Reform and innovation toward the Western standards have been a perennial theme in the modern history of Chinese music. However, reformers can be easily overwhelmed by various details, to the point that the most fundamental question, What is Chinese music?, is often obscured. In a sense, we have to define the boundary of Chinese music to determine what new elements should be integrated and what traditional features should be preserved. Chinese music is a highly diverse and complex system, yet traditional Chinese culture emphasizes the importance of homogeneity over heterogeneity due to the constant need for political unity and demand of a single market. However, cultural identity cannot be constructed by homogeneity alone since the boundary of culture can only be best identified when examining its heterogeneity. Pipa and guqin, which represent Chinese musical cultures under significant and little Western influence, respectively, provide an ideal window through which the boundary of Chinese music might be delineated. By discussing the aesthetic pursuits and evolutionary paths that are distinct between the two instruments, the article aims to initiate a small step toward a better understanding of how Chinese music is indeed a highly complex and heterogeneous system in which various musical cultures, despite their distinct origins, can come into contact, interact, fuse, and eventually achieve the state of “unity in diversity.”

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