Theory Of Music In Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Essay, Research Paper Abstract JiKang’s Naturalistic Theory and Criticism of Art In China, from the ancient times, a synthesis of all forms of art that includes poetry, song, and dance has been called “music”. According to the standard Confucianist viewpoint on music, this synthesis was dubbed “politeness-music.” The main characteristic of Confucianist music theory lies in its emphasis on music as a political instrument.

Essay, Research Paper


JiKang’s Naturalistic Theory and Criticism of Art

In China, from the ancient times, a synthesis of all forms of art that includes poetry, song, and dance has been called “music”. According to the standard Confucianist viewpoint on music, this synthesis was dubbed “politeness-music.” The main characteristic of Confucianist music theory lies in its emphasis on music as a political instrument. Confucianists ordered society according to hierarchcal distinctions and simultaneously attempted to harmonize differentiated classses through music. Furthermore, by connecting the basis of its music theory with the order of the universe, it helped to justify the Confucian establishment. It was JiKang, a Daoist thinker of the Wei-Jing era, who was in direct opposition to the Confucianist music theory. By emphasizing that music has in it neither grief nor joy, JiKang criticized Confucinaists by denuding the underlying political implication of Confucianist ruling order and its music theory. According to JiKang, there must be a clear distinction between subjective value system of humans and objective factual world of nature. Jikang, stressing nature’s independence from human values, supported the idea that human beings have no right to govern nature within their value system. Rather, human beings are a part of nature and they can feel supreme joy only when they obtain the characteristics of nature. In this paper, focusing on some points related to Jikang’s criticism, the author examines the formative process of Confucianist music theory that purports to claim that music has in it grief and joy. Jikang’s critical task proceedes by recovering the significance of the existence of music. Instead of old music theory that emphasized the social utility of music, JiKang’s keen criticism and his own new music theory helps reestablish the appropriate position of art in its original sense. The implication of this reinstitution of music in its ideal state is that music is now taken to claim its own ground and nature, no longer subordinated to human society and emotions. In this regard, music comes to have its own purposive value, and no longer used as a means of governing and control. To sum up, in this paper, via the analysis of Ji-Kang’s theory that music has in it neither grief nor joy, Jikang’s criticism of the existing Confucianst music theory which is said to subordinate aesthetic consciousness to ethical consciousness helps reveal the true significance of art and the aesthetic consciousness of naturalism.

I. A thesis of Confuciansim on “LiYue” (rites and music)

The form of control of one social class over other classes is two-fold. One half of this two-fold form is a control by coercive power of the state. The other is a form of leadership that is manifested by such conventional institutions as education, religion, and the customs. In order to establish a stable controling power of one social class over other classes, it is thought preferable to reach a consensus rather than to use force. Control based on consensus is feasible through voluntary agreement. If those ruled firmly believe that the interests of the ruling class reflect the overall interests of social members of a nation, and that social justice is fulfilled by the ruling class, this will increase the cooperative tendency between the ruling and the ruled. A deep trust in the legitimacy of the ruling class’ power will internalize this as a kind of moral awareness. The moral awareness will demand sensual positiveness just as much as reasoned judgement. Our sense has an attribute of attributing some values to things that are the objects of our tacit intention. Sense forms one’s own belief system and desire. Henceforth, it is important to have the sensual motivation through which the objective of reason is identified, morally, with bodily desire.

In this context, Confucianism seizes upon the a form of art which affects a person’s psychological state. Such an art’s ethical persuasiveness surpasses attempts to awaken reason through mere preaching for persuasion. Ancient Confucians understood and recognized this point. In this context, we can see why Confucius once said that “one who knows it (the way) is not the equal of one who loves it, and one who loves it is not the equal of one who takes joy in it.” (Analects, Book Six) Joy draws on the pleasure via sensory organs. If one receives “Dao” as joy through sensory organs, the pleasure coming from physiological functions can no longer run counter to “Dao,” the object of reasoned thought. If a sensual system associated with the physiological function of sensory organs is in harmony with Dao completely, that harmony will become a concrete force that commits us to Dao’s ideals and objectives.

In order to legitimize the status quo ruling power and draw internalized obedience, as a means of appeasement, human beings began to use art before employing ethical norms outright. In China, “yue” appeared prior to “li.” In ancient times, irrespective of whether they are western or oriental, the form of art encompassed poetry, songs, and dance. In ancient China, this undifferentiated comprehensive form is called “yue” (music). During the pre-Qin era, the efficacy of the politics of “yue” (music) was brought into high relief. Confucianists since Gongzi commonly referred to “yue” as “shishuliyue” (poetry, books, rites, and music) and regarded it as a publicly recognized canon. But literate peoples during the period ranging from the Warring States period to the Wei-Jin era distinguished between philosophy and art, and eventually they subdivided art itself into various genres.

Jikang’s differentiation of the voice of nature from human voices was made possible by the prior differentiation of poetry from music. Jikang emphasized the natural character of the sound of music and simultaneoulsy criticized the theoretical premises on which the traditional social function of music and art was based. Here I will first characterize the chronological process of the formation of the Confucian music theory ranging from the pre-Qin era to the era when the Book of Rites, with a section on “musical instruments,” first appeared. Then I will concretely describe and analyze the definining characteristics of the Confucian claim that “music has in it grief and joy”.

