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Chapter Six: Song and Yuan dynasties 1
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, p. 119-120

6.C. Qin Essays 2

6. Zequan Heshang,3 Jiezou, Zhifa (Rhythm and Finger Methods)4



The qin melody performances of Yi Hai (an 11th century "qin monk" then living in the capital, Kaifeng6) achieved a very high artistic level; Zequan (also a monk) continued his teacher Yi Hai's traditional pu (tablature; music7), which at that time seems to have been held in high esteem. In (the preface to a treatise by Zequan published over a century later in Qinyuan Yaolu) it was explained,8

"Later I became familiar with a grandson of a brother of Empress Cao (1015-1079, wife of 仁宗 Renzong), (Cao?) Zhi, style name Guidi,9 obtaining Zequan Heshang's marvelous volume; (for his teaching to be) completely transmitted took over 30 years."

As for this "marvelous volume" that was not easy to attain, (the editor) reveals that he greatly cherished it. Zhao Xikuang also wrote,10

"During the Xuanhe reign (1119 - 1125), of all the transmitted melodies only those of Monk Zequan were considered superior."

This says that in those days (Zequan's) was the best traditional pu (tablature, but presumably referring specifically to the music).11

(The essay) Rhythm and Finger Methods (Jiezou, Zhifa) by Zequan Heshang, which from a theoretical point sums up his performance experience, is one of the important literary documents recorded in Qinyuan Yaolu. Its section with (explanations of) finger techniques sketches finely drawn finger techniques, and also for all sorts of finger techniques adds detailed explanations. Ming dynasty tablature collections such as Fengxuan Xuanpin (see in the Table of Contents12) all continued this tradition.

Its section on rhythm gives a specific analysis of the different playing techniques used for pin, diaozi and caonong.13 Moreover, it gives examples as part of the explanations.

"Students of qin familiar with diaotou can play pin; those able to play manqu can then play diaozi; if when singing they are able to do qupo, then they can play caonong."14

From melodies current at the time (Zequan) was using diaotou, manqu and qubo as analogies for three types of qin melody genres, explaining clearly that between melodies and qin pieces there were common patterns.

(According to Zequan) Yi Hai advocated the following about hand techniques when performing (see Chapter 6a1):

"Rapid (notes) should resemble multitudinous stars in their lack of disorder.
Slow (notes) should resemble a flowing stream in their continuity."

Based on this (Zequan) also specifically made a summation as follows:

"Compact passages should be spread out; spread out passages should be compacted."15

The meaning of this is that for fast and compact rhythms as well as hurried places, one must certainly maintain some leeway, and during slow rhythmic passages one should pay attention to keeping the energy connected. He also used doing the type of calligraphy called "grass writing" to make a comparison, thus explaining how to punctuate by,16

"waiting for one or two rhymes, not selecting the farthest point away to mark the next phrase, calling this 'the meaning is enough'."

As for each sort of comparative relationship between the melody (types), he also had a summary and conclusion as follows,17

"Whenever playing, if it is two notes the should relate to each other, or two phrases, or two sections; although the former and latter may be different, high (notes) can relate to low ones, light ones can relate to heavy ones, long ones can relate to short ones, fast ones can relate to slow ones."

(Zequan) believed that, with regard to these performing methods described above, one should integrate them with the special points of each qin melody's topic and style in order to make proper use of them, at all costs avoiding,18

"All sounds on the same boat, completely without distinction."

With regard to this he brought up as examples such famous song titles as, Li Sao, Zhaojun Yuan (i.e., Longshuo Cao, Gao Shan, Liu Shui and so forth, adding comments one by one, explaining how each had different performance characteristics, so one certainly must not casually allow them to be copies of each other.

(Continue with next, Cheng Yujian, Lun Qin)

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. Translation by JT

3. Zequan the Monk (則全和尚 Zequan Heshang)
There seems to be no biographical information available about him, in spite of his important writings, in particular his Rhythms and Finger Methods (see next footnote). Xu Jian quotes from p. 29/1 and 30/1 in Chapter 6b3 (Diaozi and caonong).

