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Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci 1
- The European Renaissance meets a Chinese revival: The Elegant Gathering of Matteo Ricci?
- Musical materials  (Working draft: read main text first, endnotes later? Comments appreciated.)
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Above: Matteo Ricci 2
Below: Playing a clavichord 3
During the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) music for Chinese silk-string zither (qin; today usually called
guqin ["old qin"]) was revived and flourished.4 Guqin tablature survives from ancient times, but it was printed scores, which begin in 1425, that broadened both the tradition and the possibilities for reconstruction, today via what is known as historically informed performance. This then allows fascinating comparisons between early guqin music and the European Medieval and Renaissance music traditions, both theoretical and practical. This also makes the guqin the clear choice for presenting surviving Chinese music from before 1600.

Two European musical instruments are particularly relevant for the purposes of this program due to comparisons which can be made between them and the guqin: the Renaissance lute5 and the keyboard instrument6 ("Western qin"7) generally called a clavichord.8

Regarding the lute, the most influential English language book on the guqin, R. H. van Gulik's Lore of the Chinese Lute, uses the word "lute" to translate "guqin" because, like the guqin, the lute "since olden times in the West has been associated with all that is artistic and refined, and sung by poets."9 Organologically the guqin is a zither, not a lute, but largely as a result of Van Gulik's book many others have also translated "guqin" as "lute", leading to a certain amount of confusion.10

As for keyboard instruments, here one can draw specific inspiration from the fact that in the late 16th century the Jesuits brought to China several keyboard instruments, and that in 1601 the Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci, who lived in China from 1583 until his death in 1609, presented to the Emperor one of them. This instrument must have been a type of either virginal (plucked strings)11 or clavichord (struck strings). Both may have been available to him,12 but for the present program the keyboard instrument selected is a clavichord.13 A major reason for this is that its low volume of sound is rather similar to that of the guqin.14

This program15 imagines an East-West musical encounter16 around the year 1600.17 At its most basic level it is a one man presentation18 with me as both guqin player19 and clavichordist.20 To this it would be natural to add (regularly or occasionally) one other musician, in particular either a separate clavichord player or a lutenist.21 Whether as a solo presentation or with the second performer the program may also include multi-media.22 Since ancient times the guqin has been prized by the Chinese literati23 as an instrument of self-cultivation, played for oneself, a close friend, or at most an intimate gathering of friends.24 Both the clavichord and lute were sometimes used in a similar manner,25 but because of its possible specific connection to Matteo Ricci, the clavichord is mentioned in the present discussion.

Related to the rôles of the guqin and clavichord in their respective societies is the quiet sound each produces.26 Subtly nuanced expression is an essential part of the aesthetic of both instruments, their lack of volume reinforcing the intimate nature of this musical experience. As a purely instrumental program, this recital should re-create the intimate environment known to have been associated with these two instruments.27 In such an environment perhaps the two instruments could even play together, but this would not be the main focus of the program.28

An expanded version of the program could include song. This might mean the guqin and/or clavichord player themselves singing a few appropriate songs.29 Such an expansion of the program could still retain the intimacy of the purely instrumental performance. If the program also includes some of the appropriate longer vocal melodies, particularly those set to Daoist, Confucian, or Christian liturgical texts,30 it would then also be appropriate to use the louder spinet and include a separate singer or two, or a small chorus.31 This would change somewhat the intimate nature of the performance; and in this case, as with a program in a conventional performance space, amplification may be necessary to maintain the balance between the stronger voices and the more delicate instruments.32

Given these environmental and aesthetic considerations, the fantasy of such a musical exchange addresses a number of intriguing questions: to what extent can music be truly international? Or, to look at it another way, what circumstances, knowledge, or attitudes are required for a person from one culture to appreciate the artistic expression of another culture?33

Though the shared musical and extra-musical characteristics outlined above should be sufficient to make such a cross-cultural program interesting both musically and intellectually, the specific framework devised for this program adds yet another dimension.

The Ricci connection 34

As suggested above, one scenario for the presentation of this program would be to create an illusion that the audience has been transported back to the year 1600, when Matteo Ricci was in China. Here the audience, imagining themselves to be with a small group of Chinese literati and Western visitors, would hear music very familiar to one group, a totally new discovery to the other.35 A separate event, and/or the program notes, could imagine a subsequent conversation.36

Matteo Ricci (1550 - 1610), a Jesuit priest, first came to Asia in 1578, when he was sent to Goa.37 He lived in China from 1583 until his death, becoming very learned in both Chinese language and traditional culture. He argued that for Christianity to succeed in China, it must take on some of the characteristics of traditional Chinese culture. He himself often wore the dress of an educated Chinese male.

In 1583 Ricci brought with him to China a keyboard instrument that, as mentioned above, was either a type of harpsichord (i.e., an Italian spinet), or a clavichord. Although not himself a musician, Ricci certainly had musical training in Rome.38 In addition, several of the other Jesuits in China at that time are known to have been musicians.39 Ricci himself is often said to have written eight moral and religious texts that he used for eight songs he composed under the title Songs for Western Keyboard (Xiqin Quyi).40 This in fact may have been a cooperative effort; in any case, although the texts survive, nothing is known about the original music for those songs.41

In addition to having studied intensively classical Chinese culture, Matteo Ricci made the acquaintance of numerous Chinese literati.42 He mentions the guqin directly in at least one of his writings (the fourth of his Eight Songs43). And music was part of what might today be called his "cultural diplomacy". All this suggests that while he was in China he would certainly have had the opportunity to hear the instrument that the literati so prized. Equally natural would be for its sound, like that of no other instrument, to have reminded him of that of the clavichord. And having come this far, whether or not he could appreciate the actual music of the guqin, it seems likely that he would have become acquainted with its philosophical nature.

At the same time, would not the quiet and subtle sounds of the clavichord have reminded the Chinese literati of the sounds of their own guqin? Ricci brought with him some beautifully bound editions of Western music. Would this not have brought to mind the written tradition of their guqin music? In this regard it is interesting to note the appearance just at that time of certain themes in the titles and content of melodies in the guqin repertoire. Is it purely coincidental that the unique guqin handbook entitled Paired Music for the Three (Chinese) Religions was published just then, in 1592? Or that 1609 saw publication of what became a quite important new melody, Mozi Sings with Feeling? Mohism, the philosophy of Mozi, has characteristics that have sometimes been compared to those of Christianity.44 As for this melody, the theme of which suggests that people are influenced by those with whom they associate, it apparently developed out of an earlier melody, Song of the Herdsman (or Shepherd), which speaks of herdsmen as shepherds of people.45

There are, of course, many caveats that should be mentioned before reaching any conclusions regarding these occurrences. Other than the fact that at present no one has provided hard evidence that the above is anything but coincidence, perhaps the two most important caveats are as follows.

In the first place, there is very little record of what non-liturgical music the early Jesuits actually brought with them to China, or of what music they were able to play on a keyboard instrument. It is thus not clear how large of a "willing suspension of disbelief" is required on the part of the listener to accept that any particular European composition could actually have been played on a keyboard instrument in China around the year 1600; this would be especially true for the more complex European creations.46

Secondly, although there is evidence suggesting that some Westerners did at that time become aware of the guqin as a music instrument47 (specific evidence of guqin players' awareness of Western music apparently begins somewhat later48), there seem to be no surviving accounts where Matteo Ricci or any of his contemporary Westerners mentions its actual music.49 Ricci is known to have attended literati gatherings50 (see elegant gatherings) but to my knowledge he did not describe these gatherings in detail, other than to discuss the content of some of the philosophical or religious debates that took place.51 Given Ricci's intimate knowledge of and apparent sympathy for Chinese literati culture,52 not to mention his close association with a number of Chinese literati, for him never to have heard the guqin53 would be quite surprising.54

Early Western visitors to China generally ignored Chinese music or had negative comments.55 The Journals of Matthew Ricci, as translated from the Latin by Louis J. Gallagher, attribute to Ricci only two comments about Chinese music.56 Both comments are very negative, suggesting ignorance and lack of sensitivity by Ricci towards Chinese arts. In fact, though, neither comment can actually be found in Ricci's own writings: the value judgements were apparently added by Nicholas Trigault and made even harsher through their English translation.57 Unfortunately, these statements have often been quoted elsewhere as having come from Ricci himself.58

The experience of Matteo Ricci in China, as well as the interpretations and mis-interpretations of this experience in Western literature, all raise again a question already mentioned above, a question of particular interest to the possibilities of cross-cultural understanding: What mind frame, what experiences, and what circumstances did it take/would it have taken for Chinese scholars to appreciate contemporary Western music?59 And what would it have taken for Westerners in China to appreciate guqin music?60

Music is often said to be an international language, but the reality of Ricci's experience in China shows that understanding this language requires either certain circumstances, certain understandings, or certain attitudes, or perhaps all three.61

Further music programs on the theme of early East-West encounters in China

The guqin segment of the present program (see Guqin part in the Appendix) features music up to around 1610, near the latter end of the period from which I have been reconstructing guqin music; the European instrumental segment (see Clavichord part) features mostly late Renaissance music, including some of the earliest examples in the development of European keyboard music. This program might thus be seen as complementary to several other programs. My own Music from the Time of Marco Polo, set around 1300, focuses on the earliest instrumental music available for recreation, both East and West.62 In contrast, the programs of XVIII-21/Fleur de Prunus 63 try to re-create a style of music that the Jesuits might have brought to or heard in 18th century China.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1 Matteo Ricci 利瑪竇 (October 6, 1552 - May 11, 1610)
Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit priest sent to Goa in 1578. In August of 1582 he arrived in Macau, September 1583 setting up residence in Shaozhou, Guangdong province. In 1589 he moved to Zhaoqing (also Guangdong), from there going to Nanchang (Jiangxi, from 1595), Nanjing (1598/9), and finally Beijing (from January, 1601), where he died in 1610. There is a lot of information about him available on the internet. Good places to begin, in addition to Wikipedia, are the Ricci biography and book list on the website of the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History. Chinese sources (see Bio/1077) generally refer to "Matteo Ricci" as Li Madou. 1967.161 利瑪竇 Li Madou says that "萬歷八年至廣東、易華名利西泰 when he arrived in Guangdong in 1583, he changed to the Chinese name Li Xitai", as in the illustration above. Other sources say that Xitai was (or became) Ricci's style name; this would make sense as "Xitai" can signify "honorable Westerner". Li Madou is more phonetic, but I have not yet found a date for Ricci taking that name.

