Standards of the Guqin Third Edition: In stores now!

Buy Standards of the Guqin 3rd Edition Today!

Buy Standards of the Guqin 3rd Edition Today!

After a very productive four years of use, Standards of the Guqin Second Edition has served guqin players and students worldwide as a comprehensive, modern source for entry to the Chinese seven-stringed zither. Thanks to all your constructive feedback, the Third Edition is now live for distribution! Here are some of the new features:

  • Over a dozen typos and tablature misprints have been fixed.
    • Tablature is now crisper, and Zhao Yin (List A) now has lyrics appended.
    • Repertoire E: Daming Yitong and O Canada are added.
  • 20 new pages of content, including:
    • Fingering chart overhaul, some things are compacted/merged for easier reference
    • New essays on modern aspects of playing, and how digital technology assists study and creation
    • A detailed, explicit harmonic tuning exercise, with detailed explanation on how and why it is – that means:
    • A whole new chapter on TEMPERAMENT and how it is applied to practice and performance.

Click on the cover on the right of this post, or on the small cover on the right column to buy now!

Towards A Computerized Dapu Process: A History

Dapu is the analytical reinterpretation of a written passage of guqin tablature manuscript, translating it from a written piece of music. According to the Zhongguo Yinyue Cidian (Chinese Musical Dictionary), dapu is “a term referring to the process of playing out a qin melody from a qin manuscript. Since qin manuscripts do not directly record musical notes but only string positions and fingerings, as well having a considerable flexibility in rhythm interpretation, dapu’ers must be familiar with conventions in and performance technique to deduct the melodies’ progression, and then to recreate it. Its aim is to reproduce the state in which it was originally performed – since most surviving pieces are lost in practice, one must undergo the dapu process to restore the music.” (p.64)

The traditional guqin manuscript system was conceived by Cao Rou presumably around the 10th century CE. It supplemented the musician as a reminder for fingering technique in case of forgetfulness, assuming that the melody and rhythm are already impressioned into the player’s mind. As primarily an oral tradition, students studying under a master would not have to encounter the dapu process as melodies would have been passed from performance imitation, without drawing from a written medium. John Thompson posits that the tradition of learning guqin pieces directly from a book, without aid of a teacher or another musician transmitting a predetermined rhythm was nonetheless existent and popular.

Much of the discussion on dapu in guqin circles and academia discuss on whether the act of dapu is an “archaeological” rediscovery of an ‘authentic original’ performance through surmising or deducing missing elements required in musical performances from the imperfect information on existing tablature, versus a form of original artistic creation by the contemporary guqin artist derived from the historical text. Regardless of where artists may lie on this spectrum, the process of dapu remains the same.

Technically, sight-reading an original text for musical performance is possible and crudely fits into the definition of dapu as translation from text to performance, and its credibility and authenticity may be verified through various kinds of audio/visual recording devices. However, as a scholarly tradition, the legitimacy of the translation is recognized only through the quantifiable, empirical medium of the text – in other words, while the common definition iterates dapu’s ultimate purpose is for the music to ‘transcend’ or ‘liberate’ from the textual realm into the aural one, in reality it never escapes this plane of existence but rather becomes increasingly confined by the empirical scrutiny of increasingly meticulous annotation and establishment of parameters.

Hence, dapu in the modern sense means the meticulous recording or revising of necessary components to guqin music, which involves the use of jianzipu tablature, as well as another system that records pitch and rhythm. The common method involves three major steps:

  1. rewriting the tablature in compatible layout with the score for the pitch and rhythm (typically from vertical layout to horizontal layout, when dealing with historical sources),
  2. determine the number of sounds and correlate the characters to each of its pitches according to tuning, accounting for any mode changes should a solfege-based recording system (e.g. jianpu) is used, and
  3. assign and record the tempo and rhythm of the performance, based on the dapu’er’s deliberation.

