Music and Musical Instruments in Chinese Paintings at the Ashmolean Museum

Music has taken many forms during China’s long cultural history and many traditions have endured to this day. Tales of heroes from the past are sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments or drums, the sound of the suona cymbals and gongs form a major part of the entertainment at weddings and funerals. Singing and instrumental music are essential accompaniments to the action in Peking Opera and other forms of sung drama and playing the guqin or other solo instrument associated with the scholar gentleman is done for contemplative reflection or as a means towards self-cultivation.

In this talk, Paul Bevan will look at a selection of the paintings in the Ashmolean collection that reflect China’s rich musical and theatrical heritage. The talk will be followed by a viewing of relevant material from the Ashmolean reserve collection in the Eastern Art Study Room.