Having traveled back and forth between the United States and China so many times in my life, I never thought that I would make my home for more than 30 years-just two blocks away from where I was born, the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. That was April 20th, 1922. At that time Father was a young instructor at Harvard teaching philosophy and Chinese. I was given the name Rulan, which means "like an Orchid" and also because the word lan is part of Mother's childhood name. At home, and among family friends I am also called "Iris" because as I was told, my parents were inspired by the blossoms they saw in the Botanical Garden which was located near the campus in those days. When I was two, and my sister Nova was one, my parents took us to Paris. Since they had to travel to various places in Europe before going back to China, they left us with a French family for ten months. I was told that Nova and I spoke French when we first arrived in Peking.
Life with our parents was not always easy. But it was full of excitement and fun. Father's work, in research, field work, and in teaching, took him to various parts of China and several times to the United States. In China, besides the Tsing Hua University campus and inside Peking City, we had made our home in Shanghai, Nanking, and during the Sino-Japanese war, we escaped to Changsha, and then to Kunming Thus the whole family (my parents, myself and my three younger sisters) was constantly on the move. While there was a strong bond within the family, we frequently had to face adjustments to a new environment outside. This was at times difficult for me and my sisters when it involved language changes at school, back and forth between English and Chinese. (The French was long forgotten.) Before I came to Radcliffe as a sophomore, I had altogether gone to six different schools in China, and five different schools in the United States.
Both my parents had strong personalities, and both had lived exciting lives even before they met each other. Although they have already written and published accounts of their lives themselves, I shall briefly summarize them here. My father, Yuen Ren Chao (1892-1982) was a native of Jiangsu Province. At 17 he went to the United States on a Tsing Hua Fellowship and studied at Cornell (B.A. in Mathematics, 1914) and at Harvard (Ph.D. in Philosophy, 1918). But at Cornell he also studied physics, and at both schools he spent much time studying music, and also began to take some courses in linguistics, which was a new field at the time. By profession Father was mainly a linguist. After teaching briefly at Tsing Hua University he became a permanent Research Fellow of the Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica, and had done much field work on Chinese dialects. Nevertheless, in China he was probably better known as a composer. Some of his songs, published in his Shin Shy Ge Jyi (Songs With New Lyrics) (1928), have remained popular to this day. While at Cornell Father took piano lessons from the wife of his mathematics professor, and sometimes baby-sat for them. That baby was Raphael Hillyer, who later became the violist of the original Julliard String Quartet. At Harvard Father took music courses under W.E. Spalding and E.B. Hill. He also studied with Archibald Davison and Edward Ballantine, who at that time were both young instructors. By the time I took their courses, they were senior professors in the Music Department soon to retire. From 1938 to 1941, Father taught briefly at the University of Hawaii and at Yale University. From 1941 he taught at Harvard and worked on a dictionary project sponsored by the Harvard-Yenching Institute. In 1948 he became Agassiz Professor of East Asian Languages at the University of California, Berkeley, and held this post until his retirement in 1960. After his retirement he continued to live in Berkeley with Mother, and wrote and published.
My mother, Buwei Yang (1889-1981) was a native of Anhuei Province. A very dynamic person, she served briefly at the age of 20 as the principal of a school, in charge of 500 adult women students. Later she went to Japan to study medicine. When she came back, together with another Chinese woman doctor, they opened their own hospital in Peking. That was before she met and married Father. While living and traveling with Father, she was constantly involved in various kinds of social work and relief projects. She was one of the earliest promoters of birth control in China.
My sisters and I often met people who knew about our parents and what they were up to at the moment, better than we did. One embarrassing incident happened to me when I was being interviewed during an entrance examination at a high school in Nanking. The interviewer asked me about my parents. When I told him my father's name he looked impressed. Then with a mischievous smile he asked me, "Do you know where your father is at this moment?" This was actually not a simple question. It happened that a few days previously, when I was more preoccupied with the coming entrance examination, Father had departed on one of his linguistic field trips, and (as I learned later) it was in the papers. But at that moment I only knew that he was out of town. I could only answer meekly, "I don't know." Thereupon the interviewer turned to one of his colleagues sitting nearby and said loudly, "Chao Yuen Ren has gone to Huei-jou to investigate the dialect there." I guess he was trying to impress both his colleague and me. There could have been many reasons for which I failed my entrance examination. Whether or not this was one of them, I never knew.
Partly because of our frequent moves my sisters and I seldom had the chance to take formal piano lessons. Besides, my parents really could not afford it. Some of my parents' friends did offer to teach me piano while I was still quite young, for example, Mrs. Her Lin I at Tsing Hua, and Mrs. Doong Wang Ruey Shyan in Shanghai. (A close friend of my parents, Mrs. Doong was one of the earliest Chinese students to study at the New England Conservatory. Her grandson, Yung Shen, was my colleague in the Music Department at Harvard for a while.) However, each time my piano lessons lasted only a short while. The last time I took some formal lessons on the piano was at Longy School of Music, under David Bacon. By that time, I was studying at Radcliffe and assisting in some Chinese language courses at Harvard, so I was finally earning some money of my own.
Father always tried to keep a piano at home, except when we were in Changsha and Kunming during the war years. My sister Nova and I learned to read music from a fairly young age, and we played the piano for our own amazement-as Father often liked to put it. When I became a little more proficient, I often played simple duets with Father. We sang a lot from early childhood, either with Father accompanying us on the piano, or more often, singing a cappella with him in two or three parts. Schubert was one of Father's favorites. But for the part singing most of the pieces were Father's own compositions or arrangements. He used to carry a small note book with him. Inside were songs with all the parts written clearly for us to read. Whenever we were free either at home or outdoors, Father would take the booklet out and practice with us. I remember once while waiting for a piece of registered mail at the post office in Peking, the three of us sat on a bench and practiced with the little booklet. When my two younger sisters, Lensey and Bella, were old enough to join us, Father wrote some more complicated vocal pieces for us. During our trip to the United States, we often sang together while Father was driving on the long highways. In retrospect, I can tell that Father did care very much about our musical education, although sometimes he made it look as if he was just having fun. He rarely lectured at us. When he wanted us to learn something he often used very subtle ways to tell us so, like leaving on the piano a newly bought music score. Usually we learned to play a new piece on our own. Only when we repeatedly played some wrong notes would he appear and correct us, saying as few words as possible.
Some details of our life at Tsing Hua University where Father was teaching (around 1925-1929) are still vivid in my memory Our house, which still stands today, was at the South Compound, a part of the university faculty residential area. The Mei Yi Chyi's and the Hao Geng Sheng's were our close neighbors. Mei, whose son and daughters played with us a lot, later became the president of Tsing Hua University for many years. Hao was a specialist in Physical Education.
