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Chapter Five: Sui and Tang dynasties 1
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, pp.77-79 2
Part Three (Qin tablature and Qin making) :

2. Development of the qin making craft 3

The spread and elevation of the art of qin advanced the development of the qin-making craft. The making of qin in Tang dynasty reached a previously unseen level in both quantity and quality. Due to the large demand, the production of different types of qin allowed for the accumulation of experience through practice. As more perfectly expressive qins were demanded, the quality of the instrument was put to higher standards. This compelled some excellent craftsmen to research intensely, accumulating experience for the making of qin in material selection, form, production, lacquering and other processes.

Throughout the development of qin-making, the interest of the ruling class cannot be neglected. 楊秀 Yang Xiu, a son of 隋文帝 Emperor Wen of the Sui dynasty who was enfeoffed as 蜀王 Prince Shu (in Sichuan) "created a thousand-surface qin that passed down among the people" (Qinshu Daquan4)" That many famous qin craftsmen emerged from Shu (Sichuan) may have been related to this. Li Mian, who served as 宰相 Grand Councilor for twenty years in the Tang dynasty, "enjoyed the qin and often carved tong wood and lacquered it. He made some hundreds, among which the best ones were "Xiang Quan" and "Yun Qing". He also authored "Qin Shuo" (Guo Shi Bu5). Wealthy and influential families created qins in hundreds and thousands, which doubtlessly promoted the improvement of qin making.

The Lei family of Sichuan produced the most renowned qin makers of the Tang Dynasty. During the Dali period (766-779), the qins they made were called "Qins of Master Lei".6) Their characteristics were:

"The bridges are lower than a finger, but the strings do not cause a xian (buzzing) sound. The sound comes from between the two "pools" (sound holes). The back is slightly concave, like a scallion leaf. The sound overflows and lingers with nuance, so subtle is it." (Su Shi, Zashu Qinshi7)"

Another similar description is:

"It is distinct because although the bridge is tall, the strings are low; yet although the strings are low, they do not hit the face of the qin. When one presses, it is as if there is no string below one's finger; when one plays a vibrato, there are nuances." (Qinshu Daquan, quoting Huang Yanju8)

This is because it has so many advantages that,

"During the Zheiyuan era (AD 785-805), the qins made by Lei Sheng of Chengdu are exquisite and many play them." (Qin Ya9)

The Lei family made qins for generations; of them Lei Wei was the most famous.10 It is said that his skills were taught by an immortal and that he often went into the mountains and forests during windy snowstorms to listen to the sound of trees being blown by the wind and to select good material for his qins. It can be thus seen that people admired Lei's skills greatly. Before Lei Wei, there was Lei Yan,11 who served as attendant [待诏] to Emperor Xian of the Tang dynasty. Similar in reputation to Lei Yan were also Feng Zhao12 and then Lei Xiao.13 After Lei Wei were Lei Jue,14 Lei Wen,15 Lei Hui,16 Lei Chi17 and Guo Liang.18 Other famous craftsmen of Jiangnan were Shen Liao19 and Zhang Yue.20 These famous makers often carved their names into the inner walls of the qins they made. The qins created by the renowned makers are considered rare and precious by qin enthusiasts and some are kept until today. The Jiu Xiao Huan Pei21 and Da Sheng Yiyin22 kept at the Palace Museum and the Tang qins at the Shoso-in in Japan are the most famous of Tang qins.23


Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. See footnote to the preface for details of the period covered (589 - 979).

2. Initial translation by Jin Qiuyu

3. (Add reference to other accounts)

4. Qin made by Yang Xiu 楊秀
Yang Xiu 楊秀 was a son of 楊堅 Yang Jian (540 - 605), who founded the Sui dynasty and was its first emperor 隋文帝 Emperor Wen of Sui. Yang Xiu was enfeoffed as 蜀王 Prince Shu (in Sichuan). The reference in Qinshu Daquan should perhaps be from Folios 4 - 6, but I have not yet found it. An internet search found indications that it can be found in (唐)李綽﹕尚書故實 Shang Shu Gu Shi by Li Chuo (style name 肩孟 Jianmeng; late Tang; Bio/926). The references suggest that this is a single qin perhaps made of 1000 pieces of wood, rather than 1000 qins. See, for example the 梁千面琴 Liang qianmian qin, illustrated at QQJC, V/113.

5. 國史補 Guoshi Bu

6. 雷公琴 "Qins of Master Lei

7. 蘇軾,雜書琴事 Su Shi, Zashu Qinshi.
The word 㪇 xian is defined in dictionaries as 琴聲散逸, which suggests a scattered sound. The word for "back" is 背 bei, so this probably does not refer to the buzzing sound flaw. However, the context and the following quote make it clear that what is discussed there is the same as what today is called 雜音 zayin, the buzzing noise made when the strings slap against the string.

8. Buzzing sounds
琴書大全 Qinshu Daquan, quoting 黃延矩 Huang Yanju. See previous footnote. For more on buzzing sounds see also in Taiyin Daquanji.

9. 琴雅 Qin Ya

10. 雷威 Lei Wei

11. 雷儼 Lei Yan, 待詔 attendant to Emperor Xian of the Tang dynasty

12. 馮昭 Feng Zhao

13. 雷霄 Lei Xiao.

14. 雷玨 Lei Jue

15. 雷文 Lei Wen

16. 雷會 Lei Hui

17. 雷遲 Lei Chi

18. 郭亮 Guo Liang.

19. Shen Liao 沈遼
Rao Zongyi discusses Shen in Section 2 of his Song dynasty essay.

20. 張越 Zhang Yue
Qin made by this famous Tang dynasty qin maker of Jiangnan (Bio/1239 is a different person: a Western Han military figure) are mentioned in Qinshu Daquan, Folio 18 and Folio 19A. See also in QSCB, Chapter 6c9.

21. 九霄環佩 Jiu Xiao Huan Pei
Compare 九霄環珮, also a melody title.

22. 大聖遺音 Da Sheng Yiyin

23. 正倉院 Shoso-in

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