Hudební Věda

A Japanese Inspiration for the Chinese Progress towards New Music

article summary

Lenka Chaloupková

In the nineteenth century, both China and Japan came to adopt certain elements of Western culture. After a long period of Japan´s obtaining information about the Western world mainly through Chinese mediation, the situation changed at the end of the nineteenth century.

In the process of modernization of Chinese music, the Japanese model played a central role, not only during the early stages of New Music (music combining Chinese and European traditions), but also still during the first half of the twentieth century. By the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), the new Chinese system of music education, based on the Japanese system, came to be one of the principal channels for China´s acquaintance with Western music.

Beyond that, Japanese contribution to the emergence of modern Chinese music was likewise made possible by translations of Japanese treatises on Western music theory, and by opening residences for Chinese students at Japanese schools. Also instrumental in acquainting China with modern European musical movements, including notably Impressionism, were Japanese composers.

The main subject of this article is the nature of the reception of the elements of Japanese modernization, and the reasons behind the increased popularity of the individual modernization approaches in China. Particular attention is paid to institutional changes in music education, the genre of school songs, and the earliest theoretical writings on music by Chinese authors based on Japanese models in different historical periods. While Zeng Zhimin embodies the so-called “Golden Era” of Sino-Japanese relations after 1900, the New Culture Movement is represented by music theorist Feng Zikai. The composer Jiang Wenye is a leading exponent of the music scene during the Japanese occupation of China.

Despite the obvious similarity of modernization processes in the two countries, the theoretical approaches to the reception of Western music, as well as actual works produced by Japanese and Chinese composers differ, due notably to different attitudes towards their domestic musical traditions.

Key words: modernization in music; Sino-Japanese cultural relations; Zeng Zhimin; Feng Zikai; Jiang Wenye

Translated by Ivan Vomáčka

The complete text of this article can be found in the printed edition of Hudební věda 4/2021