A Lacklustre Approach?

Another claim that we do not agree with is Needham-Robinson's assertion that 'the Chinese did not become involved in the complications of the Greek semitones'.

Needham and Robinson has based their assertion based on the observation of the Pentatonic scale whereby obviously there won't be any semitones. They have compared the Chinese Pentatonic scale with the Pythagorean scale.

Recall that the Chinese Pentatonic Scale consist of the five notes : Five notes
Taking the ratios between each of the notes, we end up with 3 ratios of 8/9 and 2 ratios of 27/32. The ratio of 8/9 corresponds to the ratio of a whole tone (exactly like that of the Pythagorean scale) while 27/32 corresponds to a minor third in modern music. (Try it for yourself! Assign 81 to the fundamental note, generate the other four notes. Rearrage the notes and try dividing the resultant quotients!)

Dr Chen Ching-Yih has refuted however that rather than building a scale of 5 tones and 2 semitones, choosing to build one out of 3 whole tones and 2 minor thirds reflect mainly a matter of preference.

In fact, we could have well looked at the the 2 minor thirds as semitones. Further testimony to the contradiction of the claim is found in the scale generated by the Lu-Shi Chun-Qiu method. It was explained here that the scale is made up of 5 major semi tones and 7 minor semi tones. How then can the claim that the Chinese did not tinker with semitones be true?

A quick recap, the octaval circle of the Lu-Shi Chun-Qiu scale is given below. Note that the ratios between two notes are made of one of only two possible semi tones.

Lu-Shi Chun-Qiu Scale

Similiarities and differences between the modern scales and the early Chinese one are far and varied. It would take a substantial effort to explain and go through all of them. We thus chose only those with a basis in mathematics to bring up in this project.

We would however like to bring out that the early Chinese scales have not been help in high regard by a lot of historians and musicians alike. However, looking at the scales that we have presented so far, we feel that it is unfair to agree with such.

The Chinese have built a fabulously elegant mathematical procedure of generating the scales and they have showed proficiency in most aspects of acoustics which is out of the scope of the project. Bearing also in mind the level of techonological advancement of the human civilisation at that time, the achievements of the Chinese are by no means little.

That the Chinese have a lacklustre approach to music? ....