T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
Taiyin Daquanji  ToC   /   Previous - Next   網站目錄
Taiyin Daquanji
Folio 3 (complete) : Hand Gesture Illustrations 1
Explanations provided by the translator are either prefaced by *, or put in brackets ( ), or placed in footnotes.2

Colophon on Fingering3 Folio 3 has two text entries before its illustrations        

The ancients, in accordance with musical sounds, wrote them down in tablature. They considered the hand positions as if they were physical objects, indicating a profound significance. This (significance) is difficult to understand. And sometimes they are traditionally written down incorrectly, and even more, difficult to distinguish. Now I am familiar with a lot of educated (people) and have received their writings and verbal explanations. Although I have not received all of the possible knowledge in this regard, it approximates pretty well the feelings of the person and the principles of the matter (of these techniques), and I can teach this to people just beginning to study this. I wouldn't dare to try to set myself up as a teacher of this to people who already understand music.

Distinguishing the Fingers 4

Cai Yong said,

The great finger is the thumb;
the food finger is the head finger (index finger);
the leading finger (dictionary: thumb) is the middle finger;
the name finger is the no-name finger (ring finger).

Zhao Weize said (in his Explanation of Cai Yong's finger techniques),

The appearance of the hand styles originated with Cai Yong's five pieces.

Zhao Yeli reformed this, saying,

The finger of heaven is what the right thumb resembles;
The finger of earth is what the right index finger resembles;
The sun finger is what the right middle finger resembles;
The moon finger is what the right ring finger resembles.
A great wind is what the left thumb resembles;
A light cloud is what the left index finger resembles;
A high mountain is what the left middle finger resembles;
A plunging river is what the left ring finger resembles.

Qin tablature says,

Whenever the thumb goes inward it is called thumbing/tearing (擘 bo);
Whenever the thumb goes outwards it is called dragging (托 tuo);
Whenever the index finger goes inwards it is called rubbing (抹 mo);
Whenever the index finger goes outward it is called picking out/arousing (挑 tiao);
Whenever the index finger arouses two or more connected strings it is called passing across (歷 li)
Whenever the middle finger goes inwards it is called hooking (勾 gou);
Whenever the middle finger goes outwards it is called scraping off (剔 ti);
Whenever the ring finger goes inwards it is called hitting (打 da);
Whenever the ring finger goes outwards it is called plucking/picking (摘 zhai).
Poem of playing the qin, written by Yuan Junzhe 5 See full page   

Eight windows are all open,
            and the night is very peaceful.
A solitary man sits in a quiet room,
            playing a jade-studded qin.
(The sounds) are fortuitous, with a spirit of harmony,
            and the propitious phoenix seems to be dancing.
Jade blue heavens are peaceful,
            the water-dragon hums.
Through the half-open curtain the bright moon can be seen,
            there is a peaceful mood.
The tune is Bright Spring (Yang Chun),
            it is a most ancient air.
The playing finishes but the player doesn't realize,
            the stars have moved across the skies.
He is filled with the feelings of spring,
            which completely penetrate his clothing.
(Hand Gesture Illustrations) 6 Compare Taigu Yiyin (expand
The 33 illustrations (17 for the right hand, then 16 for the left hand) below are not numbered in the original: numbers are added here for ease of reference. None of the editions of this book has a title for this section. The tables of contents in QQJC, for both Taiyin Daquanji and Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji, call this section Hand Gesture Illustrations (手勢圖 Shoushi tu), and QFTGYY has the same, so that title is used here. All illustrations consist of two parts but they are not identical: as the illustration at right, one of 33 (half of suoling is missing) from the edition in the National Central Library in Taiwan shows (expand), both the text and the image, though related, can be somewhat different. It seems that in the original each of these was on the same folio page, which meant that as traditionally bound they did not face each other. This is revised here so that on the left are the poetic evocations, which all begin "Xing says" (興曰 Xing yue"). Here "xing" refers to a brief poem.7 On the right are the explanations. In the original the commentary of course follows the traditional pattern of top to bottom and right to left, hence the 1.a. is on the right and 1.b. on the left.8 It is not clear why a number of important early techniques were not included here.9


1.b.  In the manner of a crane dancing as a result of being startled by a breeze 1.a.  Right hand thumb 11
Xing says:

From myriad cavities there is furious howling.
There is a crane on the ridge (or house beam).
It stands by itself, with its awesome physique.
It is about to fly off, about to soar.

Suddenly it cries out, startling people (in the area). The sound is mournful and fully developed.

Pi/bo (tear/thumb; compare pi) in tablature is written 尸

Tuo (drag) in tablature is written 乇

Pushing the thumb outwards from the body (or "inward"?), using half fingernail and half flesh is called bo (or bai).

(The same, but) pulling the thumb inward (or "outward"?) is called tuo.

Whenever utilizing a finger towards the body it is called "inward"; if towards the studs it is called "outward". All the examples use this terminology.


2.b.  In the manner of a visiting wild goose grasping a rush plant 2.a.  Right hand thumb and forefinger
Xing says:

The cool autumn breezes suddenly arrive.
The wild brown goose arrives as a guest.
It grasps a rush plant (and seems to be heading) to the south.
It seems to be going there relying on 仁 ren (which is supposed to exist in the south.)

It can avoid going through the passes (in the Great Wall, which others cannot do) and abandon (the stick?). He transmits his sad sound, which moves people

Nian (pinch/snap) in tablature is written 念 nian :

Use two fingers to pinch and lift a string. When you let go, there will be a (snap-like) sound called nian.

(This sound is said to imitate that of a string breaking, especially when occuring at the end of a melody [examples 1 & 2, but compare 3]).


3.b.  Cranes call out in the shade 3.a.  Right hand forefinger
Xing says:

Cranes Crying in Nine Bends of the Marsh. *
The sound can be heard throughout the wilds.
The light sound luo luo,
Is a natural equivalent of "elegant music".