At any point during these three steps, the dapu’er also has to make decisions and be held accountable for discrepancies and changes between the source text and the new score, whether they’d be intentional or accidental. For example, one may discover that a cadenza may not end in a typical matching paired interval but one pentatonic tone apart, that can be easily corrected by using the subsequent string. The artist will then have to deliberate on whether that is intentionally required by the piece, or if it is a misprint due to error in its transmission (such as a scribal mistake or faulty photocopying). If such a deliberation is made, regardless of whether an actual change is made from the original text – it is also up to the dapu’er to record such changes in writing to be held accountable for future reference and scrutiny.

A flowchart of how the scores are produced in Standards of the Guqin. The final product is a PNG image.

A flowchart of how the scores are produced in Standards of the Guqin. The final product is a PNG image.

Even in the early 21st century, dapu for the most part is a manual process – scores are written and rewritten by hand, and the pitches linked up by hours of tedious cross-referencing with the instrument’s pitch charts. Although publisher-grade scores now involve computer-assisted drawing, the musical work itself remains unchanged. Taking my work Standards of the Guqin as example, the tablature is rewritten digitally by a database of prearranged vector images of strokes that resemble parts of jianzipu that are formed together by entries that group them together, as well as separately creating the five-line staff music using a market-available typing and output program for such purpose.

To date, there is no available software (commercial or open-sourced) that can perform this task because the technology to digitize jianzipu itself is young and tentative. With the exception of Guangling Shenqi developed by guanglingsan.com, all other projects struggle along how to account for all possible variations, much less categorize and designate a dynamic input system. Once that logistical issue is resolved, the next logical step is for the computer software to parse the text as a generated sound and pitch. To effectively actualize this, the computer-generated jianzipu previously mentioned will need profiles of each character with a breakdown of the necessary parameters for the computer to process.

A typical parsing of an actual notation character will follow this heuristic: First, determine the current tuning of the piece. Based on the pitches of the open strings, all given pressed or harmonic positions are extrapolated from there, and it reduces the chance of miscalculation or inflexibility to external tuning. Next, determine if the left hand information is an open, pressed, or harmonic note. Once these pieces of information are gathered, a pitch (and type of tone) can be derived, but it would be up to the musician to mold the notes into a sensible piece of music by the addition of rhythm, and optionally annotations on performance style. When the missing elements are edited into the new score, a computerized printout or rendition will forego the need of another manual rewrite for spacing and cleanliness as notes are automatically spaced and formatted to the page.

Currently, some experimental projects in China also explore in developing a ‘fuzzy AI’ in allowing the computer to determine the missing rhythms and other stylistic treatments – in other words, to fully automate the process. This objective is no smaller than developing an independent thinking computer that can freely compose a musical masterpiece, and belongs to a different category from the scope of developing a digital guqin manuscript archive and dapu assistant mechanism. Another pursuit is in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology integration with guqin tablature to allow speedy archive and digitization of the classic texts, which may speed up the process greatly as compared to data entry using existing techniques (ie. typing characters in long form).

Commercially, digitally simulated guqins are marketed mostly as novelty apps or addons to larger virtual realities. While these show promise for a market-ready dapu software, the final step has yet to be taken, and measures have yet to be perfected.

Further reading: Zhou Changyue. Guqin Yishu de jiqi yanyi (Mechanical interpretation of the art of guqin). Beijing: China Science Publishing. 2013. Table of Contents available at http://www.baiyue-music.com/song_con.php?idept=2&isdept=7&pk=2470&page=

Chang Hong. “MIDI Guqin yanzou: Kexue yu yishu de chuangxin jiehe (MIDI Guqin performance: A culmination of science and artistic innovation),” People.com.cn, snapshot backup at http://swannbb.blogspot.ca/2015/01/digital-guqin-at-beginning-chen.html. Last accessed September 17, 2015.

Zhang Yingxue. “ChinAR,” http://www.yingxuetzt.com/#!project01/c1mqf. Last accessed September 17, 2015.

Rethinking the Hanfu Movement, Mar. 2015: Revisiting Temporality, Innovation, Authority and Hegemony

The conversation started off with a discussion on some images of hanfu of dubious quality.

