Wang Shixiang, Explanation of the Guqin Piece Guangling San
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Explanation of the Guqin Piece Guangling San
by Wang Shixiang, as reprinted in Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu, pp. 2801-2816
- the numbering of footnotes is altered here so as to be continuous
1957, #2, 13-30

Guangling San is one of our country's most famous old musical pieces (qu). Among guqin pieces it occupies the most important position. As early as 1700 years ago Guangling San had already appeared through the eminent performer Xi Kang (223 - 262). The Song dynasty's Chen Yang, author of our country's first music encyclopedia, once compared it with the Shi Jing (Classic of Poetry), saying it was the "great master among qu".2 Historical documents recording Guangling San are particularly numerous, going back much earlier than the average qin work. The piece has 45 sections in all. Its structure is expansive, the melodies numerous, the skills (required) complex, the mode impassionate, (and) it has its own remarkable style. These are all reasons which have caused it to be particularly famous.

The following examination is divided into four sections for the purpose of explaining this piece.

(  I.) Concerning the Identification and Correction of Several Mistaken Interpretations of Guangling San

Although the records of Guangling San in ancient times are numerous, they are not completely believable. Our predecessors had already taken the opportunity to make corrections and, when finding mistaken interpretations, add (their own) corrections and clarifications. Before introducing this piece, I must make some brief general explanations.

As for the mistaken interpretations of (the history of) Guangling San, they can be summed up into the three following statements:

  1. Xi Kang is the author of Guangling San;
  2. After Xi Kang died, Guangling San was lost to tradition;
  3. The reason Guangling San got that name was that during the time of the (Three Kingdoms, when the Cao family controlled the) Wei dynasty (220-265), Sima Yi's father had a secret scheme to capture the reign by force, but the great ministers of Wei all went down to their destruction at a place called Guangling. The kingdom of Wei was defeated and scattered (san) at Guangling, and from this came the title Guangling San.

Historical documents which could prove the above interpretations cannot be found. Guangling San was already popular during the period earlier than Xi Kang. It is not only a qin piece, it moreover has been borrowed into a sheng (mouth organ) tune.3 Xi Kang's own work, Qin Fu (transl.: translated by R.H. Van Gulik as "Poetical Essay on the Lute"), uses an approving manner of speaking to recommend this piece. To state more clearly, (this version) could not possibly be his own creation. After Xi Kang died, moreover, this piece was not lost: almost every dynasty has had someone who can play a Guangling San. Furthermore, it developed into an ensemble piece (he yue qu4). As for the matter of the origin of the name Guangling San being related to the Wei kingdom's power being scattered at a place called Guangling, not only do the place name and the historical reality not match; the explanation of the character "san" is evidently mistaken. "San" is the name of a kind of musical piece, and thus Guangling San is equivalent to Guangling Qu, which basically has no relation with the meaning "defeat". Xi Kang's Qin Fu suggests that Guangling San should be grouped together with such pieces as Dong Wu and Tai Shan. Zuo Si notes in his Rhapsody on the Qi Capital (Qi Du Fu) as follows, "Dong Wu and Tai Shan are the names of folk xian'ge (songs with string accompaniment?) of praise(?) from the state of Qi."5 It is a basic truth that in the olden days quite a few music songs originated among the people. For a tune popular in a certain area to use that area's name as the title is a very natural matter. So the only reasonable interpretation is that Guangling San was music current among the people in the region of Guangling.

Some of the points explained above have already been discussed in notes from former times, such as (in the books) Lu Shi Zashuo, Chunzhu Jiwen and so forth. In the modern era, Yang Zongji and Dai Mingyang [see footnote 1] have given more detailed demonstrations.

(II.) Contents of the Guangling San Story (compare 1. Shi Ji, and 2. Qin Cao )

Each paragraph of Guangling San has a title. From looking at these titles we know that what this piece describes is the story from the Warring States period [475-255] (4th century BC) of Nie Zheng taking revenge by assassination. Concerning this piece there are two different interpretations. Their contents are as follows:

1. Nie Zheng assassinated the [Prime] Minister of Han on behalf of Yan Zhongzi, for revenge: The great vassal Yan Zhongzi of the Han kingdom had a hatred of Jia Lei6 the Prime Minister of Han. In order to find someone who would carry out the assassination for him he befriended Nie Zheng, obsequiously using presents to buy his loyalty. Nie Zheng rather surprisingly did not mind sacrificing himself in order to assassinate the Han minister. The Han kingdom, since it didn't know who the assassin was, fiercely hung up the corpse [offering a] reward. Nie Zheng's younger sister was not willing to allow her younger brother's (sic) name to be hidden from recognition, [so] she came forward to identify the corpse, and moreover killed herself alongside Nie Zheng's body. This account can be seen in both the Zhan Guo Ce and the Shi Ji (see fn.1, #1 & #2), but there are also several differences between these two. For example, the Shi Ji only says that Nie Zheng killed the Han minister, while the Zhan Guo Ce says that Nie Zheng, in addition to killing the Han minister, also struck [and killed] the Han king.

2. Nie Zheng assassinated the Han king in order to revenge his father: Nie Zheng's father smelted swords for the Han king. [Once] he made a mistake [by exceeding] a time limit and tragically incurred execution by the Han king. Nie Zheng, in order to avenge his father, no matter what bitterness [might ensue], went into the mountains and studied the qin. For 10 years he practised, studying until he was very skilled. The Han king, hearing that in his kingdom a first-rate qin player had been discovered, summoned him to come to the palace and give a performance, not knowing that it was Nie Zheng, the guy who wanted only to avenge his father. While they were listening to the qin, Nie Zheng took out a dagger from inside the qin and assassinated the Han king. Nie Zheng was afraid of involving his mother, so he destroyed his facial appearance and died. The Han kingdom didn't know who it was who had killed their king. A reward of 1,000 gold (pieces) was offered, asking the name of the assassin. But Nie Zheng's mother, in order to cause her son to become famous, came forward and identified his corpse, dying at his side. This story, seen in Han dynasty Cai Yong's Qin Cao, is the so-called "Melody of Nie Zheng Assassinating the Han King". The stone dwelling of Wuliangci (in southwestern Shandong province), constructed at about the same period as Cai Yong, also took this story and made it into theme material for paintings on the stone dwelling. Moreover, at the men's side such characters as "Nie Zheng" and "Han king" are clearly marked (see Illustration 1).