Simply let your fingers fly in order to attain this image. Realize the height and peaceful solitude in the melody.



(* Refers to the Shi Jing quote, not the melody.)

Mo (rub) in tablature is written 木
Pulling the forefinger inwards across a string is called mo.

Li (pass across) in tablature is written 厂
Pushing the forefinger outward across string(s) is called li (often for multiple strings: compare tiao).

Fu (brush off) in tablature is written 弗
From the 1st string playing a series of mo through to the
7th string is called fu.

Du (cross) in tablature is written 广
A light fu is called du.

Lei (beat; sometimes bo: shake) in tablature is written 雷 (番)
or written 袞 (the latter is for gun, as in 滾拂 gunfu);
From the 7th string li to the 1st string as one sound; this is also called bo.


4.b.  In the manner of the crane-like wild jungle fowl calling and dancing 4.a.  Right hand forefinger, middle finger and ring finger
Xing says:

In the desert, people are at peace,
the jungle fowl wanders freely.
It cries out and thus stretches his throat,
It dances now, spreading his wings.

Wanting to know how this is related to the sound of the music, (we must) understand deeply the swift nature of the steps of this dance.

Suo (chain) in tablature is written 巛
The forefinger does a
tiao, mo and tiao, connecting 3 sounds in all; it's called suo (now usually mo-gou-ti).

反鎖 Fansuo (reverse chain) is written 反巛
ti the middle finger, then tiao and mo the forefinger; this is called fansuo, and also called dao (overturned) suo.

短鎖 Duansuo (short chain) is written 矢巛
first execute the
tiao and mo, then (these) two sounds again, then connect with the triple sounds (suo), making 7 sounds in all.

長鎖 Changsuo (long chain) is written 長巛 : first tiao mo, then 4 sounds, (repeat twice?), then connect with 3 sounds (suo).
(now usually mo-tiao gou-ti da-zhai + suo)

換指鎖 Huanzhisuo (change fingers chain) is written (see above)旨巛
da the ring finger, gou and ti the middle finger, then tiao and mo the forefinger, then do a fan suo. The rhythm is the sound of changsuo.


5.b.  In the manner of a lone duck turning his head towards the flock 5.a.  Right hand middle finger
Xing says:

The lone duck turns its head towards the flock,
It flies and cries out in the distance.
One can sympathize with this solitary figure,
How much the hunter admires this bird!

Using the purple haze to (hide as they) fly together, they fly around again and again in circles as they look downwards.

Gou (hook) in tablature is written ⼓ (see above) .
Ti (scrape off) in tablature is written (see above) .
勾踢 Gouti in tablature is written (see above)

Pulling the middle finger in across the string is called gou.
Pushing the middle finger out across the string is called ti.
Pulling out and pushing back as a pair is called gouti.

Gun (should be 滾 roll/boil; 袞 is a tablature form): a connected ti on three or four strings is called gun.
(See also #3 above; gun is often performed with the ring finger: see zhai.)


6.b.  In the manner of a dragon gripping the clouds 6.a.  Right hand thumb and middle finger
Xing says:

The clouds have a dragon amongst them,
    It cannot be confined to a pond.
Its head and its horns are lofty and dignified,
    The changes it goes through are many.
The position is a "correct nine five",
    Time is appropriate for exaltation.
It seizes (the clouds?) and rises,
    As though held together, the clouds all follow. it.

齊撮 Qicuo (evenly pinch) is written "(see image)" or "早" (as here)
If you squeeze the 1st string together with the 6th string evenly as one sound it is called qicuo (repeated with different fingers in #7)

齪捉 Chuozhuo (grate and grasp) is written 足
Although rare, this figure is used the same way as qicuo. (some pieces in Shen Qi Mi Pu have it; You Lan distinguishes chuo from cuo based on distance between strings)

*See also taocuo (in connection with duian.


7.b.  In the style of a praying mantis grabbing a cicada. 7.a.  Right hand forefinger and ring finger
Xing says:

The cicada's nature is that it is solitary and untainted (by the ordinary).
It's lengthy call expresses its own gaiety.
The praying mantis vigorously extends its arms.
With each step it takes forward, the cicada takes a step backwards.

It is also said, The performance of qicuo followed by fancuo is very much like these movements. (See Cai Yong for a well-known cicada and praying mantis story.)

齊撮 Qicuo (evenly pinch [repeats #6 but with different fingers])
反撮 Fancuo (unpinch) is written 反早

If the cuo is being performed on the 3rd and 5th strings, then the thumb pushes out (together with the) forefinger (as it) does a tiao on the 5th string. (At the same time) the ring finger performs a da (#14) on the 3rd string, making one combined sound. After this sound the thumb and ring finger will come together on the 4th string. As for fancuo, (if still on the 3rd and 5th strings) the 2nd finger performs mo on the 5th string and the ring finger does da on the 3rd string, making one sound.


8.b.  In the style of a crab walking 12 8.a.  Right hand forefinger, middle finger and ring finger
Xing says:

Crabs seem to come together then separate.
Its natural temperament becomes apparent.
It is soft on the inside and hard on the outside.
At the rice-eating grub it rises up and stares.

You can see the style it uses of turning up and down as it walks. This resembles the sentiments of the movements lun and li.
[Yin shi:] "Rice eating grub" (dict.: mao) sounds like "try" (dict.: mou/wu). "Stares" (dict.: deng/cheng) sounds like "stretch out" (cheng); (it means) directly look at the form.

Lun (revolving) in tablature is written (see above; also: 冂). Flex the three fingers and hold them in the vicinity of the 3rd and 4th stud. Then perform in succession zhai, ti and then li on one string. This is called lun. If the tablature says "lunli the 7th and 6th strings", this means first to lun the 7th then li the 6th.

