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Important Notes on the Text
by Tong Kin-Woon, from Qin Fu, Vol.2, Part 1, Important Notes, pp. 9-11,
Lianguan Chubanshe, Taipei, Taiwan, 1971 1

Shen Qi Mi Pu, compiled by Zhu Quan of the Ming dynasty
Checked against the authoritative text, by Tong Kin-Woon

[The original, now] in the collection of Mr. Hu Gongxuan of Shanghai, was printed [from an engraving made] during the Ming dynasty Wanli period (1573-1620), in three folios. This book is the earliest surviving collection of our country's qin tunes. What it includes are all qin pieces from the Tang and Song dynasties. The editor Zhu Quan, self-styled the Emaciated Immortal, was the 16th [or 17th] son of [the founder of the Ming dynasty,] Ming Taizu. He was extremely fond of the guqin. Shen Qi Mi Pu was the result of Zhu Quan and five qin players spending 12 years collecting, checking against authoritative texts and then arranging for wood-block engraving. The Song dynasty's Zixiatong Qinpu (Purple Haze Cave Qin Handbook) being already lost, Shen Qi Mi Pu has become the oldest surviving collection of qin pieces.

Altogether this book was engraved (for printing) three times, as follows,

1.   Zhu Quan's engraving of 1425 (the first year of the Hongxi reign). It has Zhu Quan's preface dated 1425. As far as I know no copies of this volume exist in the country, and no major libraries overseas have it. The late Dutch qin specialist Robert Van Gulik [1910-67] in his famous book Lore of the Chinese Lute [Tokyo, 1940] said that the Library of the Cabinet in Japan [Naikako Bunko, in Tokyo] has a copy of this edition, but I have not been able to examine this.2 According to what I have seen, the third edition of Shen Qi Mi Pu is almost 100% in accordance with the second edition: there is no way to differentiate the cutting technique, character shapes, flavor and so forth between the two volumes. I put the two volumes together to compare, frequently counting the places where they were different or identical, thereby determining that [any] page had [only] one or two characters whose size or position were not identical; thus I was able to conclude the second edition was re-printed to accord 100% with the original edition, [and so] the first two editions should also be completely alike in spirit. Among these first, second and third editions, Van Gulik only saw one, the volume in Japan's Naikaku Bunko; he didn't see the two others, and so he had no way clearly to compare them, so how could he know the volume in Japan is a first edition? Also, according to my research, the third printing of Shen Qi Mi Pu (the Wanli edition) used engravings from second printing (the Jiaqing edition). In other words, old plates from the second printing were used in the third printing. [Specifically,] (these were pages 21 and 46 of Folio Three -- altogether two leaves or four pages). So did the second edition use old plates from the first edition? Today no one can say. If they did, it would be difficult to differentiate between the first and second editions. To sum up, my opinion is that: Van Gulik only saw one edition and then decided it was a first edition, so that [conclusion] is unreliable. Also Van Gulik, in drawing on the words of the Ming dynasty's Gao Lian [1592] to praise the beauty of the first edition, says the edition in Japan consists of three large folios with large characters and high quality paper; but these three aspects are not sufficient to prove it is a first edition, as the re-prints are also big volumes with characters as large as coins!

In order to decide which engraving the volume in Japan used, one must examine each of the following points:

  1. Do [these] six pieces in the first folio have punctuation (further comment)?

    1. Dunshi Cao
    2. Huaxu Yin
    3. Yang Chun
    4. Zhao Yin
    5. Jiu Kuang and
    6. Huo Lin

    According to Zhu Quan's original preface, in the first edition these six pieces [in fact all pieces in first folio] are 'the oldest melodies, and his predecessors have not passed on their secrets' [i.e., were not actively playing them], so in the first edition these had no punctuation. If the volume in Japan printed these six pieces with punctuation, then it is a re-print; if no punctuation then it [may be] a first edition.3

  2. If it is the reprint which has at the end of the first folio a two-line note dated 'xinwei' [1511 or 1571; see red mark on this image] it is the Jiaqing edition [1522-67?!]. This note says, 'For several of the above pieces the old handbook (i.e., first edition) had no punctuation. Now during leisure time this humble person, using my own concepts to examine the sounds and flavors, have put punctuation at the ends of phrases. All music connoisseurs should examine this. Estimably gathered during xinwei (1511 or 1571), summer, fourth lunar month (and) respectfully recorded....'4

  3. If it is [one of the two] reprints, and after Yang Chun in the table of contents it has in small characters 'bai xue' (white snow) it is the Jiaqing edition; if it mistakenly has the characters 'bai yun' (white clouds) is in the Wanli edition.5
In order to differentiate the second and third editions, naturally there are other methods, but the three points described above are sufficient.

