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Taiyin Daquanji 1 太音大全集
Folio 1C : Miscellaneous Qin Information 卷一,丙﹕雜
Explanations provided by the translator are put either in brackets ( ) or in footnotes.2  

Discussion of studs 3
Image continued        
from previous page       
The studs are fastened on the wood surface (of the qin) in such a way as to show themselves most clearly. Jade is best.

[Comment:] What the ancients called a "jade qin" or "ornamental qin"4 always meant a qin with jade for its studs.

Gold is second best. Conch/oyster5 shell is next after this.

Also, the 12 tones6 are generated from the yellow bell. (Assuming an open string with a length of 36 cun has the sound of the yellow bell), then the length of the qin (string) from the mountain to the fourth stud is nine cun, and a note (from plucking this length with the finger at the fouth stud) is equivalent to the yellow bell tone,7 then from the fourth (stud) to the middle stud is also nine cun, and (the tone produced by plucking the string while stopping the string at the middle stud) is a yellow bell tone in the next octave.8 Between the middle stud and the dragon's mouth, the sounds are as follows (as you stop the string in positions up from the end of a string tuned to) huangzhong:9

Up one cun eight fen gives the sound dalü (decimal position: ca. 13.5)
Another one cun four fen gives taicou. (decimal: 13.1)
The 12th stud gives jiazhong. (decimal: 12.3)
The 11th stud (sounds) the note guxian. (decimal: 10.8)
The 10th stud is zhonglü. (decimal: 10.0)
Up another half gives ruibin. (decimal: 9.4)
The ninth stud is linzhong. (decimal: 9.0)
Up another half gives yize. (decimal: 8.5)
The eighth stud is nanlü. (decimal: 7.9)
Up another one cun two fen gives wuyi. (decimal: 7.6)
And another one cun two fen gives yingzhong. (decimal: 7.3)

The above are the "murky" (i.e., lower octave) sounds.10 If the finger pressed on the middle stud11 gives huangzhong, then from the middle stud down12 to the fourth stud yields another 12 semitones; these are called the clear tones.13 Pressing down (the proper positions) from the fourth stud to the first stud gives yet another 12 semitones, called "doubled clear tones" (i.e., up one more octave).

(Yinshi:) The "cou" (of taicou, by itself usually pronounced cu) is here pronounced zhou (驟 fleet [horse]? Today "cou"); "xi" ("wash") is here pronounced xian (first), with rising tone; "drooping leaves" is pronounced rui (shrewd), also with the even tone.

(Stud Names 14) Original text, beginning with 徽名 stud names (untitled)     

The first stud, called taicou, responds to the regulation of the first month; its sound is mi.
The second stud, called jiazhong, responds to the regulation of the second month; its sound is mi.
The third stud, called guxian, responds to the regulation of the third month; its sound is do.
The fourth stud, called zhonglü, responds to the regulation of the fourth month; its sound is sol.
The fifth stud, called ruibin, responds to the regulation of the fifth month; its sound is sol.
The sixth stud, called linzhong, responds to the regulation of the sixth month; its sound is do.
The seventh stud is in the junju (master's residence); it is 以象閏 used like an intercalary month
The eighth stud, called yize, responds to the regulation of the seventh month; its sound is re.
The ninth stud, called nanlü, responds to the regulation of the eighth month; its sound is re.
The 10th stud, called wuyi, responds to the regulation of the ninth month; its sound is do.
The 11th stud, called yingzhong, responds to the regulation of the 10th month; its sound is la.
The 12th stud, called huangzhong, responds to the regulation of the 11th month; its sound is la.
The 13th stud, called dalü, responds to the regulation of the 12th month; its sound is do.

[Comment:] Cui Zundu,15 in his Qin Commentary, gave the opinion that there were 13 sounds on heaven and earth. The studs were not done by eye calculation.16

Whenever determining the logic of the seven strings, it must echo with the studs, in order to bring out the (proper) sound.

From the edge of the mountain peak down to the place where the dragon gums hold the strings, the master stud (#7) marks the half-way point. Between the master stud and the mountain peak, zhonglü (#4) marks the halfway point. Between zhonglü and the mountain peak, taicou (#1) marks the halfway point. The four studs called jiazhong (#2), guxian (#3), ruibin (#5) and linzhong (#6) should be tuned by using harmonics. The studs are thus fixed from the first stud back (down) to the dragon gums. Besides this there are no sounds.17

On the waist (center of the top?) between the dragon gums and the mountain peak is the intercalary stud (#7). On the waist (halfway) between the intercalary stud and the mountain peak is the fourth (stud). This fourth (stud) and the mountain peak generate the studs numbered one, four, two and six.18

(Here follows a brief passage, not yet translated, that seems to describe using correspondences between harmonics either to tune the different strings or to show again the positions of the studs. However, I cannot see how the actual text of this section describes any such correspondences.19)

Discussion of strings20 (see original: first five are 君、臣、民、事、物)

The 1st string belongs to earth; rules gong (do); acts as lord (君); is yellow; in the sky fits with21 Saturn;
    amongst people is called "faith"; distinguishes the prosperity of the four seasons.
The 2nd string belongs to gold; rules shang (re); acts as vassal (臣); is white; in the sky fits with Venus;
    amongst people is called "righteousness"; corresponds with autumn.
The 3rd string belongs to wood; rules jue (mi); acts as commoner (民); is blue/green; in the sky fits with Jupiter;
    amongst people is called "benevolence"; corresponds with spring .
The 4th string belongs to fire; rules zhi (sol); acts as affairs (事); is vermilion; in the sky fits with Mars;
    amongst people is called "propriety"; corresponds with summer.
The 5th string belongs to water; rules yu (la); acts as objects (物); is black; in the sky fits with Mercury;
    amongst people is called "wisdom"; corresponds with winter.
The 6th string has a scholarly sound; rules shao gong ("lesser do"); in the sky fits with the "literary stars";22
    amongst people is called "refining influence of culture"; its softness reflects hardness .
The 7th string has a military sound; rules shao shang ("lesser re"); in the sky fits with the "military star";23
    amongst people is called "military proficiency"; its hardness reflects softness.

(Yinshi): "Fits with" is pronounced fu (sage, man). It means "goes together with".
  Original text, beginning with 臞仙曰                 
(Untitled paragraph written by Zhu Quan)

The Emaciated Immortal24 says,

The "literary" (wen) and "military" (wu) strings (sixth and seventh) were not added to the qin by Prince Wen and Prince Wu.25 The five string qin formerly played by Emperor Shun was a special old qin and Emperor Yao added these two strings. The sixth is soft and thus is called literary; the seventh is hard and thus called military. The hard and soft relationship is like the relationship between the virtues of the lord and the vassal. Later generations only knew the two words "literary" and "military", and did not know the reason. So the tradition said that these were added by Prince Wen and Prince Wu . This version is incorrect.

(There is another text by Zhu Quan below. The following diagram, however, occurs in other editions and so is not attributed to Zhu Quan himself.)

Diagram of the Five Worthies' Rules 26

Cai Yong said,27 The sounds of the qin were the correct ones for the universe. Instruments (things?) that attain this can be used as regulating instruments for harmonizing the universe. People who attain this can use it as a regulating "way" to harmonize the universe. Notes () which attain this can use it as regulating sounds for harmonizing the universe. Therefore, Fu Xi constructed a qin in order to describe the numbers of the universal yin and yang, and to harmonize the god's virtue. These were called regulating sounds. There were five principles (cao -- see above). People who are not in a class with these five worthies should not approach the qin. No one who plays the qin should do so in the company of the four barbarians28 or people who have the Mongol-tartar custom of folding their coat on the left,29 because (they have) a strange appearance, different apparel, and do not have the Way of Natural Moral Principles.30 In former times, when Yang Bing31 played the qin and Buddhist monks came to listen, (Yang) Bing would quickly break the strings. This is what is meant by "make orthodox". If there are not any people around who understand this about sounds, one should instead play to the light breezes, bright moon, green pines and old rocks.

[Yinshi:] The northern and southern barbarians (who live) to the north, south, east and west. "Folding the coat on the left" is a vulgar custom of the Mongol-tartars to the north. Yang Bing is a man's name, but we don't know who he was.

The Emaciated Immortal's Ten Friends of the Qin Dais 32

( 1.) Ice strings.33 [Yinshi:] The ancients had "crystal strings",34 which were made with "clear resin". They have a very bright and clear color, and so are (also?) called ice strings.
( 2.) Jade Feet.35 [Yinshi:] Also called Wild Geese Feet, they are made of jade, hence the name.
( 3.) Precious Pegs.36 [Yinshi:] Pegs are turned in order to tighten the strings (fastened to them). Some are made of jade, some of crystal; this is why they are called precious pegs.
( 4.) Peg Boxes.37 [Yinshi:] Pegs are kept in this box.
( 5.) Fine Silk Tassels.38 [Yinshi:] Tassels (lou or dou]) are made from silk thread of any color. They are used to bind (xi) the strings (to the pegs).
( 6.) Brocade Bags.39 [Yinshi:] Used to wrap (guo) the qin; the ancients used woven brocade silk to make them, so they are called brocade bags.
( 7.) Qin Cushions.40 [Yinshi:] Used to support (dian) the qin so that it doesn't move. It could be made of (flossy) silk or it could be made of (plain) silk, it depends on which you prefer.
( 8.) Qin Cases.41 [Yinshi:] These are used to receive a qin. They are made of wood in such a way that the length and width correspond with that of a qin.
( 9.) Substitute Fingernails (artificial nails42). [Yinshi:] Use crane feathers to make them; otherwise use goose quills. Beginning qin players use them. After a while, one no longer uses them.
(10.) Qin Couches.43 [Yinshi:] The things on which one sits in order to play the qin: its shape above and below is round.


Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Folio 1C
In the 1970s I made a rough translation of this passage from the Taigu Yiyin in Qin Fu, pp. 34-35, identical to but more clearly printed than the same passage from Taiyin Daquanji in QQJC Vol. I, pp.38-39 (2010 edition 48-49). When putting it online I tried to make corrections, but a number of passages still elude me.

2. Explanations by translator
See comments concerning the structure of the original text.

3. 論徽. The 13 studs (hui) can be seen clearly in most qin illustrations. This section mentions a number of other terms described in qin illustrations.

4. 瑤琴 yaoqin

5. Conch/oyster shell
螺蚌 luobang; today the most common substance on good instruments seems to be nacre (mother-of-pearl), the shiny inside of certain shells, but it is often called simply 貝殼 beike, which dictionaries define as "shell". [TKW#27: In QFTGYY the character after luo (conch) was unclear; luobang (conch/oyster) is correct.]

6. The 12 tones/pitches (律 or 律呂 lülü)
The 12 tones/pitches are the 12 tones established very early for Chinese music (Wiki). Though not treated as a scale, they are also the 12 semitones of the chromatic scale found in most "classical" music cultures. In China the traditional names were as follows:

  律名 Tone Name Translation In Solfeggio Hui # Further (n.b. "陽為律,陰為呂")
  黃鐘 huangzhong yellow bell do 12 "陽聲 yang sheng"
  大呂 dalü big note/tube do# 13 "陰聲 yin sheng"
  太簇 taicou (not - cu) great bursting forth re 1 "陽聲"
  夾鐘 jiazhong carrying bell re# 2 "陰聲"
  姑洗 guxian leisurely cleansing mi 3 "陽聲"
  中呂 (仲呂) zhonglü tone/tube fa 4 (?小呂:陰聲)
  蕤濱 ruibin luxuriant vegetation fa# 5 "陽聲"
  林鐘 linzhong forest bell sol 6 (?函鐘:陰聲)
  夷則 yize foreign standard sol# 8 "陽聲"
  南呂 nanlü Southern tone/tube la 9 "陰聲"
  無射 wuyi endless; unwary la# 10 "陽聲之下"; literary ref.
  應鐘 yingzhong responding bell ti 11 "陰聲"
  清黃 Qing Huang clear yellow bell do' etc __

It is not clear how these names came to be applied to the hui positions (see last column and Stud names).

7. This sound is actually two octaves above basic yellow bell.

8. 倍黃鐘 bei huangzhong
Bei huangzhong, lit. "doubled yellow bell", seems to suggest that if the open string huangzhong = 400 vibrations/second, bei huangzhong will be 800 vibrations/second; for this to be true the referenced huangzhong is not the one played at the fourth position (which in this example produces 200 vibrations/second), but the one played by plucking the open string.

9. Finger positions as measured from the Dragon's mouth (龍口 longkou)
The dragon's mouth, same as dragon's gums (龍齦 longyan), is at the lower end of the qin, where vibrating part of the strings ends. The decimal figures in parentheses at the end of each line are the theoretically correct positions according to the Pythagorean (sanfen sunyi) tuning system. This decimal system, which is the system commonly used in modern tablature, by being theoretically correct, tells you the desired pitch. However, the exact position for placing the finger on the string may often be different, increasingly so the higher the position. This is because the height of the bridge changes the ratios. For an example of this: play a harmonic in the seventh position, then press the finger straight down to make a stopped sound: the pitch will be slightly higher, depending on the height of the bridge.

10.zhuo means "murky"; these lower register notes are thus sometimes called zhuohuang, zhuoda, etc.

11. The text has "", but this must be a mistake ???

12. Shouldn't this be "up"?

13. Again, these upper register notes are sometimes called qinghuang, qingda, etc.; this seems to omit the middle register.

14. The logic of the naming is not at all obvious. There are 13 studs but only 12 notes, and it is interesting that the stud not given a name is the important seventh stud. It is also not given a note; there are only five notes here (gong [do], shang [re], jue [mi], zhi [sol], yu [la]), but they are repeated. "Responds to the regulation of" is a translation of 應 ying.

15. Cui Zundu 崔遵度 (954 - 1020)
8405.251: 崔遵度,(宋)江陵人, 字堅白. Biography in Qin Shi, discussion of Qin Jian in QSCB Chapter 6c3. [TKW#28:] QFTGYY and the Zhu volume mistakenly have 翟 Di instead of 崔 Cui.

16. 徽非目數也 . Could mushu be shumu, with this meaning, "Is this not the number of hui?

17. 不復有聲 : no more octaves?

18. 期四與岳即生第一四二六徽.... This makes no sense to me, nor does the rest of this section (see next footnote). It is also not clear where this passage ends and the next begins.

19. Correspondences in harmonic positions?
The original text, not translated here, is as follows:


This passage (copied verbatim in 1539; QQJC II/12) is perhaps an attempt to describe correspondences using harmonics either to tune the different strings or to show again the positions of the studs. However, I cannot see how this passage is actually describing either of these two. My own understanding of these two phenomena is as follows.

If it is describing how to tune the strings it should be making use of corresponding harmonic positions: because the difference between a harmonic in the 5th and 7th positions on the same string is an interval of a fifth, one can use this to tune two different strings so that they are the interval of a fifth apart: thus, in standard tuning a harmonic played on the #4 string (at the 5th stud) and #7 string (at the 7th stud) produce the same note and so the strings are a fifth interval apart; likewise with #3 and #6, #2 and #5, #1 and #4. And since the difference between a harmonic in the 5th and 4th positions on the same string is an interval of a fourth, one can use this to tune strings which are the interval of a fourth apart: in standard tuning #5 (at the 4th stud) and #7 (at the 5th stud) and likewise with #4 and #6, #2 and #4, #1 and #3.

If this passage is trying instead to show the positions of the studs, using the same string to indicate the stud positions, it should be pointing out that on one string harmonics at the 6th and 3rd studs (as well as the 11th and 8th) produce the same note; that between an open string interval and a harmonic at the 7th stud is one octave, a harmonic at the 4th, two octaves, a harmonic at the 1st, three octaves. Also, the difference between a harmonic at the 5th stud and one at the 2nd stud is up one octave; between one at the 7th and one at the 5th is up 5 notes; between the 5th and the 4th is up four notes; between the 4th and the 2nd is up five notes; between the 2nd and the 1st is up four notes.

20. Discussion of strings (論絃 Lun Xian)
This is repeated almost identically in Section 4, Part 12 論絃象七星 (QQJC I/86), where it is said to come from 風俗通 Fengsu Tong. The title there translates as Discussing How the Strings Resemble Seven Stars; the seven "stars" are in fact five planets and two heavenly bodies of imprecise identity, as follows (in order from first string to seventh): 𡈽星 Saturn, 金星 Venus, 木星 Jupiter, 火星 Mars, 水星 Mercury, 文星 Literary constellation (? 13766.391), and 武星 Military star (16623.xxx). Regarding the five that "為 act as" 君, 臣, 民, 事 and 物, note that the qin is said originally to have had only five strings.

Xilutang Qintong also has this same information in its own section called Lun Xian (III/53). However, in a section called Qi Zi Fa (QQJC III/28 the seven strings are associated with the seven stars of the Big Dipper. These names all have 鬼 as radical, and all are in the 中文大辭典 and 漢語大詞典, but even my Apple computer's "all characters" setting is missing three of them. The list is as follows:

The source of these associations is not clear.

21. See Yinshi.

22. part of the constellation Ursa Minor

23. 16623.xx; ???(武星)

24. This is the first of three (not counting his preface) comments in this edition attributed to the Emaciated Immortal.

25. According to Qin Cao and other sources, the sixth and seventh strings were added by Wen Wang and Wu Wang.

26. Diagram of the Five Worthies' Rule Dongfang Shuo  
In the
above chart, four of the five people mentioned have qin-related biographies: Xu You, Fu Xi , the Yellow Emperor (here called Xuan Yuan) and Confucius. The fifth person is :

東方朔 Dongfang Shuo (In image at right he has become an immortal in the Five Lakes region)
Dongfang Shuo, from 平原 Pingyuan, was an advisor to Han emperor Wudi (14827.42 references Shi Ji #126, Jesters [Chinese pp. 3205 - 32087]; Han Shu has "a series of anecdotes in which he is shown as the victor in verbal encounters..." [Loewe, Dictionary]). Other than here I have not found any references connecting him music, much less the qin. The image at right is from an illustrated Ming dynasty edition of Liexian Quanzhuan: see under Liexian Zhuan.

More associations for these notes are discussed under Shi Wen and (apparently unrelated to the above) in the book of Guanzi (online in an external link, Chapter 58; it also discusses sanfen sunyi).

27. Qin History #77 has Cai Yong's Rhapsody on the Qin (琴賦 Qin Fu; see also QSDQ, Folio 18) but doesn't have this quote. See also his Qin Cao (Folio 3).

28. from north, east, south and west: see Yinshi

29. "a vulgar custom": see Yinshi

30. Not have the Way of Natural Moral Principles 無綱常倫理之道

31. 15989.314 楊秉 says Yang Bing lived in Latter Han, but doesn't mention this story; see Yinshi

32. Ten Friends of the Qin Dais (琴壇十友 Qin Tan Shi You)
Can also be translated 10 Friends of the Qin Forum. In the old Taigu Yiyin this section has only the names, without the Yinshi commentary. Similar lists can be found in later handbooks, such as 1525 (also no commentary).

33. Ice strings (冰絃 bingxian)
This term, discussed further here, is often found in poetry or poetic descriptions of qin. It is often assumed to mean strings that were both translucent and smooth as ice, but I have not yet seen where this has been specified.