倒輪 Daolun (overturned revolving) is written (see above). Use three fingers to quickly mo, gou then da one string. This is called daolun.


9.b.  In the manner of a shaking a chain and ringing its bells 9.a.  Right hand ring finger, middle finger and forefinger
Xing says:

A group of bells suspended from a rope.
    [Yin shi:] "Suspended" sounds like "folio" (juan). It means hang.
The hand is drawn in to shake them.
Together they ring out qiang qiang.
They ring together as if being played in unison.

Merely obtain this appearance in order likewise to shake the string. (The sound) naturally flows high and low, while extending outward to a great distance.

索鈴 Suoling (roped bells*) in tablature is see above or 糸令
If you use the left thumb at the 7th stud pressed down** on the 7th, 6th and 5th strings, then do a lun going over everywhere, this is called suoling.

* VG: name of a music instrument, but 27927.xxx.
** "pressed down" (an): VG says suoling should be played as harmonics (fan), but the earliest example I have found, in 1525, uses an). The reference to lun is confusing: could it be a gun (see under gou) somehow repeated?


10.b.  In the manner of water from a spring
                                              cascading in a deep valley
10.a.  Right hand forefinger and middle finger 13
          (the explanations below are separated line by line)
Xing says:

The empty valley is deep and serene.
The cold spring rushes down.
Bubbling-bubbling it hits the rocks.
Splash-splash cry the water pellets.
    [Yin shi:] "Splash" sounds like "dart" (jian).

Realize the sound according to this example. The die (duplicating) finger techniques all seem to be quite resembling this.


分㳙 Fenjuan (split clarify) is notated 分厶 . First mo then gou, putting the fingers down in the shape of 八 and it's called 厶 juan. 㳙 is written 厶 .
Juan (clarify) in tablature is written (see above *).
Die (duplicate, repeat; the 田 on top can be written 厶) three fingers, pulling the string in as one sound; (also) written 厶 .
倚㳙 Yijuan (leaning clarify) is written 厶奇 (in GLS Kaizhi?)
半㳙 Banjuan (half clarify) is written 半奇 . First mo the forefinger; the middle finger then stops the string; there is only a little sound. This is called yijuan or banjuan; others are like this.
覆㳙 Fujuan (repeat clarify) is written 复厶 (or) 反厶. First gou then ti the middle finger, then mo tiao the forefinger as one sound; this is called fanjuan.
双㳙 Shuangjuan (paired clarify) is written 双厶 .
連㳙 Lianjuan (connected clarify) is written 車厶 .
疊㳙 Diejuan (duplicate clarify) is written 田厶 . First
mo then gou; do it quickly, clearly distinguishing two sounds. This is called shuangjuan; it is also called lianjuan, and diejuan is the same.


11.b.  In the manner of wind sending of light clouds 11.a.  Right hand forefinger and middle finger
Xing says:

Ranran rongrong,
a lot of vapor is gathered in order to form (the clouds).
Then they rise up in abundance.
Their manner is that they will follow the slightest breeze.

One should make an example of the resemblance of the fingers' movements to the clouds. Do not make the sound too heavily.

半扶 Banfu (half sustain) is written 半夫 .
The forefinger and middle finger, unequal in height, are pulled inward across two strings, making one (continuous) sound; this is called banfu.

全扶 Quanfu (fully sustain) is written (see above) *
The forefinger and middle finger combined are pulled inward across two strings, making one (continuous) sound; this is called quanfu.

(* Transl: This technique seems to be quite similar to juan. Wuzhizhai Qinpu says it is the opposite of lun.)


12.b.  In the manner of the male and female phoenixes calling together 12.a.  Right hand forefinger and middle finger
Xing says:

The (female) phoenix flies about the high sentry posts
               (in the mountains);
The (male) phoenix wanders through layer after layer of cliffs.
The cries they make together are of a similar nature:
"Yongyong jiejie".

(In the same way you should) grip the two strings and pull them at the same moment. If it resembles this sound, it will be harmonious.

圓摟 Yuanlou (round embrace) is written (see above).
爰摟 Yuanlou (leading embrace) is written 爰 ( 婁 ?)
If, for example, you used the forefinger to execute mo on the 5th string, then with the middle finger you gou the 4th string (then with the forefinger mo or tiao the sixth string*), playing them evenly and clearly, making one sound, this is called "yuanlou". It is the same as what is called in Xi Kang's Rhapsody "pilou" (** 批摟 butis writtenwithon the left replaced by 手: see 6/804).

(*  added by the translator to correspond with tablature as found in SQMP, etc.)
(** VG, p. 104, says no one knows the meaning of this figure [actually written loupi] plus the following one, 擽捋 luelo.)


13.b.  In the manner of a fish shaking its tail as it swims 13.a.  Right hand forefinger and middle finger
Xing says:

Thunder and rain act as explanations.
The waves are stirred, froth is aroused.
    [Yin shi:] "Froth" sounds like "rub" (mo)
A fish is about to metamorphose (?).
It shakes its tail back and forth , splashing the water.
    [Yin shi:] "Shakes" sounds like "tune" (diao).

Using this as an example will bring out the right style. Join the fingers together and whirl them quickly. [Yin shi:] "Quickly" (瞥 pie) sounds like "inclined" (偏 pian), entering tone.

撥剌 Bola* (shake and slash) is written (see above)
[Yin shi:] "Slash" sounds like "door screen" (闌 lan, entering tone).

Two fingers together going out across a string is called bo.
Two fingers together coming back in across a string is called la.
Doing both the going out and coming in is called bola.

(* Transl: bola is also called 撥刺/潑刺 boci/poci [shake/splash and stab]. Because of the quality of printing, the characters 剌 la and 刺 ci are not distinguishable from each other.)
([TKW86:] QFTGYY has only "Two fingers together go out across a string... bo." The Zhu volume has almost the same as the Yuan volume. Qin handbooks prior to the Ming dynasty talk of two ways of doing bola, one with two fingers, one with three. Although here this book mentions the two finger method, in the illustration one can clearly distinguish three fingers.)


