Coronation Hymn of Shun

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子在齊聞韶,三月不知肉味,曰:「不圖為樂之至於斯也。」
When Confucius was in Qi, he heard the Coronation Hymn of Shun. For three months, he forgot the taste of meat. He said: “I never imagined that music could reach such heights as this.”

Confucius didn’t just love music for its aesthetic beauty, but also saw it as the ultimate embodiment of cultural sophistication and civilization.

Naturally, the music had to be the “right sort” to attain Confucius’s approval. While he was a passionate fan of the Coronation Hymn of Shun, which was believed by some to have been written by the legendary sage king of the same name (舜/ shùn)from the 23rd century BC, he castigates the suggestive melodies of Zeng for corrupting the classical music of the court in Chapter XVIII of Book 17 of the Analects.

In the eyes of Confucius, music needed to have a healthy didactic dimension; it wasn’t for mere entertainment or, even worse, titillation.

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