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Chapter Seven: Ming dynasty
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, p. 123-5 1
Xu tradition chart (from Chen; expand)2  
(A). 1. Zhe Melodies of the Xu Tradition3

At the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the Zhe melodies of the Xu Tradition still did not resemble the style that later people held in high esteem.4 In the sixth year of his reign (1373) the founder of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang (1328 - 1399), established a Wenhua Tang (Hall of Literary Excellence5), broadening and gathering literary talent. At that time Yao Guangxiao6 recommended three people as the world's best qin masters: Xu Hezhong of Siming, Liu Hong of Songjiang and Zhang Yongzhen of Gusu;7 the latter two players belonged to the Jiang tradition,8 only Xu Hezhong being a direct heir of the Xu tradition. Although Shen Qi Mi Pu, published by Zhu Quan in 1425, has more than a few tablatures of melodies associated with the Xu tradition, it does not explicitly indicate such a connection.9 It is only after the (beginning of the) Jiaqing period (1522 - 67) that many publications repeatedly emphasized that they were "Xumen Orthodox Tradition". This was first seen in the Preface by Chen Jing to Wugang Qinpu, "Looking at where the source of his teachers and friends comes from, it must be from the Xumen Orthodox Tradition." It was next seen in the Silkwood Essays of Liu Zhu, "Up to now, whether going up to the imperial court, or going down into detention in the mountains and forests, when they exchange teachings, they invariably honor it. The qin expert types, as soon as they happen to meet face to face, and ask from what tablature their methods come, there is no one who doesn't say, 'the Xu tradition'." One can also see in (the article by Xiao Luan called Xumen Orthodox Tradition, in his Xingzhuang Taiyin Buyi 10), "Whether in the distances of woods and valleys, in the smallness of village dwellings, or the reverence of the imperial court, all the melodies they strive for are emphatically said to be "Xumen". They do things this way because they wish to emphasize the Xu tradition, most importantly to contrast it with the Jiang tradition. Thus Huang Xian said (in his afterword to Wugang Qinpu, the Zhe tradition's) "deficiencies cannot be compared to the common ones of the Jiang tradition". And Xiao Luan (in his article just referenced above) also said, "So I would like to distinguish (my Zhe melodies) from the Jiang melodies, so as to influence later students to look carefully at what they aspire to."

Xu Hezhong,11 proper name Xu Shen, was a great-grandson of (the famous Hangzhou qin player) Xu Tianmin. The Xumen qin skills passed (from Xu Tianmin) through Xu Qiushan and Xu Xiaoshan to the fourth generation, Xu Hezhong. They were originally registered in Qiantang (Hangzhou). Later Xu Xiaoshan went as an official to Siming12 (now in Zhejiang's Ningbo [district]),13 so Xu Hezhong taught there, then gave instruction in classical subjects.14 (Emperor) Ming Chengzu (1403 - 1425) Zhu Di, at his feudatory court,15 once sent an envoy summoning him to court, where he bestowed on him a reward. After returning home he served for 27 years as a sub-director of studies for district graduates in Siming, right up until he died.

Xu Hezhong carried on the (Xu) family teachings; he had great fame in the qin world. People praised his performances as "highly skilled, its appeal derived from heaven." From near and far a great many people eager for fame came to him seeking his teaching. One of these was surnamed Xue.

(Xue Sheng: Mr. Xue). Because he was particularly skilled at playing the melody Wu Ye Ti people called him "Xue Wuye". He was self-assured and somewhat famous, and he had no particular respect for Xu Hezhong. He wanted to have Xu Hezhong play the piece Wu Ye Ti so that their skill at it could be compared. However, Xu Hezhong was never willing to fulfill (Mr. Xue's) wishes. So Xue Wuye had no choice, he could only ask other people to request that (Xu) play this melody, while he himself remained hidden next door secretly listening. Once the melody was over, Xue Wuye was thoroughly convinced (of Xu's skills). He fell on his knees below the qin table and said, "I would like to be your student, and will be happy if you don't turn your back on me." (Ningbo Prefecture Records16)

From this one can see the qin art of Xu Hezhong was certainly much more brilliant than that of the ordinary person. His own creations included such melodies as Wen Wang Si Shun,17 and he edited a "Plum Snow Nest Revised and Polished Qin Handbook".18 (Qianqingtang Shumu 19)

