Zha Fuxi work in 1956  
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
Zha's Guide and Melody Index  /   Qin handbooks and Project recordings 首頁
Report on the coverage of the guqin field trip of 1956 1 1956年古琴采訪工作報告
Zha Fuxi, 2 with Xu Jian 3 and Wang Di
1 August 1956
Minzu Yinyue Yanjiu Lunwenji, 1957, Vol. 3
Zha Fuxi (left) doing field work in 19565    
in center: 王迪 Wang Di and 許健 Xu Jian    

I. The significance of this work and the process of organizing it

The guqin (old qin) was originally called simply qin. It wasn't until the last 30 years that it has been called guqin. It is one of our country's oldest string instruments, having a tradition of more than 3,000 years. It has appeared in three kinds of performances: solo, accompanied and ensemble. Before the Qin dynasty (255-206 BCE) it was perhaps transmitted only within or above the social strata of the gentry. Then after the Qin dynasty it passed down among the people. It constantly maintained an existence that passed back and forth between the gentry's social strata and the artists among the people, attaining a fixed development. Its design and its performance methods became fixed during the period between the Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE) and the Jin dynasty (265 - 419). Moreover, from the Tang dynasty (618 - 905) onward its own special tablature began to be invented. By the time of the Song dynasty (960 - 1278) this form of notation, having also undergone several developments, had become fixed. In this way it has preserved some traditional melodies which date back several thousand years. During the last 50 years the number of people who play the guqin has gradually diminished, and the quality of play has also decreased accordingly. Before the Resistance against Japan began, the "Modern Yü Qin Society" in Shanghai calculated (1937) that in the entire country there were more than 200 players; but in 1954 the Ethnomusicology Research Institute made another calculation and found that there were some 90-odd players. In the 140-odd guqin handbooks passed to us through history, there are altogether more than 600 guqin pieces in various adjusted and reorganized forms, comprising more than 2,800 notations of guqin pieces historically recorded. However, the pieces which guqin players of today can still perform today numbers less than 70 or 80. As a result there is a necessity to make a timely rescue operation for this particularly fine traditional musical art.

Early in 1954 the Chinese Musicians Assistance Organization and the Ethnomusicology Research Institute thought of sending people to go everywhere to record their performances. But it was not then carried out. Not until last year did the Assistance Organization, as well as the Arts Bureau and the Broadcasting Enterprise Bureau reach a decision, and this year plan to carry it out.

The Assistance Organization sent me, and the Ethnomusicology Research Institute sent the guqin special cadre Xu Jian and Wang Di, comprising a three member coverage section. On 17 April 1956 we set out from Beijing, going smoothly to the following 17 places, in sequence:

1.   Ji'nan
2.   Nanjing
3.   Yangzhou
4.   Suzhou
5.   Shanghai
6.   Hangzhou
7.   Shaoxing
8.   Huizhou
9.   Changsha
10.   Hefei
11.   Anqing
12.   Wuhan
13.   Chongqing
14.   Guiyang
15.   Chengdu
16.   Guanxian
17.   Xi'an

Including the travel time and the sum total of work, it took 100 days. The completed work surpassed the plan originally determined. And on 27 July we returned to Beijing.

Before setting out, the Arts Bureau had instructed me by saying that the government was concerned about circumstances regarding the livelihood, cultivation and health of any old, impoverished or sick guqin players, and wanted a report of our understanding. The Musician's Organization had instructed me by saying that, as for the people whose guqin playing was recording, even before paying them any fees, I should actively give them financial assistance. The Ethnomusicology Research Institute instructed us that (on our) visits (we should) record such materials as guqin and (other) old musical documents, and (should) also establish the necessary communications and research relations with people who have guqins and those who love old music. Thus the subject of our work became not only the recording of guqin pieces; we could also actively expand into coverage of and reciprocal communication concerning guqins and old music (in general).

As for the aspect of guqin recordings, it was decided that the recording work would use the facilities of each local broadcasting station or studio (and) allow the station or studio to take the responsibility for making the recording, (and) the selection of people as well as the selection of songs which should be recorded was also decided the previous year with the qin players of each place. We undertook the musical assistance with the agreement of the Broadcasting Bureau. Of the 18 scheduled places we went to, only 10 key places had a relatively large number of people; for the other places the method we used was correspondence, asking the related stations or studios directly to negotiate with and record the qin players. But in the event that it became necessary, we could actively go to any other place and proceed with the coverage.