34. Crystal strings (水晶絃 shuijing xian)
17458.497ff doesn't mention shuijing xian

35. Jade feet (玉足 yuzu)
[TKW29:] The Zhu volume correctly has "jade", instead of "king".
In addition to jade feet and wild geese feet (雁足 yan zu) these are also called phoenix legs (鳳腿 feng tui; see Assemblage of the qin bottom); they raise the bottom of the qin off a table. Usually they are made of wood.

36. Precious pegs (寶軫 baozhen)
In addition to crystal and jade these pegs are sometimes made of ivory; however, most commonly they are made of wood. Each has a hole running lengthwise and a hole in the side through which run the silk tassels (see below). To fine tune the string these pegs are twisted in order to tighten or loosen the tassels.

37. Peg boxes (軫函 zhenxian)
The character "xian" is usually pronounced "han". Presumably this is for the pegs when they are not on a qin.

38. Fine silk tassels (絨剅 ronglou)
28014.xxx (絨絲 also xxx); 剅 lou (2032.0: 裂、小穿, to thread; wear; other meanings are "to cut" or similar). Dictionaries often translate 絨 rong as "wool", but the strength of silk clearly makes it the best material for these "string carrier loops". Once made (see description), they connect the qin strings to the "precious pegs" (see above) as follows. At the top of the bridge ("mountain"; see Assemblage of the qin top) they are held to a qin string by being looped over a bow tied to the end of the string. From here the tassel passes down through one of the seven holes in the "peg pool" (軫池 zhenchi, see Assemblage of the inner top) then through a "precious peg", looping through the side hole of the peg so that it does not slip; they then hang down from the pegs, looking like tassels. Twisting a peg so that the thread becomes more tightly wound shortens it, thus pulling the qin string tighter, raising its pitch.

39. Brocade bags (錦囊 (jinnang)
Landscape paintings often show qins being carried in such a bag; also called qin bags (28014.104 琴囊 qin nang or 琴袋 qin dai). See further.

40. Qin cushion / qin mat (琴薦 qinjian) Compare historical illustration    
琴薦 28014.xxx; 薦 32823 jian: matting; sleeping mat; also called a qin pad (琴墊 qin dian) or qin pillow (琴枕 qinzhen), though the latter term has now been borrowed to refer to frets as on a guitar. The qin rests on two of these pads, as shown in this historical illustration (references). The references I have seen so far have only mentioned "silk" (usually 錦 jin or 帛 bo), without mentioning filling at all, much less the material of the filling. Today some people claim that the most traditional pads are made of silk bags filled with beans or sand. This may be true, but it would be most interesting to find out the sources for such claims.

The most obvious function of these mats is to keep the qin from sliding and getting scratched. Another material that might work better than silk is leather; some types of leather do inhibit sliding, but as yet I have not seen any historical descriptions or prescriptions that mention either leather or the problem of preventing scratching or sliding; in fact I have not yet found any mention more specific than what is above.

Originally I had my own bags filled with either beans or sand, but I never could get them to work particularly well (I also tended to lose them). I have also used mats made of flat pieces of soft leather, but they have been easier to lose than to find. In addition, with no historical mention of their use they can only be considered more traditional than the modern plastic (polypropylene) or rubber in a hypothetical or potential sense. The illustration at the top of this footnote shows a piece of material such as I generally use. It is a small section of non-slip rug pad cut from a larger a piece of polypropylene.

Filled pads raise the qin off the table, and this does affect the sound (opening it up?). However, if the table is resonant then good contact with the table also affects the sound, and the flat pads may provide better contact. Since these factors can be variously interpreted, and since I am constantly losing them, inexpensive rug pad material has been the most practical solution for me. I may also use them when playing the qin on my lap.

