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Confucian Qin Themes
Confucius teaching students at the Apricot Tree Forum 1    
The themes of these melodies include both stories about Confucius and melodies which specifically endorse Confucian principles. Other melodies which discuss the virtues of ancient rulers could also be included here. Or the focus could be the region of Confucius' home town, Qu Fu in Shandong province. One might include melodies that use lyrics from the Book of Songs, supposedly edited by Confucius, but there are not many of these.3

The melodies listed here were all pubished during the Ming dynasty; no link to the title means my reconstruction has not been finalized. Not included are several further melodies that seem to have originated during the Qing dynasty.4

  1. Huo Lin (Captured Unicorn)
    A unicorn is captured at Da Ye, near Qufu. This is thought to be a lucky omen, indicating a good prince is at hand, but Confucius reveals that in fact it was unlucky, because no such prince is at hand. (Illustration)

  2. Yi Lan (Lonely Orchid)
    Confucius, after being rejected at many courts, returns home to Lu. He finds a lovely orchid alone in a field, and compares it with himself. (Illustration)

  3. Nanxun Ge (Song of Southern Breezes)
    Nanfeng Ge, in Kongzi Jiayu,5 says,

    The breezes coming from the south are mild;
    They can solve my people's worries.
    The breezes coming from the south are timely;
    They can bring abundance to my people's property.

  4. [Wen Wang] Si Shun ([Wen Wang] Thinks of Shun); also called Wen Wang Cao (Wen Wang's Melody)
    The Shi Ji writes that Confucius learned Wen Wang Cao from Shi Xiang. (Illustration)

  5. Wen Wang Qu (Wen Wang's Tune)
    Lyrics are poems 236, 237 and 238 in the Shi Jing, by tradition compiled by Confucius.

  6. Jiang Gui Cao (About to Return Melody)
    Confucius, on his way to Jin, hears an advisor there has been executed, so he returns home. (Illustration)

  7. Guishan Cao (Turtle Mountain Melody)
    Confucius leaves the city and thinks of this mountain because the duke of Lu has accepted a gift of dancing girls from Qi, and is ignoring his official duties. (Illustration)

  8. Yasheng Cao (Proximate Sage Melody)
    This piece invokes Yan Hui, the favorite student of Confucius. "Yasheng" suggests "second only to Confucius himself", and Yan Hui was one of a few people so named.

  9. Xing Tan (Apricot Tree Forum, or Ginkgo Tree Forum)
    Xing Tan is said to be the place in Qu Fu where Confucius taught his students. (Illustrations)

  10. Mingde Yin with
  11. Kongsheng Jing
    Musical setting of The Great Learning and a commentary by Zhu Xi; used for Confucian ceremonies?

  12. Pei Lan (Orchid Ornament)
    According to Confucius Household Sayings, Confucius said that when you first go into a room you notice whether the smell is good or bad, but after a while you get used to it; so a good person should always find good surroundings. An orchid worn at the belt symbolizes this. (There is also a Chu Ci reference.)

  13. Xue Chuang Ye Hua (Evening Talk by a Snowy Window)
    The sung version (1539) has a Confucian text; I play the purely instrumental version, which is more about snow itself

  14. You Lan (Lonely Orchid)
    Same theme as #2 Yi Lan, but unrelated melodies (there are several versions).

  15. Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou (18 Scholars Ascend Yingzhou)
    The lyrics concern the role of the Hanlin Academy

  16. Sheng De Song (Hymn of Grand Moral Virtue)
    The lyrics of
    this melody quote or paraphrase many Confucian principles

  17. Moufu Kuang Jun (Moufu Admonishes his Lord)
    This melody, also called Qizhao Shi (Good Advice Poem, from the Zuo Zhuan; Watson, p.167) concerns 祭公謀父 Duke Moufu of Zhai (on Yellow River north of Zhengzhou, Henan) giving good Confucian advice to an early Zhou king.

  18. San Cai Yin (Three Talents Intonation)
    The version in
    Japan is a setting from the Doctrine of the Mean, Chapter 26.

  19. Da Zai Yin (Hail Greatness Intonation)
    The version in
    Japan is a setting from the Doctrine of the Mean, Chapter 27.
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Confucius plays qin while teaching students
The above painting is by 白雲立 Bai Yunli. For further images of Confucius see also:

Xing Tan art
Huo Lin (Captured Unicorn)
Yi Lan (Flourishing Orchid)
(Wen Wang) Si Shun ([Wen Wang] Thinks of Shun)
Jiang Gui Cao (About to Return Melody)
Guishan Cao (Turtle Mountain Melody)

Many such images can be found as woodblock prints in 孔子聖蹟圖 Sagely Relics of Confucius; only the ones above by Bai Yunli are copyrighted here. On the internet there are many other images of Confucius playing the qin.

3. Qin songs that use lyrics from the Book of Songs (詩經 Shi Jing)
These include:

There may be more.

4. Later melodies on the theme of Confucius
Melodies with a Confucian theme that I have not yet tried to reconstruct were mostly published beginning in the Qing dynasty. Some are virtually unknown, such as

  1. 孔子弔季札 Kongzi Diao Ji Zha (Confucius Mourns Ji Zha, a prince who had virtuously declined to succeed his father), or
  2. 望雲思親 Wang Yun Si Qin (Looking at the Moon and Thinking of One's Parents, which concerns Confucian values [and is attributed to "Judge Dee"]).

