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34. Apricot Tree Forum
Or is it Ginkgo Tree Forum? 2
- Shang mode:3 standard tuning 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
At Qufu; New version 4
Confucius (551-479), after years of offering his services to various local lords, returned to his home in Qufu. According to Zhuangzi he then taught a number of disciples from under a tree in a small grove.6 The qin handbook Shilin Guangji, attributed to Chen Yuanjing of the southern Song dynasty, has an illustration of this.7
This illustration, like others on this theme, shows Confucius playing the qin in the open air under a tree. Today in the center front courtyard of the Temple of Confucius is a Pavilion of the Apricot Tree Forum (or Gingko Tree Forum).8 General guides do not give the age or history of this structure. They do say that Duke Ai of Lu, the year after the death of Confucius, built a temple in his honor in front of the place where he had taught. Since then that temple has been rebuilt a number of times.9
A collection of essays, in Yangchuntang Qinpu (1611), called Qin Chuang Zaji quotes a story in which Confucius recalls a famous minister of Lu named Zangwen Zhong,10 then is inspired to sing a song. The story's source is said to be another Ming collection called the Shantang Sikao,11
The melody Xing Tan pairs these lyrics with the tablature for Section 10, but they can be found in a number of other qin settings as well. These include the melodies Ya Sheng Cao (1511) and Caoman Yin (1585), as well as two of the later melodies called Xing Tan Yin.12
Zha Fuxi has written that because these lyrics are often found in Ming dynasty handbooks, people have drawn the false conclusion that they are very ancient. He goes on to say teachers should remind their students that these lyrics were actually created by the common people.13
The preface to Xing Tan in Xilutang Qintong attributes the melody to Wang Tong (583-616),14 a famous classicist who during the Sui dynasty (589 - 618) proposed 12 "plans to secure tranquillity in the empire". When these were not accepted, he retired to He Fen, the area between the Fen and Yellow rivers, about 150 km. northeast of Chang An, there teaching thousands of students. After his death his disciples canonized him "Wen Zhongzi".
Wen Zhongzi taught at He Fen, submerging his virtue where it was not broadcast. He described the ideas which Confucius had taught in the Apricot (or Gingko) Tree Forum, putting them into a qin song.
11 Sections, untitled16 (timings follow my recording)
01.47 6. The sound of reading17
03.35 10. (lyrics; translated above)
04.25 Closing harmonics
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)
Xing Tan references
14820.46 杏壇 xingtan says it is the place where Confucius taught; in a broad sense, any place for teaching; nothing about music. A "tan" is an altar, forum or raised plot of land (ABC); "forum" appropriately suggests a meeting place for discussion. "Xing" is discussed in the next footnote.
Xing Tan: Apricot Tree Forum, Almond Tree Forum, or Ginkgo Tree Forum?
By itself "杏 xing" may refer to the tree fruit rather than the tree itself, but here the reference seems more likely to the tree: The tree or trees under which Confucius is said to have taught are said to have been "xing" trees. There are three main understandings of what this tree might have been. The following analysis suggests "apricot tree forum" to be the most reasonable translation.
Shang Mode 商調
Standard tuning is usually considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6. For further information on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.
Tracing Xing Tan
Zha Fuxi's index 19/181/371 has the title Xing Tan in 1525 and Xing Tan Yin in three later handbooks:
Confucius' teaching place
Zhuangzi, Chapter 31 漁父 The Fisherman, begins with a story of a fisherman coming upon Confucius as he was teaching his students and playing the qin in the Xing Tan (Apricot Tree or Gingko Tree Forum).
Shilin Guangji illustration
On page 4 of the original. Reproduced in Qinqu Jicheng, vol. I, p.11. There are no lyrics.
Xing Tan Ge 杏壇閣 (Apricot [or Ginkgo] Tree Forum Pavilion)
See the illustration. A "ge" is a chamber or pavilion.