Original Sources
The most important publications of original sources on Matteo Ricci are:

  1. Fonti Ricciane, 3 Vols. (usually "FR")
    Edited and annotated by Pasquale M. D'Elia, S. J., Rome, 1942 - 1949.
    Subtitle: "Documenti originali concernenti Matteo Ricci e la storia delle prime relazioni tra l'Europa e la Cina (1579-1615)."
    D'Elia (1890 - 1963) compiled this from the original notes Ricci had written in Italian while in China, intending eventually to publish them as Storia dell'Introduzione del Cristianesimo in Cina (History of the Introduction of Christianity into China). Previous to this publication the major source on Ricci in China had been the translation into Latin of a selection of these by Trigault (see below under Gallagher).
  2. Opere storiche del P. Matteo Ricci, Vol. 2
    Ricci's letters from China, edited by Pietro Tacchi Venturi, S. J., Macerata, 1913.
  3. Matteo Ricci Lettere, 1580 - 1609
    Edited by Francesco D'Arelli. Macerata: Quodlibet, 2001 (
    Ricci Library). It has much of the same content as Opere storiche.
  4. Aleni, Giulio, Vita del maestro Ricci, Xitai del Grande Occidente, 1630; reprint with translation 2010
    This may not strictly be an original source, being dated 20 years after Ricci's death, but Aleni (1582-1649
    Wiki), who could be described as having been a Jesuit in the style of Ricci, wrote the biography in Chinese. The Chinese title was 大西西泰利先生行蹟 Da xi Xitai Li xian sheng xing ji. The modern edition, published in 2010 (October) by Impressum Brescia: Fondazione Civiltà Bresciana/Centro Giulio Aleni, includes an "anastatic reprint of the Chinese text" along with a translation into Italian.

English language sources
Five important English language sources are:

  1. Louis J. Gallagher: China in the 16th Century: The Journals of Matthew Ricci: 1583 - 1610.
    Translated from the Latin by Louis J. Gallagher, S. J. New York, Random House, 1953 (quoted
    After Ricci's death in 1610 another Jesuit, Nicholas Trigault (1577–1628; Wiki: Nicolas Trigault), took some of Ricci's writings back to Europe. There Trigault published his translation into Latin of a selection of the writings, with his own added comments, as De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas. Re-printed several times, this was the source of Gallagher's work. Because of the omissions and additions, one must be very careful in assuming that these Journals are an accurate reflection of what Ricci actually wrote. An example is given in a footnote below of one mistaken impression caused by this work.
  2. Jonathan D. Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. New York, Viking Penguin, 1984
    This book relates Ricci's experiences in China, especially among the literati, with special reference to Treatise on Mnemonic Arts (記法 Jifa), written by Ricci in Chinese and circulated among members of the Ming dynasty elite
  3. Vincent Cronin, The Wise Man from the West. London, Fount Paperbacks, 1984 (First published 1955)
    This narrative of Ricci's work in China is apparently based largely on
    Fonti Ricciani; unfortunately, there are no footnotes, so it is difficult to evaluate its reliability. See, for example, its commentary on music on pp. 169 – 173, in particular regarding the lyrics and music for the Eight Songs.
  4. R. Po-chia Hsia, A Jesuit in the Forbidden City, Matteo Ricci, 1552-1610). Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010
    This is said to be, "The first critical biography of Ricci to use all relevant sources, both Chinese and Western".
  5. Michela Fontana, Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Ming Court. Maryland, Rowman and Littlefield, 2011
    This is said to be "the first biography of the famous Jesuit truly based on Ricci's own account of his experience in China"

This page is focused specifically on the time of Matteo Ricci himself. There is a considerable volume of work on broader historical aspects of Christianity in China. Of particular note for keeping up to date on this are the Sino-Western Cultural Relations Journal edited by Prof. D.E. Mungello of Baylor University (Ricci Institute Catalogue) and an ongoing publication project called The Chinese face of Jesus Christ (ibid).There is also a considerable amount of information online, especially in Chinese.

2 Portraits of Matteo Ricci
The portrait of Matteo Ricci above was found in Pacific Rim Report. A number of other portraits can also be found online.

3 Portraits of clavichord players
"Young Woman Playing the Clavichord" is a painting in the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA, attributed to (the workshop of) Jan van Hemessen (ca. 1500-ca. 1575). Before 1700 the clavichord was usually, as here, "set on tables and rarely had legs or independent stands". It can be seen in Bernard Brauchli, op. cit., p. 159. Brauchli's book also has numerous other illustrations of clavichord players.

4 Guqin
For revival of the guqin in the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) see the General Introduction to the 1425 Guqin handbook, Shen Qi Mi Pu; see also My Shen Qi Mi Pu Project. In sum, the compiler of the Shen Qi Mi Pu wrote that at the beginning the Ming dynasty the guqin had either fallen out of use or was played by the wrong sort of people, so he was trying to revive it to its former glory. By the end of the Ming dynasty the guqin was probably more widely played than ever before. However, the present state of research makes it difficult to assess how this affected the quality of the music compared to that of earlier periods.

5 Lute
Early Western music scores generally did not specify the instrument. This allows great flexibility in selecting music for this program. Since there is no evidence of a lute having been taken to China at this time (or a guqin to Europe), the music for a program involving lute would focus instead on musical connections.

6 Keyboards ca. 1600 C.E. (see also What Instrument?)
Until the invention of the synthesizer, keyboard instruments worked through mechanisms that produced sound in three general ways,

  1. Striking strings (e.g., clavichord [see next footnote], piano; ancestor: monochord?)
  2. Plucking strings (e.g., harpsichord, virginals; Western ancestor: psaltery?)
  3. Blowing air through pipes (e.g., organ, accordion; ancestor: mouth organ? [see, e.g., the sheng])

The histories of both the harpsichord (virginal and spinet were earlier names/forms) and clavichord seem to go back to the early 14th century. The clavichord is generally considered the older of the two, though this may depend on deciding just when it became distinct from the monochord. The important points here for the present program are that in 1600 instruments of all three types were in use; by that time all had been brought to China (or at least Macau); and Matteo Ricci is said to have written/composed a Xiqin Quyi, Bazhang, translated here as Eight Songs for Western Keyboard. The clavichord is the most obvious instrument for the present program in part because some sources suggest it was the first keyboard instrument brought to China (see argument). Just as important, though, are the fact that it has a similar volume output, and the possibility that at times it had a similar purpose, as the guqin.

7 Early Chinese translations of "keyboards" (including "clavichord")
The first Chinese term for a Western keyboard instrument was apparently "Western qin" (西琴 xiqin); today these early keyboards seem most often referred to as "old pianos" (古鋼琴 gu gangqin), a term which perhaps hides too much the important differences. In general, the character "qin" seems to have been used in all the translations into Chinese for the names of the various keyboard instruments. By itself this does not suggest that these instruments were particularly associated with the guqin: almost all imported string instruments were referred to as some sort of qin. Thus the violin is the 小提琴 "small arm qin", the piano is the 鋼琴 "steel qin", a version of the two string fiddle is the 胡琴 "qin of the hu nomads", etc.

In addition to xiqin, other terms for keyboard instruments (from Joyce Lindorff, Missionaries, keyboards and musical exchange in the Ming and Qing courts; Early Music, August 2004, p. 405) included "qin from the Atlantic Ocean" (大西洋琴 daxiyang qin), "elegant qin" (雅琴 yaqin), "foreign qin" (番琴 fanqin), "heavenly qin" (天琴 tianqin), "steel string qin" (鐵絲琴 tiesiqin), "72 (key) qin" (七十二琴 qishierqin), "qin for the hands" (手琴 shouqin), "foreign qin" (洋琴 yangqin [? this is used for the hammered dulcimer]), "big keyboard qin" (大鍵琴 dajianqin).

Unfortunately none of these terms alone was specific enough to distinguish between, for example, a clavichord, a spinet, a virginal and a harpsichord.

8 Clavichord (see Chinese translations)
In addition to the Wikipedia reference, see other online references such as Clavichord World (in particular Clavichord Quotes); and a list of clavichord societies including The Boston Clavichord Society. Two standard reference books are Bernard Brauchli, The Clavichord, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998 (for the instrument itself); and Alexander Silbiger (ed.), Keyboard Music Before 1700, 2nd edition; New York, Routledge, 2004 (for the music; unfortunately there is little specific information about the clavichord).

9 R. H. van Gulik, Lore of the Chinese Lute, p. viii.

10 Translating "guqin" as "lute"
As mentioned above, the most influential English language book on the guqin, R. H. van Gulik's Lore of the Chinese Lute, calls guqin a "lute". Although Van Gulik admits that the guqin may organologically be better classified as a "cither", he does not like the image this conveys. So, because the lute is the Western instrument that "since olden times in the West has been associated with all that is artistic and refined, and sung by poets," he calls the guqin a lute. Unfortunately, since other Chinese instruments such as the pipa are true lutes, this translation has helped contribute to some misunderstandings regarding the guqin.

11 Virginals/Spinets
"Virginals", "spinets" and "spinet virginals" are terms for early forms of the plucked string keyboard instrument later called "harpsichord"; there was a distintive Italian type in the 16th century. In Wikipedia see virginals and spinet virginals. Spinet virginals were certainly among the earliest keyboard instruments brought to China by the Jesuits (see below).

12 What keyboard instrument(s) were available to Matteo Ricci in China? (See also Keyboards ca. 1600 CE)
Matteo Ricci brought to China mechanisms such as clocks that would show off European technology. Quite naturally he also brought keyboard instruments, as China itself had no such musical instruments. He himself apparently brought a stringed keyboard instrument, while other keyboard instruments (including small organs) arrived later and perhaps earlier. For the stringed keyboard instruments he brought, historical records of that time in Latin or Italian apparently mention only the terms "gravicembolo" and/or "manicordio". See Bernard Brauchli, op. cit., p. 8 and elsewhere, for the use of "monochord" to refer to its descendant, the clavichord; the connection of "mani" with "hand" may also have led to a different understanding of the etymology of manicordio. Unfortunately, none of the contemporary sources seems to mention whether the strings on the keyboard instrument(s) brought to China were plucked, as on a harpischord/virginal, or struck, as on a clavichord.

The first detailed description of a stringed keyboard instrument in China seems to date from 1654. Regarding this, François Picard, "Music (17th and 18th centuries)", in Prof. N. Standaert (ed.), The Handbook of Oriental Studies, Christianity in China (vol. 1), Leiden, E.J. Brill, 2001, pp.851-860, wrote as follows (footnote references, omitted here, are available online):

Adam Schall von Bell (Tang Ruowang 湯若望 1591-1666, arrived in 1630) was later ordered to repair the instrument (o cravo) given by Ricci and to translate the Latin psalm-verse written on it. Schall von Bell also wrote a lesson for keyboard instruments in Chinese accompanied by a few psalm melodies. The historian Tan Qian 談遷, who visited Schall in 1654, saw an instrument (tianqin 天琴) with 45 strings and 45 keys. Since some Chinese sources describe an instrument with 72 strings, which were struck, it is clear that several keyboard strings instruments had been brought, mostly harpsichords.

