Music in Social and Artistic Context

Women Qin Players

Authored by: Mingmei Yip

The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture

Print publication date:  September  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415629256
eBook ISBN: 9780203629987
Adobe ISBN: 9781135956462

10.4324/9780203629987.ch34

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Abstract

Among the cultured elite of China, the qin was considered the most refined form of music, which should be played only by classically educated scholars. It was one of the four literati arts, the others being the board game of qi , or weiqi (Go in Japanese); shu , meaning calligraphy or books; and hua , meaning painting. Although the four arts were supposedly reserved for men, there are many instances in which gentlewomen excelled at them. The freedom of women to pursue these arts, as well as other forms of learning and artistic activity, depended on social factors such as class, wealth, family background, tradition, and historical period, as well as the obvious individual factors including talent and personality. However, while some gentlewomen were free to develop their artistic talents, the qin was also played by women of lower social status—especially prostitutes and actresses—despite the disapproval of the literati because of the supposed lofty nature of the qin. In this article, I will discuss women's relationship with the qin and also their position in the male-dominated qin culture. I will consider women qin players according to five categories: gentlewomen, court ladies, prostitutes, nuns, and legendary figures.

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