Perhaps the two best known of these are listed in the Zha Guide as 韋編 Wei Bian and 讀易 Du Yi (with variants); these are discussed further here. In sum, although the stories of the Wei Bian and Du Yi seem to be similar, the two Wei Bian melodies are musically unrelated to each other, and neither one seems to be musically related to any of the Du Yi melodies. However, this is a preliminary opinion based on examining the tablatures, not actually playing or hearing all the meloides. Perhaps further study might show that there are indeed musical relationships between them.

  1. Leather Bindings (韋編 Wei Bian)
    Although the available existing tablature for a melody of this title, dated 1738, details a melody quite different from the one called Leather Bindings Broken Thrice (韋編三絕 Wei Bian San Jue/Weibian Sanjue) that can be heard in a modern recording, both of these Wei Bian melodies tell the same story. Literary references include:

    Zha Guide lists Wei Bian as only in the hand-copied 琴書千古 Qinshu Qian'gu (1738; XV/444), where it has 7 sections, its mode is not indicated, and it has no commentary or lyrics. Zha's statement, p. 39, that the melody is "明代民間 from the people of the Ming dynasty" should be seen basically as a political statement, not historical. To my knowledge this melody has not yet been reconstructed.

    Zha Guide does not mention Leather Bindings Broken Thrice (韋編三絕 Weibian Sanjue). The melody of this name has been transcribed in Guqin Quji, Vol. 1, pp. 265-7, where it is divided into three sections. Commentary with the earliest known recording, by Le Ying, included in CD #6 of the China Records 8-CD set of recordings from the 1950s, identifies the melody only as from 抄本琴譜 hand copied tablature, but a comment at the front of the tablature/transcription in Guqin Quji (p. 265) says its source is 賈闊峰傳譜 tablature transmitted by Jia Kuofeng, who was Le Ying's teacher. The brief commentary on p. 10 of Guqin Quji says that the melody survived only though that hand-copy, no printed scores. It then suggests that this modern melody is related to that of the Wei Bian in the 1738 handbook and points to the story shared with Kongzi Du Yi. However, as mentioned above, my own tentative examination comparing the two Wei Bian tablatures did not reveal any musical relationship between them, nor any between either of them and any of the Du Yi melodies mentioned next.

  2. 讀易 Du Yi (Reading the Yi Jing)
    Zha's Guide lists five handbooks from 1739 (XVIII/187), giving as alternate title Confucius Reading the Yi Jing (孔子讀易 Kongzi Du Yi) and Reading the Yi Jing on an Autumn Evening (秋夜讀易 Qiu Ye Du Yi). The five handbooks with these titles are:

    1. 琴學練要 Qinxue Lianyao (1839; XVIII/187)
      Du Yi; 4+1 sections, titled; yu yin; afterword says

      (Paraphrase:) Friends liked to read aloud the Yi Jing on autumn evenings, and the sound inspired the writer to create this melody (see also du shu sheng).
    2. 蕉庵琴譜 Jiaoan Qinpu (1868; XXVI/84)
      Qiu Ye Du Yi; yu yin; 3 sections; no commentary; related but many differences

    3. 天文閣琴譜 Tianwen'ge Qinpu (1876; XXV/201); 6 sections; gong yin; zhi diao
      Kongzi Du Yi; said to be "閩派 Min pai" (Fujian school) but "from 孔山 Kongshan". No other commentary. Recordings of this by 曾成偉 Zeng Chengwei, which are very similar to this tablature, are said to be 蜀派 Sichuan school. Seems unrelated to the other versions.

    4. 琴學初津 Qinxue Chujin (1894; XXVIII/254)
      Qiu Ye Du Yi; 4+1 sections; huangjun jun, shang yin; musically quite similar to 1839; the afterword says:

      Not yet translated.
    5. 詩夢齋琴譜 Shimengzhai Qinpu (1914; not in QQJC)
      Du Yi; 3 sections; I have not yet seen the tablature.

      This is music by Li Xiangshi, should be played in the style of the Sichuan school, and especially at the beginning is quite pleasurable. (Comment by) Ye Shimeng.

    The introductions to Du Yi do not actually mention Confucius except where his name appears in the title (i.e., the Kongzi Du Yi from 1876). Nevertheless, from the titles it would seem that the theme of the Du Yi melodies might be similar to that of the Wei Bian melodies.

Again, although further study might show that there are indeed musical relationships between the Wei Bian melodies or between them and the Du Yi melodies, until that time one should be skeptical of the claims one can read that 韋編三絕初見於《琴書千古》(1738,抄本)Wei Bian San Jue can be traced back to 1738. In fact it has not even been traced back prior to Le Ying and/or his teacher. It should be needless to add that, though criticism of the commentary, this is in fact praise for the performer.

5. Confucius' Household Sayings (孔子家語 Kongzi Jiayu)
See under Confucius: a collection of stories attributed to Confucius but most probably dating from the Han dynasty. Quoted variously on this site: see especially the six selections from four books.

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