Illustation 1: Bas-relief on stone of Nie Zheng killing the Han king, from the Han dynasty Wuliang Shrine.
(Ed. note: for clarity the image here comes from Feng and Feng as found in Wu Hung, The Wuliang Shrine, p.324)


Of these two interpretations, which, after all, is correct? The Song dynasty's Lou Yue [1137-1213] and 張崇 Zhang Chong (reference) as well as the Yuan dynasty's Yelü Chucai all quote from the story of the assassination of the Han minister Jia Lei (see fn.1, # 5 & #7). Yang Zongji in the modern era asserted that Guangling San is actually "The Melody of Nie Zheng Assassinating the Han King" (see fn.1, #10), whereas Dai Mingyang recognizes it as Nie Zheng killing the minister of Han. So it is that right up to the present when everybody speaks of that piece they still are not able to come to a unified opinion.7

Speaking generally, the Zhan Guo Ce and the Shi Ji have hitherto been considered by people to be correct history. The attitude of its writing is solemn. Its historical facts "are believable and there is proof". Qin Cao [see fn. 1, #3], since it has several interpretations within it which are not in complete agreement with the classical account, has earned mistrust, and is considered unbelievable. But today we want to explain in detail an old work of art. The important thing to do is to search out the content of the material of the main theme on which it is originally based. Next most important is to find out whether the content of the material comprising the main theme is or is not in complete agreement with historical reality. Therefore, if you want to use [these] to explain Guangling San, looking from the standpoint of the documentation of the qin piece, you should still use the story of Nie Zheng killing the Han king as the more reasonable one. The reasons are as follows:

Speaking first about the sources of the book Qin Cao, some people, since it is not recorded in the 藝文志 Yi Wen Zhi section of the Sui Shu or Tang Shu, consider it to be false and untrustworthy. But as early as the Tang dynasty, 李善 Li Shan [d. 689; see Knechtges, Wen Xuan, I, p.52ff.] had already included it in the annotations in his Wen Xuan. As for the relatively careful examiner Ruan Yuan [see Ruan Enluo], he also considered it not to be an imitation of a later era.8 And the picture in the Han dynasty Wuliang Shrine's stone building, of Nie Zheng assassinating the Han king, is especially strong evidence, explaining clearly a musical story reliable and popular at that time among the people. In the time of the Wuliang Shrine no one expressed a lack of trust [in the picture], and so this proves that the record in Qin Cao is reliable evidence.

What the Song dynasty's 鄭樵 Zheng Qiao [1104 - 1162; Bio/1572] said in his 通志 Tong Zhi (, 樂略 Yue Lue (Outline of Music; is reasonable,

"As for what was said in the Qin Cao, when was there ever such an event? In the early days of the qin, there was music without words; but people who were good at music wanted to write down their secret feelings, so they took affairs of `sorrow, misfortune and not meeting' and called them "cao" [ed: the title given to pieces in which unrecognized scholars secretly express their sorrow]. Some have this kind of person but not this kind of deed; some have this kind of deed but not this kind of person. Some are influenced by the ancients, following and elaborating on them."

It is basically possible for the oral tradition among the people to have some differences from the historical records. What is said in Qin Cao surely has sections which do not inspire belief, as when it says that the piece about Nie Zheng killing the Han king was written by Nie Zheng himself; that "when Nie Zheng played the qin in the palace, horses and cows stopped to listen;" and so forth. But these artistic exaggerations and added material simply give evidence to the fact that Cai Yong was honestly recording the story of a qin song current at that time. To say this in other terms, if Qin Cao were only a dull repetition of historical records, one would certainly not be able to find such dressings, and appearances of a story; and as a result one could coincidentally, to the contrary, [use this to] prove it is, as far as the oral transmission of the song is concerned, an unreliable book. Now, since we know that before Xi Kang, as early as the Han dynasty (this period could be just about the same era as the creation of [the musical piece] Guangling San), the story in the qin song about Nie Zheng carrying out an assassination is the one about him assassinating the Han king to protect his father, well then, what reason would people later have to be able insistently to change it into Nie Zheng being hired by a man to assassinate the Han minister?

In addition, if you look from the standpoint of the [section] titles in Guangling San, the tablature which Lou Yue, Zhang Chong, Yelü Chucai and so forth talk about [all] have the [section] titles called Qu Han Xiang (Must Get [Rid of] the Han Minister) and Bie Jie (Extraordinary Sister), which are related to Nie Zheng killing the Han minister. But the Guangling San in Shen Qi Mi Pu consequently makes these two section titles to be Qu Han (Get Han) and Lie Fu (Virtuous Woman). Obviously what this points to is the story of Nie Zheng killing the Han king. But the 18 sections titles in the [central] division of Guangling San, entitled Zheng Sheng, each has only two characters. Why would only this Qu Han Xiang appear to have a three character title?9 If the result of what the whole song describes is the story of Nie Zheng killing the Han minister, well then, is it really possible to use the two characters "Qu Xiang" (and) not be able to generalize? And why is it necessary certainly to have the three characters "Qu Han Xiang"? This can really give the explanation of why the original Guangling San story is of Nie Zheng killing the Han king. This section was [also] originally named Qu Han. Only later, in order to change the story from killing the Han king into killing the Han minister, and also in order to make the [section] titles correspond with the story, was the character "Xiang" added after "Qu Han". Also, Guangling San has in it such section titles as Wang Shen and Ci Xiang. Only if one uses the story from Qin Cao -- of Nie Zheng leaving home, fleeing to the mountains to study the qin -- will the story make sense, and these plots in the Zhan Guo Ce and the Shi Ji are not relevant. Therefore, looking from the aspect of section titles, the contents of the story in Guangling San concern Nie Zheng assassinating the Han king -- they do not concern him assassinating the Han minister.10

Finally, analyzing the hypocrisy and phony kindness of Yan Zhongzi in terms of common sense, one cannot give to Nie Zheng this unyielding resolution to carry out an assassination. According to the record of the Zhan Guo Ce and the Shi Ji, Nie Zheng and Yan Zhongzi originally did not know each other. How could Nie Zheng be willing to go out and assassinate Jia Lei for the private revenge of Yan Zhongzi? This situation is completely different from the ones in which Yu Rang tried to kill the Chao kingdom's Viscount Xiangzi to revenge Zhi Bo, or Jing Ke tried to kill the Qin king to revenge Tian Guang.11 If Nie Zheng had really acted as described in the Zhan Guo Ce and the Shi Ji -- been purchased by a high-ranking official, and then gone out and rendered service for him at the cost of his own life -- that would really be too silly. As narrated in Qin Cao, Nie Zheng, his father unfortunately killed, develops an implacable hatred for the cruel lord; this naturally causes him to brood over it for a long time, and in the end he uses a great self-sacrifice to attain revenge. So Nie Zheng killing the Han king -- an action which has the nature of opposition to the rich classes -- is the sort of story which the members of the feudal class would have interest in changing into one in which a man is bribed into killing the Han minister. How can it be that the Zhan Guo Ce and the Shi Ji are not in complete agreement with each other? The Zhan Guo Ce says, "The Han prime minister went out and embraced Lie Aihou. Nie Zheng killed him, then also killed Lie Aihou." He assassinates not only the Han minister but also the Han king. So, whether analyzed on the basis of common sense or in terms of historical data, one cannot willingly say that the matter of Nie Zheng killing the Han king is pure fabrication.

Based on the three reasons discussed above, we can say that if [the story of] Nie Zheng assassinating the Han king was twisted around by the rulers into [his] assassinating the Han minister, we should certainly struggle hard [against this re-writing of history]. And even if historical reality is that Nie Zheng actually killed the Han minister on behalf of Yan Zhongzi, if we don't want it to be totally disconnected with the original story [and] if we want the contents and feeling of the tune to tally with the materials constituting the main theme, then we must use the interpretation of Nie Zheng killing the Han king to avenge his father.