The conversation started off with a discussion on some images of hanfu of dubious quality.

Editor’s Foreword: I would like to apologize to supporters and subscribers to TorGuqin’s blog for hanfu ideas for the lack of new articles in recent months (if not years). Due to my doctoral program, I have been busy studying – on ideas and concepts that should hopefully provide a much more fruitful conversation on reflecting on the now persisting (sub)culture of hanfu.

This article is an unabridged transcript of a discussion that took place on the Facebook “Hanfu: Han Chinese Clothing & Culture” group on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. What originally started as a criticism of some images of a Taiwanese hanfu maker’s dubious quality in cutting expanded quickly into a full-fledged discussion to what the implications of attempting to set conventions for ‘a modern Han dress’ meant. The discussion touched upon numerous themes covered by previous articles on this site, and in contrast with the content from back then, one can see the significant progress the movement has made in establishing its own narrative and space.

Without further ado, the transcript.

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Xilutang Qintong: Published 1525, not 1549

Tang Gao (1469-1526)'s preface to the Xilutang Qintong. The date written (1st line from the right, bottom left page) is the point of concern.

Tang Gao (1469-1526)’s preface to the Xilutang Qintong. The date written (1st line from the right, bottom left page) is the point of concern.

Translator’s Foreword: John Thompson  has stated skepticism over the dating of the Xilutang Qintong (lit. “Qin anthology of the Hall in the Western Foothills”) over the Facebook Guqin International Group since 2009. The 1549 date was widely accepted in reference to master Zha Fuxi’s preface in the Qinqu Jicheng – an identification and compendium project back in the 1970’s for all surviving qin manuscripts and was not completed until its third reiteration and edition in 2010. By arguing that the book was completed in the early Jiajing years rather than its middle overturns several assumptions that other manuscripts, namely the Taiyin Daquan and Fengxuan Xuanpin, were the original sources of numerous melodies and essays found in the Xilutang. Beyond the guqin world, this would also provide valued raw evidence in high Ming material culture, particularly in witnessing and tracing a genealogy at the height of the Daoist paraphernalia fad in the Zhengde to Jiajing era (approx. 1500-1560’s), as proven in the particular preference of Daoist-related melodies and essays referencing Daoist mysticism concepts.

Original title:

Research and Analysis of the Written Time of Xilutang Qintong by Wang Zhi of the Ming Dynasty

TANG, Chen*. Musicology in China, 2014:3, pp. 52-54.
* 唐宸 (1988~), PhD student in Zhejiang University, Research Institute for Ancient Books. (Hangzhou, Zhejiang Prov., China. 310028)

Original Abstract: 本文通过考证,认为《西麓堂琴统》成书时间为嘉靖四年乙酉(1525),而非目前学术界所认为的嘉靖二十八年己酉(1549)。大量赖此书传世的琴曲,不仅存世时间均得提前,文本演变也应重新比较,明代古琴学史的发展承继关系也须重新梳理。

Abstract (Translated): This essay proves that the Xilutang Qintong was published in Jiajing 4 (1525), Yi-you 乙酉 on the sexagenarian cycle, and not the commonly recognized Jiajing 28 (1549) year of Ji-you 己酉. A vast range of surviving repertoire relying on the record in this work not only will have to push back to an earlier date, but also rewrite the comparative narrative that ultimately reorganizes the history of Ming-era guqin development and tradition.

关键词:生卒年考证;成书时间考证;古琴学史;《琴曲集成》
Keywords: Birth-death textual research; publication date textual research; guqin (history); Qinqu Jicheng
中图分类号 CLC Number:J609.2   文献标识码 Source type:A   文章编号 Article Registration:1003-0042(2014)03-0052-03 More

Why Tradition Must Reform: The Jianzipu’s Challenges (Part 2 of 2)

The author (centre) teaching in Taichong.

The author (centre) teaching in Taichong.