China’s perspectives on music were not concretly described prior to Xunzi’s writings on music. Only some fragmentary descriptions of it appear in some literature such as the Chunqiu (The Spring and Autumn Annals). Here I will explore some perspectives on music pertaining to Jikang’s critical attitudes toward Confucianist theory on music. In doing so, for the Xianjin era, I will base my argument on the Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu), the Tales of the States (Guoyu), and the Book of Documents (Shujing). I will also use the Analects (Lunyu), since it correlates “liyue” with an awakening of internal emotions, and Xunzi’s “Treatise on Music” (Yuelun), which developed Gongzi’s music theory. The Book of Rites, and in particular the “Book of Music” (Yuezhi) section, will also be a principal source of analysis.

I-A. Shamanistic function of pre-Qin era music

During the Western Zhou era, the Rites of the Zhou Dynasty (Zhouli) provided a standard for rulership. And it was widely read, being used as a basis for the handling of political affairs by feudal lords as well as central dynastic kings. It was also the standard for determining right from wrong, thus playing a key role in restoring order, and even in determining the destiny of the dynasty. In this period, it was informed heavily by clan practices and its main regulations were deeply embued with religious concerns. Therefore, in this period, people regarded natural gods and ancestral spirits as “Heaven” (Tian, or “Heavenly God”), and followed natural principles as the “Way of the Heaven” (Tiandao). They regarded the power of Heaven over human beings as taking the form of a “Heavenly commandment” (Tianming), and the ruler controlled his subjects in accordance with divine power. Society was agricultural, emphasized the observance of natural phenomena, and regarded this as an indication of divine providence determining the fall and rise of all the works of human beings. This line of thought that exemplifies the primacy of Heaven over human beings, and as such formed the foundation of the Confucianist political thought. As a constituent of this political body, ancient music was closely related to agriculture, and changes of the agricultural calendar were said to have engendered changes in music. Furthermore, folksongs were collected and reperformed before the ruler in order to track public opinion. Music (yue) was also employed as a way of parading the emperor’s success symbolically. Along with dance, music was made a required subject for succeeding princes. This was based on the belief that “yue” encompassed poetry, songs, and dance, that it was a valid measure to read the public opinion, and moreover that and singing and dancing could exert incantatory power in warfare.

Due to this, the duty of music officials was very important politically. Their duties included the measurement of climatic changes (Book of pre-Han Dynasty, Book 21 ), the estimation of an enemy’s morale in warfare (Spring and Autumn Annals, Ranggong 18) , the education of the offspring of the aristocracy (Book of Documents, Shundian ch.), assessing the justice of specific policies, gathering samples of public opinion and transmitting it to the emperor, the composition of musical scores glorifying the dignity of the ruler, and even the manufacture of musical instruments (Tales of the States, Guoyu).

Certain music officials, called both “gu” and “shi” thus helped to observe the Way of Heaven and extend its mandates. While cumulating scientific information via objective observations of natural phenomena, these music officials analogized these phenomena (a subjective process) to shifts in society, then using these analogies to predict significant events.

For the sake of illustrating the functions that music served more concretely, the following points are in order.

In 555 B.C., the Spring and Autumn Annals (Ranggong 18) states: “Shiguang blew the flute and predicted its country’s loss in warfare. The people of Jing dynasty were told that Chu Dynasty would invade in the forseeable future. At this time, Shiguang said: ‘They could not hurt us. I blew the northern tunes via this luguan, and also southern tunes. But southern tunes were lacking in vivacity and they were dying sounds. Chu Dynasty would fight us but never prevail over us.’”

In order to understand this historical folklore, some knowledge of the science and civilization of the time is required. According to Needham, at the time people believed that each military army had its own unique “qi,” and this qi hovered over the heads of soldiers as kind of energy field. As an attempt to measure and assess the qi of an entire army, music officials were required to blow speically-made luguan, thus exercizing special incancatory music. When the produced sound of this flue was muffled and unclear, it was believed that it showed the qi of the soldiers to be incomplete and unstable, which in turn meant great losses or defeat.

There was also a belief that the oft-found incantatory power of pitch-pipes, dance, and bell could form a qi energy field, and even that a certain state of mind could be transmitted via instruments. This was based on a simplistic sort of understanding of the nature of qi. In fact, this form of incantatory belief in music (Yue) was used as a significant standard for judgement. According to Needham, the blowing of pitch-pipes signified the beginning of a military campaign for an army, and the readiness of its adversary to attack. In keeping with the divinatory music of magicians, they were also used to issue the command to charge or withdraw. Thus, tens of thousands of solidiers’ lives depend on the content of magicians’ music.

This belief in the supernatural power of magic and incantation, however, grew weak and eventually collapsed along with the collapse of the ruling system that was based on rites or rituals. The rise and fall of a nation did not draw on the commandment of Heaven anymore, and rather the power struggles among human beings for hegemony in real situations were perceived to be the determinant of the destinty of a nation. This new perception gained currency among intellectuals and ruling classes and, as a result, they no longer sanctified the existing li (rites) and yue (music). Following this new perspective, rulers then demanded a new interpretation of the existing yue (music) and insisted upon changing its form. As a consequence, a new ruling class began to exploit the symbolic image of the emperor and thus made free use of all the imperial titles and “wuyue” (martial music)

I-B. Confucius’ thesis on music as a vehicle of political virtue.

