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Qins from Qin and Han to the Wei and Jin Periods
The text here is from an article that included the illustrations at right:1
Above: Gu Kaizhi (Wei Jin)2   Below: Tang3            
2. Qin and Han to Wei and Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties Period

The guqin we are used to seeing today, with its sound box running the length of the body,4 plus its two feet, seven strings and 13 hui markers, probably had its shape and construction method fixed during the Qin Han to Wei Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties Period.

The qins held by the qin-playing Eastern Han Dynasty figurines, unearthed at Mianyang in Sichuan,5 supplement the old qins of the former Qin dynasty unearthed earlier, and fill in an imporant gap to the modern seven strings qin with its sound box. They have long rectangular box-shaped qins, having on the one hand a wide upper end (plucked end) and narrow lower end, and on the other hand a rounded (arched) shape for the interior (as reflected by the outer appearance?).

The Eastern Han dynasty's Gu Kaizhi (ca. 346-407 CE),6 supplement in his sketch entitled "Illustration of Qin Making" (shown at right), has two kinds of guqin. Both have a sound box running the length of the body; and although the qin body reveals such distinctive parts as forehead, neck and shoulder, yet in their construction methods the two types of guqins in the sketches are very similar to those showing qin playing figurines from the Song and Han. (The meaning of this is unclear to me: I do not notice two styles of qin in the sketch, only insides and outsides in various stages of construction.) This type of qin body is also seen in the Northern Dynasty painted brick figurines called the "Illustration of the Four Hoaryheads of Shang Mountain" found in (a tomb in today's) Deng County of Henan Province.7 These clearly state that the shape of this guqin first seen during the Eastern Han was preserved through the Eastern Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties periods. And the Tang dynasty engraved murals in the tomb of Li Shou in Sanyuan, Shaanxi (lower figures at right),8 show images of entertainers, with one embracing a qin and another playing one. The style of these qins is basically the same as those in the "Illustration of Qin Making".

In Nanjing at large tombs in Xishanqiao and such places the qins in the Southern Qi and Liang period brick reliefs of the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove with Rong Qiqi" all have the special characteristic of the full sound boxes and also reveal a newly developed style, that is, the sound box from the Eastern Jin with the long curved inner shape developed into a style having a squared head, wide shoulders and receiving a tail. This type of sound box could have further improved the sound of the qin.

The appearance of qin hui (harmonic markers) began some time before the Western Han or somewhat later, specifically the middle of the second century BCE. The Western Han's Mei Cheng (d. ca. 140 BCE) noted rhapsody (fu) called Seven Methods" (further comment) already advocated using tong wood from Longmen for qin construction, using wild silkworms to make silk strings, and also using "earrings of (the widow with) nine orphaned sons" to make "di". From looking at the opinions in earlier and later essays, ear ornaments used to make di originally referred to the center of the target for an arrow and this is equivalent to the (purpose) of hui (which shows where to put the finger when playing a harmonic). There are more explicit references to hui in the Rhapsody on the Qin by Xi Kang (223-262), which includes the phrase, "hui are made from the jade of Mount Zhong" (line 96 of 358). However, this still does not specify their number.

The earliest illustration of a qin with hui were seen in the archaeological discovery of brick murals in tombs dating from the Southern Qi or Liang period. There, in "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove with Rong Qiqi", the qin played by Xi Kang and Rong Qiqi have on the qin surface clearly more than 10 hui. One can thus consider that the full sound box style qin fixed with 13 hui dates from the Eastern Jin or somewhat earlier, but not later than the beginning of the Southern Qi, i.e., the last decade of the 5 century CE.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Source of this page
Copied from http://big51.china.com.cn/chinese/zhuanti/282201.htm (Section 2)
Page title: 枯木龍吟——琴制與造琴 The qin called Kumu Longyin - qin structure and making qins.

The original text of Section 2, quoted here, is as follows:


今天習見的合體全箱式4 、兩足七弦、面有十三徽的古琴,其形制應是在漢晉南北朝時期確立的。






This is followed by 三、隋唐時期 3. Sui and Tang periods (the lower images are Tang, but they are discussed in the present section).

2. Upper illustration
The following image shows the full panel original attributed to 顧愷之 Gu Kaizhi (346-407), entitled 斲琴圖 Illustraiton of Qin Making


3. Lower illustrations (tomb of 李壽 Li Shou 577-630)
Left: original image
Center: #7 from the following set of tracings of same (12 standing female musicians)

Right: #4 from the following set of tracings from the same source (12 seated female musicians)
All the tracings are from images in a 7th century CE grave in Shaanxi province.

4. 合體全箱式
i.e., zither-style; the pre-Han instruments unearthed in the Chu region were not true zithers, hence perhaps they were a dead-end and not true qin type instruments.

5. Instruments depicted in Han figurenes 綿陽 Mianyang and other places in Sichuan Image from Mianyang  
For Sichuan the present article mentions only Mianyang, which is centered about 100 km northeast of Chengdu. However, similar figurines also have been found elsewhere in the region, such as at 彭山 Pengshan, a similar distance south of Chengdu; Ma-mu-shan-yai (details unclear); and elsewhere. In fact so many were found in the 1990s (around the time of the discovery of the famous site at 三星堆 Sanxingdui [Wiki] about 30 km northeast of Chengdu) that they were then readily available on the market, together with the usual fakes. Today some are still available for sale on the internet. The provenance is not always clear.

Further figurenes from Sichuan
The seven images below, taken from various websites, include some that were being offered for sale.

6. Gu Kaizhi (顧愷之 ca. 346 - 407; (Wiki)
Gu was from Wuxi in Jiangsu; best known as a painter, he was also a poet and calligrapher.

7. Four Hoaryheads of Shangshan Images Image from Deng County, Henan        
There are many available images depicting the Four Hoaryheads. However, the one at right (further information under the Four Hoaryheads entry) is the only one I have seen showing a qin.


8. Tomb of Li Shou at Sanyuan, Shaanxi
陜西三原李壽墓. San Yuan is about 50 km north of Xi'an

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