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I am very dissatisfied with the present condition of Chinese hymnology and church music, from both the foreign and the Chinese point of view. For while no satisfactory standard has been set up for our Chinese church music, many of the gems among foreign hymns have been terribly mauled by inadequate and literal translation. The whole question of church music needs to be approached by a capable body of musicians, Chinese and foreign, in order that we may have something worthy of Chinese genius and the ideals of the church.

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“Not satisfied with the present condition," but satisfied that progress is being made. In talking with Chinese Christians I find few who are inclined to depend on native talent for either hymns or music, expressing themselves to the effect that the Chinese mind is not yet sufficiently saturated with Christian thought to produce poetry worthy of the worship of God. Few indeed believe that Chinese music can be sung by the Chinese-eren Christians—to the glory of God. Chinese.


The hymns used in Chinese churches in different parts of China may be divided into two classes, viz., the colloquial and the literary. The colloquial hymnals are, as a whole, inadequate and unpolished to be used as Church Praise. They are considered by men of letters as something “ vulgar,” or better say "not polished.”

'not polished.” They are indeed the most inferior class of Chinese doggerels, and are only suited for illiterate Chinese. The Chinese at large look down upon those hymnals, and consequently they have the impression that the Christian religion is only for the ignorant Chinese.

While the literary hymnals that are used by many churches in this land are excellent in themselves, they are handicapped, in that they are not composed of pure Chinese compositions. They are what we style the “foreign-Chinese." They are, with but few exceptions, not good Chinese poems, although they may contain verses that rhyme pretty well. The average Chinese Christians do not read them because their knowledge of Chinese is not quite up to the mark; while the non-Christians find difficulty in understanding them because there are too many expressions having biblical references.

To serve as a medium for church worship, the hymnals ought to convey the idea of God to men and vice versa. While recommending simplicity and universality for church hymns we must not overlook the fact that for Divine worship only the best Chinese is to be used.

As regarding church music at the present time, we have enough for common use. We should look forward for a more complete and more classical collection containing anthems, oratorios, etc.

2. The present condition of church music and Chinese hymnology is better than none, but certainly leaves a wide gap for improvement.

3. No.

4. Although music culture is deplorably lacking among our people, yet we can still enjoy decent music and be in turn moved by it. Christian music plays a big part in our Christian life. We love the hymns and chants that have been handed over to us (translated) as it were by our elder brothers in Christ. But it seems to many of us that there is no necessity of what may be expressed as dividing the rich property of church music among churches of different denominations, thus making everyone the pooror. The whole of existing hymns in China should be held as common property and no restrictions be put in their wise use on whatever occasions, i.e., a common hymnal.

5. Admittedly I am very dissatisfied with the present condition of Chinese hymnology and church music as used in the Chinese church.

6. No.

7. Yes. There is something sublime in the old church music.

8. Yes. Because Chinese music is not suitable for Chris

tian songs.

9. As a Chinese Christian I am fairly satisfied with the church music, but I think Chinese hymnology should be improved both in thought and style from the Chinese point of view.

QUESTION II. Do you believe that the present method of trusting to the

translation of foreign hyinns for church service and the use of Western tunes is a good one? What improvements and new methods would you suggest?


ANSWERS. Foreign.

(Hymns.) In the West the popularity of a hymn depends largely, very largely, on its tune. This is lamentable but true, I think, beyond all doubt. The result has been that several hymus-quite half of those with which I am familiar in Chinese form-have been translated, not for any merit of their own, but because they were popular at liome and had a place in the home hymnbook by virtue of their tune. The type of hymn most needed in China is that which combines worship and sound teaching, such as We give immortal priase." This is admirable, but we have too few like it.

(Tunes.) Too little attention has been paid to the quality of the music. Too much to the popularity of the tune in a country and among people who knew little and cared less what the quality of their music was. The result has been the introduction to China of a number of bad tunes, with some sort of catchy air, which has already done much to debase the standard expected by our Chinese Christians. But it is not too late to remedy this if we would only realize that we want tunes which God will care to hear instead of simply those which we care to sing.