One such reference to 72 strings is from Zhang Dai (1597 - ca. 1684). As described by Jonathan Spence, Return to Dragon Mountain, pp. 130 and 133,

They (the Jesuits) even had a kind of horizontal zither or qin, noted Zhang Dai, and Ricci presented one of these to the imperial palace. Contained within a wooden box almost three feet wide and five deep, it had not less than seventy-two strings, made of some kind of refined metal, that ran the whole length of the qin to an exterior keyboard.... (However,) "His qin with its metallic strings, and his chiming clock, which he offered at court, are good only to arouse curiosity."

Going back to the tianqin, Tan Qian saw one around this time at 南堂 Nan Tang, the church founded by Ricci in Beijing. According to the description in his Bei You Lu (談遷:《北遊錄》之《紀郵》,中華書局,1981年,第46頁; online here and here) it was apparently a virginal:

The qin uses iron strings. The qin box is five chi long, one chi deep, nine cun high. A middle board divides it. On it are arranged 45 iron strings, at a slant fastened to posts at left and right. Also slanted is a beam; below the beam are hidden "water tallies" (the jacks holding the quills in a virginal, from the way the tops seem to float when activated?), same number as strings. On a connected board at a lower level are arranged 45 "goose posts" (must be keys). When the hand presses down on one, there is a sound in accordance with the score.

Regarding the Chinese measurements, chi is sometimes translated as "foot" and cun as "inch". However, there were 10 cun in one chi and at that time a chi could have been anywhere between 9 1/2 and 13 modern inches.

If the instrument described in 1654 was indeed the instrument presented by Ricci to the emperor in 1601, then almost certainly it was an Italian virginal (also called a spinet or spinet virginals).

On the other hand, I have not yet found statements directly connecting this instrument to the one presented by Ricci to the emperor. As for my current program concept, it might be argued that the louder spinet would provide a more interesting contrast than does a clavichord to the quiet of the qin; the following footnote has reasons for selecting a clavichord.

13 Why choose clavichord over spinet? (See also Program concept)
Regarding the "gravicembolo" or "manicordio" Ricci himself brought to China, because of its small size a clavichord would perhaps have been the most natural choice (it is at least one third smaller than a spinet). Its common use as a practice instrument for organists should also have made it particularly familiar to the Jesuits. In addition, clavichord were apparently easier to maintain than spinets.

By 1600, clavichords, virginals (spinets) and organs were quite likely all available in China, or at least in Macau (Picard, op. cit., pp. 851-2). Thus, the main reason for selecting a clavichord for this program is that, whereas the organ would have been most suitable for use in the churches founded by the Jesuits, and the virginal was perhaps the best instrument for the imagined grand performance in the imperial court, the clavichord was arguably the most suitable instrument for impressing the Chinese literati, who gradually came to form Matteo Ricci's milieu.

By the time Matteo Ricci went to Beijing he must have been aware of the quiet volume of the qin. In this context, it seems natural that, if in fact he had both stringed keyboard instruments with him, if they were both of good quality, and if both had survived equally well the long sea voyage to China, Ricci would have been happy with a clavichord for a small gathering of scholars. Perhaps he would have preferred a spinet for a performance at the court, but such a performance never in fact took place: only a private recital by eunuchs.

On the other hand, had Ricci had a clavichord played either for the scholars or for the emperor, would there not be recorded somewhere a comment by someone on its quiet sound, perhaps comparing this to the same on a qin? Such a reaction might particularly be hoped for once the Chinese had also heard the spinet and organ.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no hard evidence to answer this question. With regard to this, in a personal communication to me François Picard stated,

"I did some research, together with Jean-Christophe Frisch, on the possibility that there still exist clavichords brought by Ricci or made by his successors, with the conclusion — after a visit to the Imperial Palace (Forbidden city) — that such an instrument could not have been handed down from that time: the poor look of late XIXth century musical instruments kept there, such as barrel organs or pianos, shows that such an instrument as a harpsichord or clavichord could not have survived in such bad conditions."

Because of this lack of either hard evidence or specific written details regarding musical instruments at Ricci's meetings with literati and even at the court, the question of what instrument was actually played at which meetings remains open.

14 Volume of clavichord and qin
The clavichord is perhaps the quietest of "classical" Western instruments, with a volume rather similar to that produced by the qin. The spinet/harpsichord is considerably louder than the clavichord, as are portable organs; the piano, though still louder, was not yet invented. As time passed, although for performance piano gradually replaced its stringed keyboard predecessors, the clavichord did continue in use until the latter 19th century. Some writings suggest that before the mid 17th century it was almost exclusively a practice instrument for organists, but the existing paintings of ladies with their clavichords (as above) suggests otherwise. In any case, its intimate expressiveness did come to be much prized in its own right.

The sound of the clavichord projects upwards from the strings and sound board. Opening the clavichord cover to gain access to the keyboard also uncovers the strings and sound board. The sound is apparently unaffected by the table on which the clavichord usually rests; the lid helps direct the sound towards the player. As a result these lids apparently are never opened all the way. However, this then blocks the view of and lessens the sound for anyone facing the clavichord player. As a result, in performance the clavichord player usually sits facing away from (if not surrounded by) the listeners.

In contrast, the qin has its sound holes on the bottom. The table on which the qin is played has a significant effect on the sound, hopefully reflecting and enriching it in all directions. The sound may not extend out equally in all directions, but if a listener sits with eyes closed it is often not clear from what direction the sound is coming. In performance the player usually sits facing (if not surrounded by) the listeners.

The design of the clavichord suggests an explanation for the following performance tactic. Recently, a friend told me of a performance he heard in Germany in which soprano Dorothee Mields sang songs of Goethe in a clear and soft voice to clavichord accompaniment, with no amplification. The singer, like the clavichord player, faced AWAY from the audience. The result was perfect balance.

If Matteo Ricci in fact had with him both a spinet and clavichord, a discussion of their relative volume is relevant in trying to determine what instrument he would have wished to be used either at the court or in a meeting with scholars.

15 Program concept (including The Elegant Gathering of Matteo Ricci; see also Melodies to be considered and What musical instrument(s)?)
While in China Matteo Ricci is known to have attended "elegant gatherings" of literati. The actual details of those gatherings are apparently unknown, but what is known of the conceptual ideals would allow the use of multi-media to present an imagined version. This would naturally include music plus calligraphy and painting, as well as perhaps poetry. Program notes or a separate event could suggest the sort of refined conversation that might have resulted from the East-West exchange. A gathering along these lines would provide an ideal platform to present music of that time in an appealing and historical context. Once such a program is under development a separate page will be devoted to its possibilities. Here the focus is on discussing individual elements in such a program.

Although as a recital this program presents historically informed performances of early music from both China (CHIP) and Europe (HIP), no claim is made that such a combined musical event ever took place in the historical past. And, although some benefits may accrue from imagining this as an actual East-West encounter, the program can also be presented simply in abstract fashion, as period music (mostly contemplative) from China and Europe. The suggested date is ca. 1600. This date could also be somewhat later: the purpose of associating it with the period during which Matteo Ricci was in China (1583 - 1610) is mainly to give some focus to certain significant issues regarding cultural understanding. Imagining the program in Europe a few years later would add considerably to the Western repertoire available; it would also raise further questions, both musical and philosophical. However, from a "suspension of disbelief" standpoint it might also raise a number of objections (for example, regarding the guqin player).

The guqin is selected for this program because its tablature has the only well-documented Chinese music from this period. To this one can add that there is evidence suggesting Matteo Ricci did hear the guqin and had some familiarity with the philosophy surrounding it. As outlined below, the guqin melodies here can be selected based on philosophical issues brought up by Ricci's work in China. It could also be quite appropriate to select the actual guqin music based simply on potential audience appeal, or on other considerations such as the occasion, date or location of the performance.

One program possibility might be to select music that brings up purely musical questions. I am as yet not familiar enough with the Renaissance music repertoire to suggest what these melodies might be. Regarding my own repertoire, until now it has focused on handbooks published between 1425 and 1539. I have also learned enough music from handbooks published between 1539 (especially 1589) and 1614 to be able to conclude that there were significant changes taking place in the guqin style of play during that period. However, these were nothing like the changes taking place in European music at the time, and it would be interesting to consider the reasons for this.

Today air travel allows countries to send their top artists to give grand performances for the purposes of cultural diplomacy. Not only was this not possible in 1600, the most appropriate setting for a guqin and clavichord event has always been much more intimate. Thus the basic concept of this program has the two musicians playing as though they are playing only for each other, with the audience playing the rôle of a few close friends (though one might also imagine the emperor wishing to listen in).

16 East-West Encounter: Appropriate music and possible instruments (see also Melodies to be considered)
As mentioned above, the guqin has been poetically associated with the early Western lute, so it would be natural to include it in this program. But although it is quite possible that there were Western lutes in China at that time, especially Macao, there seems to be no historical record affirming this. As a result, the intimate nature of the clavichord seems to make it a more obvious first choice for an imagined encounter between Matteo Ricci and Chinese literati. If instead the aim is to evoke the Jesuit encounter with the Chinese court, a program featuring spinet would perhaps be most appropriate.

The performance concept could also be expanded to consider other instruments and perhaps voice; but here, as with Music from the Time of Marco Polo, it might then be more accurate to have the audience imagine what a traveler might hear in Europe before or after a trip to China.

For the Chinese side, at present only guqin music is well enough documented to allow historically informed performance from that period. This situation may change as research continues, but most efforts with other forms of early Chinese music have so far been quite speculative. This is also true with much of the reconstruction done of early guqin music. Thus, Chinese players have made a number of guqin recordings of music said to be from the Ming dynasty and earler, but often the music is much modified, particularly as a result of using metal strings. Note also comments elsewhere about singing. Even including that modified early music I do not know of anyone other than myself who has a repertoire large enough to present a program of it.

Comparative reconstruction of early Chinese and Western music is a very interesting topic. Included below is an outline of a French attempt to reconstruct Chinese music from the 17th and 18th centuries (there is also quite a bit of online information about this). My own approach to reconstructing early guqin music is discussed elsewhere on this website; see especially Some Issues in Historically Informed Qin Performance. Related to this, although I studied early Western music in college, and have often listened to it during my 30-odd years of studying early Chinese music, I have not yet had the opportunity to study in depth the relationship between original Western scores from before 1600 and the resulting performances.