(Our planned projects)

Before setting out, we scheduled our work in each place according to the following important objectives,

1. At every place about which (our three-member) section was looking at information, to escort each qin player to the broadcasting station and record their qin pieces. Moreover, we would not have to limit ourselves to the people we had previously decided upon. With every place our group didn't go to, we would at all times maintain communications.

2. To obtain each qin player's biographical details, training and living conditions, and accurately enter these into the record of our inquiries; maintain a file from the analytical examination of the materials; and after the matter was finished use this as materials for intercommunication.

3. To make inquiries of each locality's libraries, museums and famous private collections. To get exceptionally fine or unfamiliar qin tablatures and books, and make rubbings or copies of objects related to he history of the qin, and include these in the guqin research materials.

4. Actively to inquire of those qin players with whom we had not established connections. If necessary use our personally prepared portable tape recorders to record their performances.

5. To record (any) rarely seen old music styles which were encountered, and include them with the (other) material.

6. When arranging intercommunications or discussions with the cultural bureaus of each place, to introduce the productive experience of our guqin-related exploration, classification and reformation to young music workers.

II. The results and yieldings of our work

Our work went very smoothly, and the yields were also very satisfactory. This is the result of the Party and the government's attaching a lot of importance to the to appeals of the people's cultural legacy and to the ardent support of the related local units. The general interest concerning the collecting and excavating of old music on the part of the cadre which every locality's cultural authorities sent to help us with our work was completely intense and enthusiastic. The music broadcast workers of each place, as soon as they heard it said they were to record a guqin piece, hastily squeezed in time to arrange a time schedule for the recording. The qin players, with regard to the qin pieces it had been determined they would play for the recording, generally had made good preparations, to the extent that qin pieces which had been neglected for many years were now all well practiced.

It was under this sort of enthusiastic and cooperative circumstances that we were able within this very short 100-day period to record the 224 pieces by 75 guqin players in the following 15 places:

1.   Ji'nan
2.   Nanjing
3.   Yangzhou
4.   Suzhou
5.   Shanghai
6.   Hangzhou
7.   Anqing
8.   Juxian (near Nanjing)
9.   Nantong
10.   Changsha
11.   Wuhan
12.   Chongqing
13.   Guiyang
14.   Chengdu
15.   Xi'an

Also within this same period we established our connections with and recorded 38 pieces by 11 guqin players in the following seven places:

1.   Qingdao
2.   Guangzhou
3.   Xiamen
4.   Harbin
5.   Shashi
6.   Nantong
7.   And so forth (?).

The amount of performance recording time was more than 1,000 minutes (16 2/3 + hours).6

At that time we came to understand each qin player's background, his particular school of knowledge, and his living conditions. They all felt very stimulated, and very carefully filled in our interview record, and they cordially answered any sort of question which we brought up concerning their art.

If we allow musicologists to listen once to all of the more than 2,000 minutes (?) of guqin music recorded this time, perhaps they will feel that a great deal of the performance level was not very high, to the extent that they could suspect the value of guqin music. If you look at it in this way, it would be incorrect. One must make a connection between the situation of the qin player's self-cultivation and his living conditions in order to understand the location of the problem. If one examines once the interview record of these 86 qin players whose playing was recorded, one can understand that most of them had neglected the qin for 20 to 30 years, and had not picked it up (again) until, after Liberation, they received encouragement from the general and specific national policies on culture and the arts. Many people didn't even begin to practice until after the Musician's Assistance Organization last year charged me to go and invite them to make recordings, and thus it was unavoidable that one accidentally gets (such) defects (as) inaccurate notes, rusty finger techniques and disjointed rhythm. The result is the people's culture not having been lost as a result of the social environment of the past several decades.

Quite a few of the qin players originally could perform quite a few pieces, but not having practiced them for a while, the qin pieces which each one played for the recording formed in all only a relatively small amount. Here we took each of (the pieces which) were recorded and which could be played but were not recorded, and arranged them all on an inspection chart in the general sketch of their art, in order to see conveniently the rich context of their potential.

