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Author(s) Unknown, and . Yue Ji 樂記—Record of Music: Introduction, Translation, Notes, and Commentary

1995, Asian Music 26(2): 1-96.

Summary: The earliest extant Chinese treatise on music. The Yue Ji presents largely Confucian ideas on the connections between music, self-cultivation, proper governance, and the realization of natural patterns. Human character is described as a musical progression with ties to the transformation of sound into a kind of music that is distinguished by its relationship to virtue. The exact identity of the author(s) is debated, and it is believed to have been compiled from various sources no later than the middle of the Western Han dynasty (206BCE-24CE).

Comment: This text is appropriate for an aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy course. It is best accessed by a reader with a basic understanding of early Chinese philosophy (especially Confucianism).

Hsi K'ang, and . Music Has Neither Grief Nor Joy

1983, In Philosophy and Argumentation in Third-Century China. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Summary: The controversial essay in which Xi Kang offered a distinct counterargument to the orthodox Confucian view that music contains and transfers emotions between musicians and listeners. Xi Kang crafts a series of arguments against the presence of emotions and images in music and contends that the widespread belief to the contrary leads to the misuse of music for political and moral agendas.

Comment: This text is best used in a course on aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy. A basic understanding of Daoism is helpful.

Related reading:

  • Essay on Music. Ruan Ji. In Reed Andrew Criddle's "Rectifying Lasciviousness through Mystical Learning: An Exposition and Translation of Ruan Ji’s Essay on Music." Asian Music 38(2), 2007.