Confucius himself respected the politics and culture of the Zhou dynasty. He also worshipped the virtues of the Yao-Shun era, thus he took a rather reactionary attitude toward the old ways. Given this, when the family practiced the wuyue, it not only represented for him the practicing of yue (music), but constituted an encroachment upon the imperial authority which was represented by yue (music). In this line of thought, Confucius correlates yue (music) with the political authority it represents, an idea that can be found in many parts of “the Analects”. In Book 7, for example, we find the following: “When the Master was in the state of Qi he heard the Shao music, he for three months after did not even notice the taste of meat. He said, ‘I never imagined that music could be so sublime.’” Further, Confucius says that music should use sage-king Shun’s shao music. The reason for his admiration for the Shao music was not merely the beauty of that form of music, but also the way the sage kings’ righteousness and “ren spirits” were incorporated into it. Thus, what counts for Confucius is not the joy drawn from the harmonious interconnectedness of various elements of the music, rather the appropriateness of the message of music, or even the extent to which the spirits contained in the music can relate to his own ideals. Confucius also exemplified this tendency in his insistence that it would have been better to get rid of Master Zheng’s music. Master Zheng’s music was one of favorite musics that former tyrannies liked most, thus if his contemporary kings were drawn into it, Confucius reasoned, their imperial rule might collapse. This example demonstrates that Confucius’ perception of music was more influenced by the historical result of Master Zheng’s music (a result that was at loggerheads with his idealized view of the Zhou dynasty administration) than by its formal elements.

Added to this belief is a further belief that music reflects the personality of the emperor. The thought that shao could help one to inherit the spirit of Shun, furthermore, is in congruence with Confucius view that the music enjoyed by one of former tyrannies should be rejected and discontinued. Confucian political philosophy stresses enlightenment and nurturing. The edifying effect of music enables the people to voluntarily agree to certain social norms. The message content of music that the ruler wants to propagates is actually transmitted via the lyrics or “poetry,” and in this process Confucianism assumes that the content of music is immanently contained in the sounds of music. In the Analects, Confucius says that “If he is not an emperor, he will not talk about rites or rituals, nor will he create music “. In view of the social influences of music, the control of the ruler over music is conjoined with his authority over ethical norms. Confucianism argues that the personality of the virtuous person is contained in music. Yet, Confucius says that “As for wu music, although it is practiced beautifully, its goodness is not fully fulfilled “. This saying represents Confucius’ desire to subject aesthetic consciousness to ethical consciousness, and it simultaneously signifies that goodness and beauty should be appreciated independently from one other. In other words, this shows that to strengthen his own sense of independence, the sage as a social mananger elevates and enlightens his aesthetic sense.

I-C. Xunzi’s theory on correspndence between emotion and sound.

The Confucian proposition that music reflects virtue is persistently applied in Xunzi’s theory on music. “Music is something which the sage kings found joy in, for it has the power to make good the hearts of the people, to influnece men deeply, and to reform their ways and customs with facility.” Xunzi recognizes that music transforms and moves the hearts of the people. In his thesis on music, Xunzi says that “music is joy, an emotion which man cannot help but feel at times. Since man cannot help feeling joy, his joy must find an outlet in voice and an expression in movement.” Here he argues that music is something man cannot help but feel. The joy is created by music’s voice and movement. Music , therefore, is perceived to be inseparable from original human nature. Music is created and produced following the needs of human nature. Namely, the rationale for music and its origin lies in the human heart. Therefore, the emotions of human beings produce a voice. In other words, all kinds of sound set its foundation in the particular emotions of each human being, Voice, denoting some emotions, transforms and gives rise to certain emotions in human heart.

Xunzi also argues that music that is created due to the needs of human nature should be pliable and revisable according to norms. According to his view, human desires are drawn from nature, thus all human beings have them in common. He regards desires as a natural nature and takes it to be recognized per se. Despite this, however, he argues that the action and the way to realize desires have to be controlled artificially. In his view, music plays the role of nurturing and controlling these desires.

Li (rites), whose purpose is to establish order to human society, does not play its role merely to moderate human selfish desires that are the roots of social disorder. Rather its purpose lies in culturing and establishing mutual harmony between human desires and goods. Li as a criterion for moderation and self-constraint will give order to human society. Li will manifest its function by clearly determining the vertical hierarchy of social roles. The established of li-compatible “fen” (distinctions) is requirement for the development of society. However, human society is not maintained only by a hierarchy of social differences. Social integration and harmony is another fundamental aspect of order preservation. This function of harmony depends on music. In Xunzi, music is inseparable from harmony and li is also inextricable from reason. “Music unites that which is the same; rites distinguish that which is different.” Xunzi says that “music is the most effective means to government,” thereby emphasizing the socially harmonizing function. He provides some evidence as to how music fulfills social ethics. The passage is as follows:

“When music is performed in the ancestral temple of the ruler, and the ruler and his ministers, superiors and inferiors, listen to it together, there are none who are not filled with a spirit of harmonious reverence. When it is performed within the household, and father and sons, elder and younger brothers listen to it together, there are none who are not filled with a spirit of harmonious kinship. And when it is performed in the community, and old people and young toether listen to it, there are none who are not filled with a spirit of harmonious obedience. Hence music brings about complete unity and induces harmony.”

This passage demonstrates that when rites are performed in the household, community, and nation, expression of reverence and honor toward superiors will encourage obedience to authority.

The idea of using ritual music as a means to govern is also found in the “Yueji” chapter of the Book of Rites. There it is said that “rites, music, justice institutions and governing bodies are different, but the ultimate purpose of these is the same.” The purpose is to give order not only to the hearts of individual people, but also to society as a whole.