14.b.  In the manner of the shangyang bird, tapping and dancing 14.a.  Right hand ring finger
Xing says:

There is a bird that only has one foot.
It is a smart bird that can predict rain.
When the skies are about to pour down in a long, heavy rain,
(the bird) rouses up his feathers, taps, and dances.

Bend the ring finger as you approach the string.
They are all investigating irregularities as they lift their wings.

Da, in tablature written 丁 (see also #15)
Zhai, in tablature written (see above)
打摘 Dazhai, in tablature written (see above)

Pulling the string inward is called da.
Pushing the string outward is called zhai.
Together pushing then pulling is called dazhai.

(Transl: earlier explanations of da do not specify the finger. But note that here, although the finger is not mentioned, at left the finger is called 名指 mingzhi, short for 無名指 wuming zhi [no-name finger, i.e., ring finger], and the illustration above shows the ring finger executing the stroke.)


15.b.  In the manner of a supernatural tortoise coming out of the water 15.a.  Right hand forefinger and ring finger
Xing says:

On its back a diagram is drawn out.
When it walks one (step), it supports nine.
It is about to hunch up its shoulders,
and must raise up its head.
    [Yin shi:] This means raising high, lifting its head.

This (hunching and raising) should be compared to the motions tiao and da. It provides evidence that the former ancients were not improper.

Da (hit) in tablature is written 丁 (see also #14)
Tiao (picking out/arousing) is written (compare li, now usually for multiple strings)
Pull the thumb to stabilize the forefinger, which pushes the string outwards; this is called da. If the ring finger also does a da, it is called tiaoda.

打員 Dayuan (hitting in a circle: should be 打圓) is written 丁員 or (see above)
For example, tiao the 6th string, da the 3rd; connect three tiao and also connect three gou:* altogether it is six sounds, at first slow then quick. Two sounds make one phrase. First play a phrase, then duplicate it three times.

(* Transl: all three versions are different here, none making sense to me. My interpretation is 連作三挑 [instead of 絃],連作三勾 [others have 句], allowing the sequence to be, as is commonly understood, 挑六、勾三,挑六、勾三,挑六、勾三.)


16.b.  In the manner of a sea dragon intoning
 (compare water dragon intoning)
16.a.  Right hand forefinger and middle finger
Xing says:

The dragon lives in a cave dwelling.
On a peaceful night it lets out a long cry.
It is like gold and like jade.
This is the best of all sounds.

How can (the dragon) be compared with a supernatural being? Rather, in a hidden way it unites with the heart of the qin. [Yin shi:] "Hidden" means "secret". "Unites" means "harmonizes". (If) something "in a hidden way unites", (in fact it) secretly harmonizes.

小閒勾 Xiao Jian'gou (short divided hook) is written (see above) or (also see above)
If you dayuan a stopped 3rd and open 6th string, then gou the 4th, da the 3rd and tiao the 6th, it is called jian'gou; if there is no dayuan, then it is no jian'gou, but simply gou and da.

大閒勾 Da Jian'gou* (long divided hook) is written (see above)
After doing a dayuan, gou the open fourth, da the third and fourth, gou the third (again), tiao the open sixth, it is called da jian'gou.

(* Transl: For da jian'gou, QFTGYY has only, "If (the dayuan?) has one sound (i.e., one phrase of the dayuan?) it is called xiao jian'gou; with two sounds it is called da jian'gou.


17.b.  In the manner of a hungry raven pecking at the snow 17.a.  Right hand forefinger, middle finger and ring finger
Xing says:

Here there is a flock of birds, there footprints.
There is nothing blacker than the crow.
They are hungry and peck at the snow.
The flavor is not moist.

Accordingly if more than lightly playing... its manner is empty and slow.(?)

單彈 Dantan (single play) in tablature is written (see above)
Hooking the thumb around the forefinger, then plucking outwards with this one finger is called dantan.

雙彈 Shuangtan (double play) in tablature is written (see above)
Using the thumb to hook around the forefinger and middle fingers, then one by one plucking the (same) string outwards with (the two fingers), is called shuangtan.

三彈 Santan (triple play) in tablature is written (see above)
Hook the thumb around the index, middle and ring fingers, then one by one pluck outwards on the string. This is called santan.


18.b.  In the manner of the supernatural phoenix grasping a letter in its mouth 18.a.  Left hand thumb
Xing says:

Behold the phoenix.
When it feels someone has virtue,
it seems to arrive with a letter in its mouth.
Its appearance signifies good luck.

The thumb is pressed down and the forefinger turned over. The others imitate this.

An (press down; compare #s 22, 23 and 24, which refer to different fingers) in tablature is written 女

Use half flesh and half fingernail in pressing down on the string, as if trying to push right into the wood. Press down with unsuppressable force.

If the thumb is pressed down near the 9th stud, the tablature is 大九. All others follow this example.


19.b.  In the manner of a howling gibbon climbing a tree 19.a.  Left hand thumb
Xing says:

Look at that howling gibbon.
It is trying to climb up a tall tree.
It wants to go up, but cannot.
It seems to go little by little.

Heavily put the fingers into a small place, desiring marvelous speed in coming and going (on the string, as up and down the tree).

Nao (gibbon)14 in tablature is written 犭
Press down the thumb and take advantage of the sound (from plucking the string) by pulling out (towards?) the studs a little bit. Quickly return from (?) the stud to attain this sound. It is written nao because it resembles a gibbon climbing a tree, grasping on in order to climb, and crying out. [Yinshi:] Nao sounds like "clamor" (呶 nao); it is a kind of 猿 gibbon.

