Commentary on Taigu Yiyin
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Taigu Yiyin     and its relation to 太古遺音   、
Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji
Taigu Yiyin in Qin Fu compared to original (expand) 1    
Commentary on Taigu Yiyin,2 by Dr. Tong Kin-Woon
Qin Fu3, Taiwan, Lianshi Chubanshe, 1981;
reprinted 1981, Vol. 2A (據本提要 Comments on the text), pp. 7-9

Compiled in the Song dynasty by Tian Zhiweng4
Commentary in the Ming dynasty by Yuan Junzhe5
Corrected (in 1970) by Tong Kin-Woon

The (original of the) Taigu Yiyin published in Qin Fu (QFTGYY) is now kept in the 國家圖書館 National Central Library, Taipei. The original book, approximately octavo size,6 has five folios called ren, yi, li, zhi and xin (the latter supplemented by pages from here).7 (It uses) whirlwind style, bound with nails, with double vermilion trim on all four sides. (In the written parts the correct trim includes the whole double page; in the parts with sketches the correct trim only covers half the page; the correct size of half a page is 32 by 23 cm). Each half page has twelve columns, the column being filled if it has 20 characters. The regular characters are one-half square inch large and written with black ink. The characters and yinshi (pronunciation and explanation) are the same size, but the two characters yin and shi are written in vermilion. The original volume has small circles for punctuating sentences; above each sub-heading there is a large circle. The big and small circles are both vermilion in color. The whole book uses the small style to copy completely; the characters have a very dignified strength. The inserted illustrations are colorful and the drawing skill delicate and painstaking. One could say:

Engraved pictures, sincere and refined;
The various parts have everything included in harmony.

Since the Song dynasty, qin books called Taigu Yiyin are very numerous. In addition to the volumes (discussed here), the following (three books also) still exist:

  1. Xielin Taigu Yiyin, printed (in 1511), during the Zhengde reign (1506-22) of the Ming dynasty (contains only qin songs; no illustrations);
  2. Huang Shida Taigu Yiyin, printed (in 1515), also during the Zhengde reign (contents are the same as Xielin's book, with the addition of two songs);
  3. Yang Lun Taigu Yiyin, printed (ca. 1510), during the Wanli reign (1573-1620).8

All (three) of those are later than the present volume.

Now I will individually describe the circumstances of transmission of the text of the current edition:

    (The "current edition" is QFTGYY but with a number of additional pages, in particular at the end. TKW seems to suggest this edition was published later than the following).

  1. Taigu Yiyin (Music Bequeathed from Antiquity)
    Edited by
    Tian Zhiweng of the Song dynasty, in three folios (compare the Ming edition Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji, with preface by Zhu Quan, #6 below). It is not known whether or not this book was printed out (? 梓行?) during the Song dynasty, or whether there was only a draft manuscript and/or a draft copybook. None of these exists today.

  2. Qinyuan Xuzhi (Essential Information from the Qin Garden)
    During the Jiading reign (1208-1225) of the Southern Song dynasty's Ningzong emperor, Yang Zuyun
    9 renamed Taigu Yiyin as Qinyuan Xuzhi and offered it to the imperial court; it was then called a valuable work of that generation (again, see the preface by Zhu referred to in #6 below). It is not known whether Mr. Yang's offering was printed or just copied out. It no longer exists today.

  3. Taigu Yiyin10
    Yuan Junzhe, a qin expert in the early years of the Ming dynasty, made commentary for this book.11 He returned to the name Taigu Yiyin. The Bibliography of Ancient Chinese Music12 says that the Beijing Library has remnants of the First Book of this Ming edition in its collection. Moreover, the volume annotated by Yuan was printed at one time. According to my research, the printing of the volume annotated by Yuan must have been done during the early years of the Ming dynasty. It is a mistake to categorize this book as being later than the revised and supplemented Taigu Yiyin attributed to Zhu Quan (#6 below -- how about #4?). This work should have five folios (sic) and perhaps by this time the title Taiyin Daquanji had already been added.13

  4. Taigu Yiyin14
    A reprint, during the 11th year (1413) of the Ming dynasty's Yongle reign (1403-25), by Zhu Quan, the 16th son of the Ming founding emperor, based on Yuan's annotated volume (#3 above). It has additions and the name was (later [see #6 below]) changed to Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji, in six folios. This reprint no longer exists (but see further comment, #3 above, and compare it to #6 below). According to (my) deductions, the name Taigu Yiyin was still preserved on the front of this book.

