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Chapter Seven: Ming dynasty
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, pp. 122-3 1

(A.) Qin personalities2


The qin world during the Ming dynasty divided mainly into (qin schools3 called) Jiang pai4 and Zhe pai.5 At that time the Jiang school referred to the school of Liu Hong of Songjiang; it had no connection to the traditional Song dynasty school of "Jiangxi tablature".7 The Zhe school carried on the Southern Song tradition of Xu Tianmin. For example, the editor of Wugang Qinpu, Huang Xian, and the editor of Xingzhuang Taiyin Buyi, Xiao Luan, were both described as "Xumen Orthodox Tradition".8 (Zhu Houjiao's) prefatory comments to Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539),9 "Melodies transmitted to society are of two types, Zhe melodies of the Xu tradition and Jiang melodies of the Liu tradition", summarized the situation. However, as for the large or small influence, the two schools were not equal. The Zhe school published quite a few tablature collections, and passed the tradition on to quite a few disciples. But the Jiang tradition was much inferior.10 Liu Zhu11 in his Silkwood Essay12 introduced the actual situation:

"Nowadays there are in practice three types of qin melodies, Jiang, Zhe and Min.13 Those who practice the Min tradition number less than 1 or 2 percent; those who practice the Jiang tradition number perhaps 30 or 40 percent; those who practice the Zhe tradition number perhaps 60 or 70 percent. Based on looking at the two traditions, the Zhe melodies are better. The Jiang melody sounds are loaded with details, the Zhe melodies are more smooth and easy. Compared to Jiang melodies they seem more clear and far-reaching."

Qin schools in the latter part of the Ming dynasty also had their developments, giving rise to the Yushan school, Shaoxing school, Jiang school, and so forth. The implications of the Jiang school of this period compared to those of the Songjiang school before the Jiaqing period (1522 - 67) were different; (this latter Jiang school) relied on a few qin players who added lyrics for accompanying songs, such as Huang Longshan, Yang Biaozheng, Yang Lun, and so forth. These people carried out most of their activities in the area of the lower Yangzi river and Nanjing, hence the name.14 Their publications were not just a few, but their accomplishments were not very high.15

The Ming dynasty also had a few qin experts who were skilled at making qins, and within the artisan class there now emerged people who also excelled at playing qin. The latter period of the Ming dynasty there were also a number of qin experts who participated in movements opposing the Qing (Manchu) dynasty.16

(Continue: Xumen Zhe Tradition)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Translation by JT.

2. Qin personalities (琴人 Qin ren)
Xu Jian, QSCB, pp. 122 - 123.

3. Qin schools (琴派 qin pai)
Much has been written about qin schools but most comment has seemed to me rather vague. Determining the characteristics of early qin schools should include much more reconstruction of the versions of melodies associated with those schools. Here a particularly interesting question is how the term, which elsewhere seems generally to be applied to professional traditions, can be applied to a non-professional tradition such as qin. For example, in professional traditions there is a particular incentive to preserve a certain type of play and lineage of players, leading to apprenticeships and perhaps restrictions on learning outside the school. Did this ever apply to qin learning?

4. Jiang tradition (江門 Jiang Men; also 江派 Jiang Pai, Jiang school)
These terms do not seem to be used consistently and are thus quite confusing. The primary connections seem to be:

  1. Jiang-Xi Pu (江西譜 River-West Tablature/Music) of the Song dynasty.
    This seems to refer either a style of play, in contrast to the court style, or to tablature based on playing in that style.
  2. A style of play centered on the 松江 Songjiang, a river flowing east from lake 太湖 Taihu.
    The QSCB chapter on Qin song composers identifies a Jiang tradition coming from 劉鴻 Liu Hong (see below) of 松江 Songjiang (in modern Zhejiang province, west of Shanghai), adding that there seems to have been no direct connection between this and the Jiang-Xi Pu just mentioned above; Liu Hong apparently lived in the 15th century and spent time in Nanjing (see next). Another person associated with it was 張松 Zhang Song.
  3. The Jiang tradition centered in Nanjing;
    In contrast to QSCB, the second paragraph of a preface in the facsimile edition of Zhenchuan Zhengzong Qinpu begins by saying that the Jiang style was not connected to the Songjiang style dating to before 1522. Here "Jiang" is said to refer not to the Songjiang but to 江左 "left river", meaning the central stretches of the Yangzi river, including Nanjing. Representative figures include Huang Longshan Yang Biaozheng and Yang Lun.

