China Seminar 20 April



Making the Confucianist Meditative Tool into the Maoist Revolutionary Weapon: The Chinese Seven-stringed Zither Qin in the Era of Cultural Revolution


Speaker: TSAI Tsan-huang (Music Department, Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Expertise: Chinese Music, Ethnomusicology, Organology

Date and time: Wednesday, 20 April 2011, 15.15 – 17.00h

Venue: Arsenaal building, room 001

Language: English


In Chinese history, the seven-stringed zither qin has long been affiliated with Chinese intellectuals and religious practitioners (such as Buddhists, Confucianists, and Taoists) as a self-cultivating and meditative tool. These ideological associations made the instrument and its players one of the main targets at the beginning of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76). The situation was later reversed when the “Zither Reform Committee” was commissioned by Madam Mao, who aimed to make the qin and its music accessible to the general public in order to promote the party’s propaganda. This paper shows not only how the powerful dynamic between historical strength and revolutionary force was negotiated, but also how the changing perspectives and strategies towards traditional Chinese music culture and history could have taken place within a decade of cultural and political turmoil.


Speaker’s resume:
TSAI Tsan-huang studied Ethnomusicology (M.Mus degree) at the University of Sheffield and Anthropology (M.Phil and D.Phil degrees) at the University of Oxford. He taught three years at the Department of Ethnomusicology, Nanhua University, Taiwan before joining the Department of Music at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2007. At the CUHK, he teaches ethnomusicology, world musics, and Chinese folk songs, ritual music, and instrumental music, and serves as the Director for the Chinese Opera Information Centre. His research covers a wide range of disciplines, including ethnomusicology, organology, material anthropology, and Chinese studies. He is the author of an edited book Captured Memories of a Fading Musical Past: The Chinese Instrument Collection at the Music Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (2010), and many research articles covering a wide range of subjects and areas. Tsai has been awarded the Australian Endeavour Research Fellowship 2009 and the Visiting Fellowship 2011 of the Centre for the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University.





Subscribers to the RSS feed of the China Seminar blog receive an
abstract of each talk one week in advance. For more information about China Seminar activities, please visit the blog at or contact the
organizer: Tineke D’Haeseleer (


Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply