FAQs

If I have information about a pipe organ that is not included on this site, or if my information is different from what the site reports, what should I do?

Please use the Contact Us page to send us information of this kind.

We realize that not all the information we receive is 100% accurate, and that there are other websites (sometimes with information we consider inaccurate) relating to pipe organs in China. Sometimes dates are wrong, data is garbled, translations are inaccurate, builders exaggerate the size of organs, and new installations are discovered. If we find that the information sent in is both relevant and verifiable, we will try to incorporate it in a website update.

Why is the website only (mostly) in English?

Multi-lingual websites are difficult to set up and expensive to maintain. English is the international language of academic research, and this makes the site accessible to everyone.

Is it possible to search the Census by builder?

No, not at present. Organ builder’s websites, however, often have a function to search by location, please see Links.

May I use information on this website in my own research?

In general this is an open-source website dedicated to making this information available to as many people as possible.

The site itself is protected by copyright law. If you quote material from this website, be aware that the Project expects that such citations will be properly quoted (“”) and credited with references to the site, the URL, and the date of access. We reserve the right to take action against egregious violations of copyright and other intellectual property laws by which this site is protected.

The photographs and other images appearing on the site are either in the public domain (PD), taken by researchers for the project, or in some cases provided by the owners of the images, or the builders of the instruments.

With the exception of the PD images, all others require further permission for reproduction. Please use the Contact Us page to discuss any onward use of images found on the site.

If you believe we have used your image without permission, please contact us to let us know.

If you have images to share with the Project, we will of course be very happy to hear from you.

What about the pipe organs of other countries in the Asia-Pacific (ASPAC) region?

We are not aware of any research on the scale (or duration) of The Pipe Organ in China Project for other countries in the ASPAC region.

The late Prof. Guido Dedene began something similar for the organs of the Philippines (the Organographia Philipiniana, http://www.orgph.com) but he was concerned mostly with existing instruments and was not in a position to pursue much archival or historical research on the topic.

There have been several books published in Japan on local organ history (in Japanese), and there is a small journal devoted to Japanese organ history, Orugan Kenkyu (オルガン研究, Organ Research), published at various times from the 1970s onwards by the Japan Organ Society.

Organs of Taiwan up to the early 2000s were discussed in XXX.

Smaller-scale research has been carried out in Singapore by members of the Singapore Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. https://www.singaporeago.org/

The Project hopes that the presence of this website will allow, eventually, for an online consortium of research on the pipe organ in Asia to be accessible globally.

We would be very interested to hear from other scholars, organists, and amateurs who have material or information to share. Please use the Contact Us page.

How about regals, harmoniums, reed organs, hybrid organs, and electronic/digital organs?

The Census only counts pipe organs, and so these other instruments are not included.

Despite the obvious overlap of usage and its similar role in domestic, concert, and service settings from the second quarter of the 19th C. and onward, the harmonium/reed organ was not surveyed by the Project for discussion in Keys to the Kingdom, although a small number of references to it are made in the book.

Hybrid organs are electronic/digital organs with one rank (or sometimes more) of organ pipes. These are installed largely for ‘show’, and the Project considers them to be essentially a builder’s gimmick, although there are some instruments where the ratio of pipes to digital stops approaches 1:1, or even higher. This is different from the case of pipe organs where, due to space or cost issues, some digital voices are used for very low-pitched stops (as with PEK1999a) or where the salvageable parts of an older pipe organ are supplemented with digital stops upon rebuilding (as with HKG1935 and HKG1936).

Electronic/digital organs are substitutes for a pipe organ, and not considered by the Project except where their presence has some historical or comparative relevance.

Why is Taiwan not included in the Census?

The Project made several trips to Taiwan in the late 1990s and 2000s, and made inquiries about organs and organ history in Taiwan. However, while the responses were polite and enthusiastic, all Taiwanese organists, musicians, academics, and clergy interviewed were equally polite in their refusal to assist or participate in anything summarily titled “in China”. To have pursued including Taiwan in the Census in spite of this would have meant circumventing obstacles and road blocks, and generally behaving in an uncollegial and adversarial manner: the Taiwan part of the history and census in Keys to the Kingdom would have been incomplete, inaccurate, and would have lacked credibility with the very community to which it would have been addressed in the first instance. As a result, the Project made the choice not to include Taiwan. It must be emphasized that this was a rational and practical decision, not an ideological one.

Having said this, some general observations can be made about pipe organs and their actuality in Taiwan today. In contrast to Mainland China, Macau, and even Hong Kong, Taiwan has for decades had a vibrant organ culture, and possibly the largest proportion of pipe organs per capita of any country in Asia except South Korea. In fact, the pipe organ culture of Taiwan has many things in common with that of South Korea, and also that of Japan. This situation has not arisen for musical reasons, but rather because Taiwan, along with South Korea and the Philippines, is one of the three most heavily Christianized countries in Asia. This in turn has allowed for the growth of a pipe organ culture springing from the organ’s traditional, iconic role in a Westernized Christian worship environment. The Project hopes that the organ culture of Taiwan will be covered on its own at some point in the future. There is a study (in Chinese) of Taiwan’s pipe organs published in 2004, now somewhat out of date:  XXX. The Taiwan Chapter of the American Guild of Organists also maintains a list of pipe organs in Taiwan: http://www.agotaiwan.org/

What is the 'organ-in-storage' trope, or myth?