Originally “Relationships Between the Physical Structure and the Score Form of Qin” (古琴的物理結構與譜式改革) by Huang Hong-Wen, PhD Candidate (Dept. of Chinese, National Taiwan Normal University), published in Yinyue Yanjiu Vol.18 (May 2013). Translated by permission of the author. Visit his blog at http://blog.xuite.net/zxy5000kimo/twblog.

This is the second half of the 7-part essay, with its accompanying footnotes converted to endnotes.

Translator’s short review: The debate of jianzipu, or “reduced character tablature,” grew heated since the repopularization of the art since UNESCO heritage recognition in 2003 and standardized examination since 2006. Since the 1990’s Chinese and Taiwanese qin scholars have attempted to “modernize” the tablature system, in use for over a millennia since Cao Rou’s invention in the mid-Tang dynasty (8th c. CE), but all have failed to establish a system as equally effective. This paper reveals some open secrets to the reasons why players prefer the traditional Chinese system rather than the Western-adapting systems, but most importantly identified the largest shortcoming of all contemporary systems to be their obsession with score-pitch correlation (a factor of ‘modernity’ they strive to import) but overlook timbre, or the nature that the qin’s consecutive tuning allows numerous variations to produce the same pitch. This paper provides a gateway for further criticism into narratives of Chinese ‘modernization’ methodology and how obsession with pursuing precision often misses its mark as it falls short in effectiveness in delivering critical contexts specifically required in the trade or attaining holistic command of the craft.

***

5. Comparing to other instruments

After explaining the guqin’s unique “one note multiple positions” relationship with jianzipu notation, some may still doubt, why do many other instruments abandon their original notation style and change to number or five-line notation, and only the guqin cannot? Actually, for the sake of guqin teaching and promotion, referencing the experience of other musical traditions is indeed a question worth thinking about; even if their experiences cannot be applied on the guqin, it can only show and reaffirm the value in jianzipu. In melodic instruments’ way of producing pitches, they can be generally classified as “one note, one position” and “one note, multiple positions” types. The former applies to the guzheng, xiao, dizi etc,. while the latter goes to guqin, pipa, zhongruan etc.. Taking the dizi and pipa as contrasting examples, let us look at what the guqin has special among these two types. More

Why Tradition Works: The Jianzipu’s Success (Part 1 of 2)

When “modern precision” is simply more trouble than its worth. From Wu Wenguang’s abridged “Liu Shui (Flowing Water)” score.

Originally “Relationships Between the Physical Structure and the Score Form of Qin” (古琴的物理結構與譜式改革) by Huang Hong-Wen, PhD Candidate (Dept. of Chinese, National Taiwan Normal University), published in Yinyue Yanjiu Vol.18 (May 2013). Translated by permission of the author.

Visit his blog at: http://blog.xuite.net/zxy5000kimo/twblog.

This is the first half of the 7-part essay, with its accompanying footnotes converted to endnotes.

Translator’s short review: The debate of jianzipu, or “reduced character tablature,” grew heated since the repopularization of the art since UNESCO heritage recognition in 2003 and standardized examination since 2006. Since the 1990’s Chinese and Taiwanese qin scholars have attempted to “modernize” the tablature system, in use for over a millennia since Cao Rou’s invention in the mid-Tang dynasty (8th c. CE), but all have failed to establish a system as equally effective. This paper reveals some open secrets to the reasons why players prefer the traditional Chinese system rather than the Western-adapting systems, but most importantly identified the largest shortcoming of all contemporary systems to be their obsession with score-pitch correlation (a factor of ‘modernity’ they strive to import) but overlook timbre, or the nature that the qin’s consecutive tuning allows numerous variations to produce the same pitch. This paper provides a gateway for further criticism into narratives of Chinese ‘modernization’ methodology and how obsession with pursuing precision often misses its mark as it falls short in effectiveness in delivering critical contexts specifically required in the trade or attaining holistic command of the craft.