The famous scholar Wang Gwo Wei, who also lived nearby, used to go in and out of the South Compound in a rickshaw. Each time we saw him passing by we would whisper his nick name, 'Wang Sheau-biall (Pigtail Wang)!" because he refused to cut his old-fashioned pigtail, which everybody else did, after the 1911 Revolution. One day we heard the news of his drowning in a nearby lake, and Mother was summoned to the scene in an attempt to save him, but it was too late. I remember Mother describing the sad scene afterwards. Almost sixty years later, I gave a lecture in Taipei. Afterwards an old gentleman came to me and asked, "Are you Iris-Nova?" The only time when people heard me and my sister being referred to in this way was in the Tsing Hua days in the 20s. Whenever we did something naughty together, or when my sister and I were summoned for whatever purpose, our father or mother would call out to us, "Iris- Nova!" It was done so often that the whole neighborhood knew us by this double name. It turned out that this old gentleman was Wang Gwo Wei's son, who must have known us in the Tsing Hua days. He is now in his 80s.
Another vivid scene: there was a railroad track located not far from the South Compound. It never bothered us until one night a car-load of ammunition caught fire and exploded. I remember being awakened in the middle of the night by the noise and looking out. The whole sky was bright red. The next morning we saw injured people being carried to the school infirmary. To return to some more pleasant memories: I remember when I was around six years old, I had quite a crush on a neighborhood boy who was a year older than I. I suppose I could consider him my first boyfriend. His name was Wang Yuan Huah. More than fifty years later, I met him again in Shanghai. He is now a well-known scholar and writer.
In our childhood my sisters and I were exposed mainly to Western classical music because of our father's interests. However, I did have some interesting encounters with certain kinds of Chinese traditional music. The earliest that I remember was a song called Sheau Bair Tsay (The Little Cabbage) which I literally learned from the street with my playmates in the neighborhood. It was a rather sad song about a child called Little Cabbage, who had lost his mother and was mistreated by his stepmother. It was said that some mothers in the neighborhood found the song inauspicious, so they objected to the children singing it. Although my mother did not forbid our singing it, she did comment on the fact that there were mothers who did not like it. The song is a simple tune of four lines, with the tune repeated again and again while telling the story. The lines are short, each with only four syllables. Overall it has a rather haunting quality. I also remember that in singing such 4-syllable lines we usually made a one-beat pause after each line, thus resulting in 5-beat measures constantly. This also seems to be a frequent way of reciting poems of 4-syllable lines in China. Much later, I learned that this was the reason Father had set the poem May Buh Yau (Selling Cloth), which is in 4-syllable lines, to a tune in 5/4 meter.
I member also learning a couple of songs from the family maid. One begins with the words, "Woo jia yeou geh panq wa wa (In our home we have a chubby baby)." It is actually a well-known tune for another text entitled Su Wuu Muh Yang (Su Wuu Herding His Sheep). The other is about the sad story of Menq Jiang Neu (The Lady Meng Jiang) whose husband was sent away to help build the Great Wall and never came back. Another song which Nova and I picked up around this time was a piece about a purple bamboo flute. I do not remember from where we learned this song, but we all liked it very much--including Father-and sang it often at home.
From 1929 to 1932 our family moved to Peking where the newly founded Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica was located. However, shortly before moving, my parents went to Canton on a linguistic field trip, and left me and my sister Nova in Shanghai under the care of our family nursemaid. That was the time when I took some piano lessons from Mrs. Doong Wang Ruey Shyan. Since we lived just a block away from her, I was free to come and go between the two apartments by myself. One evening, on my way back home after my piano lesson, I stopped by a candy shop and watched the store owner displaying some new decorations. A man in the crowd picked me up and said that he was going to buy me some candy, but I refused. As he walked away from the store carrying me in his arms, I struggled and said repeatedly that I wanted to go home. Finally he put me down and I ran back to our apartment. I never told anyone about the incident because I was afraid to be scolded for browsing in a candy shop by myself. I did not realize how serious the matter could have been until I was much older.
In Peking I went to Koong Der Grammar School. This was an eventful period both within our family and throughout the country. My two younger sisters were born: Lensey in 1929, and Bella in 1931. Shortly before Lensey was born, Father one day absent-mindedly walked off a moving trolley. He fell and broke his right arm. His arm was in a cast for so long that he learned to write quite competently with his left hand. About the same time Nova came down with pneumonia. One year later, I had scarlet fever. Fortunately we all recovered.
The big event in the country during this time was, of course, the Japanese invasion of Northeast China. One morning, while reading the newspapers Father said to us, 'Oh, oh, our friend Mr. Hao Geng Sheng is now in Japan!" meaning that the Japanese had occupied the City of Shenyang. That was the "Incident of September the Eighteenth." A week later many of our friends who escaped from Shenyang began to arrive in Peking. Our house, which was owned by the Academia Sinica, was an unusually large building. So we put up many of them temporarily. At one point there must have been at least 30 people in the house. They were sleeping in the living room, the study and the hallways. Cooking for them of course was a big task for Mother and the servants.
Another event happened toward the end of that year, which was unforgettable for me. Shyu Jyh Mo, the well-known modern-day Chinese poet, who was a close friend of my parents, often came to play Mahjong with them. Besides his poetic and dramatic works, Shyu was also the author of the poem Hae Yunn (The Sea Rhyme) which Father had set as a fairly large-scale choral composition, and which has been sung often by Chinese choruses. The evening just before Shyu left for Shanghai, he was at our house. While the grown-ups were playing Mahjong, I was browsing in my father's study and discovered a copy of a Chinese translation of Peter Pan. I started to read it while sitting on top of Father's desk. Then Shyu came into the study. He hugged me and said repeatedly, "My little friend, I am going away tomorrow. Will you miss me?" I was so engrossed in the book that I only found him bothersome. I nudged him until he left the room. The next evening, a phone-call came which told Father that Shyu had been killed in an airplane accident.
During the days when I was at Koong Der Grammar School in Peking, there were some musical plays designed for young people, which were very popular among my friends and classmates. I too learned to sing and acted out some of these plays with them. For example, there were: Ma Chiueh Yeu Sheau Hair (The Sparrow and the Little Boy), Sheau Sheau Huah Jia (The Little Painter), Pwu Taur Shian Tzyy (The Grape Fairy), Yueh Ming Jy Yeh (The Moonlit Night), etc. We spent so much time singing and acting out these plays to amuse our friends and ourselves that eventually the school authorities felt we were spending too much time away from our studies. So they issued an order forbidding us to sing these songs for quite a while. At least that was the reason given to us for banning these musical activities.