2.   The Jiaqing (1522-67) reprint. The only known copy of this volume is now in the Taibei National Palace Museum Library; it is recorded in the catalogue of rare books in Taibei's National Central Library. During the (Second World) War this book was stored in the U.S. Library of Congress, and so it has already been photocopied by [someone from] the mainland and printed in Volume One of the first series of Qinqu Jicheng [Beijing, 1962]; but the original storehouse seal of the Beiping Guoshuguan (national library) was rubbed out. The biggest difference between this edition and the first edition is that [all] 15 [16] pieces of the first edition have no punctuation, whereas six pieces in this volume (see above) have had it added. And there are the two lines dated 'xinwei' at the end of the first folio, explaining this matter. This volume is thus the oldest surviving collection of qin pieces. In the announcement on page 34 of the first folio of Wen Xuan, printed during the Jiaqing period by the Wang Liang Book Shop, it is classified with Xinke Taiyin Daquanji, and so Zha Fuxi (1895-1976) concluded that it was reprinted during the Jiaqing period; this conclusion is believable. Besides this evidence that Mr. Zha has brought up, there is also this proof: Gao Lian's Yanxian Qingshang Jian (Leisurely Appreciation Commentary) already mentions tlkreducedddhat Shen Qi Mi Pu has been reprinted. Gao Lian lived during the Jiaqing and Wanli reigns; his book was printed during the 19th year of Wanli (1592); so you can know that Shen Qi Mi Pu was reprinted before 1592. If you examine this with the proof brought up by Mr. Zha, you can determine there was indeed a volume published during the Jiaqing period.

3.   The Wanli (1573-1620) reprint. There is only one copy of this volume, in the private collection of Mr. Hu Gongxuan of Shanghai [now in the Shanghai Library?]. Mr. Hu is correct in saying that this volume dates from the Wanli period. This book has two leaves, or four pages, which use the old plates of the Jiaqing printing (see above). And if you add more careful comparison, from the relative amount of abrasion [on the plates indicated by] the two pages of this volume, you can see they are later than the Jiaqing volume. In this volume the six pieces in the first folio also have punctuation added,7 but the two lines dated xinwei at the end of the first folio are missing. The Music Publishing Society of the People's Music Research Institute already published this volume in 1956. Attached is [an extra] folio with a [12 page] afterword by Zha Fuxi as well as Collected Notes on Finger Techniques, edited by Yuan Quanyou.8 Qin Fu is using this photocopied volume plus Mr. Zha's afterword somewhat reduced.9

The above concerns the introduction to Shen Qi Mi Pu. In addition, according to the Tianyige Shumu (Sky-Unity Pavilion Catalogue [Ming]), that place had a copy of Shen Qi Mi Pu. The late Mr. Yuan Tongli, when he edited Zhongguo Yinyue Juyao (Chinese Music Recommendations?), included it because of this. Through careful research Zha Fuxi found that the book in the collection of Tianyige was really a Ming edition of Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, and not Shen Qi Mi Pu. One can believe that today the world has only the three Ming dynasty editions of Shen Qi Mi Pu described above. According to Zhu Quan's preface, each piece in the first folio is an 'oldest melody, and his predecessors have not passed on their secrets'; so this folio is called 'Most Ancient Spiritual Pieces.' The second and third folios are called 'Spiritual Pieces from Beyond the Rosy Haze' because each piece has received influence from the Rosy Haze Qin School of the Song dynasty's Yang Zan. Looking at what is in all three folios, the origin of each piece in Taigu Shenpin can be traced back to the Tang dynasty. (The finger techniques of each are mostly the compound finger techniques of the Tang dynasty, different from the more straightforward tablature fingerings from the Ming dynasty and after. Some even approach the traditional longhand tablature, which can be compared with the longhand tablature in the Tang dynasty manuscript You Lan.) The famous pieces among the Spiritual Pieces from Beyond the Rosy Haze are old pieces transmitted from the Song and Yuan dynasties, or compositions by people of the Song (such as Xiaoxiang Shuiyun). Based on my careful comparisons, many qin tablatures after the Ming dynasty were selected from this book, the complex finger techniques naturally changing to the current shorthand tablature.

Being unable to see a first edition, I cannot talk about it. The contents of the Jiaqing and Wanli editions have both the good and the bad, but in both volumes on many pages often up to half a line will be blurred and unclear, with no way to read them. From the photocopy all qin players would become ill. (So) I have spent more than 300 hours repairing my photocopy of the Wanli edition. I examined more than 10 Ming and Qing handbooks as well as not a few materials on finger techniques dating from before the Song. Then I copied the whole book very clearly and printed it in Qin Fu. I also made more than 40 footnotes explaining most of the suspicious problems. This edition can thus be called the Qin Fu Edition.

