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The Significance of the Discovery of the Musical Equal Temperament In the Cultural History

Gene J CHO(College of Music,University of North Texas)  
The present article attempts to place Zhu Zaiyu's singular discovery of the musical equal temperament in the wider context of the intellectual history of the Eastern and Western hemispheres as a cultural event.First,the article will discuss the similarities and differences in regard to mathematical,musical,and calendrical perspectives between the East and the West,followed by a summary review of the theory and practice in the ancient China in continual(and failed) attempts to negotiate the differences between the sciences of calendar and tuning(i.e.acoustics),and,finally,the study will conclude with an appraisal of the unparalleled and penetrating wisdom of Zhu Zaiyu in both the calendrical and mathematical sciences in arriving at the mathematics for the equal temperament.Additionally,the present study will offer a critical reassessment of the works of the Dutch mathematicial-engineer,Simon Stevin,and to point out the Mathematical errors and other shortcomings in Stevin's(unpublished) study,thereby to refute the earlier claims(omstly by the Western scholars) of Stevin's priority of discovery of the(methematical formulae) of the musical equal temperament.The article will conclude with offering of documentary evidence to the fact that it was this historic discovery of Zhu Zaiyu's mathematical formula for the 'correct'musical equal temperament via the twelfth root of two(122) that had attracted the attention of and prompted the Jesuit missionary in late Ming Dynasty to transmin the information to the West,thereby rightfully bestow on Zhu Zaiyu the distinction of the discoverer the mathematics of the equal temperament.
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