I-D. Book of Rites on “Yueji”: connecting rites and music with cosmological order

As a source of the Confucian perspective on music, the “Yueji” chapter is quite representative. It enriches and deepens early theories of music. Xunzi’s basic claim to bring about the social function of music is also eminently laid bare here: “Music harmonizes human hearts, rites differentiate social differences. Harmony gives rise to mutually better understanding and distinctions will encourage mutual respect. When honor and reverence is formed, distinction between the noble and the ignoble will become clearer, and music’s harmonizing power is exercized, harmony between high stratum of society and low stratum of society will follow.”

The rationale for the notion that music should be used to maintain social and national order lies in its power to arouse human spontaneity. The “Yueji” declares that “music is created from within whereas rites are engendered from without.” Hence, when music is created from within, this signifies the tranquilizing power and when this power is reached at its pinnacle, hatred in human hearts will disappear. As to the social efficacy of rites and music, the tone of “Yueji” is bluntly transparent. “ Early sage kings were said to have governed by exercing modesty as a virtue” in this context signifies the governing through the medium of rites and music.

As a means to justify political authority, rites and music form a connection with the foundation of nature and cosmology. In the “Yueji,” “music is the harmony of Heaven and Earth and rites are the order of the universe. Rites represent the principle of Heaven and Earth distinction whereas music embodies the principle of harmony.”

Now rites and music are not merely confined to regulating human action as a moral instrument, nor are they just producing organized sounds to please the ears. They become a foundational origin of nature which is the root of human existence and thus they are a body of harmony. Music, described this way, is the mytaphysical origin and posseses what is the eqivaletnt of a supernatural capacity to oversee both the natural order and human society. The distinction between the noble and the ignoble, or between the old and the young, originates from music such that human beings now grow transparent to music. This line of thought, insofar as it identifies the source of music with that of the universe, is not unique to Confucianism. The “Yueji” is basically founded upon Confucianist music theory, but it incorporates Daoism, the Science of the Divination (Yixue), Yin-Yang thought, and Wuxing thought. Hence, this attempt to connect with the foundation of metaphysics is a result of the influences of both Daoism and modest naturalism. But, the defining characteristic of Confucianism the way it explains music – namely, by attributing human emotions and value to the condensation and dissipation of all creatures of the universe.

According to this Confucianist thought, human emotions such as joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure, are the result of the condensation and dissipation of “qi”(matter-energy). Human emotions and the sounds of nature arise from the same source, thus human emotions are produced as sounds of nature and these sounds are transmitted to others who are composed of same quality and form. This results in the emotional correspndence between human beings. In this context, rulers can read the hearts of the people via music and likewise, and the dispositions of rulers are transmitted to the people. Herein, Confucianism attaches Confucian virtue to the Heavenly order. Confucianists put their volition on a par with the order and meaning of heaven. As a result, creatures have a teleological volition and voices house human emotions and will power. This is the core of Confucianist politeness music theory that posits that music has in it grief and joy (shengyougailelun). Sound connotes subjectives human emotions and fully manifests the virtue of sage. This politeness music theory (shengyougailelun) was handed down to Yuanji (210-263). Yuanji also thinks that this politeness music theory can forcibly drive home the social efficacy of music. His theory of music was in juxtaposition with Jikang’s theory of music.

II. A critique of Confucianist music theory- Jikang’s music theory

Jikang’s music theory (Shengwuaile lun: “Discourse on the Nonemotional Nature of Sound”), by contrast, insists that music has in it nor grief or joy, and is thus a frontal critique of Confucianist music theory. The reason for regarding Jikang’s music theory as the first one of aesthetics in China is that his theory is not only based on Daoist naturalism, but critizes the Confucianist music theory with rich analyses and logical suasion. Jikang’s ‘Shengwuaile lun” is in the form of a debate between the Host of Dong-ye and a guest from Jin, with the guest defending the tradditional view. The Host of Dong-ye represents Jikang himself and a guest from Jin embodies Confucianist music theoritician. In the following part, I will first deal with the incantatory magicism of music. Second, Jikang’s critical position toward an assertion that music reflects the highest virtue in politics will be analyzed. Third, a description and analysis of the claim that there exists a correspondence between emtions and sound will follow.

II-A. A critique of the belief in the magicalism of music

First, take a look at the story of Music Master Kuang. Music Master Kuang blew on the pitch-pipes and knew that the airs of the south were noncombative, that the army of Chu would be defeated. As a critique of this story and its implication, Jikang broaches the underlying principle of LuLu (pitches, representing yang and yin respectively). Lulu is a measure of the “qi” in four seasons. When in a certain season, qi will move, and this prompts the response of lulu and this consequently cause the ashes within “guan”.????? This effect is the natural result of nature, not of human action. As a result of the ‘Three-Part Subtraction-Addition” (Sanfensunyi), lulu that are created up and down will smooth out the harmony of five “sheng” and places orderly state into it. But each lu has its own sound, and even when blown in winter each sound will not lose any its uniqueness. Jikang in his 4th debate raises doubts about the magical power of Music Master Kuang. According to him, when Kuang blew on the pitch-pipes, it raised the doubts as to whether it was truly a qi from Chu because Jin and Chu are separated by a thousand li. His doubts raised the following question: If Kuang truly knew the sound was an air of Chu that came and entered his pitch-pipes, then it should be noted that south of Chu are Wu and Yue and to the north are Liang and Sung. Thus if he did not see the source, how could he know it (for sure) ?

