Zhao Yeli (563 - 639) is particularly important for his surviving explanations of finger techniques.4 He is said to have been one of the inventors of qin tablature (it is not clear whether this refers to the original
longhand tablature or to the simplified tablature which developed from it; for more on the latter see
- Qin Shi #115
琴史 #115 2
Mention of Zhao Yeli's fingering techniques3
Qinshu Cunmu, Folio 2, #5 - #8, has information about four works attributed to him:
- Folio II, #5: 琴敘譜九卷 Qin Xu Pu Jiu Juan jiu juan
- Folio II, #6: 彈琴手勢譜一卷 Tan Qin Shoushi Pu yi juan
- Folio II, #7: 彈琴右手法一卷 Tan Qin Youshou Fa yi juan
- Folio II, #8: 胡笳五弄譜二卷 Hujia Wunongpu er juan
These are all apparently lost. One perhaps preserved in Japan is
Folio II, #57: 琴用指法，一卷 Qinyong Zhifa
The original entry in Qin Shi has been translated by Yang Yuanzheng as follows:5
Zhao Yeli was from Jiyin of Cao. Out of admiration for Taoism, [he] took refuge in seclusion. [Zhao’s] mastery of the qin was unrivalled. Prominent personages of his time therefore respected him and called him Master Zhao. His rectified [edition] of fifty or so erroneous [qin] pieces, having made [these works] rejoin [the repertoire of] elegance [by] removing their vulgarities, was handed down in handbooks. [He] often said, “The sound of the Wu [school of qin music] is clear and sweet like that of the broad flow of a long river, [characterized by its] continuousness and long decays, suggesting the lofty personality of national heroes. The sound of the Shu [school of qin music] is vigorous and quick like that of a surging wave or a sudden thunder, representing yet another contemporary style.” He also said, “[When the] flesh and nail [of a finger] simultaneously pluck [a qin string], the sound is warm and sleek. The sound of [a] pure-nail [stroke] is sad and shrill; while that of [a] pure-flesh [stroke] is blunt and dull.” [The Master] once taught the son of the magistrate of his hometown qin [playing], and therefore he compiled two scrolls of notation for such a purpose, which survive to this day. The prefacer [of the two scrolls of notation] praised Yeli [and] stated, “At an early age already, [Zhao was] clever and bright, and had mastery of most the arts and crafts. After the age of fifteen, [he became] self-taught. [Zhao could remember] whatever text without [reading it] twice. [He] lived a simple life and did nothing to contradict [the guidance of] the Tao. His calligraphy grasps the thesis of Zhong [You (151-230)] and Zhang [Zhi (?-ca.192)]; his qin artistry is comparable with Ma [Rong (79-166)] and Cai [Yong (133-92)].” In the thirteenth year of Zhen’guan (636), [Zhao Yeli] died in Cao at the age of seventy-six. There is no evidence to show that Zhao Yeli had been recruited [into any official institution] when Emperor Wen rejuvenated music. [I believe that] this is due to [Zhao’s] indifference to fame. It is said that Cai Yong composed Youchun, Lüshui, Youju, Zuochou and Qiusi. [These works] were passed on to Shan Yang, head of the imperial scribe office. [Then,] after seventeen generations, [they] were handed down to Yeli. Yeli imparted them to a certain Ma of Pu prefecture, and thereafter to Song Xiaozhen. [When] Xiaozhen died, the Master’s tradition became extinct.
(Copied from 楊元錚 Yang Yuanzheng, but with his footnotes omitted.)
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a
趙耶利 Zhao Yeli
38015.xxx; Bio. xxx; Xu Jian, QSCB,
Chapter 5. A. (p.54).
Qin Shi entry
趙耶利指法 Zhao Yeli fingering instructions
Although Zhao is famous for these instructions, they do not commonly occur in old Qin handbooks. The mention of them here in the first line (next to the red mark) suggests perhaps that various handbooks incorporated them into their finger technique instructions but without specific credit.
Finger techniques of Zhao Yeli
楊元錚 Yang Yuanzheng, Early Qin music: manuscript Tōkyō, Tōkyō Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan TB1393 and manuscript Hikone, Hikone Jōhakubutsukan V633 [pdf, 2005].
See comment on the image. Perhaps they have also been preserved in Japan, as discussed in,
This work, Professor Yang's master's thesis at Hong Kong University, also discusses the manuscript history of You Lan.
The Chinese text for the Qin Shi Zhao Yeli entry is as follows:
Return to QSCB,
or to the Guqin ToC.