Chou Wen-Chung



  • Ch’i (Qi)

    The vitalizing force in nature. Following Ching Hao’s interpretation, we might also say that ch’i, in this case, means oneness between the composer and how his musical instruments are to be played. (Asian Esthetics [sic] and World Music)

  • Ch’u diao (Qu diao)

    Chinese melodic pattern (Towards a Re-Merger in Music)

  • Confucian concept of music

    One must investigate sound to know tones, investigate tones to know music.” And that “without the knowledge of sound… one cannot speak of music.” —Yueh Chi (Single Tones as Musical Entities)

    Music is “born of emotion“; tones are the “substance of music“; melody and rhythm are the “appearance of tones.“ Greatness of music lies not in “perfection of artistry“ but in attainment of “spiritual power inherent in nature.“ —Li Chi (Towards a Re-Merger in Music)

  • Deviation in tonal characteristics

    “…In the East the so-called ‘deviations’ are as much an integral part of music as the tone characteristics, and are assigned as much a structural function as an expressive one.” (Single Tones as Musical Entities)

  • Di wen

    The environmental and ecological. Di means earth or the environment, and Wen means the arts, knowledge or order. (Wenren and Culture)

  • Jicheng fazhan

    Continue and develop. (Wenren and Culture)

  • Kua (Gua)

    Each of these images (kua) is a trilinear arrangement of the two polar opposites, the yin and the yang, represented by a broken (- -) and an unbroken lines [sic] ( — ), respectively.


  • Merger or re-merger

    As it relates to musical heritage means “coming [sic] together, sharing each other’s heritage, complementing and revitalizing legacies. Considering the history of all the civilizations in the world, this actually means a re-merger, as some forms of merger have already taken place here and there. The Chinese musical culture, for example, was already a product of layers of mergers by the year 1500…” (Music — What Is Its Future?)

  • Mutable modes

    Eight pien, or mutable modes, each constantly mutating within itself, are constructed according to the concept of the eight images. These modes… are based upon three disjunct segments of the octave that are either unbroken (a minor third) or broken (a major and a minor second, i.e. the minor third interpolated with a pien-tone)… In other words, each segment in the ascending order is reflected in mutation in the descending order — the intervals being mutually complementary, the pitches being mutually exclusive. These modes, with similar coordination in duration and register, are woven into a fabric of the transitory and changing within a continuum of the timeless and unchanging — like the shifting patterns in a steadily flowing current, for example. (Towards a Re-Merger in Music)

  • Pa yin (Bayin)

    Pa means “eight,” and yin means “tone-qualities.” Therefore the term stands for "eight timbres," which are given as metal, stone, earth, skin, etc., each being the crucial material used in the instrument in question. (Asian Esthetics and World Music)

  • Pien (bian) tone

    Pien means change or transform. In music, it refers specifically to the interpolation of a minor third with a semitone below the upper tone. This interpolated tone is called a pien tone. (Towards a Re-Merger in Music)

  • P’u (Pu)

    See “Tzu jan p’u wu wei”

  • Re-merger

    “I personally believe that traditions of Eastern and Western music once shared the same sources and that, after a thousand years of divergence, they are now merging to form the mainstream of a new musical tradition.” (East and West, Old and New) See “merger or re-merger.”

  • Renwen

    Arts of humanity. Ren means people or human nature, and wen means the arts, knowledge or order. (from Wenren and Culture)


  • San lai (Sanlai)

    Found in Chung Tzu, refers to the music of heaven, of earth, and of man, that symbolizes the harmony between man and the universe. (Asian Esthetics and World Music)

  • Shan Tao

    An aesthetic expression that is widely used in literature, visual arts, and music — particularly the music for qin, the zither, which greatly influences my musical thoughts. Shan means mountain; tao means “powerful waves.”

  • Sheng

    See “Yin, yueh (yue), sheng.”

  • Single tone or aggregate of tones

    Is a musical entity in itself and a living spark of expression as long as it lasts. It is therefore… rendered meaningful by [its] acoustic attributes. (Single Tones as Musical Entities)

  • Single tones

    “One must investigate sound to know tones, investigate tones to know music.” And that “without the knowledge of sound… one cannot speak of music.” —Yueh Chi (Single Tones as Musical Entities)

  • Tao (Dao)

    The Way; nature or the universe. “He who links himself with Tao and Te is ‘using things as things, but not being used by things as things’.” —Chuang Tzu (Asian Esthetics and World Music)

  • Te (De)

    The natural power that is inherent in any individual thing and in the universe as a whole (from East and West, Old and New). As expressed in Confucianist writing, e.g., Yueh chi, te also means spiritual cultivation. (Asian Esthetics and World Music)

  • Terseness in art

    See “Tzu jan p’u wu wei.”

