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Chapter Four: Northern and Southern Dynasties
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, pp. 40-42

A. Qin Specialists1

In the southern dynasties the leading gentlemen and the nobility for the most part loved literature and music; on their initiative more than a few literati qin players appeared. Some of literati were born of poor families; because of restrictions of the system of powerful gentry clans, they often lived in situations where they could not achieve their aims. They were often angry at the world and hated its vulgarity, leading them to flee from society and entertain themselves with qin and books. Dai Yong, Zong Bing, Liu Yun and Liu Xie were some of the relatively influential qin specialists of that time.

Dai Yong2 (377-441)

Dai Kui, the father, was a famous qin player of the Jin dynasty who once refused a position as musician in the residence of a prince, and in public opinion was very praiseworthy.

(His sons) Dai Yong and Dai Bo, the older brother, continued their father's qin studies, and also were creative. The Biographies of Recluses in the History of the Liu Song said that they, "Each created new sounds, five bu (sections) by Dai Bo and 15 by Dai Yong; Dai Yong also created a long piece in one section, transmitting it to society." Most of the new sounds created by the Dai brothers were seldom seen amongst the qin specialists of that early period. Their creations were part of the process of developing based on tradition. They had great influence at that time, as shown by the expression "transmitted it to society." The melodies written by Dai Yong "were modified new sounds; the ones like Third Melody, Wandering on the Strings and Taking a Rest in Guangling were different from others of that time".3 These two melodies had been mentioned by name in the Zither Rhapsody by Xi Kang (223-262).4 Dai Yong and Xi Kang were from the same region, both being from the Zhi district of Qiao (just west of the what is today Suzhou in northern Anhui province). It seems that Dai Yong was continuing Xi Kang's qin tradition. However, his being "different from others of that time" explains that he was able to weed through the old and bring forth the new; there was a certain amount of development rather than just retaining the old melodies and sticking to the old conventions. As for folk songs, he also advanced them through modifications. He combined two melodies called How Can it Be?5 and White Swan6 into one tune, calling it Clear Distance.7 How Can It Be Ballad and White Swans were matching songs in the se mode8 that reflected romantic activities, and the lyrical content of the two folk songs is rather similar to each other, so combining them into "one melody" is quite understandable. However, "calling it Clear Distance" carries some of the flavor of the contemporary Mystery Studies9 and Clear Talk10 (groups); they had probably already left behind the themes of the original traditional folk songs and were expressing the literati's interests and inclinations. Creations like this Clear Distance are not very rare; often from the titles one can see they are things of the literati, but their melodies draw on the creative results of the people. It is written that there was a Dai Family Qin Handbook, Four Folios;11 unfortunately the original book no longer exists. Dai Yong also had talents as a sculptor. For example, some people at that time cast an image of the Buddha, but people were not generally satisfied; it looked as though (the Buddha's) face was too emaciated. Later, under the direction of Dai Yong they whittled down the shoulders; only then did they overcome the original flaws.

Zong Bing12 (374-443)

Like Dai Yong, (Zong Bing) was both a musician and an artist. "He was very skilled at qin and writing," and loved painting landscapes. He had "wandered far (west) amongst the shamans (wu) of Jing (northwest Chu), and in the south climbed (Hubei province's) Mount Hengshan." Each time he went traveling he often enjoyed himself so much he forgot to return. Because when he was old he was often ill, he could no longer have the pleasure of going to all the famous mountains and great rivers, so he painted the places to which he had already been, and hung the paintings in his home. He once told people, "When playing a melody on the qin I want to cause all the mountains to resound." From this one can see his playing was much imbued with imagination, the qin sounds and paintings already blending their forms. The subjects of what he played on the qin certainly involved landscape scenes, and this coincided with the atmosphere of the landscape poetry then in vogue. There are many themes like this among surviving qin melodies, and these have connections to the literati customs of this period. Zong Bing was also good at playing a qin melody called Jinshi Nong.13 This melody had been a specialty of Huan family during the Jin dynasty.14 Authorities during the Liu Song period once especially commissioned the music master Yang Guan to go to Zong Bing and try to learn the piece from him.15

Liu Yun16 (before 497 to after 503)

