To make the case for more attention by world historians to music as a universal human phenomenon, this article compares the socioeconomic niches, cultural associa­tions, and technical and technological development of plucked stringed instruments in sixteenth-century Spain and Ming China. An examination of the interrelation­ship of vihuela, lute, and guitarra, on the one hand, with the guqin and pipa, on the other, reveals similar patterns of gender, class, and ethno-national meaning becoming attached to these instruments. In particular, both vihuela and pipa changed morpho­logically, and playing style grew more virtuostic in tandem with the instruments' rising popularity among urban classes in Spain and China. Moreover, the vihuela and likely the pipa as well were made from more exotic materials as their respective homelands became more engaged in global trade.


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pp. 237-278
Launched on MUSE
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