微猱 Weinao (small nao) is written 山犭
細猱 Xi'nao (fine nao) is written 幺犭
Dun (esteem) is written 亨; it's the same as weinao.
畜猱 Chu'nao (restrained nao) is written 玄犭. It's a coming and going nao. Words cannot describe chu (nao) very completely. (Transl: I have never seen it used.)


20.b.  In the manner of an echo from an empty valley 20.a.  Left hand thumb
Xing says:

The long whistling noise begins.
Right away it causes vibrations in the woods and in the foothills.
Whatever the sound is, that sound replies back,
here in the empty valley.

So it is when the ring finger is pressed down and the thumb executes a yan. You want these sounds to continue mutually (i.e., the resonance to continue?). [Yin shi:] "Foothill" sounds like "deer" (lu); it means the foot of a hill.

Yan (net, extend net, cover) in tablature is written 內 or 奄 or 电. First place the ring finger (for example) near the 10th position, then use the thumb to (cover as with a) "net" the 9th position, making a sound; this is called yan. Others are all the same (as in this position). [Yin shi:] "Net" (dict.: yan) is pronounced as 庵 "an" ("hut", but people today say "yan"), entering tone.

(Transl: My teacher said that with yan the thumb should be put down firmly but gently, avoiding the slapping sound one often hears, particularly from beginners.)


21.b.  In the manner of a solitary bird pecking on a tree 21.a.  Left hand thumb
Xing says:

The solitary bird avoids people.
It goes around the tree chirping.
It looks for grubs, stripping (the bark off the tree with its) pecking.
Its sound is knock-knock.

Make the sound xuyan according to this example. The resulting sound is like that tapping. [Yin shi:] "Grub" sounds like "jealous" (du). It is a wood bug. "Knock" (丁 usually ding but the dictionary also gives zheng) sounds like "wrangle" (爭 zheng).

虛罨 Xuyan (empty covering) is written (see above).
Don't pluck (with the right hand) and don't set down (the ring finger as in the previous technique). Simply yan the string with the thumb, producing this sound; this is called xuyan.

虛點 Xudian (empty dotting) is written (see above).
This is the same as (xu)yan, but perhaps use the ring finger, in accordance with the tablature.


22.b.  In the manner of a beautiful oriole in a fragrant woods 22.a.  Left hand forefinger
Xing says:

Look at the beautiful oriole in front of you.
It has moved into a fragrant wood.
As it flies it cries out, seeking friends.
Its sound is "toufan".

睍睆 "Toufan" (see note below) is also the robust sound of putting down the finger in this way. It is also like the soft chirping of a bird in spring. [Yin shi:] "Tou" (normally xian) sounds like tou (head); "fan" (normally huan) sounds like "opposite" (fan). It is a warning sound.

An* (press down) is written 女
Pressing the fleshy part of the forefinger down on the string is called "an". If it is in the 7th position the tablature writes 食七 or 人七.

(手兜) Dou** (lift up, control) is written 兜 . Using the fingernail (of the left hand) to gou a string up so there is a sound is called dou.

* 按 an is usually not written in the tablature: compare #s #s 18, 23 and 24, which concern other fingers.
** I have never seen dou written in tablature, but it seems to be the same as what is normally called 帶起 daiqi (written 巾己.)


23.b.  In the manner of a wild pheasant climbing a tree 23.a.  Left hand middle finger
Xing says:

It is a pleasant time: see the wild pheasant.
It flies in the early morning,
and climbs into a tree in order to cry out.
Its sound is light and unhurried.*

This is the meaning to attain in comparison. Thus it is not something which can be described in writing.

(* Transl: This last line has six characters (音清清而不疾), making it the only line in all the quatrains to have more than 4 [not counting 兮 xi].)

An* (press down). Bend the thumb close to the palm, then stand (the middle finger) on its end. If the middle finger presses down in the 10th position, its notated as 中十 . The others are like this.

推起 Tuiqi (push up) is written 推己 (also 扌己)
推出 Tuichu (push out) is written 推山 (also 扌山 or 扌出)
If you press down the (middle?) finger, sliding it down along the string then pushing up, making a sound it is called tuiqi.
It is also said that if you slide the finger down below the 13th position then push it up it is called tuichu.

* 按 an (see also #s 18, 22 and 24, which concern other fingers); no indication of tablature, perhaps because when it is used as here, with the 3rd finger, it is not written in the tablature


24.b.  In the manner of a phoenix combing its feathers 24.a.  Left hand ring finger
Xing says:

There is a phoenix living in the wutong tree.
It neither flies up nor cries out.
Its intention is to fly up into the middle of the sky.
It also is rubbing its feathers.

When the ring finger is placed down, the thumb is bent in. It is because of this mannerism that it is named.

An* (press down). Bend in the thumb close to the palm, and press down with the fingers in this position. If the ring finger is pressed down on the 10th position, it is notated 夕十 . Others are all done the same way.

* 按 an (see also #s 18, 22 and 23, which concern other fingers); no indication of tablature because when it is used as here, with the 4th finger, it is usually not written in the tablature


25.b.  In the manner of the spotted leopard embracing its prey 25.a.  Left hand ring finger
Xing says:

There is a leopard looking for a change.*
It lives stealthily in the southern mountains.
It embraces the small prey in preparation for eating it.
You can see its spots if you look at it secretly
      from a nearby vantage point.

One should imitate this attitude when playing the sounds. Perhaps the relationship is in the actions of the (leopard and the qin player).

* i.e., a change in the environment, indicating a foe or prey is nearby

Gui (kneel) in tablature is written 危 or 足 (see above)
and also 跪 (see also 拶對 zandui 15)
Bend the ring finger and then place it on the string (so that it touches between the base of the fingernail and the knuckle). This is called gui.


