"Sound of Elegance": Court Music Revival, Ritual, and the Politics of Nationhood in China Today
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CitationHuang, Rujing. 2019. "Sound of Elegance": Court Music Revival, Ritual, and the Politics of Nationhood in China Today. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation explores the hitherto unstudied, twenty-first century revivals of yayue 雅樂 (literally “elegant music”), ritual music historically performed in the courts of ancient and imperial China. Based on extensive fieldwork and archival research, this project investigates how the encounter between this distant musical past and the world of contemporary China is entwined with a larger, nationalist agenda seeking to re-compose an image of Chinese-ness that, ideally, resembles no other. In extending ethnographic inquiries into a tradition that has been exclusively examined through a historical lens, I propose that China’s political present is actively shaped by narratives concerning the nation’s ancient past. Such narratives, in turn, work to rewrite China’s vast repertoire of “usable” history. Since remnants and variants of yayue live on in several locales of East and Southeast Asia, this dissertation offers a rare opportunity to trace the long arc of China’s transformations from imperial polity to nation-state to its global diaspora. In the end, this is a project about a new kind of Chinese music, national consciousness, and morality in the making. It is about a collective desire to listen, play, think, and live “backwards” so as to access the most glorious part of the “five thousand years of history and civilization” that any self-identified Chinese is eligible to reclaim. This is a study of past sounds and subjectivities sounding in the present and into the imagined future.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029461
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