In the last few years, the Beijing Guqin Research Society, assisted and guided by the Central Music Academy's Ethnomusicology Research Institute during the process of its guqin music research, has discovered records of guqin documents seen in the last 100 years, including qin treatises and qin tablature, numbering more than 200 (titles), but they haven't been completely collected. We took this collection task, which was still waiting to be supplemented, and also arranged it as our own responsibility. We visited the old registry department of the library in each locality, thoroughly researching their rare books. We also visited every famous private book collection (and) old bookstore. We proceeded to borrow, read and selectively inquire about every qin tablature and qin treatise we already knew of or hadn't known of. In this aspect we achieved very satisfactory results. The outstanding acquisitions among them included:

1. Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (<1491, reprinted in Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. I)

A wood block print compiled by Gong Jigu of the early Ming dynasty and collected into the Tianyi Ge (library of a famous 16th century book collector whose collection is about 90% scattered) of Ningbo. For the last several centuries in the book index published by Tianyi Ge (and?) on the Tianyi Ge bamboo shelves suspended on its wall, it had always been incorrectly listed as Quxian Shen Qi Mi Pu. It was not until after it had undergone our extensive investigation that it was discovered that it was very special and very extensive material compiled by a contemporary qin player, part of which had not previous been recorded, and which was worthy of great fame.

2. Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanji (1670; reprinted in Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. XI)

A printed book compiled by Kang Xingyu of the early Qing dynasty. Objectively it is a massive work in 20 folios which generally sums up guqin music of the Qing dynasty. At the beginning of the Republic there was one copy in a collection in Shanghai possessed by the salt merchant Zhou Qingyun (author of Qinshu Cunmu and Qinshi Xu, an index of qin books and a continuation of the book of qin biographies by Zhu Changwen of the Song dynasty). It is not known at what time it was bought and taken to America. The Ethnomusicology Research Institute mobilized a search carried out all over China among qin players. For many years it wasn't obtained, but on this occasion we discovered another complete edition on the shelves of the Chongqing library, but not yet catalogued.

3. Songsheng Cao (1687; reprinted in Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. XII)

a book, printed at the beginning of the Qing dynasty, which the Shaanxi Province Cultural Bureau had inquired about and obtained from among its populace. It is a very fine printed work for which Zheng Xiong, 10 years after printing his Songfengge Qinpu (1677) took the original materials and printed them once again with more corrections and supplements. If you compare it with the version, recorded in the Siku Quanshu (Vol. 839), which was based on an early printing of the Songfengge Qinpu, it is more skillfully profound and richer in content, especially in the aspect of traditional qin pieces.

In addition to these, at the Shanghai Library Rare Book Section we searched for and read and made extracts from eight of the 10 rare qin books from Zhou Qingyun's original collection. We did a textual examination and also made extracts from original draft manuscripts of Ting Pinlu, with corrections and notes by Zheng Yaotian, in the collection of the Shanghai Historical Documents Library. We borrowed, read and also made extracts from the Ming dynasty printed works Yuqu Qinpu (1589; cf. Qinqu Jicheng. Vol. VI), Wuyin Qinpu (1579; ibid., Vol. IV ) and Guyin Zhengzong Qinpu (1634; ibid., Vol., IX), from the private collection of Hu Gongxian. At Xi'an we borrowed the complete handwritten manuscripts of the guqin player Zhang Youhe, who was teaching the qin at Beijing University during the May 4th period (1919?7); and at the same time (we also borrowed) the complete handwritten manuscripts of the famous qin player Shi Yinmei, who did research on and taught ethnomusicology in such places a Beijing and Yangzhou. Those are all important guqin documents which had long been well-known, but which we had not previously seen.

During the last few years, during the construction of foundations for engineering projects, several artifacts have been unearthed from Han and Tang dynasty burial grounds. At every pivotal movement guqins were discovered and handed over by the populace, and were collected in the history museums of every locality. There are several of these that can be used both as historical materials for research of guqin music and as goods with practical use. We also made it a point of emphasis to take inspecting and verifying these objects as our responsibility. We visited the history departments of the museums in each locality. We carefully went through objects related to music in their collections. And in this aspect we also attained some stimulating results.

