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Taiyin Xisheng
Great Music Beyond Sound   1
Opening page of Taiyin Xisheng 2        
Taiyin Xisheng has 36 melodies in five folios, all with lyrics.3 Its publication date of 1625 is based on the dates of its various prefaces. It was not indexed in Zha Fuxi's Guide: presumably he did not see a copy as by the 1950s it was very rare, only three copies having survived. They apparently are not all identical.4 The one used here was a copy now in the Music Research Bureau, Beijing.

There is further commentary on two pieces from this handbook; the first is one I have done some work on but reconstruction is imcomplete; the second I have reconstructed and recorded,

  1. Jingye Tan Xuan (Quiet Evening Talk on Metaphysics)
    A setting of phrases from the Daoist canon
  2. Se Kong Jue (Canon of Form and Emptiness)
    A setting for qin of the Heart Sutra (listen with the text)

According to the commentary in Qinqu Jicheng, Taiyin Xisheng was compiled by (or for) Chen Dabin of Qiantang (Hangzhou),5 then apparently quite elderly. Chen's earliest recorded teacher was a Zhejiang School master named Li Shuinan, with whom he is said to have begun studying prior to 1578. Thus, by the time this handbook was compiled he must have been playing for at least 50 years. During this period he had traveled throughout the Wu district (centered on Suzhou) as well as to Beijing, in the process visiting four significant qin friends in particular:

Being himself quite poor, during the 1620s when he was in Beijing he obtained the help of Kong Yinzhi10 and others in getting it published.

There is considerably more commentary in the Qinqu Jicheng article, which eventually should be translated in its entirety.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Taiyin Xisheng 太音希聲 (QQJC IX/99-243)
5965.xxx but 5960.695 is 大音希聲 in which phrase 大 (usually da) might be pronounced as 太 tai: "不可得聞之音,老子四十一 a sound that cannot be heard", the earliest reference given being Laozi (i.e., Dao De Jing): 「大音希聲,大象無形」. Translations include:

The phrase written as "太音希聲 taiyin xisheng" appears in Section 4 of the lyrics/text for Jingye Tan Xuan (shortly after "大象無形 daxiang wuxing").

"希聲 Xisheng" is also suggestive of the nickname for the compiler of the earliest surviving qin handbook to pair lyrics to all its music, Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, compiled by Xi Xian, the "Beyond Sounds Immortal".

That this handbook was not indexed in Zha Fuxi's Guide makes it more difficult to trace melodies. It also suggests that although the commentary in front is attributed to Zha Fuxi, it was revised later, presumably by Wu Zhao.

2. Image: Opening page of Taiyin Xisheng
This image is copied from QQJC IX/101 (see more).

3. Lyrics for melodies in Taiyin Xisheng
Although the pairing of tablature and lyrics here generally follows the traditional pairing method, five melodies are unusual here in that they write the lyrics to the left of the tablature rather than to the right. The five are:

  1. Guanghan You
  2. Cangwu Yin
  3. Jingye Tan Xuan
  4. Gu Yuan Xiao Yue
  5. Xiao Xiang Shui Yun

I do not know the reason for this.

4. Versions of Taiyin Xisheng
The Qinqu Jicheng preface to Taiyin Xisheng says that of the three known surviving editions the one included in QQJC is one of two kept in the 中國藝術研究院音樂研究所 Music Research Bureau, Beijing; the third is kept by the 浙江省衢縣文管會 Zhejiang Province Qu County Committee for the Management of Cultural and Historical Relics. Qu County (衢縣 Quxian), now usually Qu District (衢州 Quzhou), is about 200 km southwest of Hangzhou.

My preliminary examination of the version in Qinqu Jicheng suggests it has many copy errors. This may be uneven and resulting from different people actually doing the copying, or uneven proof-reading. It may also be some of the errors could be clarified by studying the different surviving copies.

There is some further discussion of errors under the one piece from this handbook I have studied in some detail, Se Kong Jue.

5. 陳大斌 Chen Dabin
Chen, from 錢塘 Qiantang (Hangzhou), was nicknamed 太希 Taixi

6. Xu Kexian of Wumen

7. Xu Nanshan of Longyou
龍游徐南山 . See Xu Shiqi.

8. Guo Wutong, a man of Qi

9. Cui Xiaotong of Henan

10. Kong Yinzhi

Return to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.