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Chapter Six: Song and Yuan dynasties 1
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, p. 116-7

6.C. Qin Essays 2

3. Cui Zundu, 3 Qin Jian (Qin Commentary) 4



Cui Zundu (953 - 1020) attained his jinshi then entered public office, serving as Advisor on Virtue to the Heir Apparent.5 A skilled qin player, it was his opinion that, For nurturing the harmony of heaven and earth there is nothing better than music; for examining the significance of music nothing is better than the qin.6 In Qin Jian he stressed the use of the 13 studs on the top surface of the qin, denying the fallacious arguments giving strained interpretations connecting them to the 12 months and the 12 tones. He himself made experiments,

"extending a bow alongside a flat table, then playing harmonics on the strings so that the sounds of the 13 studs appeared. (He recognized that the manifestation of these sounds accorded with objective laws, and could not be changed based on people's subjective wishes.) If the sounds were in accord (i.e., if the harmonics were played in the mathematically correct place), then they resonated, but one could not directly cause this resonance, and one could not prevent this resonance: it had to accord with the natural relationship of the numbers....How can this come from the effort of people? (He also realized that these rules could not defy the shield of nature), using the string to test it, and then listening, thus availing oneself of nature."7

These points of view posed challenges to the idealistic fallaceous arguments found in qin studies from the Han to Tang periods. He was still striving to probe the formative regulations of the 13 studs. Limited by the conditions of that period, even though his research is still not very highly developed, nevertheless the direction towards which he was striving was correct, and his creative initiative can be admired.

The famous literatus Fan Zhongyan very much admired Cui's erudition and (as recounted by Fan in a letter to Tang Yi8), once asked for instruction from him.

(Fan asked,) "What sort of thing is a qin?" (Cui answered, saying,) "Clear-severe but calming; peaceful-soft but far-reaching." (Fan Zhongyan went a step beyond this to describe his opinion, saying,) "If clear-severe but not calming, what it loses is elegance; if peaceful-soft but not far-reaching, what it loses is eloquence. If neither elegant or eloquent, is this the way of equability?"

These sorts of discourses, embody the dialectical relationships regarding musical aesthetics. Fan Zhongyan later studied qin from Cui's student Tang Yi, believing that, "If Master Cui is established in this way, is not the qin also this way?"9

(Continue with next, Liu Ji, Qin Yi)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Chapter 6 covers these dynasties (dates, capital city [modern name]):

Northern Song (960-1126; Dongjing [Kaifeng])
Liao (907-1125; Dading Fu [Daning?])
Southern Song (1127-1280; Linan Fu [Hangzhou])
Jin (1115-1260; Zhongdu [Beijing])
Yuan (1206-1280-1368; Dadu [Beijing]) (Return)

2. This is a draft translation that clearly needs some further work.

3. Cui Zundu 崔遵度
Biography in Qin Shi.

4. Qin Commentary (琴箋 Qin Jian)
The apparently complete surviving text of Qin Jian (see beginning) is included in at least the following four sources:

  1. The Qin Shi biography of Cui Zundui, which has four lines introducing Cui Zundu himself, then 40 lines quoting what apparently is the entire surviving text of Qin Jian.
  2. Qinshu Cunmu, Folio III, #4, Qin Jian, says it has two folios, gives somewhat more commentary, then quotes the same text as above.
  3. Qinshu Daquan, Folio 1, #11, has the same quoted text.
  4. Qinyuan Yaolu has this text beginning on folio page 73b, adding after it (75b) a Xu Qin Jian (Continuation of Qin Jian). Unless this continuation is what is elsewhere called Folio 2, it seems that today only a part of the original work survives.

It is also mentioned elsewhere. See, e.g., in Taiyin Daquanji, Chapter 1c.

5. Advisor on Virtue to the Heir Apparent (太子諭德 Taizi Lunde)
論德 36511.66 論德之高下 "discuss strong and weak points of virtue", no mention of this as a title.

6. 頤天地之和,莫先于樂;究樂之趣,莫近于琴
This quote can be found in Cui Zundu's Qin Shi biography, so perhaps it is also in his official Song dynasty biography.

7. These quotes are from Qin Jian. See, e.g., the version beginning on folio page 73b of Qinyuan Yaolu, lines 5, 10, 21 and ? (I cannot trace the last one: "以絃考之而後聞,斯假物也).

8. The quotes from Fan Zhongyan's letter to Tang Yi can be found in QQJC V/362, lines 5 and 6. The whole passage (Fan Zhongyi speaking) is:


9. I have not identified Xu Jian's final quote: 「崔公既設,琴不在茲乎?」 Instead op. cit. (QQJC V/362, line 10) has Fan Zhongyan write, 「崔公既沒,琴不在於君乎?」

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