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Circulation that Had Its Price: Roussier and His Role as an Early Recipient and Disseminator of Amiot’s Knowledge about Chinese Music

Xuan Fang (方璇), Dorothee Schaab-Hanke

Pages 159 - 186


The Jesuit Joseph-Marie Amiot was the first to provide the European public with knowledge about Chinese music that surpassed by far all that had been known about Chinese music there before. However, a draft translation of a Chinese text on musical theory dating to the Qing dynasty that he had sent to Paris early in the 1750s seems to have gone through several hands without Amiot himself having received any feedback for many years. A book published by Pierre-Joseph Roussier in 1770, sent to him by the French king’s librarian, alerted Amiot to the fact that information drawn from his manuscript had been circulated, partly in a distorted manner and without mentioning him as the translator, among members of European academia. Several years later, Roussier was entrusted with editing Amiot’s Mémoire de la musique des Chinois as the sixth volume of the Mémoires concernant l’historie, les sciences, les art, les moeurs, les usages et c. des chinois, a work Amiot had spent more than twenty years preparing. At the focus of this study is the question of what role Roussier had played in receiving and transmitting knowledge on Chinese music provided by Amiot and how this role was perceived by Amiot himself and other early recipients of Roussier’s edition of Amiot’s text.


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