In addition to doing substantial research into the nationally famous Han dynasty stone carved figures of the 100 plays of Yinan, the relief sculptures of musicians at the tomb of Wang Jian in Chengdu, and the Tang dynasty guqins from Ji'nan, Shanghai, Sichuan and elsewhere, we (also) carefully researched the funerary figures of musicians which had been stored in Chongqing, Chengdu, Nanjing and so forth. Among these, the great mass of earthenware funerary figures playing the qin and the xiao (end-blown flute) were all Eastern Han funerary vessels dug out from the great number at the Pengshan Han dynasty tombs discovered during construction of the Baoji to Chengdu railroad. These provide evidence which has answered several uncertainties concerning the history of the qin. They affirmed that several of the stringed instruments being played horizontally across the knee in the pictures at the Wuliang Shrine (picture 1 [not online]) were qins; they affirmed that the finger techniques used for playing the qin during the Eastern Han period were quite similar to those used today (diagram 2 [not online]); and they affirmed that the playing of the qin and xiao together is a performance style which already existed during the Eastern Han period (diagram 3 [not online]).

At the Ji'nan Museum and at the home of Wu Jinxiang in Shanghai we saw two additional Tang dynasty qins called Jiuxiao Huanpei. They are difficult to distinguish from the genuine or counterfeit ones in the Palace (Museum?) Collection of Rarities. The qin (once) in the collection of (the poet) Su Shi (1036 - 1101) and for a long time in the collection of the Poxian Qinguan of Suzhou's Yi Yuan (Harmony Garden) was discovered by us in the Chongqing Museum. 14 of the 21 guqins that had belonged to the late Mr. Yang Shibai (1869 - ca. 1928), who taught the qin in Beijing for 30 years, including his bequeathed qin Caifeng Ming Ji, have already been appropriated by the Zhejiang Provincial Cultural Affairs Association.8 We examined the famous qins held everywhere by qin players before the war against Japan. Basically they all still exist. Although there are some that have changed ownership, they have all obtained good new owners.

In Anhui we found out about the old qin player Gen Ru the monk, who is approaching 80 years of age. The original woodblock print edition, reissued by him and his qin teacher Kai Xiao the monk, of Qinpu Xinsheng (which is the same as Kai Xiao's volume of the Chuncaotang Qinpu, 1744) is still in Longyu (district of) Zhejiang. At Xi'an, Chen Ting of the Cultural Affairs Association gave us his opinion that the original woodblock editions of the (Yixin Zhai) Qinxue Lianyao (1739) of the Qing dynasty were still in certain old books stores in Xi'an, and could be purchased. These are some of the rather remarkably important objects concerning the guqin that we encountered and comprehended during the coverage.

These guqin manuscripts and articles mentioned above are all important materials helpful in researching music history.

III. The living conditions, training and traditional schools of contemporary qin players

The basic corpus of those manuscripts and articles mentioned above are already sufficient to show clearly that guqin music is an art which has existed among the people for several thousand years and whose tradition is not yet lost. If one rather perhaps goes deeply into their research, (these items) will also explain clearly that the reason this guqin musical art has been able to survive is that during the long period of feudal society there have regularly been several artistic people of rather high capability specializing in guqin who frequently acted as the emperor's "Inner Chamber Attendants" . After this, if they weren't "retainers" in the homes of wealthy people, then they were qin teachers who set up a school and accepted disciples. In the historical guqin materials encountered, after the middle period of the Qin dynasty we no longer read about famous Inner Chamber Attendants. During the last 100 years people who specialized in the qin included only the retainers and the qin teachers. Also, it is only by going back more than 30 years that one still has several guqin specialists in Shanghai occasionally receiving the patronage of "elegance loving" wealthy merchants. In 1939 the last retainer, Li Zizhao, died in the home of the Suzhou literary curio export merchant Zhou Gunjiu. Since then there have only been a few semi-specialized qin teachers scattered in just a small number of places. Among the people today, there are only these semi-specialist qin teachers themselves and those few amateur qin players who were taught in the old days by retainers or qin teachers. (These are the people) who were the subjects of these visits and recordings.

Of the qin players we visited in the 17 places, the great majority were amateur qin players. There were only a very few qin players who had formerly or recently made their living from teaching the qin. Adding them up, they only included such people as Guan Pinghu, Wu Jinglue, Xia Yifeng, Zhan Chengqiu, Long Qinfang, Yang Baoyuan and Guan Zhonghang.9 (Among those considered as professionals include qin teachers who accept no pay.) Among these qin players, the qin arts of Guan Pinghu of Beijing and Wu Jinglue are quite high. Not only have they been receiving government patronage for the past three years, they had also already continuously been carrying out their duties of research and teaching.

