depending on location. Both accept secular influences from the surrounding society, and both integrate changes in the instruments’ and cantors’ roles to try to attract the people with these localizations. Nevertheless, the respected Confucian ritual music stays consistent, relying heavily on the traditions of the music as the constant medium, as the priority is to reach the ancestors, not the public.
Davis, Avery M.D., "Ritual Music in China" (2016). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 551.