As for the number of pieces in Shen Qi Mi Pu, Zhu Quan's own preface says that the first folio has 16 pieces while the other two folios have 34 pieces, making 50 in all. Zha Fuxi's afterword says that the first folio has 16 pieces and the other two 46, making 62 in all. This is because his calculation includes each of the diaoyi (modal introductions). But neither Zhu nor Zha is completely correct. The number of pieces in the first folio should be 15, not 16 (including the kaizhi [opening fingering, which are like modal introductions], there are 17). The number 46 shows Zha Fuxi was counting the pieces in the table of contents, but the original table of contents has some omissions! According to my statistics on the table of contents, the first folio is missing the kaizhi from in front of Guangling San and in front of Qiuyue Zhao Maoting. The middle folio, after Shenpin Zhiyi, is missing a Zhi Yi. The last folio, before Shenhua Yin is missing a Shenpin Shangjiao Yi. Combining calculations gives:

There is a phenomenon worth noting that, the first folio has kaizhi but not diaoyi, while the second and third folios have diaoyi but not kaizhi. Wang Shixiang in his essay 'Explanation of the Guqin Piece Guangling San',10 re-printed in Qin Fu, final volume, page 2806) suggests that kaizhi and diaoyi are equivalent terms, and this phenomenon proves what he says. Also, diaoyi heretofore have been considered short qin pieces. Thus, the number of pieces in Shen Qi Mi Pu is 65. In speaking of the kaizhi, it is impossible not to discuss the number of sections in Guangling San. The number of sections in this piece goes from 23 to 33 to 36 to 41 to 44 and finally to Shen Qi Mi Pu's 45. The circumstances of the changed performances can be examined in the essay by Wang Shixiang. Before the Ming dynasty people calculated 44 sections at most, but it is not definite that at that time there was no kaizhi. (The poem Playing Guangling San by Yelu Chucai of the Yuan dynasty, which says 'A playing (pin) of the strings wants to finalize the mode,' clearly shows it had a kaizhi.) Rather, it might have meant they didn't calculate the kaizhi in the number of sections, When Zha Fuxi printed Qinqu Jicheng, he classified (Guangling San) as having 45 sections, so [he was] including the kaizhi. Based on an examination of whether or not Ming dynasty qin books considered the kaizhi to be an intrinsic part of Guangling San, there are two points of view. The Ming edition Fengxuan Xuanpin calculates it, Xilutang Qintong does not calculate it. In general the kaizhi was after all a separate short piece, like the piece kaizhi which Huangyin Yin included in the Song dynasty handbook Shilin Guangji; before people would play a piece in a particular mode they would play a short kaizhi to familiarize themselves with the string and node positions of that mode. And this does not mean that a kaizhi would belong to a particular piece. But because in Manshang Diao there is only the one piece, Guangling San, gradually this kaizhi has come to be seen as a part of Guangling San. Nowadays the great qin master Guan Pinghu of the Jiuyi School has recreated Guangling San according to Shen Qi Mi Pu; this has been recorded onto three 78 RPM phonograph records (six sides), altogether over 20 minutes in length. The kaizhi has also been recorded with it, as the opening section of the whole piece. Because it connects with the rest very well, and its character is suitable, when listened together with the rest of the piece it seems very coherent.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Reprinted in 1981 and 2000.

2. FJT examined it in 1986: it's a second edition.

3. Punctuation differences
See image; the second edition is on the right side.

4. Interlineal comment at end of Folio 1
See image; the second edition is on the right. Its interlineal text says, "前數曲舊譜無句點。近於暇日竊以私意詳其聲,趣點於句下。 庶知音者察焉。 寵集辛未夏四月謹識。"

5. Bai Yun vs Bai Xue
See image; second edition is on the right.

6. Shangjiao
See image; second edition is on the right. The third edition as printed in Qin Qu Ji Cheng is missing the words "神品商角意". I do not know the reason for this.

7. But note that Folio 1, leaf 19 of the 3rd edition omits the punctuation of the second edition!

8. Collected Notes on Finger Techniques (指法集註 Zhifa Jizhu; pdf)
Edited by Yuan Quanyou.

9. i.e., certain mainland references are deleted.

10. from Minzu Yinyue Yanjiu Lunwen Ji (Vol.2, 1957)

Return to the Shen Qi Mi Pu index or to the Guqin ToC.