From looking at the historical documents concerning the guqin, the guqin formerly had very distinct schools which are embodied in current guqin performance forms and styles They were often (troubled by?) opposition to each other, often made accusations towards each other. But now this has changed. As for the forms, about the only one that is now surviving is the solo instrumental performance type. As for the styles, the great majority of qin players have mutual respect for and solidarity with each other. One could say that basically they all have no feelings of aggression towards each other. Today guqin music seems only to have several different styles of playing, and no longer has the (rigid) schools of playing.

During the Wanli period (1573 - 1620) of the Ming dynasty, Changshu (district of) Jiangsu province produced the outstanding Yushan School (qin players also sometimes call it the Changshu School), the Shu School or the Qin Chuan school. It was particular in that it saw the guqin as purely solo instrumental music. It didn't use the singing of melodies, only instrumental performance. And it considered "clarity, subtlety, tranquillity, depth" as the best effects to be pursued. After this, qin players all struggled to say that they themselves were in the Yushan School, and it has been the same right up until today. But as early as the Kangxi reign (1662 - 1723) of the Qing dynasty, Cheng Yunsai had already pointed out he concentrated on visiting Yushan, but when there was an old tune he played it differently. Thus he knew that what he taught and what he learned were different, and each teaching tradition had its peculiarities. (Qin Shuo [?, the bibliography has Qin Tan], discussed qin study books with Hu Yuanshan). Actually the styles played at the present time by qin players of each locality are still distinctive because the differences between their teachings and learning are clearly evident in their styles. So we cannot but certify the existence of different styles of play, and discriminate between these styles.

Beginning 30 years ago, qin players of different localities came into contact with each other. It then gradually became mutually customary to use designations for several playing styles. These (designations) include: Chuan School, Zhucheng School, Guangling School, and Jiuyi School. This resulted from analyzing the evidence of and discriminating between the particular teachers and the origins that connect qin player's individual playing styles. As of today, there is still no one who will acknowledge a new school of play. (So) during our coverage we could only connect the qin players' actual performances with their particular teachers and origins (in order) to analyze the evidence of and discriminate between their styles of play. To speak somewhat more concretely, for us to certify a style of play, it must have a large quantity of representative qin pieces. Moreover, from the performances of the people who received the traditional teaching of this large quantity of representative qin pieces, the style must be for the most part the same. (If) we certify that a certain person belongs to a certain school of playing, (then) his most recent particular first-hand teacher is a teacher in this one school of play, and moreover when he performs the representative qin pieces of this school of play, the style for the most part corresponds with (that of) the school of play. Even the qin pieces which he himself dug up (reconstructed?) or composed can not be used to negate that he should belong to the particular school. Based on this method, and giving the bearers of each tradition a name from their locale, the contemporary schools of play that appeared from our analysis are as follows:

(Translator's note: parts of the chart were unclear, so the reproduction on p. 1679 of Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu was consulted; see further comment.)
School Particular teacher or origin Representative qin pieces Previous generation representatives Current representatives (as of 1956)
Fan Chuan
Zhang Kongshan Liu Shui, Xiao Xiang Shuiyun, Pu'an Zhou, Zuiyu (Chang Wan), Du Yi, Yi Guren, Nan Pingsha Yang Cidong Long Qinfang, Wu Qinyang, Gu Meigeng Xia Yifeng, Shen Zouyi, Zhou Xuchan, Zha Fuxi, Ding Chengyun
1. Wang Xinyuan

2. Wang Lengxian

Dao Yi, Sao Shou Wen Tian, Changmen Yuan, Fenglei Yin, Guanshan Yue, Chungui Yuan, Pingsha Luo Yan 1. Wang Lu

2. Wang Yanqing

1. Chan Zhengqiu

2. Xu Lisun, Wu Zonghan

Xu Qi
(compare Xu Changyu)
Qiao Ge, Long Xiang Cao, Meihua Sannong, Pingsha Luo Yan Qin Weihan Zhang Ziqian,
Liu Shaochun
(Beijing, Hunan)
Huang Mianzhi Yu Ge, Meihua Sannong, Yu Qiao Wenda, Pingsha Luo Yan, Shui Xian, Lu Ming Yang Shibai Guan Pinghu,
Yang Baoyuan
Huang Jingxing Bijian Liu Quan, Yi Guren, Wu Ye Ti Zheng Jianhou Yang Xinlun
Xin Zhe
Su Jing Yu Ge, Gao Shan, Pingsha Luo Yan, Xiao Xiang Shui Yun Fan Shizhu, Shi Kaiji Zhang Ye, Genru the monk,
Xu Yuanbai
浦城 Pucheng
Zhu Fengjie Pingsha Luoyan, Shui Xian Zhang Muqiao Guo Tongfu
not clear Meihua Sannong, Yi Guren, Zui Yu Chang Wan Ma Qiutan Ji Zhongshan

