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Zhang Dai
- Qin Shi Xu #141
張岱 1
琴史續 #1412 
Zhang Dai 3                          
Zhang Dai (1597 - ca. 1684), a member of a wealthy family in Shaoxing, wrote extensively about his life and family, in the process leaving a valuable record of life at the end of the Ming dynasty. Playing qin was just one of his many activities. Another was tea connoisseurship.

Return to Dragon Mountain, a book by Jonathan Spence about Zhang Dai's life in Shaoxing, recounts many of Zhang's observations on Western society and its mechanical devices, including a keyboard instrument. Of Zhang's qin activities Spence writes,5

Just two years after his first experiments with snow orchid tea, he conceived a passion for...the qin. During 1616, when he was nineteen, he convinced a group of six like-minded young relatives and friends to study the instrument with him. Zhang Dai's premise was that good musicians were scarce in Shaoxing, and that if you did not pledge onself to play regularly through the year, one would never raise the general standard. The goal of the members of the qin club, he wrote in an elegant prose manifesto, should be to meet three times in every month, which would be far better for all of them than "to sit around idle in fine weather." If they praciced regularly their music would form a triad with those other standard Shaoxing sounds, the wind in the pines and the rushing waters; if successful, they might even "catch an echo from the surrounding mountain peaks." Filled with a sense of purpose, they would "expand their very being" and make it their "highest ambition to have their hearts live through their hands on the strings."

Not everyone was up to these lofty standards. Zhang Dai's cousin Yanke, who joined them for a while, was simply no good at music. Nor was their friend Fan Yulan, though Fan was at least interesting in his badness. For a while Fan would devote himself passionately to a particular teacher, striving to catch his every nuance, until another teacher caught his fancy. Then he would unlearn everything he had just learned and start all over again, repeating the pattern at intervals. "As for those pieces Fan had studied previously," wrote Zhang, "he worked so hard at forgetting them that he truly could recall nothing of them, and finally he could not play anything at all. At night he just cradled his qin and tuned the strings, that was it." Zhang Dai claimed that he himself did better, learning the techniques from his teachers until he had mastered them, at which point he was able to "move back to a more natural tone," deliberately cultivating a slightly roughened sound. With a favorite teacher and the two friends who played the best, Zhang Dai formed a quartet that gave performances from time to time: "Our four instruments sounded as if played by a single hand. Our audience was spellbound."

This ability to play in unison was perhaps related to the group's practice of using percussion to keep time, mentioned further below.

Zhang Dai's qin activities are further discussed in Xu Jian's Qinshi Chubian, Chapter 7.A., which also concerns Yin Ertao, a member of the group who later published the qin handbook Huiyan Mizhi. Elsewhere Zhang is quoted in connection with the expression cao man.

The biographical essay in Qinshi Xu is as follows.

Zhang Dai, style name 宗子 Zongzi and in old age nicknamed 陶庵老人 Old Man of Tao An, was from 山陰 Shanyin (Shaoxing, in Zhejiang). His family had been illustrious for generations, (so he had) beautiful and expensive food and clothing, and spent his days amongst wealthy people from all over. They arranged singers to perform melodies, and they could tell all sorts of jokes. Cock fights, bird fights, gambling, football and light music6: he was accomplished at all such skills, but was especially good at qin.

In Shaoxing, people who followed Wang's Bright Spring School (of qin play)7 esteemed (its master?) Wang Lü'e,8 so Zhang Dai studied with him. He (then) could play such melodies as Yu Qiao Wenda, Liezi Yu Feng, Biyu Mode,9 Shui Long Yin, Dao Yi, and Huanpei Sheng.10 Shortly thereafter he studied qin for half a year with Wang Benwu,11 learning more than 20 melodies including Yan Luo Pingsha, Shan Ju Yin, Jing Guan Yin, Qingye Wen Zhong, Wu Ye Ti, Han Gong Qiu, Gao Shan, Liu Shui, Meihua Sannong, Chun Hua Yin,12 Cangjiang Yeyu, and Zhuang Zhou Meng Die, plus more than 10 short (? these are both long) melodies such as Hujia Shibapai13 and Pu'an Zhou.

(Wang) Benwu's finger technique was round and calm, slightly carrying along a sort of glibness. Zhang Dai achieved his techniques (but) when he was still not fully proficient he used a bamboo stick to bring out (the rhythms). This was then called "playing together".14

At one time he formed with his fellow students Fan Yulan, Yin Ertao, He Zixiang, Wang Tu, Mei Yan, Ke Pingzi and so forth15 a One Silk Strand Association16 which met three times a month. It had a small directive that said, 中郎音癖清溪弄。三載乃成。賀令神交....17

Translation incomplete; 張慎行 Zhang Shenxing and 何明台 He Mingtai are both mentioned later in the essay.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Zhang Dai (1597 - after 1667), sources
10026.575/2 張岱 Zhang Dai says only that he was 劍州人,僑寓錢塘,字陶菴,自號蝶庵居士。著有西湖夢尋 from Jianzhou but made Hangzhou his residence; style name Tao'an (菴 not -庵), called himself Die'an Jushi (Master of the Butterfly Hut) and wrote a Xihu Mengxun. (Note that Zhuang Zhenfeng, author of Qinxue Xinsheng [1676], also had the nickname Die'an.)

