The Emperor’s Extractive Ears: Music, Empire, and Empiricism in Early Modern China


Luce/ACLS Early Career Fellowships in China Studies – Long-Term



Named Award

Long Term named award


This book follows a notorious reform to musical tuning implemented by the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing. Though it was promulgated in a treatise whose title, _Lülü zhengyi_ (1714), translates as "Orthodox Meaning of Music Theory," the reform defied all orthodoxies of Chinese music by dividing the octave fourteen-fold, instead of twelve-fold. The objective of the book is two-fold: to explain where this unprecedented tuning came, and why it mattered to the history of late-imperial China in a global comparative context. Part one of the book chases the origin of the tuning through new primary source discoveries. Part two uses the tuning and its extractivist epistemology of listening to shed new light on Qing-imperial ideology in comparison to contemporary Europe.