These musical plays, which were composed by the popular composer Li Jiin Huei (1892-1967), contain many adaptations of Chinese traditional and folk tunes. Sometimes even Western folk tunes were incorporated. Indeed it was from these children's musicals that I became acquainted with some outstanding Chinese traditional tunes such as Chaur Tian Tzyy (Approaching the Son of Heaven), Yin Neou Sy (The Silver Twisted Silk), etc. Some years later, I also discovered that the opening song in The Sparrow and The Little Boy was based upon an Irish tune called The Galway Piper.
During my childhood years in Peking, I had very little opportunity to come in contact with the Peking Opera. I only vaguely knew what it was. But one interesting incident remains vivid in my mind. That was around 1929, when Mei Lanfang was preparing to make his historic trip to the United States. One day he came to see Father, wanting to consult him on some questions about the Chinese language, in preparation for his talks during his trip. The servants in the house all got quite excited, and I heard them whispering to each other, "Mei Lanfang is coming! Mei Lanfang is coming!" Ordinarily when there were guests coming to our house, the servants would simply go about preparing tea and refreshments at Mother's orders. They would never bother who the guests were. This time, while I did not know who Mei Lanfang was, it impressed me deeply that the servants not only knew but cared so much about this particular guest.
In 1932 we went to the U.S. again for a year and half, where Father served as the Director of the Chinese Educational Mission in Washington DC. I was placed in the 4th grade at Oyster School, which was near Connecticut Ave, and later at Brightwood School when we moved to the northwest part of the city. At Brightwood our teacher taught us about many different cultures in the world. We learned to do an American Indian dance to the accompaniment of drums; we learned about the lives of the Vikings. Our teacher once wrote a poem about the Vikings:
I am a Viking bold,
In me you can behold,
Strength and true bravery. Etc, etc.
When I showed the poem to Father, he set it to music and later arranged it into three parts, which we sang often together at home.
The frequent visits of Chinese students to our home in Washington DC kept our lives pleasantly busy. Many became our lifelong friends. I remember the devastating Bank Holiday, when all banks were closed for many days in a stretch. When a student called Father on the phone on one of those days and said that he had no money left, Father responded: "Same here!" We saw Franklin D. Roosevelt's inauguration, and we saw the end of Prohibition.
During our trip to the U.S. that time , my sisters and I began to be exposed to a great deal of popular songs from the movies and occasional live stage shows. We learned to sing some of them ourselves even before we could speak English fluently. In fact (getting a little ahead in my story) during our years in Nanking later on, and also our subsequent sojourn in New Haven, we and our parents were always fond of going to such musical movies. Some of the songs that we continued to enjoy singing for many years were Stormy Weather, Lazy Bones, 42nd Street, Shuffle off to Buffalo, etc. Our favourite was Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.
Getting back to our Washington days in the early 30s, I never seemed to have much luck with my early piano lessons. The previous time in Shanghai, I was nearly kidnapped on my way back home from a piano lesson. This time in Washington, I again began to take piano lessons after school. The teacher gave lessons using the school pianos in the auditorium. One day as I was waiting for my turn, while another student was playing for the teacher, I became restless and started to jump from one chair to another in the auditorium. The chairs were steel-framed folding chairs. At one point I slipped, and this caused a big gash on my left shin. I had to be taken to a hospital to have stitches in my leg.
In the fall of 1933 we went back to China, first spending a year in Shanghai, where I went to Jyue Min Grammar School and graduated there. In 1934 we moved to Nanking where Father's Institute was located. Nanking was also Mother's old home town. The Jin Ling Buddhist Sutra Press, founded by her grandfather, the Buddhist scholar, Yang Ren Shan, was (and still is) in operation. Mother began to supervise the restoration of some houses that belonged to the Yang family. She also designed and supervised the building of another house at a different part of the city, in which we lived for a couple of years. One day while watching the workmen working and singing away, she heard the leading singer add some comments in his song, as follows: "Here is the rich lady who will live in the house that we slaved to build for her, ..." Singing at this kind of work, of course, was very common. It was effective to synchronize movements of several people together, such as lifting a heavy stone to pound the earth repeatedly. Or sometimes they sang simply to relieve boredom. Almost fifty years later, when we made one of our trips to Nanking, again I noticed some workmen singing while laying bricks for a house.
The mid-30s was the time when Nanking had just become the national capital. There was much construction going on. Partly due to the threat of Japanese invasion, which already had taken place in the north, the fervor of nationalism was high. At school we all automatically became girl or boy scouts. I learned to play the snare drum, and frequently marched with my schoolmates in town for various social and patriotic causes. I remember once it was for celebrating the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's 50th birthday.
In Nanking I went to Ming Der High School for two years and then to Huey Wen High School for one year. These were missionary schools, for which the entrance requirements were less demanding than those of the public schools (see the episode of my entrance examination interview above). While at school, I was academically not outstanding, to say the least. At both schools I had to repeat courses that I had failed the first time. On the other hand, I was very active in extracurricular activities such as performing in plays and involvements in various musical programs. There was one course in Ming Der that I liked especially. That was a music appreciation course taught by Yang Jia Ren, a man of lively personality and warmth. From him I saw the joy of being a music teacher. (Later, in the 60s, I heard that while teaching at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Yang was among the seventeen faculty members who committed suicide under the pressure of the Cultural Revolution.) During those years in Nanking, there were various educational reforms. Father was frequently asked to write songs for the promotion of children's education and mass education. The song texts were mostly written by educators and political figures of the time, such as Taur Shyng Jy, Wu Yann In, Chern Guoo Fu, etc. These songs are stylistically somewhat different from the art songs which Father wrote in the 20s. With these Father also wrote some 2-part or 3-part arrangements of which we sang a lot at home. In 1934 I even went to Shanghai with Father to record some of these educational songs, with piano accompaniment, for the Pathé Recording Company. The record was published as Sheau Shian Sheng Ge (Songs of the Little Teacher). I guess my untrained voice was just right for such songs.