Methods : (a) of translation. We want much more freedom ; many of our hymns have been translated by men who have no idea of translation and have never been trained in it. If Greek and Latin verses were translated on the same principles of dog-literalism, scholarship would fare badly. 16) Of musical editing. The Chinese are already, as somewhat debauched in this matter, and therefore we must not be guided simply by what they like best. But on the other hand we are equally bad as a rule. And some of our favourites inspire a wholesome dislike in thein, which it is well for us to discover. But the main principle should be that which I have already enunciated. Tunes must be reverent, whatever else they may be.

b. Translation of Western hyinns seems the only plan available on a large scale, good native hymns—and indeed native hymns of any kind-being at present by no means numerous. Doubtless Western tunes in all their variety and beauty are what we should aim at, but the step from the untempered and pentatonic native scale is too abrupt and difficult, and long training seems necessary to secure fairly good

I say,

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results, save when the little children can be systematically taught.

At the outset it would seem to be impossible to use any other or better method for the preparation of hymns than that of translation. But a good deal of judgment ought to be exercised in the choice of the hymns to be translated. The transliteration of such plırases as “Pisgah's Mount,' 'Beulah Land ,' 'Immanuel's Land,' and other examples which might be only too freely given, detracts from the intelligent use of inany hymns in our present collections. In our Western hymnbooks inany of the finest hymns we possess are the heritage of the church, and I could wish that a greater use had been made of the fine old liturgical hymns handed down from the Fathers and of the classical songs of the church, both Catholic and Reforined.

Concerning the use of Western tunes, except on the part of a few who have studied the subject, probably the vast body of missionary workers have no option but to use tunes already in existence. The necessary use of a tune which we in the West have associated with a certain hymn is not a good practice since the act of translation may, and usually does, change the place of emphasis, and so destroy the efficacy of the tune which fits a hymn admirably in its Western dress. The constant use of jig tunes, such as are too frequently heard in Christian churches to-day, must be very distasteful to thoughtful Chinese who have a worshipful sense of reverence. I think greater encouragement should be given to such Chinese as have musical ability to assist in solving the problem of hymnology for the Christian church.

d. No, except as a temporary expedient. Our foreign hymns, even though imperfectly translated, will hardly be replaced for some time to come, and I fear it will be a long time before Western tunes can be supplanted by Chinese ones. The Christian poet and musician for China is yet to be born. Until then we must wait and do the best with what we have. For use in schools of the higher grades our Western music and Western hymns seem to be appreciable and appreciated. But for the common run of Christians we need something better adapted to the wants of the people.

For the present I heartily endorse the translation of foreign hymns and the use of Western tunes. I believe it


ought to be a part of the work of the church everywhere to teach the men and women of the congregation to sing. It is one way of inculcating a sense of reverence which we greatly lack in our church services. In all social church gatherings, singing, it seems to me, should be a real feature for the definite purpose of 'teaching how to do it’ and for introducing new tunes.




The translation of foreign hymns so far has served for the purpose of Divine worship in all the churches. But most of the translations could be improved by employing a better method. It should not be done in a word by word, or even sentence hy sentence, system for translation if it could be helped. The style should be pure Chinese and free translations should be made, that is, the composer should get hold of the subject and the spirit of the poems, and while not introducing anything inappropriate, he is allowed with freedom to compose them in a pure Chinese style. The use of Western tunes is all right according to my view.

Trusting to translators for the translation of foreign hymns gives but little satisfaction, as there are very few, if not none, who know the gems of music ; besides, the wording does not follow or give expression to the phrasing of the tunes. I do not like to see the adoption of other tunes in place of the Western tunes, as the latter were not prepared by men seeking selfishness. How many Chinese tunes have been composed by real, earnest, self-denying Christians with the aid of the Holy Spirit ? Chinese tunes of the Yu dynasty may be of some good, but nowadays Chinese tunes are not those of the Yu dynasty, but have been composed by low class people and are not suitable for singing in decent families. Chinese music of the present day, which has a great tendency to influence people to evil thoughts, is not played in respectable places.

3. I believe that the use of Western tunes is necessary, as the Chinese airs are too light for church music. Their associations carry no solemnity with them. There is no reason, however, to translate the foreign hymns, especially when we find such grotesque productions as *# *# * for “Sweet Bye and Bye.” Why not get some Chinese scholars to compose original Chinese hymns which can be set to music by a musician ?

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