Note (on the chart):11

It was necessary to distinguish the qin players' schools because during the coverage we saw that the same qin piece when performed by different people would often result in very great differences. Moreover, this was not due to the tablature book being different or to differences in level of ability. Guqin players traditionally consider these sorts of differences to be differences of style. In general they all respect each other. Although in particular circumstances they may have several criticisms, they never take the problem (so far as) to involve the aspect of skill. Now we have already recorded more than 200 qin pieces. When listening to them one inevitably feels that the result of certain performances is (due to) lack of practice or smoothness, and that is all. If one can recognize them by the differences in school and style, then perhaps one can appreciate them better, and understand them. As for whether or not one can accurately distinguish the schools, (and) especially the question of which qin player belongs to which school, this is perhaps a problem. Herein we have only made some beginning progress at dividing and delimiting.

IV. Interchanges during the coverage work, and the usefulness (of the report)

The expression zhiyin (understanding music) vividly portrays a conscious attitude our country's musicians have had for the last several thousand years, of being very fond of interchange. So as to be able to fulfill the desires of qin players and music workers of each locality for interchange (with each other?) during several discussions of the main aspects of interchange, we are also introducing the following important materials to several important qin players:

1. a report, already released, on the best recordings of qin pieces of each locality.

2. a report, already released, on the old piece Guangling San, which was unearthed by Guan Pinghu under organized leadership, and also put up for display the transcription into staff notation which Wang Di made from listening to it.

3. a report, already released, on a recording of the national instrumental piece Xu Jian arranged from the guqin piece Liu Shui, as performed by the Ethnic Music Ensemble of the Central People's Broadcasting Station.

4. A preliminary agreement schedule of the people selected and pieces selected for the recordings planned from this coverage.

5. An index of the investigation into qin tablatures and qin treatises existing in this country.

This sort of introduction of an interchange nature has produced a great amount of good influence. In addition to the several achievements related to those listed above, we have also attained the following effects and education.

In the aspect of response, (we have) excited and encouraged more enthusiasm for interchange, causing qin players whose original interest in recording was weak and thin to change so that they struggled hard for the recording. (For example,) the 80 year old Zhang Weizhen of Hangzhou originally declined making a recording, but in the end recorded the long piece Yu Ge; Huang Yukui of Nanjing emphasized that the playing and transcription of Guangling San and the arrangement of Liu Shui for large ensemble were typical models for the unearthing, arranging and development of national music; Chen Hong, while discussing his opinions on writing out tablature, hoped that he could convey the fine points of the finger techniques yin and rou (this made us realize that if there were no relation between the collection work and putting the materials to use, it was no help to composing); the Nanjing qin player Wang Shengxiang pointed out that the schedule of the people selected and pieces selected for the planned recordings had left out the old qin player from Anhui Gen Ru the Monk; Zhang Zhengyin pointed out the omission of the Yangzhou qin players Liu Shaochun and Xu Tonghua; Hu Gongxuan of Shanghai pointed out that the index of the collection of guqin tablatures had left out the Ming dynasty book from Ji'nan Taihezhai Qinpu.

In the aspect of instruction, the chairman of the music department of the Shandong Normal Institute in Ji'nan, Li Huaxuan, said that 40 years previously he had planned to write the guqin pieces he could play in staff notation and give this to people as material to be arranged into instrumental pieces. Some people, when he would encounter difficulties in putting this into practice, would laugh at him for being unrealistic, and so he discarded them. But today, under the leadership of the Communist Party, it has incredibly caused the old qin players and the emerging youth to work together and change into reality things which were previously considered impermissible. He also said the Liu Shui performed by the national music ensemble of the broadcasting station was a breakthrough into a uniquely styled symphonic atmosphere. If it had not been for a prior explanation that it was a guqin piece that had been transformed into a national instrumental music piece, he would have taken it to be an Oriental style symphonic music piece from listening to it! Finally, he expressed a desire also to be engaged in this sort of work.