  5. Taiyin Daquanji15 (TKW calls this the "Yuan volume"; QQJC I)
    Printed during the Ming Zhengde (1506-22) or Jiaqing (1522-66) reigns, it is a reprint based on Yuan's annotated version (#3 above). This book quotes Zhu Quan16 (so) we know that it was printed after Zhu Quan's Taigu Yiyin (#4). This book finally adds the five little demonstration qin pieces. The printing errors are rather numerous. There is only one volume remaining in the world of this edition.17 At the beginning of the Qing dynasty, (it was listed in) Qian Ceng's Description of Old Book Collections, which was part of Mr. Qian's larger work, Record of a Reader's Earnest Pursuits).18 Other than this, no public or private home has yet been seen to have (this book) recorded (as part of its collection). When we come to the Republican era, it is fourth in the collections of the senior musician Zheng Xidi.19 In 1961 it was reprinted by the Zhonghua Book Company in Zhongguo Gudai Banhua Congkan, five books in traditional binding.20 Qian Ceng is the one who, commenting on this book, said,

    Engraved pictures, sincere and refined;
    The various parts have everything included in harmony.

    The Ming edition included in QFTGYY had missing pages (particularly at the end). This volume has been used to fill in (these missing parts).21

  6. Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji 22: (TKW calls this the "Zhu Volume")
    This is a reprint of the fourth work described above: Zhu Quan's Taigu Yiyin. During the Ming dynasty Jiaqing reign (1522-66) Wang Family's Golden Terrace Bookstore (a book grove is actually a bookstore) reprinted it in six folios. This edition also has one copy remaining, now entrusted to the library of the National Palace Museum in Taipei and listed in the Bibliography of Rare Books Belonging to Taipei's National Central Library. This volume, during the War, was entrusted to the American Library of Congress, and was only returned to Taipei this year (1970?). When this book was in the United States (people from) the mainland found a way to make a photocopy of it, and in 1963 it was printed by the Zhonghua Book Company in Qinqu Jicheng, First Collection. Book A! But for this book to have been stealthily printed is not what is really surprising. What is most surprising is that 14 Ming and Qing dynasty manuscripts, among them Shen Qi Mi Pu, Xinkan Faming Qinpu, Wugang Qinpu, and so forth, listed in the Bibliography of Rare Books Belonging to Taipei's National Central Library, were all acquired by the mainlanders, photocopied, and printed in Qinqu Jicheng. An advertisement for this book (#6, Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji) could be seen, during the Ming dynasty Jiaqing reign, in the Literary Selections, Folio 1, page 34, of the Wang Liang Bookshop. One can deduce that this was printed during the Jiaqing reign. This matter was pointed out by Mr. Zha Fuxi in his commentary to (the early) Qinqu Jicheng. If one examines this book and compares it to Taiyin Daquanji (#5), it (#6) will be found to be earlier, printed not as nicely, and with errors in more places.23

  7. (QFTGYY: the "current edition")