魯哀公 Duke Ai of Lu (Bio.2342) ruled for 27 years (494 - 467)
魯將臧文仲 General Zangwen Zhong of Lu: 藏孫辰 Zangsun Chen (d. 617 BCE)
Zangsun Chen (commonly romanized Zang Sunchen, but 30755.30 and Bio/2455 say Zangsun is a double surname) is perhaps better known by his posthumous title, Zangwen Zhong (commonly romanized Zang Wenzhong, but 30755.2 says Zangwen was used as a surname by his descendents). A statesman of Lu, he is both praised and criticized in classical sources. The Zuo Zhuan has two passages, Duke Zhuang's 28th year and Duke Wen's 2nd year. The former says (Legge, V., p.115) "he belonged to a distinguished and loyal family in Loo;" the latter (ibid. pp.232 and 234) quotes Confucius as saying Zangwen Zhong lacked 仁 virtue in three ways and lacked 知 knowledge in three ways. The commentary explains that he 下展禽，廢六關，妾織蒲 demoted Zhen Qin, removed the six gates, and had his concubines weave rush mats; he 作虛器，縱逆祀，祀爰居 made vain structures, followed an improper order for sacrifices, and sacrificed to the yuanju [a strange bird]). The Analects reports Confucius saying, "Zangwen Zhong housed oracle tortoises in a hall where the column capitals were decorated with the shapes of mountains and the roof beams were decorated with images of water plants. What good was his knowledge?" 30755.30 lists references for him in Kongzi Jiayu, Lun Heng, Shuo Yuan and Yantie Lun (孔子家語﹕好生、顏回、本姓[命？]解；論衡﹕明雲[雩？]；說苑﹕權謀；鹽鐵論﹕周秦). I don't know how all this connects with the above lyrics. His mother's biography in Lienü Zhuan says 琴之合，甚思之。
Shantang Sikao account 山堂肆考 (China Knowledge)
The Shantang Sikao (8043.514; 228 folios; late Ming) was compiled by 彭大翼 Peng Dayi of Yangzhou (Bio.2243; Ming 諸生 zhusheng; no dates). The same basic account of Confucius singing these lyrics is told in the text accompanying an illustration from the life of Confucius. The account translated above, as copied in 陽春堂琴經，琴窗雜記，山堂肆考 Yangchuntang Qin Jing, Qinchuang Zaji, crediting Shantang Sikao (Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. VII/328), is as follows:
Other occurences of the Xing Tan lyrics
These lyrics can be found within at least three qin titles:
The 1511 and 1585 versions are both within what are considered beginners' melodies; all three are melodically unrelated.
Early refences related to the Xing Tan lyrics (compare
暑往 14375.xxx; 737998.98 寒來 mentions 寒來暑往, making reference to the 易經，繫辭下 latter part of the Xici commentary (aka Great Treatise II) on the Yi Jing, which says, 寒往則暑來，暑往則寒來，寒暑相推，而歲成焉 (CTP: "The cold goes and the heat comes; the heat goes and the cold comes; - it is by this mutual succession of the cold and heat that the year is completed." No mention of 春 spring or 秋 autumn.
Zha Fuxi's comment that the lyrics were created by the common people must be seen within the polical context of that time: although they may well have some folk connections and/or uses, the source really is unknown. His comments are in his Collected Writings, p.209. Within the qin repertoire I have not yet found a source earlier than Ya Sheng Cao (1511; Section 7), as mentioned in the previous footnote. The frustration of searching for this online perhaps underscore's Zha's statement. Here are some online references I did find:
A more careful search will certainly turn up more early references, perhaps some as early as the Song dynasty.
Attribution to Wang Tong
More details on 王通 Wang Tong (文中子 Wen Zhongzi) can be found in his Qin Shi biography, #112.
Original Chinese text
Original Chinese section titles
西麓堂琴統 (1525)，杏壇﹕十一段 （聽我的錄音）
The sound of reading books
讀書聲 Du shu sheng: compare Meihua Sannong, Section 4 and see footnote.
Return to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.