Scholar: 'The History, Significance of Music Textbooks at Tengchow College'

A historical picture of Tengchow College in Yantai, Shandong.
A historical picture of Tengchow College in Yantai, Shandong.
By Christine Lau November 1st, 2021

A scholar said that a musical acoustics textbook compiled by a western missionary contributed to modern Chinese music education. 

In the academic symposium themed “Individuals, Organizations, and Cultures Spanning across China and the West” held by the Shanghai Society of History and the history faculty of Shanghai University on September 25, Teacher Guo Dengjie from Shanghai Conservatory of Music shared his presentation on the topic of "Historical Investigation of the Musical Acoustics Course and the Textbook The Essentials of Acoustics at Tengchow College".

“Music majors must understand musical acoustics and related knowledge.” Teacher Guo said, “Wherever Christianity reaches, there will be hymns. Especially in the process of the evolution and development of Chinese hymns, it had an important impact on the category and content construction of modern Chinese music education.”

He then made a historical investigation of the musical acoustics course of Tengchow College. In 1876, Tengchow College, formerly known as Tengchow Boy's High School opened a course in musical acoustics, and in 1894, it published a textbook called "The Essentials of Acoustics" translated by Watson McMillen Hayes, a missionary to China with the Presbyterian Church of North America (PCNA). Although this book is not the first translation about acoustics, it is the first textbook to introduce the western modern acoustic theory of music into China. Its formation also reflected a kind of localization strategy, which objectively stimulated the enlightenment of scientific thoughts and professional development of modern Chinese music education.

Guo said that the compilation of the teaching material was not the individual behavior of a missionary, but was organized by a team, which effectively helped spread the knowledge of musicology. These textbooks were edited in accordance with the reading habits of Chinese people. They were translated in combination with things familiar to Chinese people, and the names and places unfamiliar to Chinese people were omitted. The pictures were also changed to some extent. This textbook has influenced the teaching system of separate subjects and has promoted the popularization of knowledge about musical acoustics.

- Translated by Stephen Huang

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