26.b.  In the manner of a pigeon crying out to predict rain 26.a.  Left hand thumb and ring finger 16
Xing says:

The heavens are about to cloud over, and soon the rain will fall,
but only the pigeon knows this.
He lifts his head and lets out a long cry:
he is asking for a female to join him.

One should attain this image in playing duian. Use the singing quality of the sound and follow that

對按 Dui'an (duplicated pressing down) is written 女寸
If the thumb is placed down in the 9th position and a sound is produced, and then (with the thumb still down) the ring finger is placed at the 10th position, and then the thumb executes a taoqi* (pulling up), this is called duian. Other examples are like this.

* Also see 搯撮 taocuo; sometimes a distinction seems to be made between:
   對起 duiqi (pair and rise) and
   搯起 taoqi (pull out and up)


27.b.  In the manner of a cicada singing in the autumn 27.a.  Left hand thumb, middle finger or ring finger
Xing says:

With wings it makes sound.
Only the cicada knows that the time is near.
It is the height of autumn and the temperature is cool.
The long humming sound brings on sadness
        (because it occurs most often in autumn?).

Understand this sound of the cicada and then you can obtain this sound. This very same meaning is used to strive for it.

Yin (intoning) in tablature is written (今 or see above)
Putting down the finger so as to achieve the sound, then moving with a fine motion, not moving the finger beyond the position, is called yin. Sometimes one might use the fingernail, other times the flesh is used. If the thumb is put on the 1st string (or one string), then the nail is used. If it is put on the 2nd string (or two strings), the flesh is used.

細吟 Xiyin (fine intoning) is written (see above)
 - (See also youyin and zouyin)


28.b.  In the manner of fallen leaves following the flow of water 28.a.  Left hand thumb, middle finger or ring finger
Xing says:

The fallen leaves follow the water flow;
submitting to the current, they go.
This is what the advancing or retreating of the waves stirs up.
They want to stop, but cannot.

In accordance with this manner, a comparison is obtained. If you can attain the meaning, you will understand.

遊吟 Youyin (wandering intonation) is written (see above)
Press the finger down and make the yin sound as though it were waves flowing. Sometimes you might only go slightly beyond the (stated) position, other times you might go more, half a position .


29.b.  In the manner of a raven carrying a cicada as it flies 29.a.  Left hand thumb, middle finger or ring finger
Xing says:

The cicada is in the raven's mouth.
As the raven flies, the cicada is swallowed.
From west it heads east.
Then the sound is gradually extinguished.

This is made beautiful by going through the procedure. It is difficult to talk about and describe in detail. [Yin shi:] "Swallow" sounds the same as "visit" (ye). "Heads" sounds the same as "help" (zu/zhu).

走吟 Zouyin (walking intonation) is written (see above)
Press down the finger and, following the sound, draw up (yin) a little bit, simultaneously doing both yin (vibrato) and yin (drawing up). Stop when the sound finishes.


30.b.  In the manner of a white butterfly wafted onto a flower 30.a.  Left hand thumb, middle finger or ring finger
Xing says:

The white butterfly* wafted on a flower.
Its wings are light, the flow is soft.
It wants to go but cannot go.
It is as though it is remaining, but not remaining.

Obtain this meaning in order to allow it to be called "floating". It is like the light floating of the surface of the finger.

* 粉蝶 : "pieris rapae"

Fan (floating; You Lan has ) is written 丿(but more horizontally)
Use the tip of the finger at the same time that the right hand strokes the string. It should float on top of the string, causing the string to move and sing. This is called fan.

泛起 Fanqi (floating begins) is written 丿己
It means for the floating sounds to begin.

泛止 Fanzhi (floating stops) is written 丿止.
It means for the floating sounds to come to this point and stop.


31.b.  In the manner of dragonflies flitting on water ("蜻蜓點水") 31.a.  Left hand forefinger, thumb or ring finger
Xing says:

The dragonflies are countless.
They hover around the water's edge,
flying slowly.
Flitting over ("dots marking") the ripples ("點破漣漪").

This is like facing the studs and 互泛 "mutually playing harmonics" (?); this kind of thing is like that. [Yin shi:] "Floating ripples" (lianyi) means "ripples on the water".

互泛 Hufan* (Mutually floating) is written (see above)
A floating sound performed with two fingers crossed over is called hufan.

*  The original has 牙泛 yafan ("tooth float", or it could represent the sound "ya"), perhaps a misprint, as it does not seem to make sense. Could it mean playing two notes simultaneously? Since I have never seen this figure in early tablature, it is difficult to verify.


32.b.  In the manner of a cicada calling as it passes a branch 32.a.  Left hand thumb, middle finger or ring finger
Xing says:

The cicada is elevated;
it has just shed its outer layer.
It can metamorphose* and is hidden in the deep woods.
At any time it may call out.

(Like a cicada) suddenly feel alarm and pull away. Stretch out the sound, without stopping the sound which continues after. [Yin shi:] "Outer layer" (dict.: shui) sounds like "retreat" (tui); "shed" means "cast off". "Outer layer" means "exuviae".

*  "indicating that it has intelligence"

Yin (drawing) is written 弓
Put down (a left) finger and obtain a sound, draw upwards; this is called yin.

Zhu (flowing) is written 主 (or 氵)
Put down a (left) finger and, without any beginning sound, draw it downwards; this is called zhu.
(There is no mention of its opposite, chuo.)


33.b.  In the manner of a swallow grabbing a flying insect 33.a.  Left hand thumb, middle finger and ring finger
Xing says:

The swallows are flying all around.
They are different from their feathers.
They follow those flying insects.
Suddenly they come, immediately they go.

Retreat and advance as you push upwards and downwards. Obtain this and use it as an example. [Yin shi:] "Different from" sounds like "blemish" (疵 ci). Different from their feathers: not arranged in their appearance. (?)

Yi* (push) is written 卬 .
This means press down the finger, pushing upwards, then pushing back down.