A young music worker in Xi'an, after hearing these three types of recordings of ours, said to me that in the past she had always considered national music to be not as good as Western music and could not imagine that our motherland had this sort of extraordinary and expansive string music pieces. Changing it into national instrumental music also changed it into a symphonic music of a different sort of style. She said that not only did she now have interest in national music, she had built up her faith, and her feelings of love for her motherland had been even more aroused!

Both Yao Bingyan of Shanghai and Xu Lisun of Nantong originally had not yet planned to play Guangling San for the recording. (But) because after they heard Guan Pinghu's recording they also strived to record it, thus it resulted in our obtaining from this coverage five people's recordings of Guangling San and four of the Youlan in the Jieshi mode.

The significance and influence of these responses and instructions are both very great. They exceeded our original expectant aspirations, not only fulfilling the desire to "understand music", but also teaching musicians a love of their rare national music products, and arousing the people's passionate patriotism.

(V). The experiences and the lessons learned

Nevertheless, our work had some deficiencies. Certain fine points in the preparation of the work were not sufficiently completed. Certain investigations and explanations during the carrying out of the work were not done at the opportune time.

Although we'd had the intention of discovering some more qin players, we didn't come up with any concrete manifestations. Only rather late did the editor of the Sichuan Province People's Broadcasting Station, Comrade Hu Wenxi, suggest making a news announcement concerning our coverage of the guqin. We still conservatively thought it was not necessary to "publicize". Later he insisted on making the news announcement. The result was that three days later we received letters from three places, Guanxian, Changning and Chongqing, and thus we made contact with Liu Zhaoxin, Liu Xiangshi and Wu Luoshu. Because there was not enough time we only arranged a recording for Liu Zhaoxin of Chengdu, and established relations with the other qin players of Chengdu. We didn't get to meet the other two men, nor did we record them. If in the future we are about to go to any particular place, we will first arrange some such matter as a news announcement. And so our collection from this particular coverage could have been much greater. This was our lesson learned.

We had the intention of discovering even more documents and artifacts concerning the guqin. But we didn't come up with any concrete manifestations. It was only towards the end, just as we had seen that the catalogue of the Shaanxi Provincial Library did not have even one qin volume, that we heard that the Shaanxi masses' Art Hall had just for this occasion transported more than 50 guqin tablature collections for us to examine, verify and make selections from. They had originally one month earlier prepared to send out cadre to eight districts to collect our national music handbooks. In this way we were able to discover, among the more than ?? tablature books, the second tablature collection by the early Qing dynasty's Cheng Xiong (entitled) Song Sheng Cao (mentioned above), and the large collection of hand copied manuscripts by Zhang Youhe, the qin teacher at Beijing University during the May 4th movement. If we had at an earlier time given prior notification of our intentions to each place we wished to visit, and asked them to follow the method used in Shaanxi, then perhaps our collations of documents and artifacts could have been much greater. This goes down as experience.

We treated the recording work very seriously and sincerely, at every place accompanying the elderly qin players to the broadcasting station. We patiently handled their emotional condition, patiently listened to and followed their frequent re-playings and re-recordings, patiently followed the broadcasting station's time schedules and changes. Having a firm grasp on the length of each qin piece and each qin players disposition, within the limited amount of recording time we arranged a plan and carried out the arrangements. In this way we didn't incur any great difficulties, but rather were able easily to exceed our goals in completing our responsibility. This explains why on the present occasion our work was done pretty well. Perhaps because of just this smoothness of the work on the present occasion it has induced in us self satisfaction, and we have overlooked some work which on this occasion should have been investigated at the time, or clearly and definitely explained, though it would have increased the difficulties of collecting all the material, and lengthened the time arranged for the recording program contents schedule.

We have looked at these faults without any bias. They will be an excellent lesson for when we are doing coverage collection work in the future.