Abstract (translated from Chinese version): The controversy in reforming the guqin’s jianzipu (reduced character notation) has long origins, since qin players long have listed the tablature alongside rhythm punctuation (、) and Gongche notation in order to solve the problem of ambiguous rhythms. Since Wang Guangqi [t.n.: 1892-1936], modern scholars have used the five-line score as the notational basis, appending further simplified fingering symbols onto the cipher, hence completely changing the face of written guqin music. Amidst these suggestions, few could address the issue from the qin’s physical structure, or its complicated and irregular “one pitch, multiple positions” as the approach for the qin tablature’s reform. Since the qin’s hui harmonic markers are based on just intonation while pressed notes are based on the “San-fen sun-yi” (adding/subtracting thirds method) temperament, the latter’s positional description is controlled under the former and hence causes this phenomenon. In contrast with other instruments such as the dizi or pipa, this exemplifies the uniqueness of the qin’s structure and resultantly its pedagogy. If one uses the “correlating a sound with a position” method typical with other instruments on the guqin, it would counterintuitively cause difficulty and confusion to the player, and therefore “correlating positions to produce a pitch” should be the correct methodology for the guqin, where the jianzipu is exactly the product of such requirements. New written guqin score reforms were unable to clearly provide the harmonic or stopped positional informations, as learners must first learn the five-line staff, and spend extra energy to memorize every position of a given pitch, which to the study of the guqin is double the effort, and counterproductive in spreading the art to the public. A written score should, aside from communicating a cohesive understanding of the music, establish its basic function in effective learning. Hence, guqin scores should use jianzipu as the basis, providing positional information, supplemented by five-line staff or numerican notation, to fill in for any deficiencies in jianzipu’s lack of rhythmic demarcation, in order to fulfill the aforementioned expectations.

Author’s original English abstract (with spelling abridged):

A reform of “less-word score” of Qin has been a long-term debate. During Ming and Qing Dynasty, tempting to solve the problems of the inadequacy of clear melody, some Qin players already accompanied “less-word score” with “seeds dots” or “lyric” to mark the beats and tunes. In modern years, following the first advocate Wang-Guang-Qi, scholars mainly of more simplified finger skills. This has totally changed score form of Qin. Among these proposals, few of them are discussed in view of the physical structure of Qin. That is: the irregular and complicated “One sound, many scales”. Musicalogically speaking, marking dots (called Qin-Hue) on Qin body are results of “pure tones” of overtone, while pressing-tone are results of “three-point profit and loss law.” A compromise about positional signs is given by the latter to the former, which makes the structural phenomenon of Qin. Comparing with Chinese flute, Chinese lute and other instruments, this unique is more obvious. Special physical structures require special learning methods. “Sounds first, scales second” fits general instruments. On the contrary, “scales first, sounds second” fits Qin. Consequently, “less-word score”, not “staff”, is the product. It brings Qin players less confusion and fewer difficulties. Newly-reformed scores cannot directly provide positions of pressing-tone and overtone. Learners thus achieve little success despite much effort, needless to say to the public. In addition to the responsibilities for communicating and solidifying music, scores should provide some basic easy-learning function. In order to mend the problems of insufficient melodic signs marked on “less-word score”, positional information, staff and simple score can be put together with “less-word score”. Under any circumstances, “less-word score” will always be the subject of Qin scores. This kind of combination may possibly satisfy the expectation interpreted as above. More

Hanfu Movement lectures come to Toronto

Two lectures in November. Come and join the excitement!

Two lectures in November. Come and join the excitement!

Last year, a series of academic lectures was given in Hong Kong regarding the Hanfu movement. To much acclaim, The University of Toronto Northshore Society has graciously organized with the cooperation of the Han Chinese Culture Association at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus for the same lectures to be held in Toronto! For those who have missed the first lecture, please join us for the second week lectures, and for those who have attended the first lecture, we look forward to continuing our discussions in the coming week!

Below is the introduction blurb:

When it comes to Chinese clothing, the Cheongsam or tight-fit Qipao comes to mind. Since 2001, ‘Tangzhuang’ was popularized as the ‘modernized’ ethnic Chinese dress, repatriating a heritage of 19th century Chinatowns as the new chic. The new generation of Chinese traditionalists disagreed though – pointing out that the dress is a misappropriation of imperialism and colonialism. With the power of the Internet, these young people recreated and wore HANFU – Chinese cross-collared robes recently only seen in …TV dramas and paintings, but were met with misunderstanding, hate, and even “racial” violence by their own people, in China and in its diaspora communities around the world.