(III) The Traditional Guangling San Tablatures and their Periods

Based on existing materials relevant to the traditional Guangling San tablatures and their periods, one should set out the following two inferences:

1. Guangling San has gone through frequent and abundant development, from short to long.

Guangling San, the same as other literary art works beloved by the people, throughout history has developed through accumulation and development. The tablature written down by Zhang Lao of the Tang dynasty, on the basis of the Guangling San transmitted by Li Liangfu (ca. early 8th century), had only 23 bai (i.e., sections). Its successor, passed on by Lü Wei (734-800), had expanded into 36 sections.12 The Qin Shu dating from the time of Jing You of the Song dynasty narrates a Guangling San with 41 sections.13 Zhu Quan's Shen Qi Mi Pu [also] refers to a Qin Shu (perhaps the same volume as the book just mentioned) to discuss Yuan Xiaoni stealthily listening to Xi Kang play Guangling San, getting 33 sections, and then adding eight more to get 41. In addition there is also a "Xu" [and a?] "Yin", making the total number [of sections] more than 41. Although we don't believe the traditional account of Yuan Xiaoni stealthily hearing and studying the qin, it is quite believable that the persons who later added the sections at the end of Guangling San would pretend it could be ascribed to Yuan Xiaoni. The Guangling San which Lou Yue of the Southern Song studied as a youth from Lu Zijia was the 44 section tablature. Later, after comparing this with the 36 section version in the Shi Han Pu he also recognized that the eight sections of the Hou Xu had been added by people later on.14 In the Yuan dynasty the Guangling San played by Yelü Chucai also had 44 sections. The Guangling San printed in Zhu Quan's Shen Qi Mi Pu thus (?) has 45 sections.

Because of the fact that in the olden days there was more than one edition of the Guangling San tablature, the above-mentioned circumstances did not necessarily develop by addition and expansion from a single volume. But one might be willing to set down as a general rule of development that the sections will increase in number and the melodies will get longer. As late as the Song dynasty Guangling San had already developed to a magnitude of 44 or 45 sections (described in detail below).

There is one point [particularly] worthy of attention [here and this is that], in the historical record of each tablature, the number of sections is always just exactly the sum total of the number of sections in each musical division of the piece [i.e., the number of sections in each of the corresponding divisions throughout history does not change: the additional sections are a result of additional divisions]. From this one can deduce which parts of Guangling San are the original ones, and which were successively added. To read this conveniently, examine the table drawn below [Table 1].

[Chart 1, comparing sectioning of seven versions of Guangling San]
Period Tablature Name # of Sec. [Source?] Kai Zhi Xiao Xu Da Xu Zheng Sheng Luan Sheng Hou Xu Comments
Tang Li Liangfu,
Guangling Zhixi Pu
23 推測各章的端數 ->     5 18     ["Deduced by number of sections mentioned in each essay"]
Tang Lü Wei,
Guangling Zhixi Pu
36 Same as above   3 5 18 10    [likewise deduced; "Wei clan scattered"; see footnote]
Northern Song Guangling San acc. to Qin Shu 41 據記載
Acc. to the record
    5 18 10 8 [See 善琴 Praising the Qin, at end of facsimile reprint]
Northern Song Guangling San from Qin Shu, as in the Shen Qi Mi Pu [Original Preface 中文] 41 Inferred from # of sections in each division before Hou Xu     5 18 10 8 If calculating both Xu, there are more than 41 sections.
"孝已 Xiaoyi [i.e., Xiaoni] later Hui Zhixi Yi, and made 八拍 8 sections"
Southern Song Version Lou Yue played 44 Same as above   3 5 18 10 8 Lou Yue's poem, "I think the ba bai make too many
Yuan Tablature played by Yelü Chucai 44 Inferred from the # of sections in essay after Da Xu   3 5 18 10 8 Based on Yelü Chucai's poem. "A string desires a final tone", should refer to a diaoyi. If calculated together with the diaoyi, there are 45 sections. "又三引入五序" means the Xiao Xu has 3 sections and the Da Xu has 5 sections.
Ming Guangling San in Shen Qi Mi Pu 45 From the actual tablature 1 3 5 18 10 8  

From the above chart we can deduce that the Guangling San current in the Tang dynasty should be the center part of the modern song; in other words, the two divisions Da Xu and Zheng Sheng. Accordingly the Xiao Xu and Luan Sheng were added later, and the Hou Xu still later, until finally was added the Kaizhi, which is actually equivalent to a diaoyi for Manshang Diao.15 The kaizhi is calculated together with the other sections [of Guangling San] in the volume Shen Qi Mi Pu, and so there are 45 sections in all. But this is not the same as saying that this section did not exist until the Ming dynasty. Yelü Chucai's poem describing Guangling San and beginning "the string wants the final tune" explains clearly that the tablature he played already had a diaoyi, but that he didn't calculate it in the number of sections in the whole piece, so that he had 44 sections. In the Southern Song, Chen Yuanqin's compilation Shilin Guangji included a Kaizhi Huang Ying Yin (Yellow Oriole Chant), as well as five modal preludes such as (for) Gong Diao, Shang Diao, Jue Diao, Zhi Diao and Yu Diao, altogether six pieces. From this we can see that as early as the Song dynasty there were diaoyi. Even in an earlier period, when Guangling San had not yet developed to the point of having a Xiao Xu and a Hou Xu, it was quite possible that the diaoyi already were in existence. Making deductions, based on these points, about the Guangling San played by Lou Yue, it is possible that at the front of the piece there is a diaoyi or a kaizhi, and so I have written above [see chart] that as late as the Song dynasty Guangling San had already developed to an extent of having 44 or 45 sections.

Looking again from the musical aspect, this is also in agreement with the above deductions. From the understanding gained by Mr. Guan Pinghu in reconstructing how to play the piece, we realize that in the Guangling San of the Shen Qi Mi Pu, if you begin with Jing Li, which is the first section of the Da Xu, the feeling of the musical phrases is very much like the kaizhi of a piece. If someone said that this piece began right here, it would not be surprising. And speaking about the conclusion of the piece, the end of both the Zheng Sheng and the Luan Sheng, both have the implication of a conclusion. The feeling obtained from the eight sections of the Hou Xu, based on Mr. Guan's intuitive comprehension, seem very much as though they come after the end of the complete telling of the Nie Zheng kills the Han king story. Consider the use of a third person's voice to exclaim the story of this pitiful but courageous affair. Mr. Dai Mingyang has already [see fn. 1, #11] pointed to the fact that the titles of the sections within the Hou Xu, i.e., [Hui Zhixi Yi], Yi Jue, Bei Zhi, Tan Xi, Chang Xu, Shang Gan, Hen Fen and Wang Ji unavoidably have a "confused arrangement". The reason for this could just be precisely that the Hou Xu is a part added after everything else, so the titles had already been used up in the previous sections, and it was very hard to come up with new names. The meanings of the phrases was repeated and it was unavoidable that there be suspicion of duplication.

2. Of the three Guangling San tablatures now current, the earliest is the one in the Shen Qi Mi Pu. Based on our original inference, this tablature has been transmitted from the Northern Song, or even earlier.

