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Origins of this website 1
2021: Old filecards finally on their way out 2          
The focus of this website is my work with the guqin silk-string zither. I began the site in 1996 mainly in order to make it easier to search for all the information I had been compiling in typed and handwritten notes as well as file cards, such as shown at right. In other words, it was designed for my own personal use. It might also be compared to blogs, as much of the information in it is inspired by my ongoing study of "things guqin".

When I began studying the qin in Taiwan in 1974, I did so by learning from my teacher Sun Yuqin most of the guqin repertoire played at that time. Of those 17 pieces, 11 can trace their earliest published forms to Ming dynasty handbooks. Since leaving Taiwan my work has mostly been with music as published during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The qin players and melodies introduced here mostly date from that period and earlier. Later melodies and players are usually mentioned in that they have relevance to my personal focus.

The present website,, came online in March 2003, succeeding the earlier site The initial impetus for that original site was a grant awarded to me in January 1996 by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, specifically to assist in publishing a digital recording, with accompanying commentary and transcriptions. This was then part of what was to became my guqin reconstruction project.3 This part eventually led to the publication of Music Beyond Sound. The original website was hosted by IOHK, Hong Kong; though long inactive and virtually empty, sometimes Google searches mistakenly reference that site rather than the present one.

Until 1996 I kept most of my work (most of it related to my reconstructions of music as published during the Ming dynasty) in a number of handwritten notebooks (copied into and replaced after 1990 by computer document files in Word), on thousands of file cards, and in recordings I made on cassette. In 1996 I began the website by putting this information (tediously in the case of the file cards) into webpages using basic HTML.4 The initial appeal of putting this information online was that it immediately became much more easily searchable. It is for this reason that this website has resembled somewhat a blog, with me immediately putting most of my research online so as to take advantage of the indexing and search potential, as well as to inform others and solicit reactions that will help improve this site.

Thus, although a basic aim of this website is to share my enthusiasm with others, it is still to a large extent being done for myself.

Web statistics say that since I began adding sound files in 2007 this site has averaged over 9000 hits per day; the great majority are people/sites in China accessing the sound files via intermediate sites (no information on whether they know who is playing or for how long they listen).

For a long time some important parts of my research did not go online. The leading example of this was many of my recordings of my reconstructions. In the past few years, however, the website has become much larger with the addition of the following material in particular:

  1. MP3 recordings of most of my reconstructions (the AIFF originals are not online, though some of them are actually available on the CDs listed here.
  2. Many but not all of the transcriptions of my reconstructions into staff notation. I do not claim to have reconstructed a piece until I can play it from memory, but after that (often as a result of listening to the recording I make) more changes may occur. However, the transcription is usually made before the recording. If the transcription is thus quite different from the recording I may have it in a pile awaiting finalization to go online. This copying being rather tedious I may be quite far behind in that.
  3. The pieces for which I have transcriptions but not yet recordings. For many years this included Wusheng Qinpu (1457; recordings completed 2023) and many of the melodies in Taigu Yiyin (1511; as of 2023 mostly recorded, but without voice). Almost all of these have been done in the computer transcription program Encore, but there are also a few still only handwritten. Encore is a problem, as even over 25 years later I must keep my 1998 Windows computer in order to be able to revise these (and I have not yet learned a new program).
  4. Charts tracing melodies from their initial publication. Many of these are already online (sample). However, a nummber of these originated as charts within Word documents and I have not yet converted these to .html files.
  5. Annotations I have written into the photocopies of the Ming dynasty handbooks from which I work.

Regarding the tracing charts it may be noted that these generally include links showing the page numbers of the original tablatures within their respective handbooks. However, since I have put online the Table of Contents only for the Ming dynasty handbooks, this specific information is available here only through the Ming dynasty. In the charts the handbook titles are generally only given in Chinese; people who don't read Chinese but have an interest in this should be able to overcome this problem by referring to a copy of a list such as "Surviving Qin Handbooks" and compare dates of publication in order to figure out the specifics.5

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Website origins, updated 2021
Although this website has been developing since 1996, as will be quite obvious to anyone examining it in detail, it remains very much a work in progress: the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know. For example, when there is an important passage I haven't been able to translate yet, if this were a book I would probably have to wait for the translation (or, as seems common, just omit the quote as though I had decided it wasn't important); here I put in the original Chinese text and add that it awaits translation, or apologize that the translation is still quite tentative.

Also, and this is quite important, much of the information here has been added because someone asked an interesting question: rather than simply answer (or confess I don't know), I search for an answer and if I find it put it on this website, then direct to questioner to that location.

Poeple often encourage me to write a book. How can I do so when, as this site should reveal, there is so much I don't know? This requires the work of many people: my hope is that the information on this site can inspire them as it still does me.

2. Image: notebooks and filecards
Photo taken 2021 as they were on their way to the trash. Although they had no practical use after the information went into my website, they still had sentimental value.

3. Basic HTML
When I first made this website I looked at someone else's webpage, did "view source", copied that text and then substituted my own. I then worked from there, gradually learning how to format pages and so forth. This seemed to work fine for a long time. The two biggest problems for me have been that basic HTML is hard to format well for different page formats, such as computer and cell phone; and it can be rather tedious to renumber footnotes when a new one is added near the beginning of a long page.

Many people suggest that my site would be improved if I used JavaScript, or WordPress, and so forth. The first problem is learning those formats when it is much more fun to play music; perhaps the bigger problem is learning how to convert the over 1200 files in basic HTML already on this site.

4. Organizing the information
The difficulty of organizing the rapidly expanding details connected to melodies I was reconstructing was brouht home when I began trying to write program notes for my first CD, Music Beyond Sound, mentioned further above.

5. Further
Further regarding the tracing charts it may be noted that these generally include links showing the page numbers of the original tablatures as published within the Qinqu Jicheng handbook collection. I have also put online the Table of Contents for all Ming dynasty handbooks but only a few later ones. This means that data on the Qing dynasty versions is more sketchy and/or tentative.

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