Regarding this latter Jiang tradition, it is said to have emphasized lyrics (see qin songs), as opposed to the 浙 Zhe traditions commonly said to have emphasized melody. QSCB, however, suggests the difference was actually one of style. He thus quotes Liu Zhu above saying, "The Jiang melody sounds are loaded with details, the Zhe melodies are more smooth and easy; compared to Jiang melodies they seem more clear and far-reaching."

Another distinction that has been made (reference needed) is to say that the Jiang tradition of Nanjing had no specific rules about how the music should be, in this way contrasting with the Yushan school, which had many such rules. Instead the Jiang tradition emphasized the accomplishments of the individual performers/performances.

5. Zhe tradition (浙門 Zhe Men; also 浙派 Zhe Pai, Zhe school)
This was apparently the dominant school in the early Ming dynasty; see the comparison above with the Jiang tradition, plus further comments under Xumen Orthodox Tradition. Two representative Ming dynasty handbooks of the Zhe school are discussed here: both have derogatory comments about the Jiang school.

6. Liu Melodies (劉操 apparently from 劉鴻 Liu Hong)
Liu Hong, according to Xu Jian (see above) and Wu Wenguang (see his Ph.D. dissertation, "Wu Jinglue's Qin Music in its Context", p.31), was a qin player from Songjiang (宋江, now in Jiangsu province west of Shanghai). His dates are uncertain, but one of his students is said to have been Yang Jijing (ca. 1477 - after 1530; see below). Articles by James Watt, and by 江兆申 Chiang Chao-shen in the National Palace Museum Bulletin Vol. VIII #3 (July/August 1973, p.6), also discuss a late 15th century qin master from Guangdong province with the same name (more below). Perhaps they are the same person, but adding to the confusion Bio/642 has what seems to be either the same or a second or a third 劉鴻 Liu Hong, style name 雲表 Yunbiao, from 江西泰和 Taihe in southwestern Jiangxi province. He lived by 七星坳 Seven Star Hollow (? ; there is a 七星岩 Seven Star Crags in Guangdong) and so called himself Mr. Seven Star. He passed the 舉人 juren exam in 1477 but went no higher, so he traveled around writing poetry and essays.

Liu Hong is connected with the Jiang school of qin play. This may suggest that the basic characteristic of his style was a focus on qin songs, though Xu Jian (see Qin song composers) says this is not always the case with this school. In this regard one should point out that the earliest publication of the first surviving collection of qin songs, Taigu Yiyin, came in 1511. Several of its songs are also included in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539), the preface to which (QQJC II, p.1) has a statement that there were then two types of melodies in the world, 浙操徐門 the Zhe melodies of the Xu school, and 江操劉門 the Jiang melodies of the Liu school.

Yang Jijing (楊季靜; ca. 1477 - after 1530), one of Liu Hong's students, was apparently once quite a famous qin player. The National Palace Museum Bulletin says the following about him, based largely on colophons on 南遊圖 "Southern Journey", a painting by 唐寅 Tang Yin (1470-1523) in the Freer Gallery (see online image and commentary (cached). The painting is also discussed in the article by James Watt; Romanization is here modified):

According to Wen Zhengming (文徵明 1470-1559)....楊守素 Yang Shousu had studied the qin with Liu Hong of Guangdong, a highly accomplished qin player. Yang Shousu was responsible for making Liu's style of qin playing prevalent in Suzhou. Yang had four sons who all played the qin, but only the youngest, Jijing, was outstanding. Yang Jijing used the sobriquet Lü'su 履素, but we do not know his personal name. His father Shousu was a close friend of Wen Zhengming. Peng Fang (彭昉) tells us that the skilled qin player Yang Jijing occasionally made long journeys. In the spring of 1505, during the second lunar month, he set out for Nanjing and was presented with a poem by his friend Qian Tong'ai.

