Cultural Identity and the Canonization Of Music in Early China

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This article shows that over the course of the Warring States period (479–221 BCE) authors began to organize and categorize music in a manner that helped define and reinforce their conceptions of themselves as a distinct cultural or ethnic group: variously referred to as the Huaxia, Zhuxia, and Zhou. By examining how Ruist (Confucian) authors articulated distinctions among various types of music, and by showing how such identifications denigrated nefarious forms not associated with the Zhou court and its culture, I show how authors endeavored in a process of musical canonization while also consolidating a sense of an ethno-cultural self. The fact that these writings distinguished among and evaluated musical types not primarily through a discussion of musical form or theory but via a morally-laden language rooted in the civilizing rhetoric of the day suggests that music was a primary site for formulating, expressing, and promoting cultural identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-275
Number of pages21
JournalMonumenta Serica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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