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Taigu Yiyin
Music Bequeathed from Antiquity
By Xie Lin1 and Huang Shida2
1511 / 1515
Xie Lin himself?3                    
Two editions of this Taigu Yiyin have survived:

  1. Xie Lin Taigu Yiyin (1511)
  2. Huang Shida Taigu Yiyin (1515)

The former has 36 melodies, the latter adds two more; otherwise they are almost identical. Of these 38 melodies, only nine seem related (and these often distantly) to ones surviving from earlier publications. Some of these titles are also partly or completely different.4

Like Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, this handbook consists of pieces with lyrics. However, the pieces in 1511 seem more genuinely to represent a sung tradition, as is discussed in the Zha Fuxi introduction. And whereas no earlier source for the Zheyin lyrics has been found (the suspicion is that they were added because of a theory that qin music should be sung, but that most of the idiom is in fact purely instrumental), most lyrics here can be found in classical sources.

One way of categorizing the melodies here is by length: there are 18 short songs consisting of only one section, with 16 having lyrics also found in the Yuefu Shiji (YFSJ); the 20 longer pieces are almost all divided into unnumbered sections, the sections indicated only by large circles. This is discussed further on the commentary page.

The lyrics themselves include two from the Shi Jing and at least 20 from the Song dynasty edition of Yuefu Shiji; 16 are among the 20 pieces having only 1 section, including all ten "qin pieces" of the Tang poet Han Yu.5

This pairing of melodies with classical lyrics recalls descriptions of the work of the Song/Yuan dynasty qin player Yu Yan, but I have not heard that anyone has found specific connections.

For further information about Taigu Yiyin see:

(Caution: much of the commentary and many of the translations are incomplete and/or unpolished)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 謝琳 Xie Lin 36661.xxx
From 黃山 Huangshan. Xie Lin had the nickname 雪峰 Xuefeng. See Zha Fuxi's preface and the the commentary by He Xu.

2. 黃士達 Huang Shida 48904.xxx
From 豸山 Zhishan (37338.xxx ?). No information on him outside his tablature.

3. From page 3 of Xie Lin Taigu Yiyin

4. Melodies in Taigu Yiyin related to ones published earlier
For all nine versions also published earlier, since I have already made recordings of those earlier ones, so far I have recorded only four of these nine 1511 versions. First, my focus has generally been on instrumental melodies. Next, it can be confusing to try to learn two versions of the same melody. That can also seem like more of a didactic experience if it does not include something totally new.

The following two songs have titles related to those of earlier published pieces, but no apparent melodic relationship:

If from Taigu Yiyin's 38 melodies you subtract the 31 for which I have made recordings and the five for which I have only recorded earlier versions, this means that I have yet to record only two melodies, these being the two from the 1515 Taigu Yiyin:

For these I have written out transcriptions but am not comfortable with the rhythms I have worked out. This is often true for melodies with lyrics that have not yet been translated. Even for melodies that do not seem to be singable, I find it most interesting if I can find some relationship between the rhythm of the words (which requires some understanding of the literal meaning) and the rhythm of the melody (which is not clearly defined by the tablature).

Although this 1511/1515 handbooks were published later than the 1425 and 1491 handbooks, it is not certain that the song versions of these melodies date later than the instrumental versions. It does seem quite possible that many of the short songs in particular represent part of an oral tradition: the songs would have been done differently each time, and even it they remained quite similar it would then have been difficult to decide on a definitive version. On the other hand, some of the longer ones seem to have the characteristic that most of the 1491 melodies have of seeming to be instrumental melodies to which lyrics have been added.

5. Yuefu Shiji lyrics
Search the ToC for YFSJ.

6. My online recordings
In many of my recordings for a few notes have been added at the beginning of the melody - often a copy of the last phrase or closing harmonics; this is to accompany the cover page of the video.

These versions are more tentative than my reconstructions of purely instrumental melodies. In those I can rely on my understanding (tentative as it may be since so little has been written about this in other sources) of the purely musical structures. With melodies intended to be sung this requires an understanding of the relationship between the words and the music - though in some cases that relationship may not have seemed natural to the literati themselves.

Very few of these are actually sung. I certainly have tried to sing them to myself as I work out rhythms, but singing them for a recording requires memorizing them. Although in some instances a recording can be double tracked, a truly authoritative version requires a singer more skilled than I am. As for historical accuracy, very little is known about voice production during the period these songs were created. One can guess that this may have been related to the voice produciton of later forms such as kunqu. But after all this was, on the one hand, a non-professional tradition supported by literati from a variety of regions in China, while at the same time the literati probably also enjoyed hearing these songs sung by professional entertainers.

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