Teodorico Pedrini

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Teodorico Pedrini, C.M. (June 30, 1671 – December 10, 1746), was an Italian Vincentian priest, musician and composer, but mainly missionary for 36 years at the Imperial Court of China.

Pedrini was born in Fermo, in the Marche, then part of the Papal States. He was the founder of the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Beijing (西堂). He was the music teacher to three sons of the Qing Dynasty's Kangxi Emperor, he was co-author of the first treatise on Western Music theory ever written in Chinese: the LǜlǚZhèngyì-Xùbiān, later included in the Siku Quanshu. His Chinese name was 德理格 – Dé Lĭgé.

The mission and the music

Pedrini was a missionary in China from 1710 to 1746, the year of his death. His importance in the first half of 18th century is connected with two main fields: History of the Church

The doctrinal issues involving the Mission in China in the period between the end of 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century saw Teodorico Pedrini as one of its main characters.

The so-called Chinese rites controversy concerned the way in which the Christian religious practice was to be considered, especially in connection to the Chinese practice of Confucian origin, which the Jesuits, following Matteo Ricci's teaching, were willing to permit to the converted Christians.

Pedrini was one of the few missionaries who kept to the directives of the Holy See in that regard, which had repeatedly forbidden (first with the Decree Cum Deus Optimus in 1704, then with the Bullas Ex Illa Die in 1715, and Ex Quo Singulari in 1742) the mixture of Christian and Confucian practices. His fidelity to the decisions of Rome brought to Pedrini beatings and imprisonment. In the most delicate period of the controversy, Pedrini was the main representative of Propaganda Fide in Beijing; in such a position he held regular epistolary contacts with the Vatican.

As missionary to the Chinese court, Pedrini carried out also another important project: in 1723 he bought a large residence where he opened to the cult the first non-Jesuit Church in Beijing': the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Xitang or the Western Church). The church was destroyed twice after his death and was twice re-built. It is still standing nowadays and, after a recent restoration, it has been opened again exactly in the same place where Pedrini built it: at n° 130 of Xizhimennei Dajie, one of the largest avenues of the Chinese capital city, on the way between the Forbidden City and the Old Summer Palace, in those times the Emperor's residence. Still readable on one of the sidewalls in the Church, an inscription reminds the visitors of the name of its founder. History of music and cultural relations between East and West

Besides being a priest, Pedrini was also a musician. This competence helped him first to be admitted to the court of the Chinese emperors and then to gain the favour of three successive emperors, ruling during his lifetime – the Kangxi Emperor (1662–1722), the Yongzheng Emperor (1722–1735) and the Qianlong Emperor (1735–1796). As a musician, Pedrini was the teacher of three sons of the Kangxi Emperor, and he constructed musical instruments and mended those present at court.

...he [the Kangxi Emperor] also used to write music notes, and let me review, giving me his own pen, he made me write on his desk, and we often played together the same harpsichord, each with one hand (Teodorico Pedrini's letter of 1727[2])

In addition, carrying on with the work of his predecessor, the Portuguese Jesuit Tomas Pereira, Pedrini completed the text of the first treatise on Western music theory ever published in China, the LǜlǚZhèngyì-Xùbiān, which was later included in the huge encyclopedic work called Siku Quanshu (1781).

With this work Pedrini asserted himself as one of the main figures in the introduction of western music in China.

Furthermore, Pedrini is the author of the only Western Baroque music compositions known in China in the 18th century: the Dodici Sonate a Violino Solo col Basso del Nepridi – Opera Terza whose original manuscript is still preserved in the National Library of Běijīng.


  • Dodici Sonate a Violino Solo col Basso del Nepridi – Opera Terza, in National Library of China; these scores were recorded in 1996 by the French group XVIII-21 Musique des Lumières[3] directed by Jean-Christophe Frisch, with the title Concert Baroque à la Cité Interdite.[4]
  • Sonata IV in g Minor for Cello and Continuo


  • Concert baroque à la Cité interdite, Ensemble XVIII-21 Le Baroque Nomade, Jean-Christophe Frisch, audivis astrée
  • Complete Violin Sonatas, Nancy Wilson (violin), Joyce Lindorff (harpsichord), paladino music