The above were the circumstances of the transmission of (the text of) Tian Zhiweng's Taigu Yiyin. This book by Zhiweng included everything: all sorts of qin theory; old fingering techniques; qin shapes; diagrams of hand movements; and other such materials which certainly were not composed by Zhiweng himself, but rather were collected from pre-Tang, Tang and Song materials. Hence we say that this book was narrated, not authored. Yang Zuyun (see #2) had, when he presented it to the imperial court, categorized it as the most valuable work of one generation. So we know that during the Song dynasty this book was already an extraordinary qin manuscript. Formerly there had been no such large collection of great writings for studying the qin. The parts with each of the qin experts' finger techniques, qin theory and so forth, which had already been lost before the Song dynasty, were still (nevertheless?) recorded in this book. It is certainly a valuable book for the study of the qin. The lofty position and deep influence of this book can be considered and known, after going through the evolutionary changes described in six volumes above. The materials in Zhiweng's Taigu Yiyin have become the blood vessels of qin handbooks, and have flowed into tens of qin handbooks of the Ming and Qing dynasties. As for the Ming dynasty works Xinkan Faming Qinpu, Fengxuan Xuanpin, Qinpu Zhengchuan... Wenhuitang Qinpu, and up to the Qing dynasty's Deyintang Qinpu, Wuzhizhai Qinpu and so forth, there are no qin shapes, pictures of hand gestures, and even the names given to the hand gestures that do not come from the blood vessel called Taigu Yiyin. The earlier (better?) ones took the meaning and printed it again; the later (lesser?) ones then copied out reprints, even reprinting the engraver's printing mistakes. This is an indisputable reality. However, the books which came out later also added materials. This is also to be expected. Accordingly, talking about qin shapes, the number of qin pictures in the Ming dynasty's copied version of Taigu Yiyin (QFTGYY before TKW's additions) was 26, (while) the Ming dynasty's Xinkan Taigu Yiyin (#6) already had increased the number to 40, and qin handbooks in the early Qing dynasty had already increased the number to more than 50.

Perhaps one might ask, how do we know that this QFTGYY is really a copy made during the Ming, and not a Song dynasty work or a "fixed copy" (定稿?) by Tian Zhiweng? The reasons are as follows:

  1. As for the labor and raw materials required for this book, the hand-writing style and character style use a Ming style.
  2. The book has sections called yinshi. Tian Zhiweng's original book had no yinshi -- these were added early in the Ming by Yuan Junzhe; also, the third folio (Li) has recorded Yuan Junzhe's poem about playing the qin, so we know the book is no earlier than Yuan Junzhe's time.24
  3. Comparing it with the still extant Taigu Yiyin annotated by Yuan (see #5, an extant version of #3), the former's yinshi are relatively simple. We can know that it is based on a copied volume that is earlier than Taiyin Daquanji, but more recent than the book annotated by Yuan at the beginning of the Ming dynasty (#3).
  4. The word "string" (xian) in this book has no stroke missing from the written characters (Books in the Qing dynasty avoided using [the phrase] Shengzu Xuan ye [聖祖炫燁] as taboo, and whenever writing the word xian [絃] left off the last stroke. For example, the volume of Guyi Congshu containing You Lan and Yang Shibai's Qinxue Congshu, both printed at the end of the Qing dynasty, are examples of this.) So we can know it is not a Qing edition.

So to say it dates from the Ming dynasty is correct.

The original volume is in gorgeous color, which is not easy to make. If you want to know how (my wife) Lai Yung-chieh and myself went to the library from day until night to do the copying, the methods used -- the complete situation -- please examine the Afterword to Qin Fu.25

Return to Taiyin Daquanji index page,
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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Images: 太古遺音 Taigu Yiyin in 琴府 Qin Fu compared to the original (expand; complete)
An original edition of this Taigu Yiyin apparently survives only in the National Library in Taiwan. In 2020 it was reprinted in China by the 西泠印社出版社 Xiling Seal Art Society Publishing house (Hangzhou; Wiki), but since about 2012 it has also been available online through the National Library's E-Publication Platform System). The original has five folios, each named after one of Confucius' Five Constant Virtues, as follows:

Folio 1: 仁 Ren (Love; pp. 7 [title] plus 8 - 17 of the full pdf)
Folio 2: 義 Yi (Justice; pdf pp. 18 plus 18 - 35)
Folio 3: 禮 Li (Propriety; pdf pp. 36 plus 37 - 70)
Folio 4: 智 Zhi (Wisdom; pdf pp. 71 plus 72 - 94)
Folio 5: 信 Xin (Sincerity; pdf pp. 95 plus 96 - 117)

When in 1971 Dr. Tong Kin-Woon (TKW) published his compendium called Qin Fu he was unable to reproduce the color copies from this volume ("QFTGGY"), so he copied out much of it by hand. However, in doing so he was able to insert material he found was missing from the color copy. According to him these missing pages were as follows:

