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Emperor Yao
- Qin Shi #1
帝堯 1
琴史 #1 2
  堯帝琴式 The style of Emperor Yao's qin (play)3      
Emperor Yao (traditional dates 2356-2255), also called 唐堯 Tang Yao, succeeded (his father?) 帝嚳 Emperor Ku. Noting the virtues of 舜 Shun, Yao first married two of his daughters, 鵝黃 E Huang and 女英 Nü Ying, to him (see Xiangfei Yuan). Then when Yao's sons proved unworthy he named Shun as his successor. Yao is also said to have tried to pass on his throne to Xu You (who immediately washed his ears to cleanse himself of this either insult or temptation. Subsequently Shun also bypassed his own son in naming Yu as his successor.

There is thus a tradition that says that the rules of Yao, Shun and Yu formed China's golden age.4 Perhaps one reason for this is that, although these rulers seem to have set a precedent for advocating meritocracy over dynastic succession, this practice was later not often followed.5

As for music, The Book of Rites says Yao created a type of music called 大章 Da Zhang. Yuefu Shiji (p.824) has lyrics he is said to have written for the melody Shenren Chang. And Yao is alson mentioned in commentary on the melody Ballad of the Highroad (Kangqu Yao).

The original entry in Qin Shi is tentatively translated as follows.6

When Emperor Yao dwelled on earth his sacred good nature was so all encompassing that people could not describe it, and the visible results of his affairs were so majestic that they had good effect. Yang Xiong once said, Methods began with Fu Xi; they were fulfilled by Yao. If it were not for Fu Xi and Yao, having propriety and morality would be like whistling in the dark. Now qin is one of these methods. So when (Yao) created (the melody) Da Zhang, qin sounds certainly accompanied it. According to an old tradition Yao had the old qin melody Shenren Chang. (Music) written when harmonizing pleasures he decreed should be called 暢 chang; success was possible so this was called bringing order to the world. (Music) written when melancholy he decreed should be called 操 cao; there was failure so this was called improving one's person. (Mencius said,) "If someone seems sage-like but this is beyond our comprehension, we then call him divine." If such a description doesn't fit Yao, who would it fit?

The complete original text is appended below.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Emperor Yao (帝堯 Di Yao (traditional dates 2356-2255; Wiki)
5368: see 帝堯 Di Yao. 9064.143 帝堯: 堯也 same as Yao. No image, nothing about music. First reference is 書,堯典 the entry for Yao in 尚書 Shang Shu. At the time the word 帝 di might better be translated as "God", "highest deity", "highest ruler", and so forth. But by the time this text was written the common understanding would have been something like "emperor".

2. Qin Shi entry 1
7 lines.

3. 堯帝琴式 The style of Emperor Yao's qin (play) (Compare the style of Fu Xi)
The original of this image, from a series (宋人畫歷代琴式圖) that includes this 堯帝琴式 Yao qin style, is in the 國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum. Early images of qin styles do not include an example of a Great Yu style qin. The text accompanying the image begins,


The online reproduction is somewhat unclear, but there seems to be no mention of the qin other than in the picture title.

4. China's Golden Age
An internet search for Yao Shun Yu "Golden Age" will bring more details of this argument.

5. Meritocracy
For other early texts that seem to favor merit over family lineage see Sarah Allan, Buried Ideas.

6. Original text
The original is as follows




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