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Afterword to Shen Qi Mi Pu

by Tong Kin-Woon, from Qin Fu, Vol.2, Part 1, Afterwords, pp. 33-34,
Lianguan Chubanshe, Taipei, Taiwan, 1971; reprinted 1981

[Translator's comment: Three original copies of the Shen Qi Mi Pu are known to exist, none first editions (1425 AD). Two are from an edition ("2nd edition") engraved during the Jiajing period (1522-67): one in Taipei's National Palace Museum Library; the other in the Naikaku Bunko (Library of the Cabinet) in Tokyo. The third copy, now in the Shanghai Library, comes from an edition ('3rd edition') engraved during the Wanli period (1573-1622). Further comments by the translator are enclosed in these square brackets.]

The Shen Qi Mi Pu printed in Qin Fu is a [3rd edition, originally] re-engraved during the Wanli period (1573-1620). [Then] in the collection of Mr. Hu Gongxuan of Shanghai, in 1956 it was photo-engraved by the Music Publishing Company and cloth-bound in a box of three folios. At the end is a [12-page] afterword by Zhu Fuxi, plus 'Collected Notes on Finger Techniques', compiled by Yuan Quanyou. After this book had been (published), it received rather wide circulation at home and abroad. The relatively earlier [2nd] edition, engraved in the Ming Jiaqing period (1522-67), has already in 1963 been photocopied into the Volume One of Qinqu Jicheng, Original Series [the projected 24-volume new series of Qinqu Jicheng re-printed the 3rd edition in its first volume, which came out in 1978]. Both volumes have parts which were printed unclearly, especially the Jiaqing volume, where in not a few places one can go for half a line without being able to see what the characters are. Qin players who buy both these volumes feel quite vexed, because qin tablature is not like essays. If a word is missing from an essay, or a character is not printed clearly, one can guess the missing character. But qin tablature is symbols; if a symbol is missing, how can one guess it? Fortunately, sometimes in the places where one volume is unclear the other volume will be clear. But in a situation where often both volumes are unclear in the same place, how does one resolve this? The biggest problem is: these two (modern) volumes have long been sold out, and many qin players basically have now way to buy them, so how can they compare them? Yet to solve this problem is not too great a difficulty. You just have to take one of the two volumes, restore it very clearly, then photocopy it and make it generally available, then there is no problem. In this case I have photocopied the Wanli (3rd) edition of the Shen Qi Mi Pu, spent about 200 hours restoring the whole book so all strokes are clear, and so printed the result so that there is no figure which is not clear. Almost all the world can use the Shen Qi Mi Pu, (and) qin players can all feel very happy.

The restoring I have done includes the following work:

  1. Wherever there are stains in the book a brush has been used to spread on white powder, so that the stain does not get copied;
  2. Whenever a character or figure is missing or confused, a brush with black ink has been carefully used to restore the text, so it is clear enough to read. Before restoring text a comparison had to be made between the Jiaqing volume and what was written the same pieces as found in more than 10 other handbooks of the Ming and Qing dynasties, in order to make sure the corrections are not erroneous. Revealed mistaken places have also been annotated, annotations being printed in the last volume of Qin Fu.

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