Huang Xian 20 (1485 - after 1561), style name Zhongxian, nickname Wugang, was from Pingle in Guangxi province. At the age of 11 he entered the imperial court as a eunuch, and studied the qin from Dai Yi21. Dai Yi was a follower of the senior Xumen tradition disciple Zhang Zhu22 of Suzhou. Huang Xian said of himself (see again his afterword to Wugang Qinpu), "(When young) I was diligent day and night, not idle for a minute.... My age has increased to over 60, but my resolution has not yet grown weary." In 1546, with the assistance of more than 10 qin friends, he published the Wugang Qinpu. It originally included 42 qin melodies, then 15 years later Yang Jiasen23 increased this to 71 melodies and changed the name to Qinpu Zhengchuan. These two volumes are the earliest surviving Xumen qin handbooks. These two qin handbooks often have annotations after the melody titles. For example, after Qiao Ge is the note, "by (Mao) Minzhong; also called Return to Woodcutting, from an often edited volume by the two old men Qiushan and Xiaoshan". The note for Yu Ge is, "Same as Shanshui Lü in 1430 (? see comment), 9th month, Meixuewo revision." From these comments one can see that these qin tablatures that Huang Xian collected had undergone continuing revision by several generations of the Xu family.

Xiao Luan 24 (1487 - after 1561), literary name Old Man of Apricot Village (see portrait), was from Yangwu.25 From an early age he studied qin, later carefully studying the Xu family (Xumen) tradition. "One day I was no longer able to go left or right, plan/calculate more than 50 years." Originally (basically?) he was from "an old family of Jinling [Nanjing], with emoluments from 10,000 households." Later he acted as a military official, "fleas/go quickly-pass time/with the sound of armor". It wasn't until he was an old man that he could concentrate his energy on qin studies. "Later I wanted to find my aspirations in the forest of art....From the spring of 1554 to the winter of 1557" he spent four years with "one or two companions planning to go out and select a certain number of pieces of the Xumen Orthodox Tradition. These were then divided 'in five sounds' (i.e., according to their mode), adding yin (intonations), editing all the pieces, broadly explaining the meanings", and editing them into the qin handbook Xingzhuang Taiyin Buyi, with 73 pieces. Two years later, Xiao Luan also collected a number of [other?] qin pieces from the regions of Wu and Yue (Jiangsu and Zhejiang). Originally they were "unable completely to accord with the Xumen [style]," so they underwent "repeated corrections, explicating corrections according to the Xu [style of] fingering." Later he also collected 38 [of these and other?] pieces and edited them into Xingzhuang Taiyin Xupu. Among these are pieces he himself created, such as (#30) Shichuang Shi Yi (A Stone Bed, with the Yi Jing as a Pillow [?]), and so forth.

Xiao Luan strived for his aim that these two qin handbooks be in accord with the Xumen style. In the qin handbooks each piece has an introductory comment, and [almost] each piece is edited together with a short composition previewing the playing style, called a "yin". The yin, in its content and mode, corresponds to the piece it accompanies. For example, before Qiu Hong (Autumn Goose) is Feiming Yin (Intonation on Crying-out-while-flying); before Li Sao (Qu Yuan's elegy on a riverbank) is Zepan Yin (Marshbank Intonation); and before Zhaojun Yuan (Lament of Lady Zhao Jun) is Qiusai Yin (Intonation of Autumn-on-the-Frontier, where Zhao Jun had to go); and so forth. This was originally the style advocated by the late Tang (qin player) Chen Kangshi (?), and the early Ming (handbook) Shen Qi Mi Pu also often continued to use them. Coming to the time of Xiao Luan, from among the people he received these old copybooks with each piece "all having yin" before them, and thus he devoted [himself] to restoring this tradition. For each piece where an appropriate yin could not actually be found, in front of the piece there is a note saying, "[I] often looked [but still there was] no yin; [this] awaits a later gentleman." (#18) Taiyin Chuanxi, edited by Li Ren26 of the same period as Xiao Luan, included 80 pieces, and also carried on the tradition of this style."


Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Translation by JT.