So far we have already discovered seven qin books with [old] Guangling San tablature, including altogether three different versions.16 These three are the version in the Shen Qi Mi Pu (see Picture 2),17 and the two versions in Wang Zhi's Xilutang Qintong (Qin Collection of the Western Foothills). (See [transcriptions and] Pictures 3 and 4 below).18 These three tablatures are arranged below in chronological order, and an attempt is made to find out their relation with the older tablatures.

Illustration 2: [Sample page from]
Guangling San in Shen Qi Mi Pu

Illustration 3: [Sample page from]
Guangling San Tablature A in Xilutang Qintong

Illustration 4: [Sample page from]
Guangling San Tablature B in Xilutang Qintong

In order conveniently to compare the section numbers and titles of the current versions with those of the old, a chart has also been drawn up

[Click on this miniature for a 7.8MB .pdf copy of the original Chinese foldout chart.]

From this chart [listing 17 tablatures from the Tang dynasty through the Republic; those from 1425 on are an online table] we can see that the tablature which Lou Yue studied from Lu Zijia [#7] and the tablature played by Yelü Chucai [#8; {see his poem}] both have 44 sections. At the same time, they both have [several section] titles, such as Qu Han Xiang and Bie Jie, different from [the corresponding] titles, Qu Han and Lie Fu, in Shen Qi Mi Pu. Zhang Chong's [#4 in the table above] dates from about the same time as Lou Yue's. Although we don't know the numbers of the sections in the tablature he prefaces, he nevertheless mentions such titles as Qu Han Xiang, Bie Jie and 報義 Bao Yi. Looking at it from the tone of speech in Yelü Chucai's poetic preface, it also does not seem as though it comes from a different traditional tablature. Thus they should be considered as the same tablature.

Taking up the special aspects of the described tablatures to compare them with Xilutang Qintong Tablature B [#13], we find them to be corresponding. Thus the tablature played by Lou Yue and Yelü Chucai should be considered forerunners of Xilutang Qintong Tablature B. From the Song to the Ming, during occasions of being passed on traditionally and going to several different places, it could have undergone several revisions by [various] people.

If we again try to compare, [this time] from a musical aspect, the Xilutang Qintong Tablature B with the tablature played by Lou Yue and Yelü Chucai, we again find resemblances. Lou Yue once said,

"This piece has many 潑攦 poli sounds, which other pieces perhaps don't have. The two Xu, the Zheng Sheng and the Luan Sheng perhaps use it at the beginning, and always use it at the end. The Xiao Xu is the beginning of a piece, so the sound is produced between the 5th and 6th strings, as if not balanced...."

Lou Yue's so-called poli is simply the guqin finger technique [now called] 撥刺 boci [or 撥剌 bola].19 If we search through the Xiao Xu of Xilutang Qintong Tablature B, it actually begins: put the thumb at the 9th position (hui) and juan the fifth and sixth strings (i.e., the shorthand tablature for 大指按九徽,蠲五六). After this the Da Xu uses a boci to begin and another boci to end. With regard to Shen Qi Mi Pu, it is only here that the endings often use 拂滾 fugun. The musical effect of fugun, although quite similar to that of boci, is still different in finger technique. As for Xilutang Qintong Tablature A, the Xiao Xu doesn't even begin with the fifth and sixth strings, only with the fifth string. And as Yelü Chucai's poem says (more of the poem will be included later),

品絃欲終調 Pin xian yu zhong diao:
    Playing the strings near the end of the melody,
六絃一時劃 Liu xian yi shi hua;
    The sixth string is immediately cut off,
初訝似破竹 Chu ya si po zhu,
    Beginning to exclaim, like breaking bamboo,
不止如裂帛 Bu zhi ru lie bo,
    Not stopping, like the sound of splitting silk.

The first line refers to the time when the diaoyi for Manshang Pin (i.e., diao) is about to end. The diaoyi for Manshang Pin at the beginning of Xilutang Qintong Tablature B, when it is almost finished, actually has the finger technique 度七絃至一絃,如一聲 "run [the finger] from the seventh string to the first string, as one sound" [shorthand form also given], which just happens to match what Yelü Chucai writes. This finger technique is completely missing from the Kaizhi of Shen Qi Mi Pu and the Manshang Yi of Xilutang Qintong Tablature A.

The problem now is that, since the tablatures played by such people as Lou Yue and Yelü Chucai are predecessors of Xilutang Qintong Tablature B, whether it is or is not true that the Guangling San tablature included in Shen Qi Mi Pu, which does not appear until it is included in that Ming dynasty handbook, is later than Xilutang Qintong Tablature B [which it resembles musically, whereas Tablature A seems almost completely different]. From comparing them by going through several investigations [we find] it really isn't that way.

Using the finger technique skills in the three handbooks as a basis for discussion, right hand fingerings often found in Shen Qi Mi Pu (but not used much today), include 摘 zhai (pluck), 打 da (hit) and 涓 juan (select); moreover, they require fast movement. Next [most frequently using them] is Xilutang Qintong Tablature B. As for Xilutang Qintong Tablature A, these right hand fingerings are used infrequently; instead such left hand fingerings as 飛吟 fei yin (flying vibrato), 大猱 da nao (also pronounced da rou big vibrato), 撞猱 zhuang nao (knocking vibrato), 退吟 tui yin (receding vibrato), 細吟 xi yin (fine vibrato) and so forth all are already developed [and] resemble Ming dynasty playing techniques, emphasizing dexterity of the left hand. Take also for example 齪 chuo (grate the teeth), a finger technique commonly used in the Tang dynasty 卷子本 juanzi ben (scroll) of You Lan: the playing technique has the fourth finger 打 da then the second finger 挑 tiao (stir up), sounding just slightly apart.20 Later, because this technique was hard to play and in addition the effect approaches 撮 cuo (pinch), in which the two fingers pluck the strings at the same time, for convenience [the tablature] gradually changed to use cuo (shorthand form 早). [The tablature for the] 五音調 Five Tone Modal [Preludes] in the Southern Song dynasty handbook Shilin Guangji (based on the 1340 AD edition) has Shang Diao ending with 尤文足一六 ; Zhi Diao ending with 文足二四 ; and Yu Diao ending with 尤文足二七 ; but it has Jue Diao ending with 尤文早四二 . The same finger technique is sometimes written "足" and sometimes written "早", showing clearly that it was between the Song and Yuan dynasties that "足" changed into "早". 齪 Chuo (written "足" in shorthand tablature) is often used in the Shen Qi Mi Pu version of Guangling San; but in Xilutang Qintong Tablature B, other than 齊齪 qi chuo (shorthand form given) they are uniformly changed to 撮 cuo ("早"). The final evidence is that the Guangling San in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539 edition), although completely based on the version in Shen Qi Mi Pu, has all its 齪 chuo ("足") changed to 撮 cuo ("早"), clearly showing that the Guangling San in Shen Qi Mi Pu is earlier than that in [Feng Xuan Xian Pin and thus also?] Xilutang Qintong Tablature B. Finally, as for Xilutang Qintong Tablature A, here also qi chuo is completely missing.