In 1936 there was a 3-day National Musical Convention held in Nanking. Such an event was very rare. Leading Chinese composers of the time from all: over the country were gathered in Nanking. (It is true that many of them were foreign trained.) At the meeting many songs which later became widely sung were performed, some for the first time on this occasion, such as Hwang Tzyh's heroic choral work, Chyi ]enq Piau Piau (Our Flags Are Flying), and Lii Wei Ning's delicate piece, Yuh Men Chu Say (Out Beyond The Yuh Men Pass). During the convention there was a performance of Hwang Tzyh's Kanq Dyi Ge (Song of Resistance), another vigorous choral piece. The last line of the text, "We swear to kill the enemy without mercy," was to be sung twice with different melodic lines. However, even though the first time the melody ended on a dominant seventh chord, which was supposed to create a sense of suspense, due to the slowing down of the tempo and a long held note at the end of the line, the audience began to clap enthusiastically before the final, concluding line. Father became terribly agitated. He jumped on his seat and waved with his program sheets at the audience in front and in back of him, shouting," Mei wan! Hair mei wan ne! (Not finished! Not yet finished!)" but to no avail. The chorus finished the last line, but was hardly noticeable amid the clapping. Whereupon Father sent a note to the back stage requesting the chorus to sing the whole piece once again, which they did. But again the audience clapped before the final repeated line. Once more Father shouted and waved at the audience around him helplessly. It was not long afterwards that Hwang Tzyh, the composer of this piece, died of typhoid. He was only 34 years old. Oberlin and Yale trained, Hwang Tzyh is recognized to this day as one of the most outstanding composers in modern-day China. Some time later, Father was asked by a newspaper to write an article on Hwang Tzyh and his music, which he did, and he concluded his article with the words, "Not finished! Not yet finished!"
In late 1936 Father was recuperating from a bout of malaria. One day while we were all sitting in his bedroom, we heard over the radio a new patriotic song written by a young composer called Nieh Eel. It had a refreshing spirited tune. Father listened attentively while lying in bed. At the end he smiled and nodded his head saying, " Hmm, not bad, not bad!" The song became popular in a very short time. Later, Father wrote a counter melody to it and we sang it among ourselves often at home. That was some years before this original song became adopted as the national anthem in Mainland China.
In general I paid little attention to politics and political figures inside or outside China, in spite of the many social movements going on in the country. Chiang Kai-shek's dramatic kidnapping in Xi'an in December of 1936, and his subsequent release made him a national hero. Even people like me became more aware of national affairs thereafter. In July 1937, Japanese invasion began again with the so-called Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Bombing of Nanking was imminent. We moved to Changsha where Father's Institute was planning to settle at first. But the eventual bombing of Changsha while we were there forced us to move further inland, to Kunming in southwest China.
To me the brief stay of five months in Changsha was really an important period in my life. By luck, I was admitted into Jou Nan Middle School. As usual, I participated in many non-academic activities. When the school knew that I played the snare drum, I was asked to join various school marches which in those days had the function of spreading the message of patriotism to the public. I was known as "The Northerner " because at a school assembly meeting I sang Father's song, Woo Shyh Geh Beei Fang Ren (I am a Northerner), the revised Viking song, for which he first wrote the music, and later also rewrote a new text in praise of the soldiers fighting in North China. At school I was much influenced by my classmate, Su Chyn, who shared many of my interests. By coincidence she was also a snare drum player. So we frequently marched together. The only difference was, academically she was also a model student. This encouraged me to take my studies more seriously. For the first time in my life, I did not fail a single course throughout the semester.
While in Changsha we did not have a piano. Together with Father we did a lot of part singing. Father seemed to have fun rearranging any song, including the national anthem San Min Juu Yih (The Three People's Principles) into complicated part singing. I taught some of Father's arrangements to Su Chyn. Once during the weekly school assembly meeting white others began to sing the national anthem, she and I added to sing the accompanying melody in lively counterpoint, to the puzzlement of our teachers who stood nearby. One characteristic of Father's music was his fondness for using temporary modulations. Once while singing a Russian song "My Fatherland" which we learned at school with Chinese translation of the text, I tried to harmonize a phrase in a way that Father might have done, though I did not know technically what I was doing. I sang it to Father, and he just smiled and nodded his head. It was years later, when I studied Harmony at Radcliffe that I realized that it was (hem) a secondary dominant on the submediant.
In Changsha we heard the news that our house in Nanking, with everything inside, was burned down, including of course Father's lifelong collection of books and scholarly journals. Fortunately Mother had once asked Father what he considered his most precious possessions, and he said they were his diaries (which began in 1906, when he was fourteen) and his photographs. So just before leaving Nanking Mother packed all of Father's diaries and his more than four thousand photographs into several packages and mailed them to a friend in New York. After the first bombing in Changsha, Father and his colleagues decided to move the Institute further inland, to Kunming. Having traveled through many places in my life, I never left a place with so much reluctance.
We spent six months in Kunming. It was around this time that Father received an invitation to go to teach at the University of Hawaii. In Kunming we did not go to school, but studied at home. In order to help us practice our English, Father read to us every day a passage from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Life in Kunming during this period was also quite eventful. Besides some of the Institutes of Academia Sinica, several universities also moved to Kunming, forming the famous Southwest United Colleges, which consisted of students and faculty members from the three universities Tsing Hua, Peking, and Nan Kai. There were about two hundred of the students from these schools who walked three thousand li (one thousand miles) on foot from Changsha to Kunming. When they arrived we welcomed them at the entrance to the city with baskets of flowers and sang,"lt's a long way to Lian Her Dah Shyue (The United Colleges) ..." to the tune of It's a Long Way to Piccadilly.
In August of that year (1938), our whole family left Kunming for the United States through Hong Kong. In Hawaii I was admitted into Roosevelt High School in the 11th grade. I had little trouble with courses in algebra and geometry. But in the English class, the first essay that we were assigned to read was Emerson's Self Reliance, for which I had to rely heavily upon Father's help. What he did was to have me copy down all the words that I did not understand, in the order of their appearance, including repetitions. Then he wrote the Chinese equivalent next to each word. This proved to be a very efficient way for me to learn and increase my vocabulary. At the same time I also assisted Mother in teaching Mandarin to some local Chinese friends who spoke mainly Cantonese.
Besides his classes, Father was often asked to give public lectures on Chinese music. Usually my sister Nova and I would help him with demonstrations. In this way we also learned some traditional Chinese songs which we had never learned before, such as Muh Torng Ge (Song of the Cowherd Boy), Shyr Mau Neu Lang (The Fashionable Girl), also known as Maa Tour Diaw (Song on the Dock), and Shiang Jiang Lunq (The Waves of Shiang River), etc. These songs are different from the work songs and children's songs in that they are mainly urban songs for more adult entertainment. In China my sisters and I never had the occasion to learn such songs either from Father or in school. We began to hear some of them only when a few such songs became popular in the Chinese movies. For example, the tune of The Fashionable Girl became known as Tian Ya Ge Neu (Singsong Girls The World Over), which was made popular in the 1930s after being sung in a movie by the actress Jou Shyuan. Actually Father had written some interesting piano accompaniments to a few of these songs in the early 20s, possibly as composition exercises. However, for some reason he never taught us to sing them until he began to give lectures on Chinese music in the US..