17 Date of the musical encounter
The year 1600 is chosen because in that year Lazzarao de Cattaneo, perhaps the most skilled musician among the Jesuits in China at that time, was then with Matteo Ricci in Nanjing. Nanjing was a major center for qin play. Setting the date some years later could allow greater flexibility for the clavichord player. My own repertoire largely ends around 1614, but it would not be unusual for a qin player some years later still to be playing that old music. Of course, later dates would also require a new rationale (and title) for the qin and clavichord encounter.

18 Solo presentation: qin player as clavichordist
Although prior to beginning to learn the guqin in 1974 I played piano for a number of years, I cannot claim great skill; nor do I have experience playing the clavichord. However, the four eunuchs taught by Diego Pantoja to play the clavichord were certainly less skilled than I. They were all court musicians, so it is thus quite possible that at least one, if not all, of these four eunuchs played the qin. Certainly all would have been familiar with qin music. In this context it would be natural to present a program in which one person takes the rôle of both a person quite skilled on the qin but a beginner on the clavichord.

As for the instrument itself, my plan is eventually to acquire one in the style of the sort of clavichord that Ricci took to China. Meanwhile I would have either to borrow one or to include a separate clavichord player.

19 The qin player
Known qin players in the early 17th century included members of the literati class, children (both male and female) of literati and wealthy families, princes and eunuchs. In China it should not have been hard to find them in the circles within which Matteo Ricci traveled. (Today, however, I believe I am the only qin player systematically reconstructing music from this period.)

Imagining a qin player in 17th century Europe, however, is rather difficult. To a qin player it may seem logical that a European who enjoys the contemplative life might be attracted to the qin, study it, then bring it back to Europe; however, there is no evidence anything like that every happened. As for a Chinese in Europe, after the voyages of the eunuch admiral Zheng He (1371 - 1433) ended in 1433, government policy turned China increasingly inward and it became very difficult for Chinese to travel outside of China. Some Chinese visitors to Europe are discussed in D. E. Mungello, The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500 - 1800 (Lanham, MD, Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 77 - 81. These include a well-educated Chinese gentleman captured by the Portuguese around 1540 and taken back to Portugal as a translator; and several Chinese brought to Europe by Jesuits, the earliest one mentioned being Shen Fuzong in the 1680s.

20 The keyboard player
All the Jesuits had musical training and some were skilled musicians. The well-known episode of Diego de Pantoja (Spanish Wikipedia), around 1601, teaching four eunuchs to plays songs on a keyboard instrument often identified as a clavichord will be recounted below. However, there is no direct evidence that in the first half of the 17th century any of these men had the skill to play the sort of music one might expect to hear today in a concert performance of clavichord. Nevertheless, the mere fact that there was at least one clavichord in China by 1600, and that there were several people who could play it, makes it easier to imagine this program taking place in China than to imagine it in Europe.

21 The lutenist
Jesuits of this time would quite likely have been more familiar with the lute than with the clavichord - the clavichord was brought to China specifically because the Chinese had no keyboard instruments. Their familiarity with lute music would certainly have influenced their ability to appreciate Chinese music. The lute part of a program of guqin and lute could thus have as its focus music with which the Jesuits would have been familiar prior to their arrival in China.

22 Multi-Media (see also The elegant gathering of Matteo Ricci
The qin was an integral part of Chinese literati culture, often depicted as part of an "elegant gathering" that would include both fine art and poetry. This atmosphere could be suggested through multi-media. I will initially develop this aspect of the program myself. In addition, in this initial stage, participation with another musician would be a sort of guest performer, not an integral part of the program.

The aim is eventually to have an expanded program that includes other musicians and someone on the multi-media side to help recapture more fully the atmosphere of a traditional elegant gathering. However, at the core is this solo program in which I play qin music I have re-created from that time, plus my concept of the basic clavichord music such as might have been taught to the imperial eunuchs (regarding this, see Ricci's songs).

23 Literati 文人
The word "literati", said to have been coined by Matteo Ricci himself (see comment in Dragon Skies), apparently originated as a literal translation of the Chinese term "wenren". In China the term refers to the group or class of people who underwent certain facets of a traditional Chinese education. For males the focus of this education was to prepare oneself to pass the Chinese civil service examination, which tested the students' facility in Chinese literary and philosophical principles. The aim of passing the exam was to attain a government position. This class of people is also sometimes called the mandarins, but that term is perhaps better used to refer to those who actually held a government position. Classical Chinese poetry, painting, calligraphy and, or course, qin music, were the product of this literati class.

24 "Elegant gatherings" (雅集 yaji; see also program concept)
At a small gathering, often called an "elegant gathering", a variety of arts might be displayed or practised. Thus, if someone brings a valued painting it might inspire a qin player to play an appropriate melody; a melody might inspire the composition of an appropriate verse. The ideal of such a gathering is represented in paintings called "Four Arts" or "18 Scholars" as well as Elegant Gatherings. For changing attitudes towards the qin see The Qin and the Chinese Literati.

See also literati gatherings in Nanchang and Nanjing as well as the page The Guqin and Wang Tingna (who liked to host such gatherings).

25 Descriptions of the clavichord as a spiritual or meditative instrument seem to begin during the 18th century. For more on this see Clavichord Quotes.

26 Possible Lute Program
Specifics of a possible lute program will be added later. Most commentary suggests that during the Renaissance the clavichord was to a large extent a practice instrument for organists, while the Renaissance lute was very actively performed. It is thus not surprising that today for Renaissance music there seems to be a correspondingly larger number of lutenists than clavichord players.

27 Performance environment
The ideal performance environment is one with such superb acoustics that no amplification is necessary. The most authentic is arguably a quiet room not designed for performance. For qin one might also add that the most authentic re-creation would have attendees participate by playing themselves, doing calligraphy, painting, or engaging in another such activity (see "Four Arts" and "18 Scholars"). For a more conventional public performance, traditional environments for early music, such as churches, often do not work for clavichord or qin. Unfortunately, there seems to be no listing available of small performance halls with excellent acoustics. The best one in which I have performed so far is the auditorium at NSI, San Diego. It seats 300 people, but I found that no amplification was necessary: the sound in the back seats was the same as that in front.

28 Qin and clavichord together?
Because of their similar volume, perhaps qin and clavichord could easily play together. However, the natural musical expression of each of these two instruments is so subtle as generally to defy playing it together with any other instrument, other than perhaps the human voice. Thus, the qin is sometimes paired with a xiao end blown flute, but if the two instruments simply play together in unision nothing is really added: in fact, the flute usually serves to hide the unique colors produced by the qin. The language of the qin and clavichord are so different that, unless care is taken, the result of them playing together might be somewhat akin to reading a poem and its translation simultaneously: each may be beautiful in its own right, but the real significance becomes lost in the presentation.

Even to have the qin and clavichord alternate melodies, rather than have the performance be one half qin and the other half clavichord, requires special sensitivity in presentation. This is even more true if a qin - clavichord duet is to avoid being like oil and water, or rise above the level of gimmickry.

29 Singing while playing (see also Inclusion of a extra singer or chorus)
In a traditional setting did the instrumentalists themselves sing? There does not seem to be much written about this in early Chinese texts, but it is clear that for qin songs often the players would do their own singing (see stories related in the operas Xi Xiang Ji and Hong Lou Meng). I myself sing a number of short qin songs. To hear some of these, follow the links for Qin Songs under Qin Poetry and Song. My singing is not that of a professional singer, but listeners seem to find it appropriate to the qin music it accompanies.

30 Liturgical texts
The word "liturgical" (i.e., "used in a prescribed form or set of forms for public religious worship") is used loosely here. The relevant Chinese melodies and texts are found in Sounds to Accompany the Three Religions (Sanjiao Tongsheng), a qin handbook published in 1592. It collected one melody (one with a prelude) for each of the great Chinese religions or systems of thought:

  1. Confucian (Sacred Confucian Canon)
  2. Daoist (Canon of Purity and Tranquility ) and
  3. Buddhist (Stanzas of Siddham).

Only the Buddhist text, which is a sort of incantation, could be considered unavoidably religious. The Daoist text is still recited at Daoists temples, and the Confucian text could be used in a similar manner; but these two could be considered more philosophical than religious, as they address moral/ethical issues in ways that do not require supernatural beliefs.

It was this factor that allowed Ricci and other Jesuits to argue that Christianity did not conflict with philosophical Confucianism (and perhaps Daoism). My own natural mistrust of coincidences has long made me wonder how it happens that Sanjiao Tongsheng, which is unique among surviving qin handbooks in its inclusion of such Daoist and Confucian texts, was published while the Jesuits were introducing their liturgical melodies to Chinese literati. (See also the mention below of the qin melody Mozi Sings with Feeling.)

31 Inclusion of an extra singer or chorus (See also Singing while playing and the Appendix below).
What sort of vocal production is most appropriate when an extra singer or chorus is involved?

Melodies to be considered for the program include a Daoist and a Confucian hymn as originally published in 1592. It would be interesting to hear these sung by an early music chorus, but the qin would probably then be inaudible, unless amplified.

32 Amplification
See above for a comment on the ideal performance space, one that allows public performance without amplification. For more conventional performance spaces, however, the unique colors and desired intimacy can only be re-created with the help of high quality electronic amplification, applied knowledgeably. This is especially true if voices are added, as even a small chorus would almost certainly be considerably louder than an un-amplified qin or clavichord.

The essential beauty of both of these instruments lies in the rich but delicate overtones produced by plucking or hitting the strings. To capture this the most essential elements are microphones with low internal noise and a large frequency range, and a high quality microphone pre-amp. Under General and Technical Details of my Qin Recordings I discuss issues involved in recording qin. For amplification the issues are much the same except that close miking is probably required. A major problem in amplifying qin is that the result often seems to over-emphasize the sound of the fingers sliding on the strings. The equivalent problem on the clavichord is the sound of its internal lever mechanisms, which are harder to ignore if they seem amplified out of proportion to the volume of the music.

33 This question would be appropriate for a related seminar.

34 See biographical links and references above. For me, from living in Hong Kong and being involved with traditional Chinese culture, the name Matteo Ricci has for a long time been a familiar one. When putting this program together I was thus somewhat surprised at how much less well-known Ricci is than Marco Polo. For this reason some people have suggested that the program title should emphasize the contemplative or spiritual nature of the music, mentioning Ricci only in the sub-title.

35 For a much later example of a Western reaction to such an actual occurrence (involving only the qin music side) see the letter from Herbert Müller.

