Amiot, (Jean) Joseph (Marie)
- Fredric Lieberman
(b Toulon, Feb 8, 1718; d Beijing, Oct 8, 1793). French writer on music. After a classical education, he entered the Society of Jesus as a novice in 1737, taught in Jesuit colleges for ten years, then, on being ordained, requested assignment to the China mission. He arrived in Beijing in 1751 and remained there until his death.
Amiot’s remarkable output of monographs, translations, dictionaries and voluminous scholarly correspondence includes several extensive works on Chinese music – among the first serious Western studies of any non-Western music. He first translated the 17th-century book Guyue jingjuan (‘Commentary on the Classic of Ancient Music’) by Li Guangdi; although paraphrased by Amiot and others, the translation was never published and the manuscript was lost. His next work on Chinese music, the Mémoire sur la musique des Chinois, was edited for publication by Abbé Pierre Joseph Roussier, a theorist specializing in ancient and foreign music; however, Roussier added lengthy, pedantic notes of little value while deleting many plates, all Chinese characters, and significant portions of the text, thus obscuring the original and impairing its value for future scholars. Other important manuscripts remain unpublished, including a study of contemporary Chinese music practice and a notebook containing 54 tunes transcribed into staff notation....