Photo Credit Jan Garrison
How Confucius influenced Chinese music
October 19, 2016

Within days of hosting musicians from Inner Mongolia and students from the Shanghai Foreign Language School, Culver Academies played host Tuesday evening to the Jiangsu Silk & Bamboo Orchestra from Nanjing, China.

The performers are part of the Jiangsu Provincial Traditional Chinese Orchestra that played at the Great Lakes Confucius Institute Music Festival at Valparaiso University. Members of the Culver Academies Orchestra joined other high school musicians in playing at the festival’s final event Monday evening.

Led by internationally renowned erhu master Zhu Changyao, the musicians’ Culver appearance was sponsored by the Global Studies Institute and the Confucius Classroom.

Professor Jianyun Meng, director of the Valparaiso’s Confucius Institute, told the audience gathered in the Legion Memorial Building’s Heritage Room that much of Chinese music is simply “handed down” by each generation. “We don’t know who the composers are,” he said. And, while the Chinese do have some instruments native to the country, several of them originated in central Asia.

Meng also explained that Confucius believed in the importance of music. His philosophy had music second only to ceremonies in the order of importance for people to learn. But Confucius also said music should be “kept simple,” which led most people to believe all Chinese music is based on the pentatonic (five notes) scale.

However, Chinese archeologists recently uncovered a set of chimes dating back 2,500 years that covers five octaves, showing that Chinese music originally had a much wider range. That just illustrates how influential Confucius became in daily life, he said.

Culver Academies established the Confucius Classroom through Valparaiso, with support from the Confucius Institute in Beijing. The partnership is designed to promote the study of Chinese language and culture, encourages exchange programs with China, sponsors public events for the wider community, and enhances the understanding and friendship between the young people of China and the United States.

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