2. Chart of the Xu family tradition (Zhe school; expand)
Copied from page 17 of 陳成渤:南宋浙派,古琴傳習錄;杭州,西泠印社出版社,2015 (Chen Chengbo, Nansong Zhepai, Guqin Chuanzilu; Hangzhou Xiling Printing Society Publishing, 2015). Chen Chengbo is a guqin specialist from Hangzhou, where he was a student of 徐匡華 Xu Kuanghua. His original printed chart is in small print and similarly difficult to read. The direct lineage as shown in the chart is thus copied again here:

  1. 郭楚望 Guo Chuwang (Guo Mian
    Famous qin player in Hangzhou at the end of the Southern Song dynasty (mid 13th century)
  2. 劉志方 Liu Zhifang
    Carried on the qin teachings of Guo; teacher of Mao Minzhong as well as Xu Tianmin
  3. 徐天民 Xu Tianmin
    Based on Chapter 6.A. (p. 90), he was active as a qin teacher around 1285, thus probably born no later than 1250. Another student of his was Yuan Jue.
  4. 徐秋山 Xu Qiushan
    Later in this section Qinshi Chubian mentions Xu Qiushan as a younger contemporary of Xu Tianmin
  5. 徐曉山 Xu Xiaoshan (proper name 徐夢吉 Xu Mengji)
    Often mentioned in mid-16th century handbooks, he moved from Hangzhou to Siming
  6. 徐和仲 Xu Hezhong
    Around 1400 he was declared one of the world's greatest qin masters; this is discussed in detail in this chapter.
  7. 徐惟謙 Xu Weiqian
    Cheng's chart actually lists seven students of Xu Hezhong, as follows:
    薛烏夜 Xue Wuye
    周冕 Zhou Mian ("most important student of Xu Hezhong")
    徐惟_ (unclear; brother of next?)
    徐惟謙 Xu Weiqian (son of Xu Hezhong?)
    王禮 Wang Li
    金應隆 Jin Yinglong
    吳以介 Wu Yijie
    The comment about Zhou Mian perhaps suggests that from this time the leading players of this lineage were not Xu family members.
  8. 張助 Zhang Zhu
  9. 戴義 Dai Yi
  10. 黃獻 Huang Xian (see Wugang Qinpu) and Xian Luan? (Taiyin Buyi and Taiyin Xupu)

Further regarding Zhou Mian,
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4ac480af0101hjoz.html has:
"The highly esteemed Zhou family (of Rì hú?")....

For more on Xumen see also the next footnote.

3. 浙操徐門 Zhecao Xumen (Zhe Melodies of the Xu Family); also
   徐門正傳 Xumen Zhengchuan (Xu Family Orthodox Tradition)
See Chart of Xu family tradition and note that it is not clear whether there is any difference between these two terms (and another one, 徐操 Xu Cao, Xu Melodies); see also the previous section of Qinshi Chubian.

The timeline for the lineage shown above is compatible with there having been about 30 years between the births of the players from Guo Chuwang up through Xu Hezhong (who died perhaps around 1420). This lineage also seems to be fairly well documented. However, after Xu Hezhong the Xumen lineage seems more complicated. Specifically, I have not yet found the connection of Xu Weiqian and his contemporaries in Siming with Zhang Zhu, who apparently lived in Suzhou. This is because I have not been able to see any writings that give further details on this lineage until the mid-16th century, when such further details appear in the earliest qin handbooks directly associated with the "school" (I should emphasize that the fact I have not seen all the relevant documents does not mean that they do not exist):
      Wugang Qinpu (Huang Xian; 1547)
      Taiyin Buyi (Xiao Luan; 1557)
      Taiyin Xupu (Xiao Luan; 1559).
Two other handbooks from that time also need consideration:
      Taiyin Chuanxi (Li Ren; 1552)
      Qinpu Zhengchuan (Yang Jiasen; 1547-61; its 71 melodies include all 42 from 1547).
In the case of the first three, the claims to the Xu tradition are based on a connection to Zhang Zhu.

According to Wugang Qinpu (1546), compiled by 黃獻 Huang Xian (1485 - after 1561), the Xumen qin master 張助 Zhang Zhu was brought from Suzhou into the palace during the 弘治 Hong Zhi period (1488-1505). Here he taught the eunuch 戴義 Dai Yi, who in turn taught Huang Xian. In his handbook Huang Xian directly links at least six melodies to this tradition: Qingdu Yin, Chang Qing, Qiao Ge, Yu Ge, He Wu Dongtian and Qiu Hong.