* Elsewhere this is called 迎 ying (welcoming).


Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Folio 3 (complete) : Hand Gesture Illustrations (QQJC I/53-70; 30 Volume edition I/63-80)
Such hand gesture illustrations were quite common in early handbooks but gradually disappeared (see further). As for those here, the earliest surviving ones, in the 1970s, when I was studying guqin in Taiwan with Sun Yu-ch'in, I made a rough translation of this passage from a copy of Taigu Yiyin preserved in Taiwan and included by Dr. Tong Kin-Woon (TKW) in his Qin Fu (QFTGYY), pp. 55 - 72; it is here modified according to the mostly identical passage in Taiyin Daquanji printed in QQJC 2010 edition Vol. I/63 - 80), referred to by TKW as the "Yuan Volume" (see his #6), after its supposed editor, Yuan Junzhe. 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. 指跋 Zhi Ba

4. 辨指 Bian Zhi
As the image shows, these were originally written together.

5. Poem of playing the qin, written by Yuan Junzhe
This poem by Yuan Junzhe is not in the Zhu or Yuan volumes, so it is copied here from the Taigu Yiyin in the National Central Library, Taiwan; it is also in QFTGYY, p. 56. It is a shi with 8 lines of 7 characters each, the rhyme scheme being ab, cb, db, eb.

6. 33 pairs of illustrations
Qinshu Daquan, Folio 9 also has the same 33 pairs of illustrations as here. As with QFTGYY, the Zhu volume and the present Yuan volume, they are all in the same order (first 17 for the right hand, then 16 for the left hand), with the same images, though they may be drawn differently and the text is also somewhat different (the latter two texts including some additional finger techniques within some of the illustrations). In QFTGYY, TKW has numerous comments pointing out the differences in the texts.

7. Xing (興)
All of the left hand commentary begins, "Xing says" (興曰 Xing yue). Here xing (4th tone) refers to a form of indirect metaphor or simile, first found in the Book of Poems. ICTCL, p. 693, etc., compares xing to 比 bi, which is a direct metaphor or simile. All of the xing here for right hand techniques are 4 x 4 (four character lines x 4) except for #6, which doubles this (i.e., is 4 x 8) and also adds a 兮 xi at the end of the first, third, fifth and seventh lines. The xing for the left hand techniques are also generally 4 x 4, with QFTGYY, the Zhu and the Yuan editions sometimes differing on whether there is a xi at the end of the first and third lines. For some reason #23 adds two characters in the 4th line. In most cases the xing is followed by a brief comment.

8. Symbols explained through images
It is not always simple to compare symbols in the four handbooks considered here: only the incomplete Taigu Yiyin has its own table of contents. Towards the end of the second folio (see QQJC 2010 edition, I/26) it lists two sections (both missing), one called "17 right hand gestures of appearance and method representations" (右手勢形法像十七條), and one called "22 left hand gestures of appearance and method representations" (左手勢形法像二十二條). Perhaps "22", is a mistake: none of the Ming handbooks has so many sketches -- in fact they are quite uniform about having the same illustrations. Briefly, the other Ming dynasty handbooks with sketches have the following:

  1. All 33, as pairs in the same order: Fengxuan Xuanpin, Qinshu Daquan and Qinpu Zhengchuan
  2. The same except they put the hand techniques and nature representations inside their illustrations: Wenhuitang Qinpu and Sancai Tuhui
  3. Same pairs of illustrations and very good sketches, but omitting most of the text: Yangchuntang Qinpu
  4. Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu and Qin Shi both omit one of the left hand 32 illustrations and have sketches only of hand techniques; they have the names of the nature representations, but not the sketches.

It should be remembered that these diagrams, as well as the finger explanations in general, were mostly just copied down from handbook to handbook. They thus speak more of the continuity of the tradition rather than fully reflecting the differences of interpretation that may have developed over time and/or with specific players.

9. Symbols not included here (for finger positions note also the switch to a decimal system)
Van Gulik, Lore, pp. 122 - 136 (.pdf), explains 54 symbols as part of a section called The Symbolism of the Finger Technique. Some of the techniques explained there, and also found in early tablature but not included with the above illustrations, include:

  1. chuo, usually written 卜 or 卜 over 日 (see upper right of chuo)
    Play a note as you slide up to it; opposite of
    zhu. This technique is quite often found in tablature, but today it is extremely common among many players, often added when not called for in the tablature. My teacher said this was because on the long surface of the qin it is difficult always to have to put the finger down in precisely the correct position. It can thus easily become more of a cliché than a true ornament.

  2. zhuang, usually written 立
    A quick left hand (usually thumb) slide up and down.
    (By extentions, also not explained is 雙撞 shuang zhuang, in which the up and down motion is repeated.)

  3. 進復 jin fu, usually written 隹 plus the top of 复
    A slower left hand slide up and down

  4. 分開 fenkai, usually written 八 over 开
    For example, do a
    mo with the left thumb in a certain position; after striking the note slide the thumb up, then do a zhu back to the original position as you do a tiao.

  5. 往來 wang lai, usually written 彳來
    After striking a note with the right hand, the stopped left hand finger slides up and down twice

  6. 放合 fang he, usually written 方合
    After the right hand strikes a string with a left hand finger stopped in a certain position, the left finger pulls and releases the string, making a second sound that is simultaneous with a sound made by the right hand striking another string.

Also not included with the old Taiyin Daquanji/Taigu Yiyin illustrated instructions are the following, beginning with the shorthand forms used for the four fingers of the left hand, then going on to the longhand forms of various instructions that do not lend themselves to images.

Most of these are explained under the non-illustrated instructions that begin here, but for other sources see also this list and its related footnote.

