Abstract: Chinese Music before Confucius


Chinese classics of the last few centuries BC tell us that in the early first millennium BC Chinese civilization was the exclusive possession of the Zhou empire in north China. Zhou ritual music, we are told, was pentatonic; south China (i.e. the Yangzi region) was inhabited by barbarians playing strange music. But the bronze bell sets unearthed in recent years tell a different story. Zhou bell sets play a tetratonic scale. Moreover stylistic analysis seems to suggest that the Zhou have obtained their first bells from musically and technologically more sophisticated centers in the south. The south was home to a civilization unknown to recorded history but increasingly obvious in the visual and material record. Problems involved in reconstructing the history of Zhou music will be addressed.

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