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Chapter Seven: Ming dynasty
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, p. 122 1


The harsh rule of the (Mongol) Yuan dynasty was toppled by the Red Turban army's peasant uprising, but the success of the insurgent forces was stolen away by Zhu Yuanzhang, who then established the Ming dynasty. The early Ming rulers put into practice winning over the literati through high pressure tactics, and in this sort of political atmosphere literary circles remained bleakly quiet even after the first century of the dynasty. The qin world was no exception. Other than a few qin specialists during the years straddling the Yuan and Ming periods, there were no outstanding qin masters. This sort of circumstance continued until the 16th century when, during the Jiaqing (1522 - 67) and Wanli (1573 - 1620) reigns, there was finally a change. During the Jiaqing and Wanli periods in the southeastern area of our country embryonic stages of capitalism began to emerge in relation to manufacturing; there was urban prosperity, the city dwelling social stratum burgeoned, the qin world steadily became more active, and several qin schools formed.

Because of the development of an economic culture, the flourishing of publishing and printing businesses was unprecedented. Beginning with the second half of the Jiaqing period,3 about every three or four years a new special collection of qin tablature was published. Of the 40-odd qin handbooks from the Ming dynasty that still exist, most were compiled and printed during this period.4 Nevertheless, even more valuable qin handbooks were several published during the early years of the Ming dynasty, such as Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425), Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539), Xilutang Qintong (1525) and so forth. These qin handbooks are repositories of human skills, publishing educational materials that have undergone many years painstakingly, arranging and preserving a large quantity of traditional tablature from before the Song dynasty.5 With regard to the advancement of qin handbook compilation and publication, the contributions of the Ming dynasty qin world were very outstanding. These tablature collections, with regard to our understanding of and research into the circumstances of early qin melodies and their development, have supplied materials that can be treasured.

(Continue: Qin personalities)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. QSCB, p. 122


3. "從嘉慶末年開始...." is literally "from the last years of the Jiaqing period", but the handbooks started coming out regularly beginning in 1546 with Wugang Qinpu.

4. At least 27 handbooks survive from the 77 years between 1546 and 1623; this is more than one every three years.

5. Certainly many of the materials published in these handbooks pre-date the Song, but it is not so clear with the music itself. One can make a strong argument that much of the music was played during the Song dynasty, but tracing it earlier is very difficult.

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