After the year at University of Hawaii, we moved to New Haven, where Father taught for two years at Yale University. There I went to Hillhouse High School for my senior year. During this time there was another interesting example of Father's own way of giving us a musical education. While living in New Haven, one day he drove us all to New York, where he found a pawn shop on 3rd Ave that sold inexpensive second-hand musical instruments. There he picked a violin, an oboe, a trumpet, and a cello for us. Even though what he paid might be considered fairly inexpensive, it was an enormous investment for our family in those days. Father left it to us to fiddle around with these instruments. However, Nova wanted to stick to her piano playing. Bella sawed away at the violin for a while, but eventually also went back to the piano. Lensey played the oboe faithfully and became quite proficient on it. I was at first attracted by the trumpet, possibly because of its association with the snare drum which I used to play. With the help of an instruction book, I blew at it for some time. Later when we were in Cambridge, I took up the cello more seriously, and formally took some lessons when I could afford it (at Longy, with Virginia Bacon). At one point I even organized a small chamber music group with my friends and schoolmates, and played some simple trios together.
Photo 1. New Haven, 1940.
(Back row, left to right) Mrs. Bartok, Bela Bartok, Yang Buwei (left 4)
(Front row, right to left) Rulan Chao, Nova Chao, Lensey Chao, Bella Chao (behind Lensey), Chao Yuen Ren (left 1)
I spent my freshman year at the University of Connecticut, at Storrs Conn. Like my high school years, I did well in mathematics and physics, but had to struggle much harder with my English course. But again my teachers were patient and kind. That was the year when anthropology was first introduced into the curriculum at the University of Connecticut. The course was taught by Prof. Edward Burrows (whom we knew back in our Hawaii days). Taking this course was indeed an exciting experience for me.
From about this time we went regularly with Father to the summer meetings of the Linguistic Society, which took place at various universities in the Midwest. It was at one such meeting that I first met Hans Kurath the linguist, and his wife Gertrude, the dance expert. That was some time in the 40s. When I met Gertrude again in the 80s at an Ethnomusicological Society meeting. I asked her,'"Do you remember me?" She looked at me for a few seconds and said, “You are one of the Chao girls.” It was also at one of the linguistics meetings, which was held in Berkeley California, that I first met George Herzog, who asked me many questions about Chinese music that I could not answer. At these linguistics meetings I did not understand much of what was being discussed. However, some basic ideas in the field did gradually become more familiar to me.
In 1941 when Father came to Harvard to teach and work on a dictionary project, I transferred to Radcliffe. First I enrolled in the Harvard Summer School, taking one course in mathematics, and one in music. Up to that time, in spite of my constant involvement in musical activities, I had always assumed that I would major in some kind of mathematical or scientific subject. It seemed almost expected of us, even though our parents never expressed their opinion on such matters specifically. My second sister Nova became a chemistry major. My third sister Lensey got both her B.A. and M.A. degrees in mathematics, although eventually she switched to novel writing professionally. My youngest sister Bella got her B.A. and M.A. in physics, and has worked in the fields of astrophysics and archaeo-astronomy. As for me, it happened that the music professor in the summer school course, Stephen Tuttle, was a much more interesting teacher than the mathematics professor. By the end of the summer, I decided to go into the field of music. In retrospect I cannot say that I had a clear idea of a definite goal of any kind even after making such a decision. The only thing I knew was that as I took more and more courses in music history and theory, I found out that there were more and more interesting ideas to explore. While in Cambridge, because our home was on Walker Street, which was very near the school, my sister Nova, who entered Radcliffe as a freshman, and I were allowed to live at home.
Photo 2. Family photo taken at Walker Street, Cambridge, 1941
(Front row, left to right) Bella Chao, Yang Buwei, Lensey Chao, Nova Chao, Chao Yuen Ren
(Back row) Rulan Chao
At Radcliffe (which soon became combined with Harvard) I took general music survey courses from "Doc" Davison, and Prof. Edward Ballantine, both of whom, as I mentioned before, had taught Father about thirty years previously. The last course that I took from “Doc'' Davison, which was shortly before he retired, was an experimental course on choral composition (which he jokingly called "Chorestration'") Father sat in on the course and did the homework as well. In Doc's famous big survey course, Music 1, I remember most vividly my section teacher, William Austin, who was generous with encouragement just at a time when I needed it. Eunice Crocker was also a very patient tutor to me. I took many courses under Tillman Merritt, from Modal Counterpoint to Survey of 20th Century Composers. Merritt said more than once that my motets had some Chinese flavor in them. I wonder if that was due to some of my accidental parallel fifths? Irving Fine was also a conscientious educator. Once we sang Stravinsky's Perséphone in Paine Hall, which he conducted. At the end, he turned to the audience and said, "Since this is such a rare occasion for both the performers and the audience, we shall perform the whole piece all over again." Which we did. (As I am writing this report, which is almost fifty years later, my dentist Dr. David Goldberg has just told me that he is Irving Fine's greatgrandson.) I joined the Raddiffe Choral Society as soon as I entered Radcliffe and stayed with it for many years. Singing Brahms' Requiem under "Woody" (G.W. Woodworth), and Bach's B Minor Mass and Beethoven's Symphony No.9 under Kousevitsky were unforgettable experiences. I took courses in advanced harmony, tonal counterpoint and orchestration with Walter Piston. Elliot Forbes was my classmate in the fugue course. Together we witnessed the now famous episode of Piston writing a fugue subject on the blackboard for our assignment. When a student complained that the time given to us to do the assignment was too short, Piston without saying a word went to the blackboard and changed the temp mark from Andante to Allegro.
I remember many famous musical figures who came to Harvard to give a single lecture or a series of lectures. I remember Hindemith came to teach for a whole term. He was a very lively lecturer. Each time he brought up the subject of the cycle of fifths method of calculating the twelve pitches, he would wink at me. I also remember Aaron Copland lecturing at Paine Hall and Béla Bartók standing quietly staring at us, in front of the blackboard in Room 2 of the Music Building. There was also Henry Cowell who pounded on the piano keyboard with his fists and elbows, which caused much laughter in the audience. Those were the days before the Core Curriculum. But thanks to the generally liberal policy towards education at Radcliffe, it allowed me to explore also various areas outside music. For example, I took a course in history of art given by Leonard Opdycke, a course in philosophy given by Raphael Demos, a course in psychology given by Edward Boring (which was certainly not boring), and a course in psychology of language given by George Zipf. I even took a course in cartography when the Geology Department was still at 2 Divinity Ave.