Folio 1: Sheets 5 - 11 (see pdf pp. 11 - 12: QFTGYY pp. 32 - 36 has material from TYDQJ that presumably was once in TGYY)
Folio 2: None (but QFTGYY pp. 47 - 52 inserts 11 sheets adding 20 qin illustrations from the Yuan volume to the 26 on pp.41-47)
Folio 3: Half of sheet 9 (see pdf p. 70; TKW also realigns many that are incorrectly paired in the Library edition)
Folio 4: None (Sheets 72 - 94 = QFTGYY 74 - 85)
Folio 5: None (Sheets 96 - 117 = QFTGYY 87 - 98)
Extra   : QFTGYY 98 - 107 adds material from sheets 11 - 29 from the Yuan volume, Folio 5. This is basically the material which is put in Folio 6 of some Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji (Zhu version?).

TKW also added numerous endnotes comparing this volume with the other editions. For example, on the page shown above one can see in the copy references to two endnotes, numbered 33 and 34. These are as follows (Qin Fu 2A, endnotes p.11):

At the front of his introductory article (translated here from Qin Fu, Vol. 2A, Comments on the text, pp. 7-9) is the statement, "During the period of the Republic, Lai Yongqi and [her husband] Tong Kin-Woon, based on a Ming facsimile edition with color drawings, made a hand copy." Dr. Tong says he had to hand copy much of it because at the time it would have been too expensive to make photocopies (the Library would have required him to give them a large number of copies of the whole book). Qin Fu, 2A, pp. 43-4 (後記,艱苦的催生 Hou Ji Jianku de cuisheng") has an essay by Dr. Tong giving extensive commentary on how and why he made the hand copies as well as photocopies of this volume and others.

2. Commentary on this edition of 太古遺音 Taigu Yin
Although some editions of this work are called Taigu Yiyin, others have different titles. 新刊太音大全集 Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji is used on this site as the general title if only because there are a number of later works also called Taigu Yiyin. The Taigu Yiyin preserved in Taiwan, was first published in 1971 in Qin Fu (see next footnote) Vol. 1, pp. 29-107. On this page it is generally referred to as QFTGYY. My translation into English, however, is based on the Taiyin Daquanji (TYDQJ) published in Qinqu Jicheng Vol. 1, pp. 33-99 (Beijing, Zhonghua Shuju Chuban Faxing, 1981). An attempt is made here to outline some of the differences between these various editions.

The Taiwan edition seems to be missing the following sheets (a sheet is folded over making two back to back pages). Normally when photocopied these pages come out side by side, but TKW re-arranged these in the hand-copied sections of QFTGYY, so that they appear as they would in the original -- the second half of one sheet facing the first half of the next.

Further details on the five folios were given above.

3. 琴府 Qin Fu
Qin Fu is a collection of old qin handbooks, old and new articles about qin, with various illustrations, notes and biographical information; it was originally published in Taiwan in 1971 by 唐健垣 Tong Kin-Woon. Dr. Tong says he based his information partly on a detailed article by Zha Fuxi (1953).

Following Dr. Tong's commentary here is complicated somewhat by Qin Fu having five separately numbered sections, as follows:

There is a more detailed outline for Qin Fu here.

4. 田芝翁 Tian Zhiweng (early Southern Song dynasty?)
Tian Zhiweng (; Bio/xxx), in addition to being credited with having written the earliest version of Taigu Yiyin, is sometimes mentioned in connection with the melody Ping Sha Luo Yan; otherwise there seems to be no information about him. (Return)

5. 袁均哲 Yuan Junzhe (15th c.)
Bio/1838; 34953.65: 明,江西建昌人,字庶明。正統中知彬州;有政續。著有群書纂類。見四庫提要 137.
Yuan Junzhe, lit. name Shuming, was from Jianchang (about 50 km north of Nanchang, Zhu Quan's fief). During 1436 - 50 he was an administrator in Binzhou.... There is further information on him above and in the preface to Taiyin Daquanji, which also has some commentary by him as well as a poem.