The institutionaization of Lu and confiramtion of the pitches were verified empirically based on the natural sciences. The observation of “Qi” (known as blowing the ashes) confirms the accuracy of the pitch-pipes, and the “Three-Part Subtraction-Addition,” which follows natural laws, was used to determine the pitches of the pitch-pipe that were the basis of weights and measures. The fact that by performing the pitch-pipes, the performer can tell the result of warfare signifies nothing but the projection of human beings’ wishes and wants onto nature. This is the case of superstitious magicalims whose underlying sources Jikang debunks. The performer who blows on the pitch-pipe is from Jin and the question arises of how the wind of Chu can enter into a performer’ s pitch-pipe who is from Jin such that it changes the tones. Jikang continues that “master Kuang alone was widely learned in many things and himself possessed the knowledge to recognize the signs of victory and defeat, but, wishing to set the minds of the masses at ease, he attributed it to the divine and mysterious Po Changxian in his guarantee of long life to Duke Jing.”

II-B. A critique of music theory as a carrier of political virtue.

The characteristic of Confucianism’s music theory lies in its claim to raise political accomplishments of a regime and reveal the dignity of the ruler so that it will draw voluntary obedience from the people. In this regard, music is nothing but a political instrument. The premise underlining this political purpose being that music can carry the personality of sage king. Jikang refuses to accept this Confucianist viewpoint: “When Duke Jie stayed in the Lu principality, he collected the poetry and observed rites and thus came to know the social customs of that principality. And When Confucius listened to Shao music, he exclaimed that beauty and good of sage king Shun was identical.” These are the loci classici of Confucianist music theory. Jikang opposes the idea of tones as the source of the efficacy of music. The accomplishments of sage kings come to be known and understood after the lines of music are heard and appreciated. He distinguishes between music language composed of melodies and the words of songs, and he does this because he thinks that these contain their own different principles of autonomy.

Jikang refutes the Confucianist claim that the personality of sage king is immanent in music. In the 2nd debate, the guest from Chin, a proponent of Confucianism says the following:

That the eight regions may have different customs, and crying and singing might be totally different. But people’s feelings of grief and joy can certainly be perceived. When the heart is moved on the inside, then music comes forth from the heart. Although you entrust it to other tones, or express it with a surplus of sounds, the skilled listener and examiner will necessarily understand it; this will not cause him to err. In ancient times Po Ya strummed his lute and Chung Chuzi knew what was on his mind. The criminal laborer struck the musical stones, and Chuzi knew he was grieved.

What this implies is that when you are grieved, your music will certainly express grieved hearts and produce plaintive tunes manifesting grief and sorrow of the heart. This is a natural response and cannot be avoided, but only those with spirit-like insight are able keenly to perceive it. Thus you cannot conclude that because you see the many variations in regional custom, music has in it either grief nor joy.

As to this proposition, Jikang refutes it because it contains a logical contradiction.

If a sage king’s personality is carried in music, the music itself should have its number fixed and passed onto later generations. For example, music Shao must have fixed number and expresses the personalities of both sage king Yao and Shun. In this music Shao, the fixed number cannot be mixed up with other forms of songs, nor it can be performed in other forms of number. But the logic of this proposition is in violation of the statement of the guest from Jin in the 2nd debate, which claims that there is no fixed law of vocal sound and thus that emotions of grief and joy can be expressed by using other forms of vocal sound.

Jikang criticizes the principles which motivate this contradiction in Confucian thinking. “ These are both false records (made up by) vulgar pedants. They fabricated these accounts, wishing to make sacred their affairs. They wanted the whole world to misunderstand the way of music. Hating the fact that they had not met this rare listener in their own time, they longed for the ancients and sighed with admiration. This is the way they deluded later generations.”

The critique of the Confucianism’s claim that only sage king and sage fully appreciate music is an attempt to undermine and blunt the political motive of Confucianism that purorts to use music as a ruling tool. This critique is another denunciation of secular, desire-oriented Confucianism that attempts to beautify the rule of the ruling class as an embodiment of sage king’s rule. Concurrently, this critique provides a new interpretation that will broaden aesthetical horizon. His music theory confirms that not only sage king and sage, but all of the people can have their own sense of appreciation and understanding of music. This critique also makes it possible that music arrangement becomes one of many artistic forms. Music arrangement is not to distort the original nature of original song. Arranged music is recognized as a legitimate form of music that arouses aethetical sense drawn from a change in its pitches and tunes.

In his 3rd debate, Jikang refutes the claim that music does intimate the personality of sage king. If music is to represent the nature of a sage king as a composer and carry the emotions of him, then Perfect Music could not be entrusted to professional music performers: we must have a sage to pull on the strings and blow on the pipes. Only then will these elegant songs achieve their perfect form. Yet, now as it is in the past, music is performed by professional performers and this itself proves that music does not intimate the personality of sage king.

Yet, Jikang’s refutation can be also refuted by Confucianism. By extending Confucianism’s position, Jikang’s refutation can be countered by a new interpretation which posits that if music already intimates the personality of sage king, the true nature or meaning of music can be tranmittable only if performance of music is fully executed. Further, if the performer is moved and performs music to the full while following up on the intention of sage king, he/she can transmit the motive of sage king. Hence, if actual performance of music and the role of the performer fully correspond to the motive of sage king, the intention of sage king in music composition can be truly and sufficiently transferred.

II-C. A Critique of the viewpoint of fixed correspondence between emotion and sound

Confucianism claims that the sound of music carries the meaning and emotion of humans. In an attempt to substantiate this claim, the guest from Jin takes the example of “GeLu” who knew that his cow grieved and bellowed her lament to him that her calves had been sacrificed.

