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Guqin and Mountains 1 琴與山
Representative program: Fantastic Mountains Living in the mountains2 

Just as many mountain landscape scenes show literati together with their qin, many qin melodies express the artist's joy at experiencing the grandeur and solitude of mountains. The literati attitude towards both mountains and the qin seems to have approached veneration, and the sounds of the qin could be seen as emulating the sounds of nature itself. Interestingly, however, Ming dynasty landscape paintings rarely showed the qin actually being played in the mountains: with the sounds of nature all around, what need was there actually to play the qin?3 And although it can be very inspiring to play at an appropriately quiet place in the mountains, at the same time scholar and qin could also simply experience this grandeur together, then express the veneration more freely back home, on a qin table and in the greater quiet of the studio.4

A program with film and/or slides could directly evoke a scholar in the mountains; one accompanied by appropriate paintings could evoke the scholar in his studio. In either case the natural connection between guqin and the the mountains is made manifest.

Relevant melodies include:

  1. Fan Canglang (Floating on the Canglang; alternate title: Jiuyi Mountain Prelude)
    Concerns Qu Yuan; Emperor Yu was buried in the Jiuyi Mountains, on the Hunan-Guangdong border
  2. Tiantai Yin (Mount Tiantai Prelude; incomplete) and Taoyuan Chunxiao (Spring Dawn at Peach Spring)
    A utopia lies hidden in the mountains
  3. He Wu Dongtian (Cranes Dance in the Grotto-Heaven)
    The Grotto-Heaven is found in the mountains; used as a prelude to Pei Lan
  4. Feng Ru Song Ge (Song of the Wind in the Pines)
    The wind in the pines is especially praised in the mountains.
  5. Yao Tian Sheng He (Jade Sheng, Heavenly Crane)
    Wangzi Qiao ascends into immortality from a peak in the Songshan mountain range
  6. Kongtong Yin and Kongtong Wen Dao (Discussing the Dao at Kongtong Mountain, with prelude)
    Here the Yellow Emperor discussed the Dao with Guangchengzi (Henan or Gansu)
  7. Gao Shan (High Mountains)
    When Boya played this melody Ziqi could see the soaring mountains
  8. Qiao Ge (Woodcutter's Song; last section: Dancing Drunkenly Down the Mountain)
    Woodcutters are usually associated with mountains
  9. Shanju Yin (Mountain Life, 2 versions)
    The scholar dreams of retiring to the mountains
  10. Qiu Hong (Autumn Geese; from the northern Hengshan range to the southern Hengshan range)
    The southern Hengshan, in Hunan, is associated with exile
  11. Shanzhong Si Youren (Amidst Mountains Thinking of an Old Friend)
    Unfortunately, friends cannot always join you in retirement; one version has lyrics
  12. Yu Hui Tushan (Emperor Yu's Gathering at Mount Tu, 2 versions)
    A glorious gathering near Shaoxing commemorates the end of the flood
  13. Zhao Yin (Seeking Seclusion)
    The preface and poems indicate this is in the mountains
  14. Zui Weng Yin (Old Toper's Chant)
    the lyrics recall Ouyang Xiu's pavilion in the Langya Mountains, west of Nanjing
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Program: Guqin and Mountains
The representative program mentioned here, Fantastic Mountains, featured melodies with themes connected to specific classical paintings. Other ideas for programs include showing images with paintings or photographs by contemporary artists, whether in traditional or contemporary style, inspired by specific melodies; showing images, whether still or moving, of mountains while the music is played; or simply playing the music in a quiet room while the listeners close their eyes and let their minds roam in the mountains.

2. Living in the Mountains (山居吟 Shan Ju Yin)
This painting by Bai Yunli was inspired by the melody Shanju Yin.

3. No need to play in the mountains
This attitude is expressed in paintings such as this one by Feng Chaoran, which shows a scholar and his qin in nature, but the qin has no strings.

4. Expressing joy in nature at home
Likewise the artist rarely painted mountains while visiting them: again the paintings would have been done at home, in the the quiet of the studio. The tradition of painting scholars playing qin in their gardens seems to have come later: see James Watt, The Qin and the Chinese Literati.

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