Bio. 1217 says that Zhang Dai was from 浙江山陰 Shanyin in Zhejiang, had the style names 宗字 Zongzi and 石公 Shigong as well as the nickname 陶庵 Tao'an. He lived a long time in Hangzhou and after the Ming fled to 剡溪山 Yanxi Shan. It lists his writings as 琅嬛文集 Langhuan Wenji, 西湖夢尋 Xihu Mengxun, 陶庵夢憶 Tao'an Mengyi, 石匱書 Shikui Shu and 今存后集 Jincun Houji.

The source for the whole of #141 is given as 蓴湖漫錄 Chunhu Manlu. This is somewhat odd, as all other references to Chunhu Manlu are 14th century or earlier.

Two books on Zhang Dai were published in 2007:

  1. Jonathan Spence, Return to Dragon Mountain, Memories of a Late Ming Man, Penguin, 2007
    "This absorbing book illuminates a culture’s transformation and reveals how China’s history affects its place in the world today." Further details online include a Presidential Address by Prof. Spence to the 2005 meeting of the American Historical Society; his first footnote has a bibliography.

  2. Philip A. Kafalas, In Limpid Dream: Nostalgia and Zhang Dai's Reminiscences of the Ming, EastBridge, 2007
    Focuses on Zhang Dai's Dream Reminiscences of Tao’an (Tao’an mengyi)

ICTCL pp.220-221 says Zhang Dai was a "romantic writer and historian of the late Ming period" whose poverty after the fall of the Ming "prompted him to produce two important works, Tao'an Mengyi 陶庵夢憶 (Recollections of Tao'an's Past Dreams), a series of nostalgic sketches of the grand and elegant life of the late Ming, and Shikui Shu 石匱書 (Book of the Stone Case), a history of the Ming dynasty".

Wu Zhao's preface to Huiyan Mizhi (QQJC X, p.1) refers to a chapter of Tao'an Mengyi called 紹興琴派 Shaoxing Qin School.

2. 26 lines for Zhang Dai and five others (王侶鵝 Wang Lü'e, 王本吾 Wang Benwu, 何紫翔 He Zixiang, 張慎行 Zhang Shenxing and 何明台 He Mingtai).

3. Zhang Dai Image
Copied from unattributed internet image.

4. Zhang Dai and tea
Zhang Dai was particularly interested in the water used for making tea. In Return to Dragon Mountain, pp. 17-20 and 36-38, Spence describes Zhang Dai's work on Snow Orchid Tea, made using water from a well at the local Speckled Bamboo Shrine (in Shaoxing; compare Junshan). He then describes the commercialization.

5. Return to Dragon Mountain, pp. 21-22.

6. 擘院 bi ruan, lit: play the ruan lute. (Return)

7. 明泉派 Mingquan 14124.xxx. (Return)

8. 王侶鵝 Wang Lü'e; Bio. xxx (Return)

9. 碧玉調 Biyu Diao is the name of a mode, not a melody. Should it be 碧玉意 Biyu Yi? (Return)

10. Is 環珮聲 Huanpei Sheng the same as Tianfeng Huanpei? (Return)

11. 王本吾 Wang Benwu
Bio. xxx. Zhang Dai studying from Wang is also mentioned under Pingsha Luo Yan.

12. 淳花引 Chun Hua Yin ? No other mention of this title. (Return)

13. Hujia Shibapai 胡笳十八拍
This presumably refers to the Hujia Shibapai that developed out of Da Hujia rather than either the modern version that developed out of it or the qin song first published in 1597.

14. Playing Together
Unfortunately there seems to be no further information about just how the "bamboo stick" (18923.7 澀勒 selao: name of a type of bamboo; 6/197 says the same, with a reference to Su Shi) was used when qin was played: for aesthetic reasons? Simply to keep the beat? Another reason? Separately the characters 澀勒 mean "rough/harsh" and "restrain/engrave", so could the phrase might also have meant using some sort of roughness to contrast with the smoothness of his teacher?

范與蘭 Fan Yulan
尹爾韜 Yin Ertao
何紫翔 He Zixiang
王土 Wang Tu
美燕 Mei Yan
客平子 Ke Pingzi

16. 一絲社 Yi Si She

17. Translation incomplete (Return)

Return to QSCB, 7.A. or to the Guqin ToC.