The luxurious frontispiece, in the style of the time, shows an array of Chinese instruments, arranged in a landscape and framed by ornaments that appear to grow out of the setting itself. Flowers and leafy plants mark the bottom end of the oval frame, while two branches continue the lines on both sides to join again at the top. Two types of zithers–a guqin 古琴 on the left and a guzheng 古箏 on the right–in the foreground are leaning against the trees; by assuming a curious and impossible perspective, which is at once in front of and behind the trees. These instruments extend the view beyond the frame and guide the viewer inside the musical pleasure garden. On the inside are displayed more instruments, a set of panpipes (paixiao 排簫) and a set of iron bells (bianzhong 編鐘). In the background, partly occluded by the guzheng, we see a small pagoda embellished with bells, underlining the Eastern provenance of these instruments. The entire upper half of the framed space is dedicated to the extensive title, in a lavish and richly decorated array of typesets, mostly English cursive in prominent position. Despite the license the artist took with perspective, the images of the instruments themselves are scrupulously represented and clearly serve a purpose that is educational, evocative, and edificatory.

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Find out more about:

Chinese Instruments in the History of Chinese Music (Chi-Sun Chan / Shin-Yi Yang)

Music in China (Meredith Schweig)

Travel to China


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