36 It perhaps being unrealistic to imagine that anyone could successfully imagine and present themselves as people who were actually living around the year 1600, the commentary might be more easily presented by a lecturer or in the program notes.

37 Jesuits in Asia
The most famous Jesuit in Asia was Francis Xavier (1506 - 1552). Xavier, who was with Ignatius Loyola at the founding of the Jesuits in 1534, arrived in Goa in 1541, bringing with him the Inquisition (see also Goa Inquisition). In general, the Jesuits came to be particularly known for founding educational institutions. Regarding the Jesuit mission in China, one of the most important issues was the Chinese Rites Controversy. And Ian Woodfield, The Keyboard Recital in Oriental Diplomacy, 1520-1620, shows that keyboard diplomacy was not limited to the Jesuits.

38 Early Jesuit musical training
I have not yet found out the specifics of Jesuit musical training at the end of the 16th century. I assume a primary aim was to teach them to chant the liturgy, but see Jesuits Do Not Sing, But Their Companions Do, by Joseph F. MacDonnell, S. J..

39 Musical talents of Ricci and his fellow Jesuits
In China Ricci had with him at least two other Jesuits who were also musicians, Lazaro Cattaneo (Lazzaro Cattaneo, 1560 - 1640; in Guangdong and Nanjing) and the Spaniard Diego de Pantoja (龐迪我 Pang Diwo, ca. 1571 - 1618; also called Didace de Pantoja, with the family name also written Pantoja or Pantoia; in Nanjing and Beijing). Pantoja's rôle is further mentioned under Ricci's 8 songs.

Jonathan Spence, op. cit., p. 197, has written the following account regarding these Jesuits and music:

Ricci was not a musician and had little ear for music despite the extensive knowledge of music he had doubtless obtained in Rome and Macerata. He did not have much sympathy for Chinese music. He noticed its effectiveness in public martial display and in religious services, but he found it hard to trace its harmonies, and he missed the keyboard instruments and four vocal lines to which he had been accustomed in Europe. (Spence references: In display, FR 1/268; in ceremonies, 2/70; hard harmonies, 1/130; four parts and keyboard, 1/32.) Nevertheless, one of the presents he had carried across China with him, and had finally been able to present to the court in 1601, was a small harpsichord. This present would have been a mere curiosity, perhaps indeed virtually useless, had not Ricci used some leisure time in Nanjing during 1600 to have the Jesuit father Lazaro Cattaneo - who was a good musician but couldn't leave Nanjing because of his pastoral responsibilities - teach the newly arrived young Jesuit priest Diego Pantoja to play several sonatas and also to tune the instrument. (References: FR 2/132. For gravicembalo, 2/29; for manicordio, 2/39. See the claim above that this was probably a clavichord, not a harpsichord.) Ricci subsequently took Pantoja with him to Peking and when, as Ricci had hoped, the emperor was intrigued enough by the harpsichord to order the Jesuits to teach four of this eurnuch musicians to play it, Pantoja was ready and able to instruct them.

Further information about this is in a Chinese book focused on Pantoja that has been translated into Spanish: Zhang, Kai. Diego de Pantoja y China. Un estudio sobre la "Politica de Adaptación" de la Compañia de Jesús. Trans. Tang Baisheng and Kang Xiaolin. Beijing: Editorial de la Biblioteca de Beijing, 1997. Zhang Kai has also written a 中國(與)西班牙關係史, translated into Spanish by Sun Jiakun and Huang Caizhen (revised by Jose Antonio Cervera) as Historia de las Relaciones Sino-Españolas' (Elephant Press, 2003 ISBN:7-5347-3030-9). The latter book on p. 144 gives a similar account of Pantoja teaching the clavichord to eunuchs, adding that "due to this and the many other interesting gifts, as well as to the positive comments by a few mandarins, the emperor Wan Li granted to the two missionaries the privilege to be received in audience. They were also granted the right to predicate (apparently they were given a stipend for Beijing living expenses in lieu of a formal residence permit) in Beijing...." (Thanks to Joan M. Vigo for his translation from Spanish.)

40 Eight Songs for Western Keyboard (西琴曲意,八章 Xiqin Quyi Bazhang)
Ricci's original Italian title for this was apparently Canzone del manicordio di Europa voltate in lettera cinese (Songs for the European manicordio rendered with Chinese characters). The original Chinese lyrics, plus a translation and some further commentary on these songs, are included on a separate page. For a modern setting of two of these songs to Baroque style music see Vêpres à la Vierge en Chine.

Spence, p. 198, says that Ricci, with the aid of the younger eunuchs, created the lyrics for these eight songs while Diego de Pantoja was teaching the palace eunuchs to play the clavichord; if so, this was very fast work. Cronin, p. 171, says the eunuchs insisted on having lyrics in case the emperor asked them to sing; this seems quite reasonable. Melvin and Cai, p. 58, explain this by saying, "music in China was virtually always accompanied by lyrics;" this statement is clearly incorrect, and it seems highly unlikely that the eunuchs would have made such a statement. It would have been possible, however, for them to suggest that Confucian music should always be sung.

Imperial eunuchs compiled at least three qin handbooks published in the latter part of the Ming dynasty: Wugang Qinpu (1546), Yuwu Qinpu (1589) and Zangchunwu Qinpu (1602). The 1546 handbook has 42 melodies, only one with lyrics. The 1589 handbook, compiled by a eunuch in Beijing, has 51 melodies, none with lyrics. The 1602 handbook, compiled by a eunuch in Nanjing, has identical versions of all the 1589 melodies, adding 14 additional ones; again none has lyrics. Clearly the eunuchs were aware of the fact that qin music did not have to be sung, and there is no evidence to suggest this was different for Chinese music in general. However, there was in fact a growing popularity of qin songs then, especially in the Nanjing area. These included a number of love songs, but this did not stop some people from advocating qin songs on the basis of a claim that Confucius had sung whenever he played qin.

41 Performance of the Eight Songs for Western Keyboard
Attempts to recreate this music have generally copied or looked for inspiration from Western music of that period (see Ricci's comments then, e.g., fanciful comments such as these by Vincent Cronin). To me it has been more interesting to adapt a qin melody to use with the lyrics (Mozi Bei Ge). Such a melody would presumably have been easier for a eunuch to learn. And when adapting them for keyboard simple harmonies could have been added.

42 Ricci and the literati
Some information about literati Ricci met is readily available online (begin with the Ricci biography on the website of the Ricci Institute). A good printed source is Jonathan D. Spence, A Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. In the absence of specific information about where Ricci experienced qin music being played (assuming he did), the main purpose of the following outline is to serve as a reminder of where one might look.

There are both converts and non-converts amongst the literati important to the story of Ricci in China. Converts include:

  1. Xu Guangqi (徐光啟; 10363.128 字子先號玄扈; from 上海 Shanghai; 1562-1633; jinshi; baptized 保祿 Paulus in 1604)
    See Ricci Institute biography
  2. Yang Tingyun (楊廷筠 15489.xxx; Bio/xxx)
    Ricci Institute page mentions Standaert: Yang Tingyun, Confucian and Christian in late Ming China, 1988.
  3. Qu Taisu ( 瞿太素, also called Qu Rukui 瞿汝夔 24301.xxx Bio/xxx; Confucian scholar in 韶州 Shaozhou, northern Guangdong province). He persuaded Ricci to wear Confucian instead of Buddhist clothing (online reference moved: search for new one).
  4. Li Zhizao (李之藻 14819.70 字振之; from 仁和 Renhe, near Hangzhou; jinshi; baptized 1610)
    Rose to the official rank of 太僕寺少卿 Vice-Minister of the Court of the Imperial Stud

Non-converts include:

  1. Li Zhi (李贄 14819.1799; Bio/917; scholar who in Nanjing, 1599, argued with [but respected] Ricci; 1527 - 1602)
    Much online information. Also, Hok-lam Chan: Li Chih in Contemporary Chinese Historiography: New Light on His Life and Works. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1980.
  2. Zhang Huang (章潢 Bio/2199; 44229.210 字本清, 號斗津; scholar and geographer; 1527-1608)
    Friend of Ricci in Nanchang; they met in 1595, Zhang included Ricci's map of the world in his own collection (圖書編, 1615)
  3. Zhao Kehuai 趙可懷 (38015.xxx; Bio/xxx; 字德仲, jinshi 1565, d. 1604)
    A wealthy official (Spence, op. cit., p. 81) who in 1598 hosted Ricci for 8 - 10 days at his residence in Juyong (句容 Jurong? southeast of Nanjing)
    (Compare the bio comment that during Ricci's trip from Nanjing to Beijing he "was well received by the governor, Zhao Kehuai...., who made him a guest at his residence and funded the journey".)
  4. Wang Honghui 王弘誨 (字忠銘, 紹傳 [Bio/179: 字少傳,號忠銘]; jinshi 1565; became 南京禮部尚書 Nanjing Minister of Rites; 1542 - 1615)
    Accompanied Ricci on his 1598 river/canal journey from Nanjing to Beijing; baggage included a clavichord
  5. Guo Zhengyu 郭正域 (字美命; Bio/2018; 1554 - 1612)
    Famous Confucian scholar and friend of Ricci (Spence, op. cit., p. 151)
  6. Shen Defu 沈德符 (字景倩一字虎臣; Bio/1169; 1578 - 1642)
    Neighbor and friend of Ricci in Beijing; mentioned him in later writings (Spence, op. cit., pp.188 and 227; 敝帚齋餘談[譚]、萬歷野獲編)
  7. Yu Chunxi 虞淳熙 (Bio/xxx)
    Spence, op. cit., pp. 252-4, writes of Ricci's response to a letter by Yu asking Ricci why he defamed Buddhism and condemned its influence
  8. Sanhuai 三淮 (10.1181xxx; well-known Buddhist monk)
    Spence, op. cit., pp. 254-5, relates a debate between Ricci and Sanhuai at a dinner party in Nanjing in 1599
  9. Wang Tingna 汪廷訥 (17533.101; wealthy literatus who liked to host elegant gatherings)
    Perhaps it was at such gatherings that Ricci met some of the other people listed above

Some royalty could have particular significance. Although Matteo Ricci apparently was never able to meet directly with the Wanli Emperor 朱翊鈞 Zhu Yijun (r. 1572 - 1620), Ricci did meet a number of imperial princes. Most intriguing are the two princes the Ricci Institute biography records him as having met in Nanchang, the former fief of Zhu Quan, compiler of the Shen Qi Mi Pu; and also of Zhu Dianpei, apparent compiler of Zheyin Shizi Qinpu. Were Ricci's princes descended from them? If so, what might they have revealed to him of their ancestors' interests?

