Zhu Zaiyu

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  • Born: 1536
  • Died: 1611
  • Chinese/Japanese: 載堉 (Zhū Zàiyù / Shu Saiiku)

Zhū Zàiyù was an Imperial prince of the Ming Dynasty, known today for his writings on music and dance. He is said to have been the first person in the world to devise the musical system of 12-tone equal temperament.[1]

He was the heir of Zhū Hòuwán (1518-1591), also known as Prince Gong of Zheng,[2] and is said to have been particularly talented at math, calendrics, and music as a child.

Zhu's most famous work is the extensive 47-volume Yuèlǜ quánshū (J: Gakuritsu zensho, roughly "Complete Book of Musical Meter"), published in 1596 and formally presented to the Wanli Emperor ten years later. In it, he writes on a wide variety of subjects relating to music and dance.

Zhu is said to have been particularly interested in seeing the revival or restoration of ritual music (C: lǐ yuè, J: reigaku). He saw the study of dance as a crucial element in this effort, and advocated for instruction in dance to be implemented at the National Academy and other major court and private schools. To that end, he also worked to collect, reproduce, and/or compile a great many records of music and dance.


  • Nakao Yukari 中尾友香梨, "Nihon ni okeru Mingaku no juyô" 「日本における明楽の受容」, in Kojima Yasunori 小島康敬 (ed.), Reigaku bunka 礼楽文化, Tokyo: Pelican-sha (2013), 350-351.
  1. Nakao, 350.
  2. Richard Wang, The Ming Prince and Daoism: Institutional Patronage of an Elite, Oxford University Press (2012), 99.