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Wusheng Qinpu
Qin Handbook of Five Tones 1

This handbook has five melodies, none with lyrics. The author identifies himself only as Lan Xian, the Lazy Immortal.2 To my knowledge no one so far has identified who he was, and there are no recordings available of any of the five melodies in this handbook.

I myself have done a preliminary reconstruction of all five of these pieces. What this means is that I have worked out the notes,3 giving them tentative note values, and printed this out using the transcription program Encore, adding the original tablature underneath. However, I have not yet learned to play the melodies, which in general means the note values I have selected so far have not yet revealed underlying structures which satisfy me. If the tablature is accurate, the music seems to be quite different from that of other early handbooks. Only one melody has commentary, #3 Xian Shan Yue, and this is also the only melody to be found in a later handbook: it is copied out as #62 in Xilutang Qintong (1525), where the afterword expresses admiration for the theoretical concepts found in Lan Xian's handbook.4

The list of Qin Sages in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu does not mention Lan Xian or his melodies.

Table of Contents for Wusheng Qinpu (1457)

  1. Chun Yu (Spring Rain); gong mode (I/188)

  2. Wen Yang (North of the Wen); shang mode (I/190)

  3. Xian Shan Yue (Moon over the Immortals' Mountain); jiao mode (I/192)

  4. Hong Fei (Flying Geese); zhi mode (I/195)

  5. Meng Ou (Allied with the Seagulls); yu mode (I/197)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 262.1060 五聲 wu sheng: 宮 gong, 商 shang, 角 jiao, 徵 zhi, 羽 yu. It also mentions: 辭、色、氣、耳、目 and 陰平、陽平、上、去、入. The preface in Xilutang Qintong to melody 3 (see below) suggests this book was also known as 琴訣五篇 Qin Mysteries, Five Chapters (21570.xx).

2. 懶仙 11722.xx Lan can also be translated as "idle", "indolent", "reluctant", etc.

3. There seem to be quite a few mistakes in the original tablature, and much of the punctuation is missing.

4. I have not studied the theoretical concepts.

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