Officially I belong to the class of 1944 at Radcliffe. However, in those days we were encouraged to accelerate and graduate earlier. Hence by taking extra courses and studying in the summer, I actually graduated in the fall of 1943. Later I decided to continue on in the graduate school; thus I got my Master's degree in music in 1946. Back in 1943 Father was asked to take charge of the Chinese language section of the Army Special training Program at Harvard. There were about two hundred men selected from the Army who were sent over here to learn the Chinese language. Many Chinese students from Harvard (including myself) and MIT assisted Father in the drill sessions. Eventually some of these Army students went on to pursue their studies in the Asian field and became leading sinological scholars, for example, Frederic Mote of Princeton, and James Crump of University of Michigan.
The textbook that grew out of this program, Mandarin Primer, compiled and eventually published by Father, is a highly concentrated body of materials summarizing the essential features of modern spoken Chinese. It is not an easy textbook either for the students or for the teacher. But for those who are willing to put their full effort into it from the very beginning, it is a very efficient way to gain both the active and passive use of the language. For many years I had used this set of materials in my own teaching, and compiled various supplementary materials, including the published work, A Syllabus to The Mandarin Primer, which summarizes the main grammatical points of each lesson, with additional examples. I myself also had special interest in the introductory chapters of Mandarin Primer which demonstrate some of the methodology of structural analysis. In fact I believe that my experience in working with such language issues also had some effect upon my musicological studies later on.
In the 1940s the population of Chinese students in Cambridge was already quite large. Inevitably some students wanted to organize a Chinese chorus group. It seems interesting that while choral singing is musically entirely non- Chinese, in modern times choral singing has become the most popular musical activity among Chinese students everywhere. The songs that we sang were to a great extent written by modern-day Chinese composers, or occasionally Western works with texts translated into Chinese. I was asked to be the conductor for one such chorus, comprising mainly of Chinese students from Harvard and MIT. Since the Chinese names for Harvard and MIT were Ha For Dah Shyue, and Ma Sheeng Lii Gong Shyue Yuann, the chorus was named the Ha-Ma Chorus for short, which seemed especially appropriate, because the term Ha-Ma, was almost homonymous with the term meaning "frogs."
In those days the male students greatly outnumbered the female students, which limited our repertory in certain ways. We sang many spirited patriotic songs which were mainly in unison. Some have rather interesting piano accompaniment. In those days there were many China-relief activities in the Boston area. Our chorus was frequently asked to perform at various functions. There was a young man from MTT called Hwang Peir Yun, who often dated my sister Nova. Eventually he became my brother-in-law. There was also another young man from MIT in the chorus, called Biann Shyue Hwang (or Theodore Hsueh-huang Pian) who often dated me. Eventually he became my sister's brother-in-law.
During our earlier years in Cambridge Tarn Sheau Lin (also known as S. K. Tam), a young composer from New Haven, often came to visit us. A pupil of Hindemith, Tam's musical style was quite unique among other Chinese composers of his time. Once while we were at a dinner party together, he wrote down a song for two voices which he composed on the spot, and had me sing it along with him for the host and other guests. Tam was realty like a member of the family. Besides discussing musical matters with Father, he shared recipes with Mother, and advised me not only on my homework, but also on how to put on my make-up properly when I was getting ready for a date with Ted. I found it easier to discuss with him my work at school even more than with my father. Tam was encouraging when I had doubts about my studies. In 1946 he went back to teach at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. But two years later news came that he had died suddenly of an illness. He was 37 years old. In 1946 I got my Master's degree in music. At that time I was still majoring in straight Western music history. In the same year my daughter Canta (named after Cantabrigia) was born. In 1947 I began to teach full time as an assistant to Francis Cleaves in his Chinese language courses in the Far Eastern Department at Harvard. By the time Canta was a year and half, at Mother's suggestion, I took her to Berkeley to be under her care. That was not long after my parents had settled in Berkeley. From that time on since I became more closely related to the Asian Studies program, I audited many courses on Asian literature, culture, and history, and spent much time in the stacks of the Harvard- Yenching Library.
At this time Yang Lien Sheng was teaching Chinese history at Harvard. It was he who first suggested to me to go back to the Graduate School again to concentrate on the study of Chinese music history. Doc Davison in the Music Department was also enthusiastic about the idea. Thus in 1950, while still teaching Chinese language full time, I became a graduate student again, but this time on a half time basis, in a joint degree program of the Music and Far Eastern Departments.
Learning to use bibliographical and research materials was a new experience for me. Richard French of the Music Department was a demanding teacher. He sent us (a class of six graduate students in the Music Department) through the stacks in Widener Library, exploring the tools of the trade. This also made me better prepared (at least psychologically) when I had to take a similar course on Introduction to Research in the Far Eastern Department.
Yang Lien Sheng was a man of many talents. Besides his own special field of economics, he was a scholar of Chinese history, and had taught various courses at Harvard and published in this area. He was knowledgeable about Chinese linguistics, and had collaborated with my father in the compiling of the Concise Dictionary of Spoken Chinese (Harvard, 1947). Besides he was a proficient amateur singer of the Peking Opera. Yang was watchful of every step in the early stages of my training this time, since I was particularly weak in sinological studies. After I had taken a few courses in Japanese language, which was required for my studies, Yang gave me an assignment to translate into English a Japanese article written by the scholar Hayashi Kenzo, which was a study on a 10th century Chinese manuscript of a musical score for the fourstringed lute pyiba. This was among the body of precious manuscripts discovered in the Duenhwang Caves in Northwest China at the beginning of the present century. This particular manuscript is now kept in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Drawing upon comparable musical sources still kept in Japan today, Hayashi made a detailed study of the manuscript. What Yang assigned me to do was to translate the entire article verbatim, including all the footnotes, and look up as many as possible of the source materials both in Chinese and Japanese cited in the study. Some of these materials I did not get to see until some years later in other libraries, and some works in other countries. Just the basic translation took me more than a semester. But the benefit I gained from the experience was immeasurable. Another unforgettable assignment from Yang was to study the life of an 18th century Chinese scholar called Jaw Yih, best known for his Commentaries on the Twenty-Two Histories. Long after I handed in my assignment, one day I happened to mention this to Mother. She laughed and said, "Don't you know? Jaw Yih is your ancestor seven generations above?" From the 1960s on Yang had to reduce his teaching load considerably because of ill health. But I still went regularly to him for any kind of scholarly questions. In 1990, just months before he passed away, I told him the good news that I had been elected an Honorary Fellow (Academician) of the Academia Sinica. He was so happy that he was almost in tears.
Besides Yang, I also constantly consulted several other colleagues in the Far Eastern Department, for example Glen Baxter, the late John Bishop, and James Robert Hightower, who not only helped to correct my English constantly, hi also helped me with my classical Chinese, and matters dealing with Chinese literature, on which they were all experts.