The method of writing down guqin tablature has developed, since the Tang dynasty, towards more and more shorthand forms. Looking from this standpoint, the tablature methods of Shen Qi Mi Pu are relatively complex while those of Xilutang Qintong Tablatures A and B are relatively simple. Concrete examples are [outlined] in the chart below.

Finger technique Shen Qi Mi Pu Xilutang A Xilutang B
(remove 廾 = modern) (remove 廾 = modern)
園摟 員(but 厶 on top)摟 囗 with 米 inside 囗 with 米 inside
(bottom of 声) (bottom of 声)
(今 without 人) (今 without 人)
來往 almost 釆往 彳來 彳來
換 or 奐 top of 奐 top of 奐
少息 少息

Based on the result of Guan Pinghu making a comparative playing of the three pieces, and not asking about the piece's structure, melody, or finger techniques, all of which indicate Shen Qi Mi Pu as the earliest, the expressive ability [of the Shen Qi Mi Pu version] is the strongest, next being that of Xilutang Qintong Tablature B, [whose] tunes and style have points which are somewhat similar to those in the Shen Qi Mi Pu volume. The Xilutang Qintong Tablature A, except for having several sections which one can hear to be [our] Guangling San, resembles a different piece, and certainly is the latest tablature.

After the three tablatures have undergone comparison, and the relative dates narrated as above, from what period do these tablatures date, anyway? Since we still have not found printed or handwritten editions dating from the Song or Yuan dynasties, we are lacking the concrete materials for making the contrasts, [and] at present can only make preliminary inferences. The Guangling San in Shen Qi Mi Pu is a traditional tablature dating from the Northern Song or earlier; Xilutang Qintong Tablature B approaches being a Southern Song or early Yuan volume, and Xilutang Qintong Tablature A is a Ming dynasty version by someone who made a relatively large number of adjustments and revisions.

When we take the Tang dynasty [scroll] tablature of You Lan and match it up against (tablature) in Shen Qi Mi Pu, we can discover that [the latter] still contains several traces of the longhand tablature [used in You Lan]. For example the section [of Guangling San] entitled Lie Fu (#22) has double-column tablature stating "前後旨泛足一三", quite similar to the phrase in You Lan which has "前後齪宮徵". Several more examples of double-column tablature from Shen Qi Mi Pu are as follows:




These very much resemble examples of tablature Chen Zhuo brought up in his Zhifa [see Qin Shu Da Quan, Folio 8, in Qinqu Jicheng, Vol.5, page 173], as follows,



Chen Zhuo was a man of the late Tang dynasty,21 so through this fortuitous circumstance we can extend the upper limits of the tablature style of Shen Qi Mi Pu to the end of the Tang dynasty.

If we take the Song dynasty tablatures Gu Yuan by Jiang Kui as well as Kaizhi Huang Ying Yin and the five modal preludes from Shilin Guangji [these being the only other examples of shorthand qin tablature prior to Shen Qi Mi Pu], and compare these to the Shen Qi Mi Pu tablature, we unfortunately find that Gu Yuan and Huang Ying Yin are small songs containing lyrics, and that there is no way to compare their melodies and right hand finger techniques, [and] each of the pieces of the five modal preludes we suspect of being overly simple. If one uses the method of writing tablature for comparison, no relatively early traces in Gu Yuan can be seen other than the fact that the first string is written "大" [da, big string] instead of "一" [yi, first string]. To use "da" to represent the first string makes it extremely easy to confuse "大" [da] of "大指" [da zhi, thumb, but here actually referring to the first string] with the character "六" [liu, six), standing for the sixth string; and so to use da to represent the first string has already caused some people so to use it [i.e., for the sixth string], and they are not really interchangeable symbols. Thus around the year 1110 CE Cheng Yujian explained [the technique] "佳已" [佳起 jiaqi] as follows: "中指推出大絃向外起調之推起,如___引下外佳已" (If the middle finger pushes the "big" string outwards and lifts, it is called "tuiqi); an example is: [shorthand tablature figure omitted: the middle finger of the left hand from the 10th position on the first string] slides down to beyond the 13th position and lifts).22 Moreover, he has not written [the shorthand tablature above], with the first string indicated as "大" but as "一". Therefore, there is an insufficient basis to use only this evidence to infer that the style of Gu Yuan is earlier than that of Shen Qi Mi Pu's Guangling San. On the contrary, the tablatures in Shen Qi Mi Pu often write 吟 (yin) as "今" and "抹" (mo) as 末, whereas such tablatures as those for Gu Yuan and the five modal preludes use [the modern short forms] "(今 without the 人 on top)" and "木". So these (Song dynasty tablatures) are, conversely, somewhat simpler and more developed.

Although the Shen Qi Mi Pu's Guangling San is later than the You Lan written out in the Tang dynasty, it is also earlier than the guqin tablature style of the Southern Song. Thus we can infer it is a tablature dating from the Northern Song or earlier.

Guangling San is one of the 16 pieces from the "Taigu Shenpin" (Celestial Airs of Antiquity), the first folio of the Shen Qi Mi Pu. These 16 pieces are all what Zhu Quan called "oldest pieces", pieces of an early period. In his preface to Guangling San he wrote,

"The piece I have selected here is a tablature which was received into the Sui dynasty imperial palace. When the Sui perished it passed on to the Tang; when the Tang perished it was passed on among the people for several years, until the Jian Yan reign (1127-31) of the Song dynasty's Gaozong emperor, when it re-entered the Imperial Collection. It has thus passed through 937 years."23

This quote explains clearly that Guangling San is a very old piece and that, moreover, it has a "traditional transmittal". Of course, although this piece was passed on by the Southern Song Imperial Collection, this is not equivalent to saying that someone in the Southern Song revised the tablature style. Based on the fact that the Shen Qi Mi Pu version of Guangling San does not have such [division] titles as Qi Sheng [it has Luan Sheng] or such [section titles as] Qu Han Xiang [for #10], Bie Jie [for #22] or Bao Yi [for #23], and that the prefaces of each section are different from Yelü Chucai's poem, as well as the fact that the sections Chen Si [#15] and Jun Ji [#28] are separated so greatly, Mr. Dai Mingyang (see fn. 1, #11) concluded that the forming of the Shen Qi Mi Pu version was done "undoubtedly in the Yuan dynasty." The Xilutang Qintong Tablature B which we have now does have such titles as Qi Sheng, Qu Han Xiang, Bie Jie and Bao Yi, and its [2nd?] preface tallies with Lou Yue's poem Hou Ba,24 yet [as we have seen] its tablature methods and musical style are later than those of the Shen Qi Mi Pu version. Yelü Chucai's poem, for the convenience of description, basically does not need to narrate on the basis of the prefaces of each section of the tablature. The Poem Preface reports that when Zhang Qizhi played this song, "Whenever he got to the two sections Chen Si and Jun Ji he played them slowly." Once certainly cannot [, as Mr. Tai does, use this passage to] explain that these two sections are necessarily close together. How much less could one, from the two phrases of the poem which say, "In playing the Fa Nu section, Han Feng comes from the se-se (sound of a cold wind)", just be able to see that these two sections are adjacent, as in the Shen Qi Mi Pu version? To sum up, since Mr. Dai Mingyang did not at that time have before him such materials as the Xilutang Qintong Tablature B or Chen Zhuo Zhifa, he could not use them in comparison with Shen Qi Mi Pu. Only thus was he able to ascribe the time of the latter's composition to such a late period as the Yuan dynasty.

