Pian, Rulan Chao, 1922-2013
- Existence: 1922-2013
Born in the United States, Professor Rulan Chao Pian (卞趙如蘭, 1922-2013) was a world renowned scholar in Chinese music. Graduated from Radcliffe-Harvard with Ph.D. in Music and in East Asian Languages, she started teaching Chinese language in 1947 at Harvard and ended up with being a Professor Emerita of Music and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations in 1992. Her scholarly contributions spanned several disciplines, including Chinese language teaching, Chinese music history, folk performance, oral literature, and traditional drama. “[H]er vast collection of articles and field reports published throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s constitutes a significant contribution to what was then a newly emerging research field in North America: Sinophone ethnomusicology and performance studies.” (Wilcox, 2015)
As an inquisitive fieldworker, Professor Chao carried with her heavy video and audio equipment all over East Asia. She met numerous performers and music scholars and made extensive recordings of them. Her visits to China brought music scholarship in the West and advanced electronic equipment to her Chinese colleagues. Her frequent visiting professorship at the Music Department, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), was instrumental to the development of its Chinese music programme.
Being the eldest daughter of the famous linguist cum composer Dr. Chao Yuen Ren (趙元任, 1892-1982) and Dr. Yang Bu Wei (MD) (楊步偉, 1889-1981), prominent figures of the New Culture Movement were frequent guests at her family. She also accommodated numerous students, musicians, visiting scholars and friends at her Cambridge residence. Upon her retirement, Professor Chao decided to donate her life-time acquisition of music and cultural resources to the CUHK Library, hence the Rulan Chao Pian Collection.
Wilcox, Emily E. (2005). “Rulan Chao Pian 卞趙如蘭 (1922-2013).” Asian Theatre Journal 32/2: 633-44.