What’s the fuss with identifying “Chinese dress”? Why would Chinese attack those wearing its own fashion tradition? Juni Yeung (PhD Candidate, UofT History) would like to talk and share the joys and tears on fashion, identity, and a facet of an Internet-connected, de-colonializing global Chinese community.

Speaker: Juni Yeung (PhD Candidate, UofT History)

Lecture 1: Nov 3, 2013, Sunday, 5pm-9pm, Hart House-Music Room
Topic: The Han Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement of the 21st Century: The System of Objects

Lecture 2: Nov 10, 2013, Sunday, 5pm-8pm, South Dining Room
Topic: The current challenges to the hanfu movement: Blindspots, pitfalls, and debates

Facebook Events Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1404570836443228/
Language: English, Admission: Free, Email: northshoresociety.ut@gmail.com

You can download the slides for the lecture, as well as relevant media, as they are released after post-production.

Lecture 1: Slides for Lecture 1 (PPTX) Audio (TBA) Video (Youtube)

Lecture 2: NorthShore – Lecture 2 (PPTX) Audio (TBA) Video (TBA)
EDIT* Lecture slides for session 2 are now up.

Introduction to the Hanfu Movement of the 21st Century [Download]

A participant trying on a piece of hanfu, at Club Lusitano, Central, Hong Kong.

A participant trying on a piece of hanfu, at Club Lusitano, Central, Hong Kong.

Original presentation materials used for talks at the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong Branch (RASHK), Hong Lok Yuen Country Club (HLYCC), and YWCA Helena May.

Hanfu: Traditional Chinese Clothing for the 21st Century?
Talk by Juni L. Yeung (for 1-hour presentation use)

This talk gives an overview to the reasons, rationale and history of the various attempts at restoring Han Chinese clothing into Chinese heritage since 1644, and the struggles and achievements of the contemporary movement in its first decade since 2003. This presentation also outlines the redefined system of objects for describing Han clothing, and discusses the market potential of it as a potential fashion trend in the coming future.

RASHK – Hanfu lecture (PPT)

NG Ying-wai: The Tradition of Qin-Carving in Hong Kong

Dr. Victor TSE Chun-yan, left, holding a bottom board and checking with Mr. CHOI Cheung-sau, owner of Choi Fook Kee.

Dr. Victor TSE Chun-yan, left, holding a bottom board and checking with Mr. CHOI Cheung-sau, owner of Choi Fook Kee.

Translator’s Foreword: This article was translated for the Friends of the Art Museum, CUHK, Ltd. for a visit to Choi Fook Kee Instrument Makers, Co. on 23rd March, 2013. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the view of TorGuqin. Top photo courtesy Juni Yeung on the day of the visit. Translation and reposting rights granted by the author.

The Tradition of Qin-carving in Hong Kong

Ying-Wai Ng  吳英卉

Translated by Juni Yeung

Hong Kong – a tiny island situated on the southern end of China’s frontier, after experiencing British colonial rule from the mid-19thcentury to the end of the 20thcentury, has developed a cultural and spiritual divide with the motherland. Its own mainstream culture has largely been dominated by Westernization, and traditional Chinese culture and arts have been long situated on the fringe. Compared with Western music, Chinese folk music was considered second-tier, but luckily this has seen gradual improvement since the handover in 1997.