  • Ti sheng (Disheng)

    In music for the ch’in, …the sound of the earth, is represented by the open strings, while the sound of heaven, tien sheng (tiansheng), is represented by the harmonics, thus leaving all the stopped notes to represent the sound of man, jen sheng (rensheng). (Asian Esthetics and World Music)

  • Tienwen

    The spiritual and the philosophical. Tien means heaven or the universe, and wen means the arts, knowledge or order. (Wenren and Culture)

  • Tonal brushwork

    The changing mood and the emotional content of the work are thus projected by means of a tonal brushwork extending over the entire orchestral spectrum. (Program note to And The Fallen Petals)

  • Tones

    “Tones are the image (i.e. the substance) of music, and melody and rhythm the ornament (i.e. the appearance) of tones.” (East and West, Old and New) Ts’ao shu (Caoshu)

  • Ts’ao shu (Caoshu)

    Cursive calligraphy. “…the musical qualities of ts’ao shu are undeniable. …in particular its supreme sense of rhythm, …the fluidity in its movement, …the play between deliberateness and swiftness, and the constant expansion and contraction in the relationship between ink and space. All of these qualities… are what make this uniquely Asian art so representative of all Asian graphic and performing arts. Like the Chinese language, it is at the root of Asian esthetics.” (Asian Esthetics and World Music)

  • Tzu jan p’u wu wei (ziran pu wu wei)

    These three terms as they relate to “terseness in art” means naturalness achieved by cultivation. "For example, in the case of hsieh i painting, i.e. the style of painting an idea in a cursive matter, there is great economy in the application of highly expressive brush strokes, often leaving a vast amount of space untouched by ink. Thus it is said that ‘the idea is present where ink is not,’ and ‘the idea arrives before the brush.’ Such an approach would be in accordance with… Taoist teachings: naturalness or spontaneity (tzu jan), simplicity (p’u — i.e. the original state without artificial contrivance), and non-action (wu wei), the avoidance of external activities." (Asian Esthetics and World Music)

  • Variable mode

    See “Mutable modes.”

  • Water image symmetry

    In both the Chinese and Western traditions, symmetry, in its various manifestations, has played an important role in shaping musical compositions… Chou’s concept of symmetry is based on “water-image” where the object remains unchanged; however, images reflected in water are [transformed] as a result of the refraction of light. (“An Introduction to Chou Wen-chung’s Water Image Symmetry;” see section on Music and Theory).

  • Wenhua

    In modern times, wenhua is commonly used to refer to culture, but it originally meant “education through the arts“ (Wenren and Culture). Wen tzu yi wu sheng …po tzu yi pa yin (wenzhi yi wusheng …bozhi yi bayin): "Organized according to the five classes of scale-tones… distributed according to the eight classes of timbres" —Chou Li. This concept, that a composition is organized according to proper choice of scale-tones and instruments of specific timbre, and therefore a musical tone is defined not only by its pitch but also by its timbre, is… a fundamental one in Chinese music and has long characterized all East Asian music… (Asian Esthetics and World Music).

  • Wenren

    A person with ultimate knowledge of the arts. (Wenren and Culture)

  • Wu wei

    See “Tzu jan p’u wu wei.”

  • Yin, yueh (yue), sheng

    All three may mean music. Yueh refers specifically to music of the highest order while yin is used for music in general, sometimes that of an inferior nature. Yin and sheng may mean sound, but sheng refers to sound in general while yin implies "musical tone" that is defined in terms of its two primary acoustic properties, i.e. pitch and timbre. (Asian Esthetics and World Music)

  • Yueh (Yue)

    See “yin, yueh (yue), sheng.”

  • Yün

    “Yün is based on the Chinese philosophic concept of art as the moment when ‘the universe and the individual merge as one’ (tien jen he yi). That is when macrocosm and microcosm resonate in sympathy. …[It] is taken from the expression ch’i yün, the foremost principle in Chinese art, which means reverberation (yün) of the revitalizing force in nature (ch’i)” (program note to Yün).

  • Zhaohun

    Refers to a millennia old poetic form, meaning literally “calling for the spirit of the deceased.”

Site Credits

Spiralis Music Trust

Design — Concentric, Development — Igicom

Kimberly M. Wang, Eardog Productions, the Spiralis Music Trust and public domain.