Regarding the princes in Nanchang, one of them, Zhu Duojie (朱多[火+節]), is identified as Prince of Jian’an 建安王 (enf. 1573, d. 1701 [sic.]). There is no mention of him in ZWDCD 14779.196ff or in Bio/561. 9786.25 建安 Jian'an mentions various places, but none is in Jiangxi and Jian'an is not mentioned in the biographies of the other six princes called Zhu Duo___ mentioned in these two sources (the former has five, and the latter adds one). These six princes are:

朱多炡 (Zhu Duozheng; sixth generation descendant of Zhu Quan; poet; 1541 - 1589)
朱多煃 (Zhu Duokui; sixth generation descendant of Zhu Quan; poet)
朱多熲 (Zhu Duojiong; 後裔 descendant of Zhu Quan; author)
朱多[火+貴] (Zhu Duo___; sixth generation descendant of Zhu Quan; poet; 1530 - 1607)
朱多[火+翼] (Zhu Duo___; calligrapher; cousin of Zhu Duozheng)
朱多煌 (Zhu Duohuang; 弋陽王嗣絕 [last heir? of Yiyang prince]; calligrapher?; d. 1593 or 1613).

A reference often cited on the Ricci Institute website is "Pfister". This refers to Louis Pfister, Notices biographiques et bibliographiques sur les Jésuites de l’ancienne mission de Chine, 1552-1773 (Wiesbaden: Kraus, 1971).

43 As mentioned in the footnote to my translation of the song, this reference to the qin se really shows only Ricci's familiarity with its mention in the Shi Jing. It suggests, but does not prove, that he was aware of its continuing tradition.

44 Mohism (and Christianity)
An internet search for Mozi + Christianity will turn up much commentary, most of it highly speculative (compare the analysis in SEP). However, the issue of interest to the present program is specifically whether Matteo Ricci ever commented on Mohism, or whether the Chinese themselves in Ricci's time made any such connection. How does it happen that just at this time the melody Mozi Sings with Feeling developed out of Song of the Shepherd and quickly became rather widespread? Is it significant that around this time a biography of Mozi emphasizing the dyeing story (see illustration) was published in Liexian Quanzhuan, a 17th century update of Liexian Zhuan? In the late Ming dynasty was there something going on in Chinese thought that contributed to the sudden popularity of this story, or of Mohism in general? Generally the connection between Mohism and Christianity is made through the Mohist concept of 兼愛 jian ai, "united in love", or "universal love". Neither the Liexian Quanzhuan biography nor the qin melody commentaries mentions jian ai.

45 Mozi Sings with Feeling and Shepherd's Song
The connection between these two melodies, mentioned specifically in the 1620 version of Mozi Bei Si and the 1812 version of Mu Ge. The earliest surviving version of the Mozi melody seems to have borrowed a number of passages from the Shepherd's Song. I do not yet know whether in later editions the two melodies become more related or less related. Further comment is included in the preliminary program outline below. It should be noted that the 1625 qin handbook (Taiyin Xisheng) also connects two of the melodies mentioned here to 杭州隱士水南李君 the Hangzhou recluse Li Shuinan. It says Li created Shitan Zhang (one of the melodies in Music Paired for Three Religions; see Chart), and adapted Mozi Sings with Feeling from Song of a Shepherd (see footnote there). If accounts of Li in Taiyin Xisheng are correct his association with the qin must predate 1578, when he is said to have created the Daoist melody Jingye Tan Xuan.

46 It is even more difficult to imagine at that time either a Chinese guqin player traveling to Europe, or a European studying the guqin and then bringing it back with him to Europe. If this had happened (and also assuming the players were reasonably skilled), what might have been the reaction?

47 Possible early Western awareness of the qin
Ricci's use of the expression "qin se" in one of his songs has already been mentioned. In addition, Fonti Ricciane, Vol. II, NN.553, includes descriptions by Ricci of a wide variety of Chinese musical instruments. Amongst them is "....alti di corde di leuto (qin, se)...." (Information from Mark Stephen Mir of the Ricci Library). To my understanding, because of the difficulties of translation and explanation of musical instruments, a definitive identification of the qin would have to include reference to its connection to the literati. Thus, in his work published in 1569 Gaspar da Cruz briefly mentions an instrument that some have said is a qin (see, e.g., Kenneth Robinson, Sound, p. 217), but this identification is very questionable (it is a "dulcimer for treble" being played in an ensemble). Another reference is to an instrument identified as a qin based on its connection to the court, not to literati, and as such the identification is also questionable (citation needed). As yet I have not yet found a more definitive identification than the reference by Ricci to qin se. In this regard, it is important to find out whether the association of the qin with Chinese literati was mentioned in any European publications prior to Joseph-Marie Amiot's Memoire sur la musique des Chinois tant anciens que modernes, 1779.

48 Early qin players' awareness of Western music
The earliest reference I have heard of as yet is from 吳歷 Wu Li, a noted scholar-artist who studied the qin from one 陳岷 Chen Min, then at the age of 48 (1680) became a Catholic convert and eventually a Jesuit priest. He is discussed in some detail on a separate page.

49 Meaning of "awareness of the qin
As mentioned here, there are two facets to this issue: knowledge of the qin itself and experience of qin music. My perspective is of course that of the qin advocate, disappointed that so often even today writers on China (including Western scholars) seem happy when they see the character 琴 qin to just think "some music instrument" and often mistranslate it rather than concern themselves with what the reference really is (see also other qin). Related to this is the fact that the qin, for all its historical importance, is today only played in certain cultural centers where there are teachers. Not enough is known today about the geographical distribution of qin players around the year 1600 to say just exactly where they might have crossed paths with Ricci.

50 Literati gatherings: Nanjing and Nanchang were both places of importance to the guqin
The lack of musical details regarding Ricci's encounters with literati is for me particularly frustrating as Nanchang and Nanjing were both very important to the qin during the Ming dynasty. Nanchang, visited by Ricci, from 1595 to 1598, had been the fief of Zhu Quan and Zhu Dianpei, mentioned above. And Nanjing, where Ricci lived or visited during the years 1598 to 1600, was at that time a particularly important qin center.

Nanjing was especially important as a center for qin song. Quite likely one reason for this was that the qin was then increasingly played by the children of merchants (who often wished their children to become scholar/mandarins). See Women and the Guqin, The Qin in Novels and Opera, and the qin handbooks published in Nanjing in 1547, 1552, 1557, 1559, 1585, 1589 and 1601.

The qin handbook called Paired Music for Three Religions (1592; place of publication unknown) would most likely have been available at that time in Nanjing. It consists of Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist pieces that should have been of particular interest to Ricci.

51 This is a topic I have not yet had the time or resources to research in detail.

52 It might be said that Ricci's main purpose in learning about Chinese traditions was not in order to appreciate them per se, but in order to see how he could use them in order to convert the Chinese to Christianity. One might imagine here a qin player playing for him the melody Wang Ji.

53 One must consider the possibility that in some writing he did have some comment about music he heard on the qin, but that this writing was either lost or later edited out. It might also be added here that my teacher told me I should play a piece at least a thousand times for myself before playing it for an outsider. However, in my experience there seems often to be little connection between the skill level of a player and his or her willingness to play for others.

54 Some rules published in qin handbooks of that period (q.v.) seem to forbid playing the qin for foreigners. This prohibition is included among several rules listing circumstances in which one should not play the qin. One of the rules, as translated in Van Gulik, Lore, p. 61 (from 14 rules published in 1585; IV/288), was "對夷狄 in front of a barbarian". The term used, yidi, literally means a tribesperson from north or west of China. In this context it could actually mean anyone who was not Han Chinese. However, Van Gulik cites an explanation dated ca. 1609 (see VII/276) that suggests it could also be interpreted to mean someone who cannot speak Chinese.

55 Early Western attitudes towards Chinese music
A collection of some of the earliest Western comments can be found in: Lam Ching-Wah, Musical Contact Between China and Europe in the Sixteenth Century. Chinese Culture, Vol. XXXIX, No. 3, September 1998, pp. 21 - 35.

56 Louis Gallagher, China in the 16th Century: The Journals of Matthew Ricci: 1583 - 1610 (see above).
     The first quote is from page 22; the second is from p. 336.

They know nothing of the art of painting in oil or of the use of perspective in their pictures, with the result that their productions are likely to resemble the dead rather than the living....Music instruments are common and of many varieties, but (they) possess no instrument of the keyboard type. On all of their stringed instruments the strings are made of twisted cotton (sic!; in the original Ricci actually said that the strings "were all made only of raw silk"), and they seem to be ignorant of the fact that the guts of animals can be used for this purpose. Their practice agrees fairly well with ours in the use of instruments to be played in concert. The whole art of Chinese music seems to consist in producing a monotonous rhythmic beat as they know nothing of the variations and harmony that can be produced by combining different musical notes. However, they themselves are highly flattered by their own music which to the ear of a stranger repesents nothing but a discordant jangle....

The priests....set to playing their various instruments; bronze bells, basin shaped vessels, some made of stone, with skins over them like drums, stringed instruments like a lute, bone flutes and organs played by blowing into them with the mouth rather than with bellows. They had other instruments also shaped like animals, holding reeds in their teeth, through which air was forced from the empty interior. At this rehearsal these curious affairs were all sounded at once, with a result that can be readily imagined, as it was nothing other than a lack of concord, a discord of discords. The Chinese themselves are aware of this. One of their sages said on a certain occasion that the art of music known to their ancestors had evaporated with the centuries, and left only the instruments.

Early Chinese oil painting 野墅平林圖 Rustic Hut and Level Grove    
Some Western observers have written that there was immediate Chinese fascination with Western oil paintings; some of these were brought to China from the West, others were done by missionaries or local converts. The one at right is an oil on silk painting by the Jesuit 倪雅谷 Ni Yagu (1579-1638; aka 倪一誠 Ni Yicheng, Christian name Jacques Niva or Neva). Born in Japan to a Chinese father and Japanese mother, Ni was apparently brought to China mostly to help supply the need for religious paintings. This painting, though, is secular, and it is thought that Ni may have adapted it from one of the famous Eight Views of Yanjing (i.e., Beijing), a series of paintings that perhaps originated with 王紱 Wang Fu (1362-1416). Ni first came to Beijing in 1602 and also traveled elsewhere. In Beijing Matteo Ricci inscribed Ni's work and gave it to the Wanli emperor. Now in the Liaoning Provincial Museum, it has sometimes been erroneously attributed to Ricci himself because of the inscription.

