Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

Rereading and Re-contextualizing Wu Li's "Songs to the Holy Mother" from Tianyue Zhengyin Pu

Author:HONG Lixing, Assistant Research Fellow, Fu Jen Academia Catholica, Fu Jen Catholic University



Sacred music was introduced to the Chinese during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties when missionaries used it as a tool in evangelization. With the adaptation of Christian liturgy to Chinese culture, the reconfiguration and development of sacred music has always been pivotal to cultural exchanges between China and the western world, and thus has received considerable attention. The Jesuit priest WU Li (WU Yushan, 1632-1718) was one of the first Chinese literati to be ordained as a Catholic priest. He was especially proficient at indoctrinating Catholic beliefs through conventional Chinese poetic and musical forms. His Tianyue Zhengyin Pu, an original verse work set to contemporary music, is a forerunner to the inculturation of sacred music. In the 1950s, historian Fr. FANG Hao and musicologist ZHENG Qian compiled and published the manuscript of Tianyue Zhengyin Pu, bringing the work of Wu Li back to life. It has not, however, received due critical attention in academic circles. Much misunderstanding about the nature of the work circulates in different studies, for example, describing the work as “a mass and hymns in the Chinese music style.” Through an analysis of “Songs to the Holy Mother,” this paper aims to contextualize Tianyue Zhengyin Pu not only in its literary and musical backgrounds, but also in terms of the development of Catholic liturgy in China in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is hoped that new interpretation of this significant work can shed light on the development of early Chinese sacred music.



sacred music, WU Li, Tianyue Zhengyin Pu, inculturation, qupai


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