(IV) The Music of Guangling San Illustration 5: Listening to the qin25        
An anonymous Song dynasty painting        
People in the past have held the music of Guangling San in such high regard that they have exaggerated it to mystic proportions. Numerous essays and novels have described the story of a ghostly spirit teaching Xi Kang to play it on the qin. 宋代卓越的畫家 A brilliant painter in the Song dynasty, what's more, portrayed the (ghost) story in the form of a painting (see Illustration 5). He was doubtlessly thinking he would make use of this to exaggerate and embellish the mysteries surrounding the musical piece Guangling San. Not only does Xi Kang study this from a ghost, there was no one living who could teach it to him. And so after Xi Kang died, the erroneous story of the piece being lost was only able to begin its dissemination due to imaginative thinking about the famous piece and sympathetic feeling towards Xi Kang's vicissitudes.

Of course, throughout history people have been denying [the value of] Guangling San. If it is not that they are saying, tuning gong and shang (the first and second strings) to the same note is "like a servant insulting his lord," then they are saying Guangling San is too passionate, and has lost the balanced and peaceful aim of the qin.26 These commentaries are not only insufficient to reduce the music value of Guangling San. On the contrary, they are quite suitable for use in proving that this piece has especially distinguished contents and construction.

In the old days Guangling San was very much loved and had a lot of qin experts intuitively comprehending it and writing down descriptions carefully and actively. Some of the more valuable of these comprise the following several paragraphs.

In the Northern Song, the "Preface to Zhi Xi" in the Qin Shu said,

"Its hatred and grieving is like the sound of ghostly spirits in the hellish dark [?]. [The sound is] harmonious, the words light and clear. But then when it becomes angrily discontented and agitated, it comes out of hiding and become a loud roar, resembling the roaring of wind and pounding of rain. It spreads out complex and glorious, resembling the sound of rattling swords striking out at will. Generally speaking I cannot completely describe its beauty."

This says that this piece expresses bitter hatred. The melody is extremely sorrowful as it is also at the same time light and pleasant. But when it becomes high spirited and passionate it has the feeling of raging wind and rain, and rattling swords fighting to the death. The beauty of the music cannot be completely explained in a few words.

After he had already played Guangling San for 50 years and had "been so excited that he cried", Lou Yue recognized that [the famous Tang author] Han Yu's Poem about listening to Ying Shi play the qin,

"described in its first 10 lines the [good points] very well. He is certainly writing about Guangling San. Other pieces are not good enough to be the one described.

Whether or not Guangling San is really the piece Ying Shi played is basically unprovable. But if we borrow these lines to represent Lou Yue's understand of Guangling San, I am sure he would not object. This poem (by Han Yu -- the form is a ge) is as follows,

At first sons and daughters talk together,
    kindness and resentment, reflecting on formality.
Now the sounds become louder,
    like the brave soldiers going to the battlefield.
Then like floating clouds and willow catkins w/out root or peduncle,
    they fly up and around broad areas of heaven and earth.
A hundred birds cry out "xun jiu",
    suddenly a phoenix seems to appear.
It climbs and scratches until it cannot go any higher,
    it loses its power and falls from the heights.

These lines of the poem describe the relative relations between the hard and soft parts of the piece. The melody in harmonics27 is light and free, and has the quiet appeal to the emotions of freedom and not being confined. The rhythm of the music then changes suddenly, and causes people to gaze wide-eyed and speechless, unable to comprehend.

The passage in which Yelü Chucai describes Guangling San in his long poem is as follows (中文),

The old song is resolute,
and has no anxiety in the hundreds of thousands of sounds.
The general meaning is divided into five parts,
and forty-four sections.

Each string has, by the end of the tune,
combined the sounds of six [two are tuned to same note] strings together.
At first it is strange, like broken bamboo,
continuous, like the sound of ripping silk.

Wang Shen (#12) [depicts] the determination to do brave things;
Bie Jie [#22] [shows] feelings of sadness.
Chong Kuan [#18] [wonders?] how great is the emotion;
Tou Jian [#27] has the sound of something being thrown away.

Hu Yu [#11] reaches the level of a lament;
Chang Hung [#19] is as beautiful as standing jade.
When about to play the section Fa Nu [#21],
Han Feng [#20] naturally sounds like the wind.

[Like] agates and/or pearls dropping into a jade utensil,
[Like] hail falling on a fisherman's bamboo cover.
Another crane cries in a green pine,
A sorrowing gibbon cries from the cedar tree.

A number of sounds say, like a lament,
The cold spring and ancient mountain stream are harsh.
Almost-break-change-dignified-lofty [?],
Urgently flowing by the Gates of [Emperor] Yu excitedly [?].

The first string is suddenly pinched,
The answering string seems exposed/broken.
Clouds of vapor quickly become extinguished,
Wind and thunder breathe without restraint.

The sound boci (bola) is made several times,
The fingers approach the sound of a sudden thunderclap.
If it is played once, the 10,000 movements cease,
If it is played again, the ghostly spirits weep.

One can see that his attitude towards the manifold changes and towards the comparison of the two kinds of moods -- one, the hidden lament, clouded and sorrowful; the other, high-spirited and passionate -- in the Guangling San melody is that he is ready to add sighs of praise.

Speaking on the basis of having now listened to the Guangling San which Mr. Guan Pinghu has played based on the Shen Qi Mi Pu version, it corresponds fundamentally with the several descriptive paragraphs recorded above. The several parts in the piece which use harmonics have harmonious sounds which are light, fragile and melancholy. As for the parts described as "spoken in words light and clear," "[like] floating clouds and willow catkins without root or peduncle," and "[like] agates and/or pearls dropping into a jade utensil," these could be the such places. For example, [these] several phrases come from Section 22, Lie Fu:

烈婦 [Compare JT transcription of GLS, mm.571-580; harmonics]

Taking up another aspect, the part which has a vehement grandeur is like Chang Hong (#19). The left hand is placed down on two parts of the lower and middle section of the qin. The right hand performs the movements 撥拂滾 bo fu gun several times. This indeed has the power of high-spirited passion.

長虹 [Compare JT transcription of GLS, mm.522-533]

The method for tuning the strings in Guangling San is to make the first and second strings play the same note. When these two strings [are used at] the same time to play 撥 bo [JT: this seems to be a mistake: in the original the tonic is emphasized by a 拂 fu, not a 撥 bo], it emphasizes the volume of the tonic (主音 zhuyin). . Take for example the following excerpt from Han Guang (Section 25):

含光 [Compare JT transcription of GLS, mm.704-714]

A rapid, continuous repetition of 勾 gou and 剔 ti at positions above the seventh hui causes a very tense mood [? selection seems to have more 蠲剔, as in Gui Zheng (Section 30):

歸政 [Compare JT transcription of GLS, mm.879-888]

The effect of these finger techniques which have been discussed really does resemble the sound of rattling as killing and cutting.

