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Chapter Seven: Ming dynasty
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, p. 130-1 1

(A). 4. Creators of Qin Songs 2

The number of Ming dynasty qin songs is very large. More than ten such special collections have survived,3 but historical materials concerning qin song makers are just not often seen. Qin song makers were often prolific creators. They don't have clear sources for their lineage, and also did not form influential schools. This was perhaps related to their artistic level and social position. Later people believed that qin song makers belonged to a Jiang school, coexisting with a Zhe school,4 (but) this is a misunderstanding. (In fact), an early qin song collection uses the name Zheyin Shizi (Music from Zhe [Zhejiang School] Elucidated through Lyrics). Yin Ertao, who created a large number of qin songs, was from Zhejiang.5 And Chen Dabin (to be discussed next) was also from Zhejiang.

Chen Dabin,6 style name Bowen, nickname Taixi, active during the Wanli (1573 - 1620) and Tianqi (1621 - 28) periods, was from Qiantang (Hangzhou). In 1612 he make a trip to Beijing, where he received widespread attention. With regard to qin studies he had "used all his energy and concentration for more than 50 years", and then also did not avoid the hardships of traveling the roads, going all over to visit famous qin experts in such places as Xiangyuan, Heluo, Yanzhao, Zoulu and Yuxue.7 These people included Li Shuinan of Hangzhou, who transmitted Pu'an Zhou; Xu Nanshan of Shaoxing (discussed under Luqi Xinsheng, 1597); the Xumen tradition's Guo Wugang of Shandong8 (? Huang Wugang?); and Shaanxi's Cui Xiaotong (?9). Having experienced interchange and deliberation with these similarly-inclined music experts, his qin learning made even more progress. Still existing today is the Taiyin Xisheng qin handbook that he edited; it was made into a book in 1625. The 36 qin songs in this book included over 10 pieces by Chen Dabin himself, including Han Gong Chun. (Chen himself) did not have the strength to turn this over to the printer, so he asked the similarly-inclined people and his students each to manage the printing-plate making of the qin melodies they each liked. As a result the structure of the book as somewhat inconsistent, with the contents and the table of contents often having discrepancies, this extending even to pieces for which the preface said he had written lyrics, such as Zheng Qi Ge, Zui Weng Yin and so forth, but which are not included in the book.

Below are qin song creators who (or whose works) have not yet been seen in ordinary qin books and tablature.

Chen Shi, 10 style name Juncai and Huatingren, inherited the teachings of his father "and understood well qin theory. He adapted Hujia Shiba Pai as a qin melody with cadence and emotion that touched anybody who listened." (Gazetteer of Songjiang Prefecture, now Shanghai area) He also passed on his qin skills to Cao Keshu.

Wu Guiyun, 11 had the style name Liuzhang. "A reader since youth, he excelled at literature and poetry," and "attempted his own way of writing pentatonic music [?]. Whether with Guo Feng, Ya Song and Baiyun Yao, or Dafeng Ge, the melodies he wrote for qin all used as lyrics Yue Fu poems dating from the Han and Tang dynasties. He carefully examined sound and structure with much understanding of details, which others thought a divine talent." (Gazetteer of Shanyang County, central Jiangsu or southern Shaanxi)

Lu Yaohua, 12 style name Heqing, was "frail from excessive reading". He was "especially skilled in qin, and the over one hundred pieces he created, including Pipa Xing, Baitou Yin, Lanting Qiu Xing, Da Su Wu Shu, and Bie Hen Er Fu, were modestly held back rather than passed down. (Gazetteer of Pinghu County, between Hangzhou and Shanghai)

Yu Qian, 13 nick-named Qiaogu, was skilled in qin. He listened to others read the classic Da Xue (Great Learning) and wrote a melody for it in shang mode, calling it "the sound of reading". An excellent student of his, Wang Yiheng, followed it up with melodies for Zhong Yong (Doctrine of the Mean), Lun Yu (The Analects of Confucius) and Mengzi (The Book of Mencius) (Zhejiang local gazetteer). This is an example of writing melody for prose, which is not only unacceptable artistically but the content, too, advocated Confucianism. This was a clear mark for qin songs' deviance from its appropriate course.

