China in World History by S. A. M. Adshead (auth.)

By S. A. M. Adshead (auth.)

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It has been suggested that the dance is older than speech and that music is mankind's most primitive communications system. A comparison of different musical traditions is therefore a part of the history of civilizations. The first serious Western student of Chinese music was the China in Antiquity, 200 BC to 400 AD 43 French Jesuit Joseph Amiot, whose De la Musique des Chinois was published in Paris in 1780 inMemoires concernant les Chinois, Vol. VI. Amiot believed that the Chinese scale was based on the same principles as that of Pythagoras; he accepted the traditional very early date for its discovery in China, so he argued that the Western musical tradition was fundamentally derived from that of China.

The second field of intellectual exchange between East and West in antiquity was alchemy. Here one finds an illustration of the principle that individual ideas can detach themselves from their original systems and recombine with other systems. In antiquity and down to the seventeenth century, alchemy was more than a foredoomed, pre-chemical attempt to turn base metals into gold. It was a philosophy and technology of nature, in the East complete in itself, in the West part of a 44 China in World History wider metaphysic, Aristotelian, Christian or both.

49 The third exchange of ideas between East and West in antiquity, the transplantation of Buddhism from the Kushan empire to China, illustrates how a doctrine born in one milieu can take root in another and create afresh conditions for its propagation. Buddhism first came to China in strength in the second century. 168-188). Neither form was tailored to the Chinese situation, yet both were able to find footholds in it and it was the more alien of the two, Mahayana, which eventually triumphed and imposed its own problematik.

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