Back in the early 1950s there was an exciting new professor in the Music Department, Otto Gombosi, the Hungarian musicologist. He was one of the few faculty members I knew who would join his students after class, in a coffee shop at the square. I took a seminar and a reading course with him. That was when I was introduced to several major works by Curt Sachs. I found Sachs' The Rise of Music in the Ancient World: East and West an inspiring work, full of interesting ideas. Gombosi also made me read Sachs' Geist und Werden der Musikinstrumente, which expounds the kultur-kreis theory as applied to musical instruments. My German was not better than my Japanese. It took me a long time to finish the book, but again I do not regret the effort at all. Some of Gombosi's comments have registered deeply in my mind, and continued to influence my thinking for example that music is written down only when there is fear of its disappearance, or when it is transferred from one place to another. Such ideas might explain some of the situations of Chinese musical sources. Gombosi was a very popular teacher. That was why his sudden death after a heart attack in 1955 was all the more shocking to the Music Department. I was quite despondent, and for a while wondered whether I should go on with my studies.
That was when John Ward appeared on the scene. He too brought in many fresh ideas. At the same time, he was a much stricter disciplinarian. Soon he set the date of my general examination. After the examination he immediately urged me to make plans (with Yang's approval as well, of course) for my thesis, and told me to hand in drafts of my thesis to them on a regular basis, I finally decided upon the study of Sonq (Sung) dynasty musical sources. After the courses on bibliography in both departments I was just in the right frame of mind for such a topic. Furthermore I felt that while there are a great number of literary sources on music dating from the Tang dynasty, they are not as precise in technical information about music as are Sonq dynasty works. John Ward has remained my mentor to this day. Ever since he came to the Music Department ethnomusicology has become more established as a serious field at Harvard. Students in all areas of music are encouraged to learn something about ethnomusicology as part of their basic training. In 1957 at John Ward's recommendation the Music Department invited the eminent Japanese scholar Shigeo Kishibe to come and give a series of lectures. Kishibe is not only an expert on Japanese music, he is probably even better known as an authority on Tang dynasty Chinese music.
From 1958 to 1959 with a grant from the Harvard-Yenching Institute I went to Japan for nine months. Part of my purpose was to look up the source materials on Chinese music for my thesis; these could only be found in certain Japanese libraries. At Kishibe's suggestion I decided also to learn more about gagaku, the Japanese court music which still exists today, by learning to play some of the instruments in the musical ensemble. It is a kind of ritual music which is believed to be a legacy from China during the Tang dynasty. The lessons on the instruments took place at a Shinto shrine, the Ono Teruzaki Jinja, in the Uguisudani district of Tokyo. There the court musicians from the palace would come and give private lessons in the evenings. At first I concentrated on learning to playing the horizontal flute, the ryuteki from Togi Bunryu Sensei. Later I also briefly learned some basics about the other gagaku instruments, the vertical double-reed pipe hichiriki, the four-stringed lute biwa, and the bridged zither koto, from several other teachers. Finally we were given the opportunity to play in ensemble under the direction of Togi Wataro Sensei. Among my classmates at that time was Robert Garfias, who was playing the hichiriki.
Besides studying gagaku instruments, I had the chance to attend performances of the Bunraku puppet show, the Noh and the Kabuki dramatic shows. For my thesis I visited such institutions as the Seikado Library and the Library of the Imperial Household. At the Library of the Cabinet, among other things, I finally was able to actually see and even touch the 15th century copy of the 13th century Chinese encyclopedia, the Shyh Lin Goang Jih, one of the Sonq dynasty musical sources that I was working on. By the end of March, I finally finished the first draft of my thesis.
There were monthly meetings of the Musicological Society of Japan. Besides Kishibe, I met the notable scholar Tanabe Hisao, and also Hayashi Kenzo, whose article on the Duenhwang MS E had translated. I also met Fumio Koizumi, who at that time was still a promising young scholar just returned from abroad. Once I was asked to report at such a meeting on some aspects of my thesis. Fortunately, it just happened that my colleague in Japanese language at Harvard, Tamako Niwa, was also in Tokyo at that time. So I prevailed upon her to translate my talk into Japanese. I delivered it in almost perfect pronunciation, but had a hard time understanding the questions being asked afterwards.
During my visit to Japan, I also took a brief side trip to Taiwan and later to Seoul, Korea. In Taiwan I had a rendezvous with my parents and my daughter, Canta. Father was lecturing at the Academia Sinica. During this trip I also took my first lessons on the Chinese zither, the chyn, from Mr. Uang Jenn Hwa. The tone of the instrument was so soft that I could practice on it next to my parents' bedroom at night without disturbing them. Considered from the point of view of historical source materials, including the large body of musical examples in notation, the chyn is of course one of the oldest and most important musical instruments in China. However I never thought seriously about playing it until I saw an old instrument in a second-hand musical instrument shop in Japan which I purchased at a very low price. Later, a chyn repair man in Hong Kong examined it and said it was at least three hundred years old. While in Taiwan, I was also able to watch some rehearsals of a somewhat modernized Chinese orchestra at close range. Another pleasant incident was that through Catherine Stevens, a former student at Harvard, I also met the Peking Drum singer Jang Tsuey Fenq for the first time. I also had the good fortune to meet Mr. Chyi Ru Shan, the foremost authority on Peking Opera, and a former teacher arid advisor of Mei Lan Fang. One day Mr. Chyi gave a lively demonstration of Peking Opera gestures, and allowed me to take many photographs of him.
Photo 3. Taipei, 1958. (From left) Canta Pian, Yang Buwei, Chyi Ru Shan, Chao Yuen Ren
(Right) Rulan Chao
After my stay in Taiwan, I was getting ready to return to Tokyo again. Since my parents were also leaving for the U.S., and were passing through Tokyo, we decided to leave together on the same plane. At the airport many friends came to see my parents off. It so happened that Father was planning to make use of this opportunity to give a short speech in the Fukien dialect, the dialect spoken in Taiwan. He had once said and demonstrated that he could speak all the major dialects in China-all but the Fukienese dialect. Thus this was his chance to show off what he had learned in Taiwan. However, just before we boarded the plane, the guards at the airport discovered that my visa to Japan had expired. Fearing that I might not be allowed to disembark in Tokyo, they refused to let me board the plane at Taipei. This caused much confusion, while all our friends who came to see us off looked on. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade the guards to let me board the plane, I watched my parents and daughter leave without me. It was some years later that I realized that with all the disruption Father had missed the chance of his life to deliver his Fukienese speech to his big crowd of friends at the airport.
