The Arrangement as Souvenir

Against this background the dedications to the wives of the two most important emissaries of the British Embassy to China, Macartney and Staunton, become an important piece in this puzzle. Whereas most arrangements of Chinese songs from that period were made to educate and entertain Europeans from the comfort of their bourgeois salons, this song bears an additional function in its dedication: it serves as a souvenir to the specific musical memories associated with the short-lived British Embassy to China.

We know from various reports and diary entries in this well–documented episode that music played a major part in the cultural exchanges between the delegations, and we know that these songs were part of the soundscape the British emissaries encountered in this distant land. The fact that the book is dedicated to the wives underlines yet again the gendered function of these arrangements by firmly confining them to the domestic sphere with its feminine salons. In this way, once unpacked, this unassuming arrangement of "Jasmine Flower"—complete with its transformation from Mo Li Hua 茉莉花 to "Moo Lee Chwa"—reveals an important story from this early chapter in the relations between China and the West.

 

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