In spite of the presence of such examples, and the literati awareness of them, it seems that just as Western music made little inroad into China before the 20th century, oil painting was likewise largely ignored, at least by Chinese artists, until modern times. This is not to say that they were unaware of it: characteristics in Western art such as the use of perspective did find their way into Chinese art. However, with regard to the attitude of Chinese literati artists, it has been said that because calligraphic brushwork largely informed their style, and this required water based ink, they could not take oil painting seriously as real art: lacking the calligraphic aesthetic it could only be considered craftwork. In this regard it might be interesting to analyze how Qing dynasty block print illustrations might have been influenced by Western block prints of that time, or vice versa. (Compare also common attitudes towards Western music).

57 Misrepresentations of Ricci's attitudes
This information from Mark Mir of the Ricci Foundation Library.

58 Misrepresentations of Ricci's ideas on Chinese music
See, for example, Sheila Melvin and Jindong Cai, Rhapsody in Red, How Western Classical Music Became Chinese. New York, Algora Publishing, 2004, pp. 54-55. According to Mir the passage from Trigault translated here did not accurately reflect Ricci's own writings. On the other hand, in a letter to Girolamo Costa dated 1596 (source: Lettere, 343) Ricci did write the following (as translated in Hsia, p. 168):

It is evident that we are superior to them [the Chinese] in many things, as we see in our painting, tapestry, books, discourses, the science and instruments of mathematics, weapons, musical instruments, expensive vestments such as velvet, brocades, woolen drapery, and an infinity of things. With all this, it seems they should be submitting to us and be more humble. I think also that in jurisprudence we can teach them something.

However, although Ricci apparently did believe in the superiority of the West, the sum of his activities does show his respect for much of what he observed in China.

59 Early Chinese attitudes towards Western music
Many Chinese were clearly impressed by the keyboard mechanism, but I have not yet found any contemporary Chinese comments on actual clavichord music. Claims have even been made (see, e.g., Shen Fuwei, Cultural Flow between China and the Outside World throughout History, p. 250ff) that the Kangxi emperor (r. 1662 - 1723) wanted to use Western instruments to reform Chinese music. Other accounts suggest that Chinese found Western music too busy or complex. Here, for example, is a quotation from a book dated 1754, written by another Jesuit in China, J. M. Amiot (1718 - 1793) (copied from sleeve notes for Concert Baroque, p. 25):

"'Why play several things at a time?' (the Chinese) ask. 'Why play them so fast? Is it to show off the lightness of your Mood and the nimbleness of your fingers? Or is it simply as a means of recreation for yourselves and, at the same time, to please those who listen to you? If it is the former that leads you to play in this manner, then you have achieved your aim, and we readily admit that you surpass us. But if it is simply as recreation for yourselves and to please us, we think you are taking the wrong course. Your concerts, especially if they are rather long, are violent exercises for those who perform them and small tortures for those who listen. After all, it is inevitable that European ears are built differently to ours. You like things that are complicated, we are fond of things that are simple. In your Music, you often run until you are out of breath; in ours, we always walk at a serious and measured pace.

Unfortunately, without more specifics on the music it is difficult to understand the precise nature of this criticism.

60 The lack of early Western comment on qin music suggests either that Western visitors to China were not invited to the private gatherings where the qin would have been played, or that what they heard made no particular impression.

61 Intercultural Music Appreciation
What does it take to appreciate music from an unfamiliar culture, or from a different period in one's own culture? This would be an important as well as intriguing issue for either program notes or for a related seminar. It is an obvious issue for understanding the experience of Matteo Ricci in China, and it remains timely today: most present day accounts of the introduction of Western music in China still seem implicitly to assume the superiority of Western music, while remaining ignorant of Chinese music.

Possibilities include:

62 Music from the Time of Marco Polo
The qin segment of this program has consisted of music that could have been played in Hangzhou in 1280 CE, around the year Marco Polo (1254-1324) claims to have been there; by then the qin already had a long history, but with one exception this is the early end of the known surviving qin repertoire. Surviving qin tablature almost certainly includes music that pre-dates the 12th century, but at present it is very difficult to determine exactly which music is unchanged since that time, and which music was changed when edited for later editions. See further details at Traditional Chinese HIP?.

The European segment of this program features music Marco Polo could have heard in Europe after he returned there around 1300. This is also near the early end of Western instrumental music written in sufficient detail to allow historically informed performance.

63 XVIII-21, Musique des Lumières and Fleur de Prunus
    Their recordings, with comments comparing the music to that of Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci

The website of XVIII-21, a mainly baroque music ensemble, includes a copy of The Sweet Sound of Cultures Clashing, a review by Joyce Lindorff (from the August 2005 issue of Early Music) of their productions. It begins with the following summary of their work:

For over a decade, the ensemble XVIII-21 Musique des Lumières has made a speciality of transcending cultural barriers. Under the direction of Jean-Christophe Frisch in collaboration with the ethnomusicologist François Picard, the group has embarked on a series of fascinating recordings that explore musical life in 17th and 18th-century China.

Lindorff goes on to describe the four CDs so far produced by this project, mentioning also the planned fifth (quotations are from the above-mentioned review). These five are:

  1. Teodorico Pedrini: Concert Baroque a la cité interdite (Auvidis Astrée: E8609, rec 1996)
    Teodorico Pedrini (1671-1746) "spent a tumultuous life as a Lazarist missionary in China. His opus 3, 12 sonatas for violin and bass...are modelled very closely on Corelli’s opus 5.... (On this disc five of) Pedrini’s sonatas are performed alternately with five selections from Divertissements chinois, ou Concerts du musique chinois (1779), traditional scores transcribed by the Jesuit Joseph-Marie Amiot (1718–93)....Western-trained musicians of Musique des Lumières transport the listener back to the Forbidden City of the 17th and 18th centuries, entering into the spirit of the Chinese music as the early missionaries must have done. An effort is made to present the Chinese music and Pedrini sonatas in a natural flow...."

  2. Messe des Jesuites de Pekin (Auvidis Astrée: E8642, rec 1998),
    "Although the cover implies that the music of Amiot is featured, in fact the recording presents an imagined possibility of how a late 18th-century multicultural Mass might have been celebrated by Jesuits in Beijing. In a fashion similar to the Pedrini recording, selections from Amiot’s Musique sacrée, in which prayers are set to Chinese music, alternate with movements from a Mass by the (French) Jesuit Charles d’Ambleville (d. 1637), a madrigal by the late 16th-century composer Simon Boyleau, and two movements from Pedrini’s Sonata XII...." (Boyleau and d'Ambleville had no known China connection.)

  3. Chine: Jésuites & courtisanes (Buda Records: 1984872, rec 1999)
    This recording ('courtisanes' means courtiers, not courtesans) "fully integrates Frisch’s Western ensemble with the traditional Chinese instruments of Picard’s Fleur de Prunus. Here the collaboration of cultures is taken a step further, which being more experimental, requires a more difficult leap of faith for the listener. It is a great treat to hear this version of the Incantation of Pu’an, which the emperor Kangxi was said to have played on a harpsichord. Most surprising to listeners will be the Renaissance air La Monica played in Chinese style...."

  4. Vêpres à la Vierge en Chine ("Vespers for the Virgin in China"; K617: K617155, rec 2003)
    This recording "features the Choeur du Beitang (Beijing), along with Musique des Lumières and additional Chinese instrumentalists in an imagined reconstruction of a Chinese Vespers service, for which no real model exists. This composite juxtaposes musical elements that span centuries, which adds an element of unlikelihood to the compilation. This is a small concern, however, because the recording contains small masterpieces, such as the famous Eight songs for harpsichord of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610). It is not known what music might have been used for these lovely moralistic verses, but they are set here to laudi from Giovenale Ancina’s Tempio armonico della beatissima vergine (1699)...."

    The two Ricci songs Vêpres à la Vierge en Chine sets to music are:

    #2: A Shepherd Boy Wandering in the Hills (CD track 4)
    The first half of the poem is sung with an ensemble arrangment of music by the Baroque composer Paolo Papini; for the second half a harpsichord plays a sort of underscore while the singer musically recites the rest of the lyrics.

    #6: Inner Balance (CD track 11)
    This poem is sung with an ensemble arrangement of music by Francesco Martini Flamengo (17th c.) up to the last phrase, which is recited. The enunciation of the Chinese lyrics by the singer makes them very hard to follow.

    To my knowledge the only other setting of these lyrics is my own.)

  5. Baroque music of Macau
    Not yet released. Lindorff adds only that the music is "little known".

To this should be added comments on a further recording,

Comparative comments

One can look at the differences between a XVIII-21/Fleur de Prunus performance and Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci in two basic ways: presentation and content.

The differences in presentation come from the following factors:

The differences in the music come from the fact that the two programs use music from different periods and, in some cases, represent the different materials available for and/or different attitudes towards reconstruction.

Making what might be called historically informed ensemble music from the Chinese music scores selected by XVIII-21/Fleur de Prunus is indeed quite problematic, as just suggested. Adding to the problem is the fact that in the XVIII-21/Fleur de Prunus performances most of the Chinese instruments are modernized versions, and the instrumentalists themselves play in modern fashion (little being known about early style of play). Thus the qin player always uses an instrument with metal strings, invented during the Cultural Revolution in China. And the two main vocal soloists (Shi Kelong and You Liyu) are both marvelous, but the singing style is mostly either Western classical or Chinese conservatory style with modern influences. For example, the main singer, Shi Kelong, though his singing often reveals what sounds like strong Peking opera influence, is basically a very expressive baritone. (A comment above concerns the difficulties of finding a voice appropriate for historically informed performace of early Chinese song/chant.)

Music from qin scores used by Fleur de Prunus from the period covered by Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci are as follows:

  1. Confucius, Track 3, The Teals, from 1511.
    Xiao flute and modern voice added, otherwise quite similar to Section 1 (Poem 1) of my own version.

  2. Confucius, Track 14, The Great Study, from 1592
    Xiao flute and modern voice added. The text is the same and the musical notes are quite similar to my own version, but I have a different interpretation of the rhythm. (Picard's seems to be based on his understanding of chant, while mine is based on my understanding of qin idiom.)