4. Zequan the Monk's Rhythm and Finger Techniques (則全和尚,節奏、指法 Zequan Heshang, Jiezou, Zhifa)
QSCM #97 has 15 lines discussing it, but Qinyuan Yaolu, pages 11/1 - 34/1, seems to have the complete original text. Xu Jian discusses the part on rhythm (ibid., 29/2 - 34/1) in QSCB, Chapter 6b3.

6. Yi Hai lived first in Kaifeng, the capital, then after many years returned to his home near Shaoxing. I have not seen specific details yet about where his students were. It might seem most likely that Zequan studied with him in Kaifeng; on the other hand his own disciple Zhao Kuang was a monk from/in Hangzhou.

7. Yi Hai's traditional pu (義海的傳譜)
The literature suggests that at that time the use of the word "pu" ("tablature") to mean "music" emphasized the primary position then given to written forms of a melody. This could have been related to the antiquarian interests of scholars, or could have been related to the fact that the scholars often had to live far from their teachers, or any other qin players, and so relied heavily on the tablature forms of melodies. (Mentioned again below.)

8. 「後通曹太后(1015-1079)之侄孫名摭,字貴荻,獲得則全和尚妙本,遂傳授之,凡三十餘年。」
The apparently anonymous editor of this preface to 則全和尚節奏指法 Zequan the Monk's Rhythm and Finger Methods, as copied in Qinyuan Yaolu (see 12A, column 1), perhaps lived after Zequan but could have been as late as Qinyuan Yaolu.

9. 曹太后之侄孫名摭字貴荻
I do not have dates for (曹?)摭字貴荻 (Cao?) Zhi, style name Guidi.

10. 宣和間所傳曲調,唯僧則全為之勝
See QSDQ, Folio 10 (QQJC V/202; bottom half, line 9).

11. The best traditional tablature (最好的傳譜)
For the use of "pu" ("tablature") to mean "music" see comment above.

12. Hand Gesture Illustrations (手勢圖 shoushi tu)
For his example why doesn't Xu Jian mention the earlier ones in Taiyin Daquanji (see example)?

13. pin, 調子diaozi, 操弄caonong
Diaozi and caonong are discussed in QSCB, Chapter 6b3. And there is a listing of diaozi and caonong titles in QSDQ, Folio 14.

14. Comparing diaotou and pin, manqu and diaozi, qupo and caonong
These comparisons are probably of not much use to most people, as can be seen from dictionary searches:

  1. diaotou 調頭 36488.xxx; 11/311: nothing on music
    pin 品 3667: nothing on music; 3/321: nothing on a musical form
  2. manqu 慢曲 11385.xxx; 7/707: a term from opera referring to slow passages, which usually precede 急曲 fast ones
    diaozi 調子 364886.6; 11/298: 曲調 tunes (no reference to a music form)
  3. qupo 曲破 14610.149 宋詩舞曲之一 : a Song dynasty dance form, related to Tang song and dance, but no lyrics
    caonong 操弄 13113.21 6/914: nothing on music

There is quite a bit of discussion available of diaozi and caonong (e.g., QSCB Chapter 6b3), but not a lot of concrete information.

15. 密處放疏,疏處令密
See Qinyuan Yaolu, page 31/1, Col. 6.

16. 須留一、二分韻,取不盡處便作後句,謂之「意有餘」
See Qinyuan Yaolu, page 31/1, Col. 7. In his article Yuan Jung-Ping explains this as follows,

"In cursive calligraphy, the essence is movement. (So,) just as the cursive script connects two characters, (when playing the qin each note should be sustained to connect with the following note, without breaking the phrasing. In this way, a sense of forward rhythm may be obtained. (Thus,) when I'm playing the qin, just at the point when I'm about to complete a phrase, I'm already thinking about the next movement.

17. 凡節奏者,或是兩字相應,或是兩句,或是兩段,前後不同。可高以下應,輕以重應,長以短應,遲以速應。
This is actually near the beginning of the section on rhythm, specifically in a section that begins "凡彈調子 Whenever playing diaozi". See Qinyuan Yaolu, page 30/2, Col. 7.

18. 其聲一船,全無分別
From a section beginning "凡操弄 Any caonong". See Qinyuan Yaolu, page 32/1, last column.

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