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Xu Yanping

The influence of western missionaries on the advancement of European choral culture in China

Until recently, it was generally accepted that the history of the Chinese choir dates back to the Reformation of the late nineteenth century, when the first school songs rose to the forefront of the Chinese musical world. But an increasing number of historians and musicologists from various countries are asserting the role of Christian missionaries as one of the significant ones in this matter. In this regard, the author considers the importance of missionary activity in relation to the Chinese musical culture and provides information about the development of hymnography in China at certain stages of its development (in the period from 7th to 14th centuries). Particular attention is paid to the activities of Christian missionaries G. Montecorvino, M. Ricci, N. Longobardo, and E. Inslee, who distinguished themselves by writing and publishing collections of hymns accompanied by theoretical materials on teaching basic choir singing skills. Emphasis is also placed on the writings of missionaries Tomás Pereira (1645–1708) and Teodorico Pedrini (1671–1746), who assisted the Chinese musicians He Guozong and Mei Guchen in writing the first global work: the General Unification of Songs. The article also examines the role of R. Morrison’s Hymnal, et al.

The author finds evidence for the important role of Christian hymn-making in the formation of Chinese choral culture in the works of D. Bayes, D. Shen, and M. Stauffer, who argue that due to the conditions created by missionaries, major choral works by Western composers (in particular H. F. Handel’s Messiah oratorio and others) began to be performed in China by the end of the 19th century. As an evidentiary conclusion, the article notes that the missionary-created schools provided a musical education for the children of China, through which a plethora of composers from the country would begin the path of exposure to Western choral music, and Western music would begin to be heard everywhere in the country.

Key words

hymnography, missionary activity, musical art, choir, hymn collections.

For citation

Xu Yanping. The influence of western missionaries on the advancement of European choral culture in China // South-Russian Musical Anthology. 2022. No. 2. Pp. 31-37.