As to this case, Jikang criticizes every aspect of the implication of it. He simply says that cattle are not of the same species as man. In other words, there are no paths of communication between the two. His cut-throat refutation is as follows: if birds and animals are both able to speak and GeLu received a special talent by which he alone could understand them, then this is a case of discussing their affairs by interpreting their language, like translating and transmitting a foreign tongue. Since it is not a matter of knowing someone’s feelings by examining their music, this is not a valid criticism of my position.

In Confucianism, “if some who is wise will thoroughly understand something as soon as he comes into contact with it, and that there is nothing he will not know.” Jikang ,however, is keenly doubtful of this claim and as a counterargument. He continues by asking whether, if a sage all of a sudden found himself in the lands of the Hu barbarians, “would he understand their language or not?”

As to this doubt, Jikang sets out his analysis of knowledge by saying the following.

Must he have repeated contact and exchange with them, and then get to know their language ? Or, will be blow on the pitch-pipes and play the bamboo tuning tubes and in this way examine their music ? Or, will he observe their manner and examine their facial expressions and in this way know thir minds ? This (the latter) would be a matter of knowing one’s mind naturally from his air and appearance. Even though he himself said nothing, you could still know his mind. Thus the way of knowing does not perhaps rely on words. If you can blow on the pitch-pipes and examine their music, and in this way know their minds, then even if someone had his mind on a horse but by mistake said ‘deer,’ the examiner would definitely know from ‘deer’ that he meant ‘horse’. This means that one’s mind is not related to what one says: and what one says is perhaps not sufficient to verify what is on his mind…. Language is not something that is by nature fixed. The five regions have different customs; the same thing has different designations. We simply select one name and use it as a sign. Now the sage exhausts the principles. This means that whatever is natural can be examined; there is no obscurity that cannot be illuminated. But if the principle involved is hidden, then you will not see it even if you are close by. Therefore, the language of a different land cannot be forcibly understood

In this round of thrust and parry, Jikang argues that mind does not have an essential relationship with language and even in some cases, language is not even sufficient to manifest mind. What this implies is that the presentation of language does not possess intrinsic meaning. In this case, one meaning can be expressed in an array of languages. Likewise, the proposition that a single thing can be expressed in other different languages signifies that language does not have a fixed correspondence to human mind. The claim that language is not essentially directed to one object, but that it chooses one naming and takes it as a criterion has a common ground with the explanation of lanuguage autonomy. The meaning and the presentation of the word are not essentially related, rather they are artificially tied to each other and are embedded in social custom and are often to be used in social context. If one applies this to music language, presentation of music language itself does not entail necessarily the intention of the composer. Hence, it is natural that a multiplicity of interpretations follow upon the heels of actually listening to music. However, this does not mean that the listener is inferior in his endowed aesthetic facility, such that he cannot grasp one secured motive of the composer.

The claim that there is no fixed relationship between the expected connotation relation between the presentation of words and the meanings of words is in keeping with what is called “Yanbujinyi-lun” (the doctrine that language cannot exhaust meanings). This is embedded in Wei-Jin XuanXue thought and carries an important implication: a recipient of art can draw more diverse and profound aesthetic impressions from an artist’s intended message. Further, the claim that language is deficient to reveal the human heart amounts to a recognition of the limitation of language, thus paving the way for a world of aesthetical intuition that draws on intuition only.

Jikang verifies the absence of a fixed correspondence between emotion and sound as follows ;

Different regions have different customs; singing and crying are the done all the same. If we mix them up and use them, some hear crying and are pleased; others listen to singing and become sad. But their feelings of grief and joy are the same. Now if you use the same feelings to produce completely different sounds, is this not because music has no constant relation to emotion.

Here Jikang uses different customs in different regions and even strains it to the extreme case where some hear crying and are pleased and others listen to singing and become sad. This explains how identical emotions can be expressed in different sounds. The inconstancy of sound, namely expression of sounds relative to certain emotions, has no constancy and hence proves that out of internal necessity sound does not express ceertain emotions. Though Jikang’s viewpoint is based on this premise, he does not contradict the traditional view that poetry and music are expressions of human emotion. Yet, two sounds whose main characters are harmony, “gung and shang,” are considered the most moving of the cords. Namely, sound is not constant, thus this chord is not indicative of any certain emotion, those who in grief will hear the grieved sounds being created. In harmony of sound there is no fixed form, but nothing but the grieved heart has something and this signifies that those who are in grief in their hearts will hear only grief from a chord. Here, Jikang raises the question of how to know and say one of Zhuangzi’s propositions, namely the proposition that all kinds of sound is identical with all chords created in nature. The phenomenon of hearing only grief from a chord dvelopes into custom and when it reaches the point of influencing politics, all become sounds of sorrow at this point. This explains the claim that the sound of a collapsing nation provokes sorrow. Those who feel sorrow hear some chords and take them only as sorrowful. This means that by knowing responses of people toward music you can know social customs. That a chord has no form means that there is no sorrow and joy in a chord and emotion of sorrow and joy is only contained in human heart. The idea that identical emotions can be expressed in various sounds is a consequence of the proposition that sound by itself contains no form. Identical sounds can express various different emotions, and there is no essential relation between sound and emotion. The sorrow and joy of a sound is determined by sorrow and joy of a person’s heart, not by the sound itself.