Liu Yun was a qin specialist during the Southern Qi dynasty (479-502). He was "widely skilled in musical pitches, and exceptionally blessed on the qin." His father Liu Shilong stood out for his use of the finger technique called shuang suo,17 so people called him "Master Liu Shuangsuo". Liu Shilong once said, "Horses and bow ends come first; Pure Conversation comes second; playing the qin comes third." One can see that playing the qin had an important place in his life. Liu Yun, "whenever he played his father's pieces, he constantly felt the meanings; (because he) often transformed the structure he completely expressed both the old and new." He was also a qin master who was able to advance changes based on traditional foundations. His most important qin art was studied from two famous qin teachers of the Liu Song period, Ji Yuanrong18 and Yang Gai.19 These two men were students of Dai Kui. Liu Yun was able to gain the strengths of the two men, achieving mastery through comprehensive study. Xiao Ziliang, Prince of Jingling,20 praised him as, "Skilled beyond Ji's expression, beauty reaching to Yang's substance; good disposition and beautiful hands, trusting in the present." This means that in the content of his expression he was superior to that of Ji Yuanrong, and in the form of his expression his level was better than that of Yang Gai. The emperor Liang Wudi (r.502 - 549) also praised him, saying, "His artistic skills were sufficient for 10 people." He also wrote several essays on music, including Discussing of Qing Mode, and Views on Music.

Liu Xie21 (6th century)

(Liu Xie) was a qin specialist of the Northern Wei (386-535). Because he was creative many people came to study qin with him and he had great influence in the Nortern Wei. In Qin Shi it says, "He was well educated, was good at playing qin, using the movements of new music. The scholars of the capital all closely followed him."

(Continue to Qin melodies)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Qin Shi includes a number of players not mentioned here. They include (names to be added later).

2. 戴顒 Dai Yong ; see 琴史 Qin Shi bio. 93 三戴 the Three Dai (actually four, the other three being 戴逵 Dai Kui, his father; 戴述 Dai Shu, his uncle; and 戴勃 Dai Bao, his older brother).

3. "New sounds from Modified Melodies" (新聲變曲 Xin Sheng Bian Qu)
"《三調》、《遊絃》、《廣陵止息》" or "三調:《遊絃》、《廣陵》、《止息》"?
See Guangling Zhixi, Zhixi, etc. 10/1054 遊絃 You Xian punctuates this quote differently, so it translates as Dai Kui's three melodies, 遊絃 Wandering on the Strings, 廣陵 Guangling and 止息 Taking a Rest." The quote is not in Qin Shi; perhaps it comes from the Song History.

4. 琴賦 Qin Fu. See Van Gulik, Hsi K'ang and his Poetic Essay on the Lute, p.110. He translates Guangling and Zhixi as two different melodies.

5. How Can It Be? 何嘗行 He Chang Xing: short for Love Song Ballad How Can It Be 豔歌何嘗行 Yan'ge Hechang Xing
Love Song Ballad How Can It Be is the title in YFSJ: Yan Ge 豔歌 37172.47 = 豔歌行 Yan Ge Xing, a type of love song in YFSJ; He Chang Xing 何嘗行 489.336 = Xianghe Ge lyrics in Gu Yue Fu. See YFSJ Folio 39, pp. 576/7. Commentary then two sets of lyrics, first anonymous, second attributed to 魏文帝 Emperor Wen of Wei.

6. White Swan 白鵠 Bai Hu: short for 飛來雙白鵠 A Pair of White Swans Fly About
23191.1162: bird name; rhapsody name (ref. bio of 崔琦 Cui Qi, latter Han). In YFSJ Folio 39 called 飛來雙白鵠 Feilai Shuang Baihu. Same preface as He Chang Xing (see previous). Four sets of lyrics by four people, pp. 577-8.

7. Qing Kuang 清曠
18003.764 and 5/1335: nothing about music; not in melody lists.

8. Xianghe Ge, Se Diao 相和歌,瑟調 are YFSJ Folios 36/2 - 40 (pp. 534-598)
The relevant lyrics in YFSJ include 豔歌何嘗行 How Can It Be Love Song Ballad and 飛來雙白鵠 A Pair of White Swans Fly About, discussed above.

9. "Abstruse Learning (玄學 Xuan Xue"
Like 清談 Qing Tan (next) this was a custom or movement popular in the Wei and Jin period amongst people who disdained the ordinary society of their time.