The ‘organ-in-storage’ trope is a reiterated political myth that has grown up and spread virally in Mainland China since about the year 2000. In its basic form, it claims that such-and-such an organ was not in fact destroyed between 1949 and the end of the Cultural Revolution (1976) but was instead dismantled and put into storage as a ‘cultural relic’.

The fable appears to originate with Father Wang Jizhi’s 1991 article, “A Short History of Pipe Organs in Beijing”, published in the Beijing Music Weekly (Beijing yinyue zhoubao, 2 February 1991, Part 2.) Here, Fr. Wang gave details of the dismantling of PEK1888 and the exchange of this Cavaillé-Coll pipe organ for a piano between the Beijing Central Conservatory and the Beijing 39th Middle School (which occupied the Beitang at the time in the late 1950s.) As the Conservatory could not figure out how to re-erect the dismantled organ, according to Fr. Wang it was put into storage, perhaps in a facility at Beijing University (BeiDa).

This verifiable story has subsequently become a useful, twice-told tale to explain away damage and disappearance. The underlying reasons for this are the ever-increasing restriction since the early 2000s on discussion of the Cultural Revolution and its atrocities, and upon religious practice generally. The Project has documented other instances in the past decade, stories very much alike and entirely at variance with what informants were willing to offer in the 1990s (and in some cases, even today.) It has much in common with the myth of numerous temples, even those in remote locations and of marginal historical value, being saved from destruction during the Cultural Revolution through “the personal intervention of Premier Zhou Enlai.”

The logical outcome of accepting and believing the organ-in-storage myth, is that China is covered with secret locations, each holding and preserving a pipe organ. It is significant that not one of these putative organs has ever been produced for inspection.

 

What is China's 'organ race'?

The ‘organ race’ is a term developed by the Project to refer to the astonishing pattern of installation of many new pipe organs since 1995 in Mainland China, a country where the instrument is (now) unfamiliar and where there is not much possibility of the organ functioning primarily in its traditional, iconic role as an adjunct to worship (although this is changing slowly).

Nearly 90% of the pipe organs installed since 1995 (the year of CAN1995a and CAN1995b) have been civic organs in public halls. Funding for these instruments has been largely governmental, or indirectly so through quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations (QUANGOs) such as the Poly Group.

Funding for the few pipe organs installed (so far) in churches is ever more obscure and more difficult to understand. This is invariably said to have come from ‘donations’. But this answer is just in sync with the Chinese government’s ‘self-support’ policy for official churches, and seems unlikely in a country with China’s GDP per capita ratio. Details are near-impossible to come by, although the Project has surmised that typically a ‘major donor’ pays 50-75% of the cost, and the rest is raised by actual donations (the funding source of the major gift is very unclear.)

Altogether vast sums are expended on purchasing and installing these instruments, but there is often little allocation for subsequent maintenance. Quality control in builder selection and design is a serious problem, and halls are often constructed with little or no input from organ builders, leading to serious logistic and acoustic problems.

The organ race in sum is a particular aspect of what has been called China’s ‘Cultural Great Leap Forward’. Further discussion of the organ race may be found in Chapters 6 and 7 of Keys to the Kingdom.

ABC: What are all those acronyms about?

Acronyms are the intellectual weeds of Asia (and other places.) They are everywhere and impossible to get rid of. Why are they so popular? There are several reasons (or, at least, hypotheses) for this.

The first and most obvious is that acronyms function to exclude: if you are ‘in the know’, in the loop, then you understand the acronym. The function of acronyms is to take ordinary things and make them seem extraordinary. They give a(n often false) sense of importance to things that they would otherwise lack, and stroke the egos of the people who use them.

The second hypothesis is more mundane: they are useful in a place where English is often the official language of business, but English skills are often weak. It’s a lot easier to remember and say (and spell) ‘FRG’, than ‘funded research grant’.

These are the most common acronyms used on this website:

AGO                       American Guild of Organists

ASPAC                    Asia-Pacific (Region)                                    Now sometimes abbreviated to APAC

CCOM                    Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing

CCP                        Chinese Communist Party                          The Party of the one-party state.

CCPA                     Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association     Official (Roman) Catholic Church in China

CCTV                     China Central Television                             Official government broadcaster

DEK                       Deutsche Evangelische Kirche                   

KMT                       Kuomintang (guomindang)                        Nationalist Chinese Party (ruled China 1912-49)

NGO                      ‘non-governmental organization’

OHS                       Organ Historical Society

PUMC                    Peking Union Medical College

QUANGO             ‘quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization’

RAB                        Religious Affairs Bureau                             Government entity monitoring and enforcing all aspects of religion and religious life in Mainland China. Now called the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) but the older name and acronym are still in common use.

SAR                        Special Administrative Region                     applies to Hong Kong and Macau

SASAC                   State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (Mainland China)

SEZ                        Special Economic Zone                               applies to Shenzhen, Zhuhai, and other places

SKH                       Sheng Kung Hui                                           Chinese Anglican Church, based in Hong Kong

TAO                       The American Organist                              Official journal of the AGO

TSPM                    Three-Self Patriotic Movement                 Official Protestant Church in China