Jikang sees that sound has a materialistic nature and so is distinguished from the subjective emotions of human beings. In his third debate, the assertion that “eating acrid things brings on hysterical laughter; smoke in your eyes causes grief-struck sobbing” is a case in point. In both cases, “tears are produced. But even if you have a Yi Ya taste them, he definitely will not say that the happy tears are sweet and the sad tears bitter” Jikang compares the materialistic nature of sound to wine. And a question arises this way ;“The tissues secrete water and it beads up in the flesh; when pressure is applied it comes out. It is not controlled by grief or joy. It is just like the process of straining wine through a cloth sack. Although the device used to press it through may differ, the flavor of the wine is unchanged. Musical sounds are all produced by one and the same source. Why must they alone contain the principles of grief and joy?”

How can we explain the situation where emotion is roused simply by listening to music? The answer lies not in the proposal that a chord contains any symbolic content, but rather in the idea that human subjective emotion causes the production of feelings. The following passage condenses this point and elucidates this line of thought.

When it encounters harmonious sounds, only then is it released. Harmonious sounds have no sign, but the grieved heart has its essence. If you make the grieved heart that has an essence depend on the harmonious sounds that have no sign, then you understand sounds and listen to them. The heart is moved by harmonious sounds, the feelings touched by anguished is the grief. How could you know? Those who labor sing of their woes; those who are happy dance about their achievements. If one’s heart is pained and grieved inside, then words bitter and sad are aroused. Words in sequence become poetry; sounds in sequence become music. We blend the words and chant them, put together the words. The grieved heart is stored inside. When it encounters harmonious urther, does it blow differently through the ten thousand things but causes each to be itself?

In this above passage, Jikang explains that sound has no content in orgin, but when sound arouses heart, people insert their own emotion into it. Due to this, people’s emotions are differently affected by hearing the same music.

Historically it had been thought that not few people understood this Jikang’s refutation of the idea that specific sounds inspire specific emotions. Most, in fact, took his viewpoint for a misunderstanding. But we would do better to read Jikang’s view as follows: there is no constancy between emotion and sound and thus identical sounds produces varying emotions. Further, a subject’s emotional state plays an important role in appreciation of art and the aesthetic, asthetic feelings are taken to be spontaneous and different from person to person.

All of this is reduced to Jikang’s view about a certain kind of “uncertainty” in musical expression, an uncertainty which is in fact a defining characteristic of art. If music is partial and is determined to be fixed, simple and devoid of changes, then even if it can express certain special feelings, it cannot express various feelings and multiple thoughts.

II-D. Separation thesis: heart and sound are distinct

So far I have delineated the main characteristics of Jikang’s critique of the claim that sound has a fixed form. Next we will examine the proposition that heart and sound are different objects. This proposition is a necessary implication of the contention that “sound has in it neither sorrow nor joy.” Because sound is already unrelated to sorrow or joy, and because sorrow and joy are just what our hearts are meant to feel, it follows that heart (xin) and sound are two different objects. Hypothetically speaking, if heart and sound is correlated to each other, namely sorrow and joy of heart are expressed in their corresponding counterpart in sound, it does not follow that Jikang’s claim of nonemotinal nature of sound proves to be a success. Hence, to shore up the claim that sound has in it neither sorrow nor joy, he should draw the logical conclusion that heart and sound are two different things.

Following Jikang’s assertion, it is fair to say that the sound of music will move a human heart in certain ways. Feelings or emotions of human beings are formed by words of music, thus making a clear distinction between sound of music and human emotion. Jikang refutes the Confucianist assertion that sound has in it sorrow or joy. In music, sound is an external expression thereof and feelings constitute its internal content, but they do not have constant correspondence. It is like “making sound by stimulating breath hard and making an old wind instrument produce sound by filling it with breath.” In other words, the sound of music carries natural and therefore objective responses. The following passage provides rich insights in conformity with this line of thought:

That the good or evil of the sound of a cry does not come from the good or bad fortune of the baby’s mouth is just like the fact that the turbidness and limpidity in the sound of a lute or zither does not lie in the skill or clumsiness of the player. That the mind can distinguish principles and carry on skilled conversation but still cannot make a flute play smoothly, is just like the fact that a musician can be skilled in rhythms but cannot make his instrument sing pure and clear. An instrument is good with no dependence on the refined musician; the flute is harmonious but not because of the intelligent mind. This being so, then heart and music are clearly two separate things. Since the two are truly this way, then one who is seeking to know someone else’s feelings does not spend time observing his appearance and form, and examining the mind does not rely on listening to sounds and tones.

Jikang takes music as one form of “qi” and thus assumes that it distinguishes sound as natural sound and sorrow and joy as the subjective feelings or emotions in human hearts. Given this, sound of nature and human heart are clearly two separate things.

His basic argument that heart and sound are separate things is as follows: Taste is composed of bitterness and sweetness whereas humans have both stupidity and perspicacity. Sweet taste makes people happy while bitterness makes people angry. Wise people others whereas stupid people hate others. Yet, happiness and anger lie within me, sweetness and bitterness lie in taste, and love and hatred stems from me while perspicacity and stupidity come from without.