  3. Confucius, Track 16, The Chu Song, partly from 1425 and 1511
    Most of the music comes from a much later pipa source; I play only from 1425 (sometimes adding the lyrics sung here, but as done at the opening of 1511 or in section 7 of the version in 1525)

  4. Jesuits and Courtiers, Track 6, Pu'an Incantation (Pu'an Zhou)
    Between 1592 and 1722 at least 18 qin handbooks include a setting of this incantation in 18 sections surrounded by a prelude and coda. From this, the CD uses only the prelude and coda from the 1592 tablature, adding chorus and ensemble to the qin melody. The 18 section central part, described in the CD commentary as a "powerful Buddhist incantation", is not sung or played from a qin score; instead the music comes from various 19th and 20th century Chinese instrumental sources. The Kangxi emperor (r. 1662 - 1723) is said to have played Pu'an Zhou on the harpsichord (see Kangxi and Pu'an Zhou). Although it seems most likely he would have played from a qin version, there apparently is no direct information about this. In any case, the CD's Chinese instrumental version gives no clues as to how to play any of the original qin scores. (Likewise, the CD's version of La Monica, though said to be based on a melody from Renaissance Europe, seems to have a style reminiscent of Peking opera musical interludes, most certainly post-dating 1700.)
In sum, the programs by XVIII-21/Fleur de Prunus and for Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci reveal two very different aspects of the musical exchanges brought about by the Jesuit experience in China.


Some melodies to be considered for the program
Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci

This appendix discusses the Chinese and Western aspects of the program separately. Ideally these will be integrated in a approach such as that of The elegant gathering of Matteo Ricci.

Guqin Part

This half is an historically informed performance of music in qin handbooks published during or before the period Matteo Ricci was in China. For the earlier melodies there is the assumption that, even if they were not still in the active repertoire around 1600, there was even then in China a tradition of playing old melodies from handbooks (dapu). A number of my recordings appropriate to this program are linked at Hear Qin. The online sound files also include a number of qin songs. I feel comfortable singing some of the shorter songs; however, for a stage performance the qin songs might best be served by the inclusion of a separate singer (see above).

As for melodies published during Ricci's time in China, the following melody from Zhenchuan Zhengzong Qinpu, published in Nanjing in 1589 and 1609, is particularly intriguing:

Just as Christian liturgical music could be played on the keyboard without text, the following Daoist and Confucian hymns from the Handbook to Accompany Three Religions (Sanjiao Tongsheng, 1592), already mentioned above, could also be played as instrumental melodies:

The addition of a singer or chorus would add particular interest to these melodies. (The singing on the sound files linked to these two hymns is double-tracked: try to imagine an early music voice or chorus singing ). The same book has a Buddhist chant, but as a qin melody (from my present understanding) it is musically less interesting (not to mention the Jesuit opposition to Buddhism).

Because of Ricci's experience in Nanchang, where he apparently met several princes, it would also be natural also to include melodies from the two major handbooks published by two earlier princes there, in 1425 and before 1491. Some of the music from these two handbooks is here online. All of it is available on my CDs. Three melodies that might have particular significance in the Ricci story are:

Selections from earlier handbooks could also focus on melodies from Xilutang Qintong (1525), compiled near Huangshan (about mid-way between Nanjing and Nanchang, though not on the route traveled by Ricci). From this handbook I play over 40 melodies. Of particular interest could be those with a religious/philosophical connection such as,

If this part of the program does not limit itself to melodies intended to convince Ricci of the philosophical nature of the qin, it could include love songs such as,

The addition of a singer would also allow the inclusion of the sung version as published in 1589 of the following drinking song:

Clavichord Part

This half is an historically informed performance of music as it might have been played on the clavichord up through 1610, the year Matteo Ricci died (see also Program concept). The clavichord is selected because its volume matches quite well that of the qin, making it the most appropriate instrument for an imagined meeting with Chinese literati (see also What musical instrument(s)?). For authenticity the clavichord should be one in the style of an existing 16th century clavichord. The best of these instruments have a range of four octaves, the lower octave being a short octave.

If the aim here is to give a strictly historical performance of European music likely to have been played in Beijing up through 1610, one could make a case that the music should be limited to arrangements of melodies the Jesuits were likely to have had with them at that time, either in scores or in their memories. Some small samples of sheet music are apparently known to have been in the possession of Ricci and his companions, but I am not yet familiar with this. Thus the cutoff point for music could also be 1578, when Ricci left Europe for Goa; 1588, when the apparently most musical of the Jesuits, Lazzaro Cataneo, left Europe (arriving China in 1593); or 1596, when Ricci's main assistant in Beijing, Diego de Pantoja, left Europe (arriving in China in 1599). Based on this and on the lack of specific information as to the keyboard skills of the Jesuits then in China, it is in fact very difficult to imagine what Western music the Chinese were then actually able to hear.

If, instead, one aim is to compare common points and differences in the qin and clavichord repertoires of that day (and perhaps discuss issues of historically informed performance practice), it will probably be best for the program to draw on the best of both repertoires. In particular, the selections for clavichord should be expanded to include any music pre-dating 1610, even though probably unknown to these Jesuits; and to feature a clavichord player whose skills probably exceed those of the Jesuits. The performance then becomes a sort of fantasy, one in which we imagine an expert clavichord player arriving in China while Matteo Ricci was there. In this case, what we know of performance practice during that time seems to suggest that his or her repertoire could have included (clavichord arrangements of) virtually any music played in Europe before 1610.

Regarding this repertoire, the earliest known keyboard sources date from the late 14th century (Robertsbridge). Then, although music notation published before 1600 almost never specified instrumentation, the clavichord was mentioned as early as 1530 (Attaingnant) as a possible instrument to be played for "masses, motets, dances, chansons and preludes". During that time there was music specifically written for clavichord (or at least for a keyboard instrument). However, although it seems that on the one hand anything could be arranged for clavichord, on the other hand the keyboard was often a background instrument that extemporized as it supported the other instruments.

The solo clavichord repertoire allowed, or required, free interpretation, not to mention improvisation. Perhaps the most famous examples of this are the improvised organ "duels" between Claudio Merulo (1533 - 1604) and Andrea Gabrieli (1533 - 85); see, for example, Robert Judd, "Italy", in Alexander Silbiger (ed.), op. cit., p. 256. Thus, having already heard performances of a melody, keyboardists might simply play their own versions (in accordance with certain rules). Likewise, old keyboard scores were not intended necessarily to be played exactly as written.

It is in this light that one should consider existing Renaissance keyboard scores. The following is a list of keyboard scores I have been able to examine. As I am a qin specialist, not a clavichord specialist, the list is included here primarily for my own reference and without further analysis. However, perhaps it can also serve as a reference for people who may have suggestions regarding the clavichord repertoire for the program.

  1. Willi Apel, ed., Keyboard Music of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
    American Institute of Musicology, CEKM 1 (PDF sample; 1998)
  2. Willi Apel, ed., Marco Facoli, Collected Works (1588)
       American Institute of Musicology, CEKM 2 (PDF sample; 1963)
  3. John Reeves White, ed., Johannes of Lublin, Tablature of Keyboard Music (1540)
       Vol. IV: French, German, and Italian Compositions; American Institute of Musicology, CEKM 6-4 (PDF sample; 1983)
  4. Daniel Heartz, ed., Keyboard Dances from the Earlier Sixteenth Century
       American Institute of Musicology, CEKM 8 (PDF sample; 1983)
  5. Roland Jackson, ed., Neapolitan Keyboard Composers (ca. 1600)
       American Institute of Musicology, CEKM 24 (PDF sample; 1967)
  6. Clare G. Rayner, ed., An Anthology of Keyboard Music from a South-German Manuscript
       (München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Ms Mus. 1581)
       Vol.   I: Miscellaneous Compositions; American Institute of Musicology, CEKM 40-1 (PDF sample; 1976)
       Vol. III: Miscellaneous Compositions and Fantasias; American Institute of Musicology, CEKM 40-1 (PDF sample; 1976)
  7. Hilda Andrews, ed., My Ladye Nevells Booke of Virginal Music (Music of William Byrd, 1591)
       Dover Publications, 1969; copy of 1926 edition
  8. Kimberly Marshall, ed., Historical Organ Techniques and Repertoire, Vol. 3, Late Medieval Before 1460
       Wayne Leupold Editions, WL500008 (#7, Organ teaching methods and publications, Tier III, Learning for a Lifetime)
  9. Kimberly Marshall, ed., Historical Organ Techniques and Repertoire, Vol. 9, Renaissance 1500-1550
       Wayne Leupold Editions, WL500009 (#7, Organ teaching methods and publications, Tier III, Learning for a Lifetime)

As for the last two entries above, although they are directed at organists, they were copied directly from notation that did not specify the specific keyboard instrument. Records suggest that at one time organists often practiced their skills on a clavichord. Today clavichordists often play organ, but few organists have ever played clavichord. Nevertheless, someone who can play fluently the above renaissance melodies on the organ could certainly transfer these skills to a clavichord more easily than could a pianist or harpsichordist.

As the above should make clear, the music for this part of the program will have to be determined by the training and repertoire of the participating clavichord player. The aim will be to include melodies that invite the most interesting comparison with the included qin melodies.

Most existing clavichord recordings are of Baroque music. At present I have heard only four recordings of keyboard music from before 1600. The first two are played on a clavichord, the latter two on a clavicytherium (a harpsichord with vertical strings). These include music both written for and arranged for keyboard. As with the keyboard scores above, this list is first for my own use, then also as a reference for people who may have suggestions regarding the clavichord repertoire for the program.

  1. Late Gothic and Renaissance Masterworks for Clavichord, Vol. 1 (Arte Nova ANO 927810)
    Rene Clemencic, clavicord; music by Antonio de Cabezon (1510 - 1566) and Josqin Desprez (ca. 1440 - 1521)
  2. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562 - 1621): Toccatas, Fantasias, Variations (Hungaroton Classic HCD 32382)
    Peter Ella, clavichord (I do not yet know which pieces were composed prior to 1600)
  3. Fundamentum, The Birth of Keyboard Repertoire: Robertsbridge (de Vitry), Heborgh, Paumann (Organ.o ORO 202)
    David Kinsela, The Gold-Strung Evans Clavicytherium (upright harpsichord)
  4. Harmony-lore, The Tablature of Amerbach of Basel (Organ.o ORO 105)
    David Kinsela, The Gold-Strung Evans Clavicytherium (upright harpsichord)

Because of its low volume the clavichord is rarely featured in public performances. The problems involved here must be very similar to those encountered by the qin, so an environment conducive to one should be conducive to both. Perhaps a primary difference here is that virtually all clavichord music from the renaissance can also be given historically informed performance on harpsichord or organ; with qin there is no such option: using the metal strings prevalent today increases the volume somewhat, but to the trained ear such a metal string performance of early qin music is comparable to playing Western renaissance music on a piano. If the only option becomes amplification, great sensitivity is needed if one is to retain the air of intimacy that surrounds the playing of either instrument in its natural element.

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