There seem to be three direct contributions made by Yuan Junzhe.

  1. 音釋 Yinshi
    comments by TKW.

  2. 琴操辨議 Qincao Bianyi (Discerning the Significance of Qin Melodies)
    This short essay by Yuan Junzhe (QQJC, I, p. 92 top) is followed by tablature for modal preludes and lists of qin melodies. The essay itself begins, "The qin melodies transmitted to society can be divided into (three) different types, Jiang melodies, Min (Fujian) melodies and Zhe melodies...." On line 7 of the essay he talks about traveling north and south. The essay ends 均折識 "information from (Yuan) Junzhe."

  3. 撫琴詩 Fu Qin Shi
    This poem by Yuan Junzhe is in Qin Fu, p.56, as well as QQJC I, p. 92.

6. 八開大小 "Octave size"
Funk and Wagnall: The page size (6 by 9 1/2 inches except where otherwise specified) of a book made up of printer's sheets folded into 8 leaves.

7. Five folios of Taigu Yiyin
These are named after Confucius' Five Constant Virtues, as outlined above.

8. In addition, material from TGYY is extracted and put in the front of various later handbooks. For example, Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539) begins with most of the material found in TYDQJ Folios 1, 2 and 3, interspersed with extracts from 4 and 5. Qin illustrations have same ordering as TYDQJ; finger technique illustrations: same order as both QFTGYY and TYDQJ. (Return)

9. 楊祖雲 Yang Zuyun
Should be 13th c. CE, but; Bio/xxx. Qinshu Daquan (1590) includes at least two extracts from Yang's 琴怨須知 Qinyuan Xuzhi: Folio 7 has comments on discerning silk for strings; Folio 8 has explanations of fingering techniques. (Return)

10. This seems to be the edition printed in Qinqu Jicheng New Edition, Vol. 1, pp. 17 - 33; see the Preface by Wu Zhao. Although this edition has only two folios, its table of contents survives, and this shows that it included most of the materials in the surviving complete versions. (Return)

11. Does this comment refer to the yinshi, short essay and poem by Yuan Junzhe above? If so, this is puzzling, as the edition printed in Qinqu Jicheng New Edition, Vol. 1, pp. 17 - 33, has none of these, where as Taiyin Daquanji does. (Return)

12. 中國古代音樂書目, printed in 1961 by the Research Institute of Chinese Music 中國音樂研究所. (Return)

13. Fragmentary Taigu Yiyin in Beijing
This seems to be the incomplete Taigu Yiyin reprinted in 1981 on pp. 17-32 (25-40) of Qinqu Jicheng, Volume 1 of the new series, there attributed to Zhu Quan - see #4 as well as #6, which TKW calls the "Zhu volume". However, the Taigu Yiyin Table of Contents on p. 17 of Qinqu Jicheng indicates the complete volume had only two folios. See also #5 and the related footnote, below regarding the Taiyin Daquanji in the same Qinqu Jicheng; that book seems to be what TKW refers to as the "Yuan volume".

14. The Preface by Wu Zhao (or Zha Fuxi; QQJC I, p. iv) to the Taigu Yiyin on pp. 17-33 of QQJC says that Zhu Quan, the Emaciated Immortal, wrote in his preface to the 1413 edition that he found an edition at Tuyang, and when he got to (Nanchang), based on other editions as well, arranged it as two folios, calling it Taigu Yiyin. However, because of sloppiness found in this edition, Zha suggests that this is a later copy of Zhu's version, edited by a book-trader himself.

On the other hand, in Zhu Quan's Shen Qi Mi Pu, the commentary he adds is all prefaced by "The Emaciated Immortal says", and this TGYY does not include the sections beginning with this phrase, as found in the later editions. (Return)

15. 太音大全集 This seems to be the Taiyin Daquanji printed in Qinqu Jicheng New Edition, Vol. 1, pp. 33 - 93. See Wu Zhao's preface as well as the footnote below about pages being used in the Qin Fu edition. (Return)

16. Several essays and comments, presumably from the 1413 edition, were copied in later editions of Taiyin Daquanji (see #5 above and the Qinqu Jicheng edition, 2nd Series, Vol. I). Some or all of these writings are prefaced "The Emaciated Immortal (i.e., Zhu Quan) says". They include,