The following introductions (啟 qi) mention "琴薦 qinjian", but they seem to refer to stone slabs; it appears variously attributed to Liu Zongyuan and Yuan Zhen (not yet translated):

  1. 柳宗元 Liu Zongyuan (as here, from 全唐文/卷0576):

    與衛淮南石琴薦啟         ([節度使]衛淮南 = [Military Commissioner] Wei from Huainan)
    伏惟閣下稟夔、旦之至德,蘊牙、曠之元蹤,人文合宮征之深,國器專瑚璉之重。   (宮征 should be 宮徵)
    藝深攫夔,將成玉燭之調;思葉歌謠,足助薰風之化。   (攫夔 jue kui 13345.xxx; should be 攫醳?)

  2. 元稹 Yuan Zhen (as here, from 全唐文/卷0653):

    與衛淮南石琴薦啟  疊石琴薦一(出當州龍壁灘下)   (Longbi 龍壁 49812.611 in Guangxi)
    藝深攫醳,將成玉燭之調,思葉歌謠,足助薰風之化。   (攫醳 jue shi 13345.17 and here

The context suggests that here the 石琴薦 shiqinjian was probably a slab of stone on which the whole qin could rest while it was played. Note that while it is the second essay that says the stone was from Longbitan (Dragon Cliff Rapids), a place in Guangxi noted for its stone, only Liu Zongyuan is known to have had a connection to Guangxi - he spent time as governor in 柳州 Liuzhou.

41. Qin cases (琴匣 qinxia)
21570.27 gives a reference to Bai Juyi. These are also sometimes called qin boxes (琴盒 qin he). Modern ones are usually not made of wood: the safest seem to be made of molded styrofoam protected by a canvas-type cover (see further).

42. Artificial fingernails (假指甲 jia zhijia)
863.xxx, but jia zhijia is the common modern term. On this site older terms are used, such as "substitute fingernails" and "qin fingernails" (Van Gulik also mentions "代甲 daijia").

My teacher Sun Yü-ch'in said artificial fingernails were best made by cutting off a section of the hollow stemlike main shaft (quill) of a feather (he did not mention the type of bird), slicing it lengthwise, shaping it like a fingernail then gluing it on. Commenting that modern plastic fingernails were very bad, he seemed to be rather approving of the quills. However, according to my recollection he did not know of anyone who had ever used them, so quite possibly his information was coming from Yuguzhai Qinpu.

Substitute fingernails (替指 tizhi)
14628.xxx. In connection with this term the passage
above mentions the use of crane feathers (鶴翎 he ling) and goose feathers (鵝翎 e ling). The reference to beginning players using them is somewhat puzzling in light of the scholar's tradition of having long fingernails, discussed here in a footnote on fingering: it seems to suggest that one uses the artificial nails until the actual fingernails grow long; there is no mention of fingernails breaking.

Qin fingernails (琴甲 qin jia)
21570.15 gives the same reference from Zixia Lu as in Van Gulik's account below, adding, "嘗患代指,而舊甲方墮,新甲未完,風景廓澄,援琴思泛,假甲於竹,聊為權用。名德既崇,人爭仿效。 "琴甲 Qin Jia" is also the name of one of the images in 宋伯仁,梅花喜神譜 Song Boren's Meihua Xishen Pu, translation by Red Pine, Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom, Copper Canyon Press, pp. 48-9. His accompanying commentary is almost certainly incorrect in stating that the instrument was "traditionally played with bamboo picks attached to the forefinger and thumb."

History of artificial fingernail usage
Van Gulik,
Lore, p.120, footnote 86, gives the following historical outline of artificial fingernails (edited for romanization and with "lute" changed to "qin"):

A brief note should be added to the discussion of the finger technique, concerning artificial nails (daijia 代甲 or qin jia 琴甲), which qin players sometimes use on their right hands.

As a rule the qin is played without artificial fingernails. The Chinese, and more particularly the members of the literary classs, permitted their finger nails to grow longer than is customary in the West; thus Chinese qin players have to cut down the nails of the right hand, while we have to let them grow a little. The correct way of pulling a string is to use simultaneously half of the finger tip and the rim of the nail. If artificial nails are used, the sound volume of a note increases, but at the same time it will lack that muted quality that is one of the characteristics of qin music. Hence most qin players condemn the use of artificial nails.