Hong Kong qin players were few and far between prior to the 1940’s, the only record can be traced largely to Master Yuet-Kai (Yuexi, 1879-1965), founder of Man Fut Temple in Shatin, who travelled down to Hong Kong in 1938 to spread Buddhism in the area. During the tumultuous times of the 1940’s and 50’s, numerous scholars and literati travelled through or to Hong Kong, including qin players Shen Caonong (1892 – 1972), Tsar Teh-yun (Cai Deyun, 1905-2007) and Xu Wenjing (1894-1975) from Zhejiang, Jao Chung-I (Rao Zongyi, 1917- ) from Chaozhou, Lo Ka-Ping (Lu Jiabing, 1884-1980) and Zheng Jianhou from Zhongshan, Rong Xinyan from Panyu and so forth. It is from then on that Hong Kong’s qin culture flourished especially through the lifework of Mr. Xu Wenjing.

Mr. Xu was the cornerstone of qin carving in Hong Kong, and the author will summarize his life here, especially focusing on his learning and teaching experiences, the transmission of his knowledge to his successor Choi Cheung-Sau, and from there how a qin-carving research class/study group was born which is active and growing today, even after 18 years.

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Achievements and Shortcomings of the Han Clothing Movement of the 20th and 21st Centuries

Disclaiimer: Originally submitted to the History Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for HIST5011A ‘Perspectives to Comparative and Public History’ (December 2012) and University of Melbourne Admissions (January 2013) under the title “Shaking off double-colonization: The Achievements and Shortcomings of the Han Clothing Movement of the 20th and 21st Centuries,” with insert illustrations and images.

Author’s repost foreword: This essay is a continuation and completion of Gao and Cheng’s 2006 essay, which was one of the better attempts to ensnare the importance of the ongoing Hanfu Movement in its current context from a historical approach. While a social movement involves hundreds of aspects from thousands of faces, through this we hope to catch a glimpse of the opportunities presented to us in the times of social media and power of the individual, as compared to the industrialist times of our Republican forefathers.

Shaking off double-colonization:
The Achievements and Shortcomings of the Han Clothing Movement of the 20th and 21st Centuries

Juni L. Yeung, MACPH candidate, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Introduction: Chinese Dress, the double-colonized nation

            In the short days after the success of the Wuhan Uprising on October 10, 1911, Han Chinese citizens dazed in their newfound liberation: While some cut their hair queues, imposed by the Queue Order of 1644 to eliminate the sartorial and appearance practice of the Han, without a second of doubt, others clung onto the practice for decades into the Republic. A popular tale involved merchant Chen Shutong being challenged by a young student in Western dress why Chen was still wearing Manchu dress. Chen asked, “What dress are you wearing now?” When the student replied with the term foreign dress (waiguo fu), Chen coolly followed through, “Well, so am I.”

            Tales regarding the matter of dress in the Republic and identity litter across personal memoirs of the period, to which Gao Xialing and Cheng Xiaoming have specifically filtered and compiled into an argument with immediate relevancy and importance to our present moment since its publication in 2005. In their article published in the Journal of Xinzhou Teachers’ University[1], the authors argue that on the dawn of the Han ethnicity’s emancipation from Imperial Manchu rule, they have let a golden opportunity to restore their traditional appearance and sartorial practices slip by in favour of prescribing to a total Westernization program for the sake of the nation’s continued survival, and the Hanfu Movement since 2003 is a continuation of that continued dissatisfaction among those curious enough to question the dislocation between present Han dress customs to that of prior to Manchu conquest. However, references of this ‘continuing movement’ were nowhere to be found but in the abstract and the concluding statement. While the date of the article’s publication meant that the majority of social controversies have yet to occur, there was a total absence of any comparison between the proposed parallel phenomena between the early 20th century hanfu revival and the 21st century movement. Therefore, it is the mission of this paper to account for this unfilled gap in the Gao and Cheng endeavour, prior to analyzing the successes and shortcomings, blind spots and bottlenecks of the movements’ pundits over the two periods.

Contrary to intuitive belief that an anachronism a century ago would only be more ‘out of its temporal context’ in the present, I intend to argue that the concept of ‘antiquarian revivalism’ is misplaced and rather, the Confucian method of criticism by borrowing an idealized past is a constantly evolving means adapting to the times. Instead, the primary comparison should be in how the expression of Han nationalism and what encompassing values have changed over time in response to shifts in global events and external pressure to the Han identity.

