Japonifying the Qin: Music and Legitimization in Tokugawa Politics

Feb 20 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge, MA

Yang Yuanzheng (Associate Professor of Music, the University of Hong Kong; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2019-20)
Chair/discussant: Shigehisa Kuriyama (Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored with the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies

No matter how idiosyncratically Chinese the qin undoubtedly is, it flourished in Japan from the seventeenth through the nineteen centuries. A new style consisting of performing ancient Japanese Imperial court music gagaku on the qin emerged from behind the facade of a musical restoration. Why was there such a drastic change? My presentation will build connections between the intellectual history of Tokugawa Japan and music antiquarianism. In particular, the ideological forces behind the so-called restoration of the Chinese qin launched by the Tokugawa military government are explored through dilemmas of political legitimacy. The Shōgun’s Edo-centred dictatorship was by definition eternally subordinate to the Emperor in Kyoto, so a means had to be found to articulate an alternative legitimacy, and Confucianism proved the perfect vehicle. The qin as a musical invention of ancient antiquity and a route to sagehood was a suitable means to this end.