10. "Pure Conversation (清談 Qing Tan)"
Also translated as "Pure Talk", "Clear Talk" and so forth, this was closely associated with "Abstruse Learning" (previous), both being popular in particular during the Wei and Jin period amongst people who disdained the ordinary society of their time; its popularity made it into a sort of movement. Spiro, pp. 71-74, discusses it. 18003.683 is a lengthy entry with numerous examples mostly from the Six Dynasties (.685 清談派 refers to it as a movement from that period). 5/1331 says it can also be written 清譚 (譚, now a surname, was originally a variant of 談) and includes a reference to 清譚之士林 a gathering of scholars for Clear Talking" as well as some modern references.

As described under Neo-Daoism" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online),

Pure Conversation (or “Pure Talk,” as the term qingtan has also been translated) was one of the hallmarks of early medieval Chinese literati culture. Early usage of the term indicates that it was initially understood as a kind of cutting assessment of individual character and ability, especially in terms of a person's suitability for public office. Indeed, leaders of the late Han intellectual elite met regularly for this purpose and a favorable judgment from them could translate into significant political capital. For example, Cao Cao famously sought and received a judgment when he was yet relatively unknown that he would be a bane to the country in peace times but a great leader of intelligence and courage in times of disorder (Hou Han shu [History of the Later Han Dynasty] 68). The philosophical basis for this kind of character assessment will be discussed later when we consider the contribution of He Yan.

In its mature manifestation, however, qingtan refers more generally to an upper-class cultural phenomenon, in which men of letters (mostly men, although some women were also known for their talent in this arena) gathered in pleasure and devoted their talent to music, philosophy, and other forms of cultured discourse. A formal Pure Conversation session requires a distinguished host who is of standing, means, and recognized intellectual caliber, and a cast of select guests. Leaving aside its social and aesthetic aspects, a typical session would involve a debate on a current philosophical topic, such as the relationship between “capacity” and “nature” in a person (to be discussed separately in Section 5 below). Reports of such gatherings would be circulated among the educated elite. For a young scholar, success at Pure Conversation could earn him a prestigious government post; indeed, brilliance at Pure Conversation could even become the stuff of legends. For present purposes, however, it is enough to note that Xuanxue in the general sense defined above informs Pure Conversation.

The latter paragraph evokes something of what later came to be called an "Elegant Gathering" (雅集 Ya Ji).

11. Not in Qinshu Cunmu; perhaps mentioned in the above-referenced biography?

12. 宗炳 Zong Bing, literary name 宗少文; 琴史 Qin Shi bio. 102 says he was from 南陽 Nanyang, in the northwest of 荊 Jing (Chu). He is also in the Biographies of Recluses in the History of the (Liu) Song.

13. 金石弄 41049.131 and 11/1143 jinshi; this and the following entries do not mention nong; jinshi (metal and stone) may refer to gongs and chimes. If so the music may have been connected to ancient ritual melodies, and this might explain why the royal family was interested in it (Qin Shi says the first Liu Song emperor sent 楊觀 Yang Guan to learn it.)

14. Qin Shi bio. 73 concerns 桓譚 Huan Tan, whose father was a music master at the end of the former Han dynasty. Perhaps the 桓氏 Huan Family were his descendents.

15. 楊觀 Bio.xxx

16. 柳惲 Qin Shi bio. 104 二柳 Two Lius concerns 柳世隆 Liu Shilong and his two sons, the elder being 柳惔 Liu Yan and the younger 柳惲 Liu Yun. The father, who was from Jie in Hedong (northeast of Chang An), served the Southern Qi dynasty. Several of the quotes are not in Qin Shi, so presumably come from History of the Southern Qi.

17. 雙瑣 An old right hand finger technique.

18. Ji Yuanrong 嵇元榮
Bio.xxx; descendant of Xi Kang? See also under Er Liu.

19. Yang Gai 羊蓋 Bio.xxx. See also under Er Liu.

20. 「竟陵王子良」 refers to 「竟陵王蕭子良」 Xiao Ziliang, Prince of Jingling.

21. 柳諧 Qin Shi bio. 105 柳遠 Liu Yuan says Liu Xie was a paternal cousin of Liu Yuan, who was a military official as well as a good qin player. Bio.1709 says Liu Yuan (500-539) was (like Liu Shilong), from Jie in Hedong, northeast of Chang An. Bio.1711 says Liu Xie (503-528) was a 佐郎 zuolang "assistant official" (?).

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