Ex Machina: Communications technology and proliferation of ideas

The majority of counter-Qing revolutionaries rallied on the premise of “expelling the Tartars and restoring Huaxia”, which ethnic identity is based on the traditional Confucian doctrine of centrality. At the forefront of this discourse, the Queue Order of 1644 was publicized through reprints of various Revolutionary literature such as Accounts of the Ten Days of Yangzhou in Japan to Chinese overseas students. Utilizing this newfound freedom of the press, prominent student thinkers quickly wrote manifestos declaring their ideas of ethnic and national identity, and often followed by changes in sartorial practices to disassociate themselves with Manchu identity or rule. For example, existing photograph portraits of Qiu Jin and Zhang Taiyan depict them in Japanese kimono, a close cousin of Han Chinese clothing with similar crossed collars, and the biography of the latter outwardly expressed that his clothing was “Han”, as denoted by the customized Han character kamon insignia on his jinpei robe, now on display at the Zhang Taiyan Memorial Museum in Hangzhou[2]. Qian Xuantong claimed to have studied various Confucian notes on the specifications of the scholars’ shenyi robe and personally handmade it, and wore it to his Zhejiang office in 1912[3]. In an account of the liberation of Lishui, Zhejiang Province, a minor note recorded of two men in “two people “donned square caps, wore Ming ancient costume, hung Longchuan swords by their waists, and stood in the street to greet [the troops].”[4] The above incidents are recorded in form of newspaper editorials and personal memoirs of the person in question and at times direct witnesses, which were relegated as curios for certain individuals over the dinner table, rather than mass-oriented results such as retail of a clothing line or government edict on dress on the national level.

The impetus of the Hanfu movement one century later came under similar context as Chinese citizens discovered and utilized the information dissemination potential of the Internet, a wildly more liberal platform for idea exchange free of government censorship (or at least subverted in a cat-and-mouse game of evading automatic and human-based censors) than official news channels including newspapers, radio and television. Largely self-regulated by civilian administrators, early Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) was the sole choice of modern bilateral communications and was seen as a spiritual successor to Democracy Walls in Chinese university campuses and public spaces but was gradually outlawed from 1980 onwards[5]. More

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 42,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 10 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Rethinking the Hanfu Movement Nov. 2012: Rethinking reimaginations

Ji Enxu (Zhou Tianhe) curates over the exhibit and explains the differences between the designs over the years and scholars’ re-imaginations.

On September 29, 2012, fashion design group Celestial Spring and several renowned Confucian scholars ran a 2-day exhibit on the evolution of the Confucian scholar standard regalia – the Shenyi. Often deemed as “the most original and antiquated Chinese robe design thought possible,” the loose robe’s design is long thought to be a static, rigid standard due to its unchanging definition that fills the entire contents of the Book of Rites’ chapter XXXIX. The group referenced various Confucian scholars’ detailed annotations on the Shenyi standard over the span of 1,700 years, and has produced replicas of 12 robes to come to an astounding conclusion that not only our perceptions of the past often clouded by mysticism of the textual ambivilency, but the same can be said that of our ancestors, in no less a degree than our wild imaginations and re-imaginations today.

Below are the 12 Shenyi robes, as well as the textual account given in the exhibit. Note that most names of historical figures are addressed in last name-courtesy name basis, with their first names addressed on a separate line in Confucian tradition in respect of prominent figures.

It is particularly important to see, through this display of actualized reproductions of shenyi designs and its concepts throughout the ages, how imaginations of what “Chinese clothing”, “Confucian sartorial regulations”, and how text is interpreted by different diciplines and individuals. In another perspective, it also represents how the changes in Chinese fashion, or the absence of visible environment for the clothing (such as the Qing) has affected the imagination of Han Chinese clothing.

Implications of the reimaginations of the Shenyi in the modern context may have various directions, including the discussion of how far should traditional hanfu design encompass – would satisfying the textual evidence be enough, or would a continuity froom previous specimens be required? It is my hope that the following article will open a discussion on the subject with the general community. More

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