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Listening to ChinaSound and the Sino-Western Encounter, 1770-1839$
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Thomas Irvine

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226667126

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226667263.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 26 June 2022

Process and Perspective

Process and Perspective

(p.1) Introduction Process and Perspective
Listening to China

Thomas Irvine

University of Chicago Press

Through its encounter with China, the West remade itself in sound. That is the argument of this book, which tells the story of Western people experiencing China with their ears around 1800. To tell it, the author draws on two sets of sources. The first set are documents of Western listening in China—to music and musical theater, but also to other human-generated sounds such as gongs, cannon salutes, and speech—at the height of the “Canton System,” the trading relationship between China and the West that came to a violent end in the First Opium War of 1839–42. The second set of sources are texts by European writers, mostly music scholars, who wrote about China and Chinese music around 1800. None traveled to China or heard the country’s music directly. Indeed, whether or not they even heard real Chinese music, Westerners in this era did not always distinguish between it and other kinds of Chinese sounds. This is not only a book about music; it is also book about sound, as it was shaped in and through global narratives and imperial encounters.

Keywords:   music and sound, China, Western listening, Canton System, First Opium War, music scholars, Chinese music, imperialism

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