Navigational aid for fans of late imperial Chinese history: here’s a roundup of posts on musicking in the Qing—not only at the Beijing court but further afield, looking beneath the tip of the iceberg.
- The “suite-plucking” of the Manchu–Mongolian nobility and blind itinerant performers
- Visiting Aixin Gioro Yuhuan, descendant of the Qing imperial family
- Catholic missionaries at the Qing court—with an update nominating Failing Grayling to re-enact Pedrini’s eight-year journey to Beijing!
But of course, we shouldn’t focus narrowly on defunct genres, or cling to simplistic notions of “art” and “court” cultures. Notwithstanding social change, all the living local ritual traditions I study have been transmitted virtually continuously since the Ming and Qing among folk groups (“When the rites are lost, seek throughout the countryside“). This doesn’t mean that we can neatly relegate them to “history”: the study of all kinds of expressive cultures also involves fieldwork on their fortunes since the collapse of the imperial system, with ethnography and oral history becoming more fruitful than library study.
Still, Like Life, one thing leads to another. More generally, early Western contacts with Chinese music are the subject of a wider range of research from scholars both in China and abroad (see comment below).