  1. Untitled comments about the naming of qin strings (QQCJ I/39)
  2. The Emaciated Immortal's 10 Friends of the Qin Dais (QQJC I/39)
  3. A comment accompanying an illustration of how to hold a qin (QQJC I/41)
  4. His original preface (in this edition attached as an afterword; QQJC I/93)

17. It is in the Beijing Library. (Return)

18. (錢曾,述古富舊藏;讀書敏求記。) (Return)

19. 鄭西諦 Zheng Xidi (Return)

20. Zha Fuxi's preface to Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji says this is the reason Volume 1 of the original series of Qinqu Jicheng included the later "Zhu volume" instead of this earlier "Yuan volume". 中國古代版畫叢刊 Zhongguo Gudai Banhua Congkan was reprinted in modern binding in 1988. (Return)

21. Compare the "Zhu volume" referred to by TKW in his commentaries. He says someone in Hong Kong photocopied the relevant pages from a library edition of Zhongguo Gudai Banhua Congkan. Based on my reading of TKW's footnotes, there seems to be some inconsistency in the references to QFTGYY, this very similar book, and TYDQJ.... (Return)

22. 新刊太音大全集 Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji
This book, which has 金臺書林汪氏番刻 on the inside of the front page, was reprinted in Volume 1 of the original series of QQJC, pp. 31 - 68. Perhaps it is because it had been reprinted in the mainland that TKW did not include it in his Qin Fu, though he did consult it (calling it the "Zhu volume") as well as consulting Taiyin Daquanji (the "Yuan volume") in editing his Taigu Yiyin. He did comment that library regulations in Taiwan meant that he had to copy out most of the book by hand. (Return)

23. For this reason, in the later publication of Qinqu Jicheng (see Vol. 1, pp. 33-99), although it is called Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji, it is actually Taiyin Daquanji with Zhu Quan's preface added on at the end. There is some confusion about these later versions. The one in six folios, now in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, is the one published in the older Qinqu Jicheng. Its arrangement is somewhat different (see for example the qin diagrams, which also have a different layout and use seal characters in the titles); it has more yinshi than QFTGYY but fewer than the Yuan volume.

My guess is that it is patterned on an earlier volume than the Yuan volume, though re-printed later, adding references like the article with (Yuan) Junzhe's name at the end. The only dates available for Yuan Junzhe seem to be that he was active during 1436 - 50. This suggests he could have been about the same age as Zhu Quan, who lived 1378 - 1448. (Return)

24. The poem by Yuan Junzhe is in Qin Fu, p.56. It seems to be missing from the other editions. (Return)

25. Footnote to the above by Tong Kin-Woon (see Comments on the (individual) texts #2, page 7):
"Yuan volume" refers to Yuan Junzhe's early Ming (Taigu Yiyin, see #3 above, later reprinted as) Taiyin Daquanji (#5; this is reprinted in QQJC, New Series, Vol. 1, pp. 35 - 93). "Zhu volume" refers to Zhu Quan's early Ming (Taigu Yiyin, #4 above, later called) Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji (#6, reprinted in QQJC, Original Series, Vol. 1, pp. 31 - 68). The Yuan volume is now on the mainland and has already been photocopied into Zhongguo Gudai Banhua Congkan.

The Zhu volume is now at the Library of the National Palace Museum in Taipei: Palace Originals points this out. This book has already been printed in (the first) Qinqu Jicheng (the original of the one found in the later edition is in the Beijing Library). "Two volumes" refers to the Yuan volume and the Zhu volume. Fengxuan Xuanpin was compiled during the middle Ming by Zhu Houzhao. The original is presently on the mainland and has (also) been printed in Qinqu Jicheng. The Yuan and Zhu volumes as well as Fengxuan Xuanpin all appropriate materials from Tian Zhiweng's Taigu Yiyin. "Copied volume" refers to QFTGYY, now in Taipei's National Central Library.

As for the copying process mentioned at the very end see the reference above. (Return)

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