Shortly after the Taiwan trip, I went to the city of Seoul for twelve days. Professor Lee Hye Ku, the Korean musicologist of Seoul National University, asked me to give a report on my work on the Sonq dynasty musical sources, which seemed to be of particular interest to the Korean scholars. They found an interpreter who could only understand Chinese, but my lecture was written in English. So I had to look at the English text but deliver it in Chinese, while he translated it into Korean. In Seoul I also had the chance to meet the musicologists Professor Chang Sa Hun and Professor Han Man Yung. I visited Sung Kyon Kuan Institute, where they were training dancers in preparation for the annual Confucian Ceremony. The musical instruments for the Confucian Ceremony are well-known for their long history. In Seoul I was especially impressed by the spirit of the musical scholars, who because of the lack of facilities in those days had to hold their meetings at various coffee houses. Once when our meeting was held too long and the proprietor wanted to close shop, we simply moved on to another coffee shop and continued our discussion there. In the summer of 1959, I left Tokyo and went back to the U.S. by way of Europe.
I handed in my thesis the following year. During the Radcliffe Commencement, I learned that I had won the Carolyn I. Wilby Prize for the work. The year after, I was promoted to the position of Lecturer in the Far Eastern Department, a post which I held for the next thirteen years. In 1962 I also became a Visiting Lecturer in the Music Department and began to give a course on Aspects of Chinese Music. In the Far Eastern Department I continued to teach language courses at various levels. At the same time I began to teach some experimental courses in my own fields of interest, such as Chinese Performing Literature, and Materials from the Oral Tradition, etc.
Back in the summer of 1960, Mantle Hood came to Harvard to lecture on Javanese Music. He also taught a group of us to play Javanese gamelan music. We practiced diligently and eventually gave a concert at the end of the summer, in which I played the gender panarus, a kind of metallophone, and the two-stringed fiddle rebab. The experience further encouraged me to explore more of the living traditions in Chinese music.
Since the early 50s the amateur Peking Opera clubs in New York became more and more active. The members of such clubs come from all walks of life among overseas Chinese, for example, businessmen, engineers, artists, professors, etc. and some of their family members. They meet regularly to play and sing together, and put on a public performance once or twice a year. Occasionally in such a group they would also have one or two more professional instrumentalists-usually a fiddler. As I mentioned before, during my early years in China I had very little contact with Peking Opera. Thus the performances in New York were a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about it. As for Ted, he had even learned to sing selections of Peking Opera arias (of both the male and female roles) long before I knew him. Many times we drove down to New York mainly to attend a performance of Peking Opera.
In the summer of 1964 I decided to spend three months in Taiwan specifically to observe the Peking Opera activities there (see more detailed report in Chinoperl News #4,1974). I regularly interviewed the 71-years-old Mr. Jang Shii Hae, a former professional Peking Opera performer, about his life, and recorded the conversation. With the help of Mr. Yu Dah Gang who introduced me to many people in the opera circle in Taiwan, I was able to attend numerous rehearsals as well as regular performances. During this trip I also had the chance to go up to Wuu Feng Shan (The Five Peak Mountain) to observe the singing of same ceremonial songs by members of the Saysiat tribe. One unfortunate incident that happened this time was that the Peking Drum singer Jang Tsuey Fenq feIl ill during one of her recording sessions with me (see also her autobiography in Chinoperl Papers #13, 1984).
In 1965-66, I got a Fulbright-Hayes Grant and thus was able to take a whole year off from teaching and do my own research. I went to Pasadena California where Ted was guest lecturing at the California Institute of Technology. I spent much of my time transcribing and studying the Peking Opera recordings done in Taiwan the year before. During this time I also regularly attended a seminar at UCLA on ethnomusicology conducted by Mantle Hood. In that seminar there were students specializing in a variety of musical cultures. Each term the seminar tried to concentrate on one central idea, and have the class discuss it from as many different cultural viewpoints as possible. That year the topic was "acceleration." The added attraction of that seminar that year was that besides Mantle Hood, Charles Seeger and Klaus Wachsmann also regularly attended the meetings, and frequently joined in the discussion. Sometimes they even got into fairly heated arguments among themselves-all to the delight of the students.
During my stay at Pasadena I wrote my first article on Peking Opera, 'The Function of Rhythm in the Peking Opera," which I delivered at the International Music Symposium, held in Manila in April 1966. The paper was well received. But to me it was a most invigorating experience to have met many leading scholars in ethnomusicology for the first time.
In late April that year, I went to Taiwan again. This time, with the help of Bob Hightower who also happened to be visiting there, we succeeded in persuading Harvard-Yenching Institute to subsidize the microfilming of the large collection of the so-called narrative-singers' promptbooks, which had been kept by the Institute of History and Philology of the Academia Sinica for many years. A copy of this microfilm is now kept in the Harvard-Yenching Library and has been much used. While passing through Japan during this trip to the Far East, I had the chance to call on R.H.van Gulik, the famous writer on the Chinese zither, the chyn, as well as of many detective stories. At that time he was the Dutch Ambassador to Japan.
In 1967 my dissertation was finally published by Harvard University Press. One year later, when the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society was to take place in New Haven, John Ward asked me to go to the meeting with him I was not planning to go at first, but he strongly urged me to go. So finally together with Tillman Merritt, we drove down to New Haven. There at the meeting I learned that I had won the Otto Kinkeldey Award, a most prestigious prize from the AMS, for my book. I was totally speechless when Jan LaRue, the chairman at the meeting asked me to say something. Now that I think back, I could have told a wonderful story. This was in the late 40s, when LaRue himself was still a graduate student at Harvard, working on his thesis on Okinawan music. One day he came into Boylston Hall, where the Far Eastern Department was located in those days, showed me a passage from a Chinese book, and asked me to translate it for him. If I remember correctly, it was a fairly technical passage from the book on Chinese music by Wang Guang Chyi. That was long before I thought of studying Chinese music myself. I said I was sorry but I could not translate the passage for him. The incredulous expression an his face is still clear in my memory. It could well have been one of the reasons that later on spurred me into the study of Chinese music.
It was around 1967 that I first met Bell Yung, at that time a Ph.D. candidate in Physics at MIT, and already an accomplished pianist. He was a member, and later conductor, of a Chinese students' chorus in the Boston area. I had stopped conducting for a long time, partly because of my frequent travels abroad. Once I was asked to give a talk in Boston on aspects of Chinese music, and I wanted to demonstrate some modern settings of Chinese folk songs. So I approached the chorus members asking them whether they could help me by performing a few pieces during my talk. They very kindly agreed to my proposal, and even came to my house for the rehearsals. That was how I got to know Bell fairly well. Immediately after Bell got his degree at MIT he enrolled in the Music Department at Harvard, where he eventually got another Ph.D. in Musicology. His dissertation was on Cantonese Opera. We have worked closely together ever since on many projects. He used to consult me on all matters large and small. Gradually through the years, I have come to consult him even more on all matters small and large. (End of Part I)