When one cannot call sweet taste “sweet,” call bitterness “bitter,” call wise people that he loves “wise,” nor call stupid ones “hateful people,” it is because external objects (sweetness, bitterness, perspicacity and stupidity) and internal human feelings (happiness, anger, love, and hatred) are different from each other. Moreover, it is because original sweetness, bitterness, perspicacity and stupidity attributed to external objects are distingushible from human beings’ subjective feeling or emotions such as happiness, anger, sorrow, and pleasure. Sorrow and pleasure are matters of human feelings and thus are not related to sounds. This implies the conclusion that name is separable from reality. In other words, naming of sorrow and pleasure is not related to actual sounds thereof. Jikang does not rule out that happiness and anger is caused by wine, love and hatred is engendered by how wise or stupid people are, and sorrow and pleasure are created by sounds. The issue at stake here is that because of this, tastes are called sweet or bitter, people are called loving people or hating people, and sound is differentiated into sorrowful sound or joyful sound.

Herein, human’s subjective emotional judgment of things is clearly different from objective natural world. According to Jikang, these two are clearly distinguished from one other. One of the startlingly rational aspect of Jikang’s thought lies in its emphasis on the distintion between two different judgments. As described above, “sweet taste,” “bitter taste,” “people to love” and “people to hate” are not correct terms because this distintion grasps dispositions of two different tastes such as “sweetness and bitterness.” This is also true of two different dispositions claimed by human beings such as “love and hatred.” This is caused by the confusion that mistakes subjective emotional judgment for judgment of objective characters of things. The sound of grief and the sound joy sound are normally used. But grief and joy do ultimately refer to human feelings and this does not mean that they depart from human emotional dimension and contain grief and joy on their own. Sound can express emotions of both grief and joy and thus it can be said that sound contains grief and joy. Yet, to be exact, sound only makes the expression of feelings or emotions possible. Sound itself does not contain either grief or joy. Jikang’s contribution lies in its attempt to distinguish between a person’s subjective emotional judgement of things and her judgment of the objective natures of things.

Concluding remarks

The contention that the sounds of music are based on the natural world and should be distingshed from human’s subjective feelings is the core of Jikang’s critique of the Confucianist theory of music. The Confucianist view is motivated by a theory of art which purports to make the intended value of a ruler via music a universal value of a whole society. The Confucianist belief that human feelings or emotions are attributable to subjective value judgments contained in nature’s sounds is a result of an illusion – an illusion based on the conflation of the natural world of things with the social order of human beings. The very simple belief that music is an expression of humanity entails an interpretation of music only in the context of social custom and thus fails to appreciate music as a harmonious form of beauty alone. Jikang refutes the magicalistic assumption that sound can predict a certain state of affairs. Based on a scientific knowledge of lulu that was used as the basic sound and measure criterion at the time, he criticizes the unscientificness of magicalism and political intentions embodied in it.

Further, he also refutes the claim that music reflects political virtue. Not only does he pinpoint the internal contradictions of Coufucianism on this issue, but he distinguishes the words of music from the meaning of music and thus acknowledges mutual autonomous principles between the two. He also broadens the gamut of music as a source of enjoyment and promotes the view that music can be interpreted in multiple ways. The claim that there is no corresponding relation between sound and feeling or emotion lends itself to a further assertion that sound carries an objective

”materialistic nature” which is separated from subjective emotions. This explains how one’s feelings can be aroused merely by listening to music. When human beings listen to sounds, sounds are a finely tuned body with no particular content. Sounds arouse the human heart by giving a person to insert his own subjective emotions. Jikang’s theory that music has in it neither sorrow nor joy has an ontological agenda: it purports to distinguish the sounds of nature from human heart. Thus it is demanded that listener should hear sounds as such according to his viewpoint. When people transcend the human emotions of grief and joy, a true sense of the beauty of the form of music will be reached.

Jikang, in his own theory of music, takes music as nature itself, and does not regard the origin of music as standing beyond the natural world. On the contrary he searches for the foundation of music’s existence within nature world. Essentially, through the medium of music properly understood and in unison with nature with other things, human beings experience the utmost joy of spiritual value, namely joy of no music (wuyue). In order to savor this joy and attain ultimate beauty, a judgment of value of right and wrong should be forgone. The view which so highlights a transcendent union with nature actually runs parallel to the Confucianism’s emphasis on ethical consciousness as something that encompasses aesthetic consciousness rooted in value judgments of right and wrong. Daoist music is separated from magicalism, historical facts, secular emotions and so forth and thus secures its own ontological sphere and remains a form of nature. When one hears music as such, aesthetic consciousness becomes feasible. The imortance of music is not placed under philosophy and politics but now claims its own sphere and comes to guarantee its own space. At this moment, value of music is no longer instrumentalized and thus takes on its own teleology and an independent set of standards.

Now music has to possess its own existential meaning as a harmonious sound of natural world in order to further its self-creation in the dynamism of nature. When human consciousness reveals the dynamics that are at the root of its own natural existence, it can fulfill its freedom and in so doing can be created. In the place where human nature and nature’s internal forces have a common ground and in communication with each, the human mind is spirited and elastic. As human beings come to enjoy this natural character and the nature in themselves, they become free and beautiful. The harmonious sound that reveals and draws upon the natural beauty of humans is musical art. The purpose of art is to break out of the bondage of the feelings and afflictions engendered by emotions and reach the unlimited freedom of the mind.

The significance of the proposition that artistic experience can help to produce the free mind lies in criticizing and doubting the boundary of existing values while at the same time elevating our minds to a broader horizon that is no longer encumbered by present limitations. Jikang logically criticizes the Confucianist premises that purport to incorporate the sounds of music whose nature is based in natural world into the Confucianist order. He thus abandons the political and instrumentalist function of musical art. He observes that one individual is internally connected with others, but he also envisions a new subject’s consciousness to be further developed spontaneously. True art has to make possible the creation of the consciousness of the free subject. No