This also suggests that what Xiao Luan (1488 - after 1561), the compiler of Xingzhuang Taiyin Buyi (1557), writes about Xu Xiaoshan should be interpreted as a comment on the ancestors of Xiao Luan's teachers.

Also, according to Xu Jian's account here, there must have been quite a few teachers in the mid-16th century who claimed to represent the Xumen tradition. It is important that such claims of connections here be subjected to musical analysis, and this comparative chart of the five handbooks listed above presents some relevant data preliminary to such further analysis.

4. Xu tradition in early Ming
Xu Jian could be suggesting here that in the early Ming the Xumen melodies were less developed than they became later. Whether or not this is a value judgement, it does imply that the Xumen melodies were changing, thus suggesting that their handbooks documented a written tradition, as opposed to Shen Qi Mi Pu, which seems to have had the aim of restoring an old tradition. It is my own general assumption that melodies in Shen Qi Mi Pu were copied from old tablature, many perhaps dating from the Song dynasty or perhaps even earlier, while those in such Xumen handbooks as Wugang Qinpu represent the style of melodies that had developed further (or been created) since the demise of the Song dynasty. This assumption is of course tentative and based mainly on studying the qin tablature itself rather than looking at historical accounts.

5. 文華堂 Wenhua Tang 13766.xxx; .616 is 文華殿 Wenhua Palace, but the verb Xu Jian uses, 開設 kaishe suggests establishing an organization, not building a physical object.

6. 姚廣孝 Yao Guangxiao (1335 - 1418)
Yao Guangxiao was a Buddhist priest (religious name 道衍 Dao Yan) said to have had certain magical powers. In 1382 Zhu Yuanzhang assigned him to the service of Zhu Di. Yao became politically prominent when Zhu Di became the Yongle emperor (r. 1403 - 1423), and he was one of the scholars assigned by the emperor to work on 文獻大成 Wenxian Dacheng, an attempt to collect together all classical literature.

7. 張用軫 Zhang Yongzhen
"Zhang who uses tuning pegs"; 姑蘇 Gusu is Suzhou. In addition to being identified as 江派 Jiang School he is also said to have been 松江派 Song Jiang School (Song Jiang is a river on the south side of Suzhou running from Lake Tai [Taihu] towards what is today Shanghai). As yet I have not found any melodies, tablature or handbooks particularly associated with him.

8. 江派 Jiang tradition
As mentioned here, there seems to be some confusion about this term. Later it seems to be associated with qin song melodies in Nanjing, but here it seems to refer to a style prevalent around 宋江 Song Jiang, the Song river running along the south side of Suzhou.

9. Shen Qi Mi Pu and the Xu tradition
The absence of specific statements identifying versions in SQMP as being in the Xu tradition ("orthodox" or not), plus the fact that the versions in handbooks directly associated with the Xu tradition have differences from the SQMP versions, make it unclear how Xu Jian (and others) have decided SQMP melodies are in the Xu orthodox tradition. In this regard, Taiyin Chuanxi (1552), which does not claim to be Xumen style, seems to have copied a number of melodies directly from SQMP, whereas the handbooks that do claim Xumen style seem to have (or inherited) made many more changes. This is not of itself evidence agains Xu Jian's claim, suggesting rather that the orthodox tradition was evolving. For further details on handbooks from 1546 to 1561 see the comparative chart.

10. For some reason Xu Jian mis-identifies this quotation, saying it comes from Xingzhuang Taiyin Xupu.

11. 徐和仲 Xu Hezhong
Xu Hezhong, proper name 徐詵 Xu Shen (Qinshi Xu biography 74 but Bio/xxx) was a son and student of Xu Xiaoshan.

12. 四明 Siming
"Four Brightnesses" (in other contexts it could be "Four Famous...", but 4782.284 山名 (name of a mountain)....(孔靈符會稽記)...."上有四窗,穴通日月星辰之光,故號四明 above it are four openings, with the brightness of the sun, moon, stars and constellations coming through, hence its nickname...." Siming is the most common name for a mountain range (or a range of hills) in 寧波縣 Ningbo district that extends from between Ningbo and Shaoxing cities, near 餘姚 Yuyao, south into the the Tiantai Mountains. Siming is also said to be 天台之委, suggesting lower foothills of Tiantai.