Several sections of the piece commit to writing things concerning the expression of the feelings of the piece which, although they have not been brought up in the past, nevertheless are very easy for us to understand. For example, the profound lamentation and resentment of Xun Wu (#17, also called Yi Zheng Jiu Cuo -- Presenting the Audience, then Sitting Down) is like the heartfelt movement of one who is seeking to take revenge, and sets down the determination to make a vow that he would rather kill than go back.

徇物 [Compare JT transcription of GLS, mm.446-460]

As soon as he pours out [the next two sections] Zhong Guan [#18] and Chang Hong [#19] and continues, he writes out an unstoppable resolution of righteously vast anger. And like the section Chang Xu (#42), in the Hou Xu, it resembles using a third person's [i.e., important] way of talking to write an exclamation concerning Nie Zheng which puts forward sympathy for his righteous struggle to avenge his father.

長吁 [Compare JT transcription of GLS, mm.1122-1131]

The above is only based on [having] an elementary comprehension and going through the examples of several passages. Of course, when pieces such as the superb Guangling San in the future undergo specialist making a deeper detailed analysis of the musical aspects, we will certainly be able more completely to point out its real value.


Original footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

(Transl.: Translator's notes are in brackets, as just shown: [Transl.: ....]. The original article was on pp. 13-30 of 民族音研究樂論文集 Minzu Yinyue Yanjiu Lunwenji, but this pdf copy [7.4 MB] was copied from the reprint in Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu, pp. 2801-2816. In the original the footnotes are at the bottom of each page. Here they are re-numbered to be consecutive.

The author, 王世襄 Wang Shixiang [1914 - 2009; Wiki], is particularly well-known for his writings on Chinese furniture but he also wrote extenstively about the guqin, as mentioned in several places on this website.

The first line of the original Chinese text of this 14 page essay with double-page middle insert is,


This is put here because I have used this line as well as the title to try to find an online version of the original Chinese article, so far without success.)

1. This manuscript is based on a previous article of mine entitled "Guqin Mingqu Guangling San" (Renmin Yinyue, April, 1956), with supplements and revisions added. (It is being prepared for inclusion as) one volume in a work on Guangling San, being an explanation of the music. By first publishing it here, I hope to get opinions from you readers, so that I will be able to improve it further. This Guangling San collection will have as an appendix 11 literary works which refer to the piece. So this manuscript will not repeat many issues which predecessors have already discussed. Right now I am limited in space and will only append a list of the titles of these works, for use in further studies:

  1. Zhanguo Ce, Han Section, #8;
  2. Shi Ji, Section 86, "Ci Ke Lie Chuan" [Assassin-Retainers; see GSR VII. p.323ff.]
  3. Han, Cai Yong, Qin Cao, last folio, Nie Zheng Ci Han Wang Qu;
  4. Jin Shu, Section 49, "Xi Kang Zhuan [Biography of Xi Kang]";
  5. Song, 樓鑰 Lou Yue, 攻媿集卷5 Gengkui Ji, Folio 5, "Xie wen si xu shang zhi shihan Guangling San pu;
  6. Ibid., Section 79, "Tan Guangling San Shu Zeng Wang Ming Zhi";
    [Ed: Why does he not include the 張崇 Zhang Chong reference?]
  7. Yuan, Yelü Chucai, Zhanran Jushi Wenji Quan, Section 11, "Tan Guangling San zhong ri er cheng fu shi 50 yan bing xu";
  8. Ming, Jiang Keqian's compilation Qin Shu Da Quan, Section 12, "Bao qin qu";
  9. Republic, 馮水 Feng Shui, 重刻廣陵散譜序 Chongke Guangling San Pu Xu";
  10. Republic, Yang Zongji, Qin Jing Xu, Folio 2, "Guangling San pu houji" [in Qinxue Congshu, Facsimile Edition, XIII, after a transcription of the version of GLS in Fengxuan Xuanpin; not in TKW, Qin Fu]
  11. Republic, 戴明揚 Dai Mingyang, 廣陵散考 Guangling San Kao, written down in 輔仁學志 Furen Xuezhi, Vol.5, #1 & #2.]

2. cf. Song, Chen Yang(?)'s Yue Shu, Section 143.

3. Pan Yue of Jin, Sheng Fu: "Ceasing his sad rendition of Lady Zhang, he then switched to playing the famous melody Guangling".

4. Song, Guo Maoqian, Yuefu Shiji, Sec. 41 [相和歌辭 Xianghe Ge Ci 16, part of the prefaces to melodies of 楚 Chu, p.599], quotes 張永錄 the Record of Zhang Yong [Bio/xxx;] as saying,

"又有但曲七曲 there are also dan qu seven songs -- 廣陵散 Guangling San, 黃老彈飛引 Huang Lao Tan Fei Yin, 大胡笳鳴 Da Hujia Ming, 小胡笳鳴 Xiao Hu Jia Ming, 鵾雞 Gun Ji, 游絃 You Xian, 流楚 Liu Chu, 窈窕 Yao Tiao -- are moreover songs for the qin, zheng zither, sheng mouth organ and 筑 zhu zither."

[Transl. The passage goes on to say Guangling San is no longer transmitted.] "Dan qu" perhaps refers to a purely instrumental song.

5. 東武 Dong Wu and 泰山 Tai Shan
14827.200 東武 says Dongwu ("Eastern Battle") is a place name. There is a 14827.203 東武吟行 Dongwu Yin Xing (樂府楚調曲) but there is no 東武泰山 (or 東武太山, same pronunciation; 太山 is sometimes written as an alternate for 泰山).

As for whether "Dong Wu Tai Shan" is one melody or two:

In addition, Xi Kang's Rhapsody on the Qin has 東武太山 Dong Wu Tai Shan (or 東武 Dong Wu and 太山 Tai Shan); presumably this is the same as 東武泰山 Dong Wu Tai Shan, whether or not it is one melody or two.

The title[s] seem/seems likely to be connected to Confucius. See also Taishan Liangfu Yin.)

6. In Zhan Guo Ce "Jia Lei" becomes "Han Kui" (but they) are the same person."

7. Meng Xianfu in his "Discussion and consideration of several points in his essay `Guqin ming qu Guangling San'" (Renmin Yinyue, Oct. 1956) brought out several opinions different from those in my humble article "Guqin mingqu Guangling San".

8. Ruan Yuan essay
"See Ruan Yuan essay in Siku Weishou Shumu Tiyao", Section 1 (should be 阮元,文選樓藏書記六卷 in 四庫未收書輯刊, 1輯30?).

9. Although the [first section of the] division Hou Xu has the four character title Hui Zhi Xi Yi, a phrase in Qin Shu says, "the eight sections Hui Zhi Xi Yi are missing", very much seeming as though [Hui Zhi Xi Yi] is a general name for the eight sections of Hou Xu.