The oldest reference to artificial nails seems to be a note entitled qin-jia 琴甲, in the Zixia Lu 資霞錄, by the Tang writer Li Kuangyi 李匡乂. 'At present,' he observes, 'qin players occasionally cut an artificial nail from bamboo, in order to strengthen the notes produced by the index (finger) pulling a string; this was first introduced by Qian Gong' 今彈琴或削竹為甲,以助食指之聲者,亦因汧公也. 'Qian Gong' refers to the famous Tang statesman and qin player Li Mian.... A little farther, however, Li Kuangyi criticizes the use of artificial nails, which he condemns as 'rejecting the true for the false' 棄真用假. According to Li, even when playing the konghou harp or zheng zither no artificial nails should be used, 'for only if one is able to discard the false and return to the true, will their tones be of complete beauty' 至如箜篌之與秦箏,若能去假還真,其聲宛美矣. This aversion to the use of artificial nails is doubtless based on the ancient theory that the player should be in direct contact with his instrument, so that the vital essence may flow freely from the hands into the strings.

The Wuzhizhai Qinpu (1722; see QQJC XIV/416-8 琴齊宜備八則) gives in ch.I, in the section Qinzhai Baze 琴齊八則 ('Eight Rules for the Qin Chamber'), a brief note on artificial nails (XIV/417 代甲護指 dai jia hu zhi). This book recommends to make them from deer horn, ivory, tortoise shell, or the shaft of a goose feather. He also tells what glue should be used for attaching them to the fingers so that they will stay there for two weeks or so, without becoming loosened even by washing the hands in hot water.

Modern finger nail repair: silk paper and glue  Nail glue, nail resin and silk gauze          
Personally, I have never used any type of ready-made
artificial fingernail. When I break a nail (most commonly when I have let it grow too long) it usually breaks at or near where the fingernail tip meets the part of nail resting on the flesh. If the broken nail hasn't completely fallen off, I can usually repair it using a special nail resin (specificially "ibd brush-on gel resin"; 5.67 g. container shown at right), some silk gauze specifically intended for such a purpose, and then a glue such as "ibd nail glue" (while in New York I was getting these at Rays on the west side of 8th Ave. near 45th Street). What I do is alternately apply resin and gauze in four layers (each layer takes a lot more time to dry than the "5 seconds" written on the bottle), covering the nail towards the cuticle end as little as possible; this is because it is my understanding that in the long run glue on the nail can weaken it. Having put on the four layers I then apply nail glue on top, as it seems to be a little smoother than the resin. I then use a fine nail file along the sides and across the top of this to shape it and smooth it out. The result is that the nail looks a bit thick towards the end, but this not does not seem to affect playing as long is the top layer is made smooth and it has been graded properly at the cuticle end (if not done properly the string can catch where the nail meets the repair). If I take care of this properly, as the nail grows out I can file it down and the nail will continue to grow until enough of it protudes from the finger that I can remove the glued silk gauze (usually at a time that it is ready to fall off), which usually also removes the rest of the broken part of the nail, and find that there is now enough nail for playing (or almost enough).

Sometimes I have also used such nail glue to prevent nails from breaking, especially when traveling somewhere for a performance. I have also used Nailtiques formula 2, which claims to strengthen nails, but it has not prevented them from breaking.

But perhaps most importantly I play with silk strings, not nylon metal.

43. Qin couch (琴床 qinchuang)
Today this term (also translatable as "qin bed") seems to be used to refer to a qin table, making it a synonym for 琴桌 qin zhuo. However, 21570.33 琴牀 qin chuang (牀 is the original form of 床) says only 為置琴之臺也 ("a platform for setting up a qin"), giving as references Tang dynasty poems by Bai Juyi and 孟郊 Meng Jiao. Since at that time tables generally were not used in China, this suggests that a qin chuang was a low platform on which players could sit in order to play with a qin on their lap. The mention in the original text ("所坐以彈琴者,其形上下俱圓") about being round above and below is not clear.

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