It is interesting to speculate as to whether there might be a connection to the Xu family having lived here and to the fact that a copy of the handbook Zheyin Shizi Qinpu was preserved at the famous Tianyi Ge book collection in nearby Ningbo (next footnote).

13. 四明 Ningbo
The biography of Yuan Jue says he studied with Xu Tianmin in Ningbo, which seems to give the Xumen school a Ningbo connection at least one generation before Xu Xiaoshan.

The Ming volume of the Historical Atlas has Ningbo then named as 鄞縣 Yin County or 慶元路 Qingyuan Passage. Another name sometimes used was 明州 Mingzhou or even 四明 Siming (see previous).

Whatever its name at the time, it was an important trade city (including its port town 定海 Dinghai); during the period discussed here Portuguese traders arrived around 1522 (their depredations leading to their massacre in 1542 [Wiki]), the the first important trade delegation arrived from Japan in 1525, and throughout this whole period the government was preoccupied with the problem of pirates in this area, many of them based in the nearby 舟山 Zhoushan islands.

14. The Qinshi Xu biography seems to suggest that this means Xu Shen spent his life teaching in his home village, but became famous because of his qin play. Xu Jian has only, "進授「春秋」read aloud and gave lessons to princes (or, advanced to the rank of) 'Spring and Autumn'". Spring and Autumn was an ancient period, but it could also mean "光陰,歲月 available time". The Qinshi Xu biography has,

"詵性謹厚,居家,篤學,以春秋教授鄉里為文不俚不浮, 亦以琴著名於時。 (Xu) Shen by nature was very respectful, living at home, studying diligently, using a 'Spring and Autumn education' (or spending his years) to teach in his home village, with writing no-resource no-excess (i.e., through literary matters not becoming rich or poor?), but through the qin gaining reknown in this period.

None of the materials seems to say precisely where in Siming district Xu Shen lived.

15. 藩邸; Beijing? Zhu Di was prince there before becoming emperor; after he became emperor he moved the Ming capital from Nanjing to Beijing.

16. 寧波府志 Ningbo Fu Zhi. The only source Zhou Qingyun gives in his Qinshi Xu biography of Xu is 鄞縣志 Yin County Records. Yin County was the Ningbo city area within Ningbo district.

17. 文王思舜 Wen Wang Si Shun is one of several titles of a melody first surviving from <1491; see the footnote and further comments there.

18. 梅雪窩刪潤琴譜 Meixuewo Shanrun Qinpu (Nest in Snowy Plum Tree Revised and Polished Qin Handbook)
The Qinshi Xu biography of Xu Shen does not mention this book, but it is mentioned as 梅雪窩刪製 Meixuewo Shanzhi in connection with the melody Yu Ge in Wugang Qinpu (1546). That handbook also directly associates several other melodies with the Xu family tradition. (Qinshu Cunmu #163 mistakenly changed the name and author of this book to a Xuewo Shanrun Qinpu attributed to 徐詵梅 Xu Shenmei.)

19. 千頃堂書目 Qianqingtang Shumu
This is the same source quoted in Qinshu Cunmu #163.

20. Huang Xian 黃獻
In addition to the above, see under Wugang Qinpu (1546), which he compiled.

21. Dai Yi 戴義
Teacher of Huang Xian; see Wugang Qinpu.

22. Zhang Zhu 張助 (further)
Teacher of Dai Yi and thus said to be the main source of melodies in Wugang Qinpu (i.e., based on the Qin Handbook of Zhang Zu?). However, although Wugang Qinpu identifies Zhang Zhu as Xu tradition, it does not seem to mention his lineage, so I am not sure of what the evidence is for the chart above (details) identifying him as a student of 徐惟謙, Xu Weiqian, a son and disciple of 徐和仲 Xu Hezhong. Could there have been any intervening disciples?

23. Yang Jiasen 楊嘉森; see Qinpu Zhengchuan

24. Xiao Luan 蕭鸞 , nicknamed 杏莊老人 Xingzhuang Laoren, compiled Xingzhuang Taiyin Buyi (1557) and Xingzhuang Taiyin Xupu (1559).

25. Yangwu 陽武 ; 42673.68 has several: Henan [near Kaifeng] / Liaoning / Anhui / Henan (?)

26. Li Ren 李仁 ; see Taiyin Chuanxi

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