The Music Teacher: The Professionalization Of Singing And The Development Of Erotic Vocal Style During Late Ming China

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Harvard Journal Of Asiatic Studies


I focus on the professional singing teacher as a new social identity during the late Ming, particularly their social transformation from anonymous grifters to meaningful names in the elite singing culture of kunqu. A close, intertextual reading of different versions of Wei Liangfu’s (fl. 16th century) singing thesis, Nanci yinzheng—combined with historical, fictional, dramatic, and poetic accounts of musical performance given by professional singing masters and their courtesan students—reveals how the professionalization of teaching music resulted in the low rate of musical literacy among commoner-singers and the renowned erotic vocal style of the late Ming. In this process, moral critique, sensual pleasure, and technical criticism were more closely intertwined than has been generally believed.


vocal history, vocal art, pedagogy, music eroticism, music connoisseurship, voice, kunqu 崑曲, Suzhou 蘇州

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