(Continue with Qin experts who opposed the Qing dynasty)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Basic translation by Jin Qiuyu.

2. Creators of Qin Songs (琴歌作者 Qin Ge Zuozhe)
This section concerns only people identified in the late Ming dynasty as having created qin songs, with only passing mention of the earlier Ming dynasty collections (see next footnote). In fact, most of the songs published during this period (as is mentioned by Xu Jian) seem to have been anonymous creations. In addition, his discussion of Ming dynasty qin melodies includes only one qin song, Boya Diao Ziqi. This lack of detail is probably due to a combination of the fact that so many writers were dismissive of such songs, and very few survived into the modern tradition. (In this regard, although there are no qin songs in the handbook of Yin Ertao, Xu Jian writes that he created many qin songs.)

Qin songs seem during the Ming dynasty to have become particularly popular in rising merchant class families; the increasing number of qin societies perhaps also reflected this possibility. It also seems possible that the societies, like the songs, were particularly popular among the daughters brought up to be well-educated. Amongst the published Ming dynasty qin songs there are a number that are very beautiful; and it is also quite possible that many of the best qin songs were never published. The pairing method in qin songs of one character for each right hand stroke and some left hand techniques as well is sometimes criticized (e.g., by Yan Cheng), and yet all published qin songs seem to use this method. One can speculate that if songs were sung with a more melismatic pairing it might have been done without a well-defined relationship between music and text. As a result, just as qin tablature does not specify note values, for many songs the lyrics were never written down next to the tablature. I do not know whether anyone has studied this possibility.

For further information on this subject see Handbooks with qin songs (next footnote) and the page Qin Songs.

3. Handbooks with qin songs
A perusal of the handbook list shows that of the 39 handbooks dated to the Ming dynasty (#7 to #45) 11 have no melodies with lyrics, 15 have some with lyrics (most of them only a few), and 13 have lyrics for all the melodies. The qin handbooks published up through 1600 most essential for the study of qin songs include the following,

  1. Zheyin Shizi (<1491): all have lyrics but they seem to be mostly instrumental melodies with lyrics arbitrarily added
  2. Taigu Yiyin (1511 and 1515): all have lyrics; many seem artificial but others are clearly real songs
  3. Faming Qinpu (1530): 9 of 25 have lyrics including the earliest short version of Yangguan Sandie
  4. Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539): 34 of 101 melodies have lyrics
  5. Xilutang Qintong (1525): only handbook that seems to have songs with lyrics in only some verses
  6. Chongxiu Zhenchuan, by Yang Biaozheng (1585): 105 melodies, all with lyrics
  7. Zhenchuan Zhengzong Qinpu, by Yang Lun (1589): 63 melodies, 41 with lyrics
  8. Sanjiao Tongsheng, by Zhang Dexin: Confucian and Daoist hymns, Buddhist chant (see Li Shuinan)
  9. Luqi Xinsheng, by Xu Shiqi (1597): 13 melodies, all with lyrics

Few of the songs in any of these handbooks (except perhaps the last) are reliably credited to "composers".

4. Jiang school vs. Zhe School
The source of this Zhe - Jiang distinction is not clear.

5. Note, however, that his handbook did not include any songs.

6. 陳大斌 Chen Dabin
陳大斌,子伯文,號太希. Compiled Taiyin Xisheng.

7. 湘沅 Xiangyuan, 河洛 Heluo, 燕趙 Yanzhao, 鄒魯 Zoulu and 禹穴 Yuxue.

8. 梧崗 Guo Wugang of Shandong
? Compare 黃梧岡 Huang Wugang.

9. 崔小桐 Cui Xiaotong of Shaanxi
Yuwu Qinpu (1589) seems to suggest that Cui was from Henan.

10. 陳詩 Chen Shi

11. Wu Guiyun 吳歸雲
Style name 流章 Liuzhang; no mention of tablature here; Bio/xxx; 3453.xxx; 16714.184xxx

12. 陸堯化 Lu Yaohua

13. Yu Qian 虞譧

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