The Palace Museum article also discusses two other paintings of Yang Jijing: 琴士圖 "The Qin Master" (commonly mis-translated "The Lutanist", also by Tang Yin (again see Watt); and 文伯仁畫楊季靜小象 "Miniature Portrait of Yang Jijing by Wen Boren". Somewhat oddly, there seems to be no mention of either Liu Hong or Yang Jijing in existing qin biographies.

7. Jiangxi tablature
江西譜 Jiangxi Pu

8. 徐門正傳 Xumen Zhengchuan, Xu Orthodox Tradition (also called 徐操 Xu Cao, Xu Melodies)
This style (see also Zhe tradition and Zhecao Xumen, which has information on the lineage chart made by Chen Chengbo) is said to have been passed down from the great Song dynasty qin master 徐天民 Xu Tianmin. The preface by Chen Jing in Wugang Qinpu traces this style of music from Xu Tianmin to 徐秋山 Xu Qiushan and then 徐曉山 Xu Xiaoshan, perhaps leaving some gaps. Later in this section Qinshi Chubian mentions Xu Qiushan as a younger contemporary of Xu Tianmin. Xiao Luan, the compiler of Xingzhuang Taiyin Buyi (1557), says Xu Xiaoshan was one of his teachers.

9. 世傳操有二,曰﹕浙操徐門,江操劉門

10. "Inferiority" of the Jiang school
Xu Jian's words (遠為遜色) suggest that the Jiang school was not just less influential but also musically inferior. One must keep in mind, however, that qin music, though written down, was also an oral tradition. There is some further discussion of oral transmission here. A related factor is that there may have been more flexibility in the interpretation of qin songs than of the instrumental melodies, and that there was no established way of writing this down; see, for example, this discussion of performance practice.

These factors make it difficult to pass judgment on the merits of the qin song tradition. As for the Jiang school melodies being more "多煩瑣 loaded with detail", this is also difficult to evaluate without concrete examples. In addition, if one follows this to its logical conclusion it might be necessary to conclude that the modern tradition is inferior: it is generally acknowledged that the traditional melodies as they survived into the modern qin tradition tended to become more ornamental through increased left hand ornamentation.

11. 劉珠 Liu Zhu
Bio/xxx; his Silkwood Essay is discussed below. Xu Jian gives no hint about who Liu Zhu is, or when he might have written this essay, nor have I yet found any traces of it elsewhere.

12. Silkwood Essay (絲桐篇 Sitong Pian)
Literally, "essay about sitong" (28058.45: silk and wutong wood, a term meaning "qin"). It is not at all clear what Liu Zhu meant when he wrote that Jiang melodies were 繁瑣 fansuo. "loaded down with trivial details". Xu Jian writes that it is a common mistake to associate the Jiang school with qin songs (see qin song composers), but the people he mentions are all associated with qin songs. From my personal evaluation of the tablature for the songs in the handbooks attributed to the three people mentioned below, some of them are gems. Others seem overly simple. Many, in their effort to fit lyrics with melodies, seem much too word intensive, often unsingable. However, this might suggest that there was a big difference between the tablature as written and the music as played: I have not yet found any commentary describing exactly how the words should be sung along with the music to which they are paired. It might also mean that for some ideological reason some people just didn't appreciate that style, or they never heard the best players in that style. Qin songs seem to have been particularly popular with women. Was the Jiang school particularly associated with non-literati (e.g., merchant families aspiring to culture)? Also, the combination of instrumental melodies and qin songs in a handbook such as Yang Lun's Zhenchuan Zhengzong Qinpu suggests either that the differences between the two schools were often not so clearcut, or that the differences were more in the execution rather than in the written tablature.

13. Three types of qin melodies
The original quote is:


Regarding 閩 Min (Fujian), Yang Biaozheng was from Fujian, but he apparently moved to Nanjing.

14. "Jiang" means "river", but it refers in particular to the Yangzi river. Note that two of the three people mentioned here were from other areas, but moved to Nanjing. It is not clear whether they brought their own styles with them or developed them in Nanjing.

15. It is not clear on what basis Xu Jian makes this statement, other than his quote above from Liu Zhu and perhaps others.

16. This is discussed further in QSCB, pp. 131-2.

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