11. 擘/劈 (bo/pi) vs. 托 tuo: in/out? (image 1)
It seems that there has always been confusion about which of these two thumb strokes goes inwards and which does outwards. This can readily be seen in the varying finger technique explanations here in Taiyin Daquanji. Thus,

  1. The instructions above have 擘/劈 (pi/bo go outwards while those here, attributed to 劉籍 Liu Ji (10th c.?) have it come inwards.
  2. The same instructions above have 托 tuo come inwards while those here, attributed to Liu Ji have it go outwards.

It is not clear how these two became reversed, but the example of the earliest surviving melody, Jieshi Diao You Lan and its supposedly associated Wusilan Finger Technique Explanations might be instructive.

Among the Wusilan explanations of basic strokes, it has no mention or examples of 托 tuo, only of 擗 pi. Here the explanation for pi says the thumb should go outwards. However, you can see there a list of the eight examples of 擗 pi (written 擘) in the written score, and all of them will most naturally be played inwards.

12. Revolve (輪 lun), described as crab walking (蠏行 xie xing) (image 8)
The description here perhaps suggests that the crab in question is a land crab (I am not familiar with the habitat of the "蟊 rice-eating grub").

The technique 輪 lun may also be described as 摘剔挑 zhai ti tiao, which has the same meaning of right hand fourth, third then second finger plucking outwards. In some cases the tablature calls for the three notes to be played with the left hand fingers also "revolving", stopping the string with the second, third then ring fingers, all at the same position. There is an example near the beginning of the 1425 Meihua Sannong.

As for 倒輪 daolun, I have not yet seen this in early tablature, but there is tablature that writes out the technique. For example, near the beginning of Section 7 of the 1525 Feng Qiu Huang a phrase begins with the right hand techniques mo gou da. Here the left hand corresponds by stopping the string with the second, third then ring finger, as described above. But here, instead of calling this 倒輪 daolun, there is the explanation "a big crab walking" (大蠏行 da xie xing).

13. Juan: 蠲 or 㳙/涓/厶 (image 10) juan 蠲       㳙   /   蠲        
Juan seems usually to be said to consist of a rapid mo then gou on one string, but it may be on more than one string, in which case typically one might either mogou the first string then the second, or mo the first and second, then gou the first and second. In the two examples given here at right, from Dun Shi Cao and Guangling San (the first two melodies in Shen Qi Mi Pu) the Guangling San example clearly shows a 厶 juan applied to one string while the Dun Shi Cao example, using a shorthand form not available by computer, has a juan over two strings. Because it is followed durectly by a 全扶 quanfu (on strings 3 and 4) my assumption is that it is intended to be in contrast with juan, so juan is played twice, first on string 1 then on string 2. (In the Guangling San example 厶 seems to be followeed by two yijuan, further explained in this footnote)

The explanations for the different forms of juan can be confusing, starting with why there are two different characters though they appear to describe the same techniques. Because neither the You Lan tablature nor the Wusilan Fingering Explanations include 㳙/涓, one might guess it came later. Since both 㳙 and 厶 are easier to write than 蠲, this might also suggest 㳙 is a later form, though there are no direct historical statements to this effect.

One of the practical tasks has been to determine such issues as whether or how successive juan (or a 連蠲 lian juan) may differ from 全扶 quanfu or from successive 半扶 banfu (image 11). This distinction does not seem to be made clear throughout the various juan explanations such as in Wusilan Zhifa Shi as well as in the others collected in Taiyin Daquanji here and here.

14. nao (my teacher pronounced this "揉 rou", rub/twist; image 19). The original of the accompanying explanatory verse is,


In addition to those included above, some other types of 猱 nao can also be found in early handbooks such as Shen Qi Mi Pu. Most common is 撞猱 zhuang nao, as follows.

撞猱 Zhuang nao  
To my knowledge, although this term is quite common in Ming dynasty handbooks, it is introduced in only two of them:

  1. Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539; II/18): 按指承声,一上,一下
    Slide up and down (while doing vibrato?)
  2. Huiyan Mizhi (1647; X/22): 撞猱也,音後一撞,向徽下急搖動,用在曲慢之時,須要潔淨。按準律呂,故云,撞猱行走怪支離。
    Do a zhuang and shake quickly as you return to the original position. Do it during a slow passage, do it cleanly, and it should fit into the modality....

My personal interpretation is similar to the latter. However, considering how common this technique is in Ming dynasty handbooks (see, e.g., comments connected to Guangling San and a Japanese handbook), it is quite strange that it is not more commonly explained. It also has no clear antecedent in early finger technique explanations, though personally I have interpreted the 再臑 zai nao that occurs 5 times in You Lan to be similar to my understanding of zhuang nao.

To sum up my interpretation, the available descriptions for both zhuang nao and zai nao are so vague as to allow a number of interpretations. It is thus perhaps questionable to select a descriptions on the basis that it could fit both terms. However, it is a technique that I find quite both pleasing and appropriate to the music in question.

15. gui (kneel) vs. 拶對 zandui (image 25)
With gui the curled left ring finger can also stop the string using the fingernail; this is especially true if the shape of the finger in between the nail and the knuckle is concave, in which case one cannot get good contact pressing the finger down in that area in between. In any case, pressing down with the nail usually involves developing muscles in the left ring finger, while pressing down with the flesh may require developing a callus, especially if sliding is involved, as it may in particular be with zandui.

拶對 zandui (12359.2 拶指:舊時酷形之一 Punish by squeezing the fingers: in olden days a cruel form of torture)

16. Left hand thumb and ring finger (image 27)
This entry, 對按 duian, makes no mention of 對起 duiqi, which is much more commonly used in tablature; in qin songs 搯起 taoqi, used here to describe duian, seems sometimes to be suggest a contrast with duiqi. Further details are as follows:

In addition, the following techniques also involve the left ring finger being left in place while the thumb does the plucking:


Return to Taiyin Daquanji index page,
to the annotated handbook list
or to the Guqin ToC.