1 August 1956

10 November 1956 update
The above report was updated, mainly through the addition of two further sections (not yet online):

This material was then re-published in 2017 in a set of historical recordings called Guqin: the Incredible Instrument of Silk and Wood (1950-1970)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Report on the coverage of guqin work done in 1956
In 1956 Zha Fuxi led a team around China to collect materials on the guqin. This led to the reprinting of old handbooks in Qinqu Jicheng, to Zha's Guide to Existing Guqin Pieces in Tablature (which indexes all surviving melodies and re-copies their introductions and lyrics), and to other valuable research materials. The present article is my translation of a report he published about the work

2. Zha Fuxi 查阜西

3. Xu Jian 許健
See above and his Qin Shi Chubian.

4. Wang Di 王迪

5. Image: Zha Fuxi doing fieldwork in 1956
The original caption (民族音樂研究論文集 Minzu Yinyue Yanjiu Lunwenji, 1957, Vol. 3) says, "為曹安和調查道籙(1956年成都),左 2 王迪,右 2 許健。 On behalf of Cao Anhe investigating Daoist registers (1956; Chengdu); second from left is Wang Di; second from right is Xu Jian". Perhaps they were looking at registers to find Daoist qin players. Cao herself is apparently not in the picture.

曹安和 Cao Anhe (1905~2004) was a musicologist at the Beijing Guqin Research Institute. She often worked with 楊蘟瀏 Yang Yinliu and, according to Stephen Jones, had quite likely accompanied him on his trip in 1942 to investigate Daoist music at the temples in 青城山 Qingchengshan (Wiki), near Chengdu. Daoist and Buddhist clerics commonly played the qin.

6. Recordings made during the project
The numbers given here (224 pieces by 75 players in 15 places plus 38 pieces by 11 players in seven places) add up to 262 pieces by 86 players. Over the years I have had access to various of these through the following:

All recordings made before the Cultural Revolution would have been with silk strings. After the Cultural Revolution all players were required to or chose to use the newly-developed nylon metal strings. Jue Xiang recordings made after the Cultural Revolution are thus mostly of players using the nylon-metal strings, unless the recordings are of players living outside of China.

7. Zhang Youhe 張友鶴 (1907-1971?)
Original name 張邕和 Zhang Yonghe; if the dates given for him are correct, he must have been studying not teaching in Beijing during the May 4th Movement, which took place from 1915 to 1921. The handwritten manuscripts mentioned here would presumably have been intended for his "incompleted handbook", 琴學淺說 Qinxue Qianshuo (1928).

In 1933 Zhang made several recordings that might be the earliest known usable qin recordings: what I have heard from these earlier ones is not usable. Zhang's recordings from 1933 (1935?) include,

  1. Pingsha Luo Yan
  2. Yang Guan San Die (sung)

Perhaps others can be found online.

8. Qin collection of Yang Shibai
These were apparently stored unnoticed for many years at the Zhejiang museum in Hanghzhou, then re-discovered recently. Two were used for recording a CD called Feng Huang He Ming. They were then also used in November 2010 for this performance. One was subsequently featured in a Chinese cultural video series called 國家寶藏 National Treasures, discussed further here.

9. "Professional players" visited by Zha Fuxi
As described above, a major aim of this research was to make recordings of all appropriate qin players. From these recordings (I have not seen a complete listing) 53 recordings were eventually selected for inclusion in An Anthology of Chinese Traditional and Folk Music, A Collection of Music Played on the Guqin; Carol CCD-94/342-9 (China Records, 1994), an 8 CD set consisting entirely of recordings made in the 1950s during Zha Fuxi's research. These 8 CDs were later re-issued in Taiwan and various tracks are now available on other CDs, probably often pirated.

Then the old recordings really became available after 2016 with the release of the 30 CD collection Sitong Shenpin and the 74 CD collection Jue Xiang, as mentioned above.

Sitong Shenpin in particular presents recordings from Zha's project plus brief biographies of the players. This includes a continuation of the project for what seems to have been about a decade after its initial stages in 1955. More recordings associated with this project can be heard in the 74 CD set called Jue Xiang, but the biographical material with that set is only in Chinese. Its recordings also include short introductions to the players, most of whom also appear in the original set of historical recordings. Thus the set include tracks by all of those listed above, as follows (the bios are linked below, sometimes extra ones with further comment):

Other players recorded as part of this project and with recordings in Lao Ba Zhang include the following:

Those also mentioned here but with recordings listed only elsewhere (see above) include:

The focus of this website is early guqin, but some details on modern players are also being added under Twentieth Century Guqin Specialists.

10. Lingnan School (嶺南派 Lingnan Pai)
The head of this school today is said to be 謝導秀 Xie Daoxiu. See further details here.

11. Note on the chart
Notable schools not mentioned in the chart include:

There are other schools that could be mentioned but I have not done a study of this.

Return to the Qin ToC or to miscellanea.