10. Comrade Wu Zhao in his essay "Dui Guqin Qu Guangling San de yixie kanfa" (Several opinions concerning the Guqin piece Guangling San, published in Renmin Yinyue, Feb. 1957), in bringing up the matter of the small titles (sub-headings?), said that they could have been added by people after the Jin and Tang dynasties. I don't oppose this opinion either, but I recognize that if you consider they were added by later men, this can only be considered on the basis of popular/current transmission of the qin piece. Therefore, cleverly and stubbornly to take each small title [sub-title] to explain each section's contents is certainly not satisfactory. But completely to deny [the validity of] the sub-titles and consider them to have no relation to the song, and thus not allow them to be used to explain the contents of the entire song, is also incorrect.

11. 豫讓 Yu Rang [transl.: see GSR VII, p.321ff and Giles #2525] was of one heart and mind in wanting to revenge 智伯 Zhi Bo, because he had so regularly received Zhi Bo's "treatment as a national hero". Jing Ke [transl.: see GSR VII, p. 325ff, Wen Xing and Giles #399] (tried to) assassinate the Qin king because he had been insulted several times when he was down and out. But then he received Mr. 田光 Tian Guang's respectful treatment, and in the end was greatly roused by Tian Guang's suicide. Zhi Bo and Tian Guang, in establishing friendly relations with Yu Rang and Jing Ke, certainly did not have any demands. This situation is basically different from that in which Yan Zhongzi buys Nie Zheng's friendship so that he will render service at the cost of his life. [Also, the other two men failed.]

12. 23 and 36 section versions
文獻通考 Wenxian Tongkao [13766.930; Yuan dynasty, 348 folios], Folio 186 經籍考十三,經樂, by 馬端臨 Ma Duanlin [ca.12254 - 1323; Bio/83], records, 廣陵止息譜一卷 Guangling Zhixi pu, one section (by Lü Wei). The entry says of this,

Chongwen Zongmu, compiled by Lü Wei of the Tang
Grandmaster Zhongsan of Jin, Xi Kang, created the qin melody Guangling San. It tells of the Wei clan being scattered (san) and destroyed starting at Guangling. Although the Jin had flourished, they 終止息於此 finally had their zhi xi here. As (Xi) King fled the disaster of Wei and Jin he depended on (?) ghosts/spirits. Hedong revenue managing administrator Li Liangfu said, "Yuan Xiaoyi (Yuan Zhun) secretly listened and wrote down the sound." This then was no longer tranmitted. Li Liangfu passed it on in Luoyang to the Buddhist priest 思古 Si Gu [who] passed it in Chang An to 張老 Zhang Lao. Completely writing this song, altogether it had 23 sections (some editions have "33") until [Lü] Wei increased it to 36."

Translation very tentative.

13. Praising the Qin (善琴 Shan Qin) and the 41 section version
[The original text is copied out here, from the end of Section 3 of a facsimile reprint made] from a personal copy of Qinyuan Yaolü belonging to a Mr. Ju.

According to evidence in Zhou Qingyun's Qinshu Cunmu, there was a Qin Shu written during the 景祐 Jingyou period [1034-38] of the Song dynasty.]

14. From this poem by Lou Yue, (where on lines 21 and 22 of 24 he divides the melody into 8 + 36 sections), we know that the tablature he studied as a youth had 44 sections. The Shi Han Pu copied out by Xu Shengzhi which he came upon later had 36 sections. The two tablatures, except for one being long and the other short, were pretty much the same.

15. Shen Qi Mi Pu, Folio 1 - Taigu Shenpin (Celestial Airs of Antiquity). Just before Qiuyue Zhao Maoting (Autumn Moon Illuminating a Reed Pavilion) there is a Kaizhi; below the characters "Kaizhi' one can observe the three characters "Huangzhong Diao". The Ming dynasty Jiang Keqian's Qinshu Daquan, Vol. 11, draws on the Qinlü Fawei (see Luzhutang Shumu and Zhou Qingyun's Qinshu Cunmu, which list it as written by someone in the Song dynasty), in a passage of [a section called] Ji Diao Bi Qu says, "As far as the five modes are concerned, the kaizhi that begins by plucking the open seventh string is an example of yu qing sheng ("clear yu sound?)...." From this we can see that kaizhi is equivalent to diaoyi.

16. There is also a nine section Guangling San (see fn.11, #7), which is too different from these three. It should be considered as a separate piece, and so has been left out.
(Transl.: Is this the 1634 version included in the Chart Tracing existing Guangling San tablature? This chart has the ones related to the 1425 GLS aligned left, with those related to the short version aligned right. As for the versions in Xilutang Qintong, see further below.)

17. Ming dynasty, Zhu Quan, Shen Qi Mi Pu, 3 folios; his own preface dated 1425; Ming edition. This book was photocopied in October 1956 into a volume published by the Ethnomusicology Institute of the Central Music Academy.

18. Wang Zhi's Ming dynasty collection Xilutang Qintong has 25 volumes. At the front there is a preface by Tang Gao dated 1549 (should be 1525). This volume can only be seen in hand-copied versions. Mr. Li Chongzhong of Tianjin has two incomplete volumes in his personal collection. One of the two has Folios 22-25, in a blue-column copy book, copied in the early years of the Qing dynasty. The other lacks "Finger techniques" from Folio 5, has no column pattern (?) and was copied rather late. Comparing them, the two volumes column [arrangement?], size and writing style of the characters in the tablature match completely, and should have been copied from the same manuscript. At the same time one can explain that they still retained the original volume's tablature style. What I have used as a basis here is the relatively earlier copy.
(Transl.: Xu Jian is said to have made a transcription of the two versions from Xilutang Qintong, but to my knowledge they have not been published. However, as part of his doctoral dissertation on Guangling San (in German) Manfred Dahmer did parallel transcriptions of these two together with the one in Shen Qi Mi Pu. These can be seen in his Der lange Regenbogen. Die Solosuite Guanglingsan für Qin.)

19. Lou Yue's poem (line 6) says, "[As for the finger techniques] 撥刺 boci and 全扶 quanfu: where do other tablatures have them?" Thus we know that 潑攦 poli is the same as 撥刺 boci.]

20. Tang, Chen Zhuo Zhifa, in [Ming] Qin Shu Da Quan, Folio 8 [see Qinqu Jicheng, Vol.5, page 173]: "If played in succession it's chuo, if played in unison, it's cuo."]

21. Song dynasty, Zhu Changwen, Qin Shi, Vol.4, Biography of Sun Xiyu" says, "[Sun's] literary name was Weixiang; his father, Guo, was a Daoist. Good at the qin, he once asked Zheng Han to write a preface for his Yin Fu Jing, and asked Liu Gongquan to write the main text; it took half a year to complete." Chen Zhuo [see the following biography] studied the qin from Sun Xiyu. So, based on Liu Gongquan's dates (778-865), Chen Zhuo must have lived in the late 9th century.

22. Cheng Yujian Zhifa in Qin Shu Da Quan, Folio 8 [see Qinqu Jicheng, Vol.5, page 158].

23. "僅" (Jin) should have been "經" (jing), and "937" should be "837". From 588, the last year of the Chen dynasty (557-88) until 1425, the first year of the Hung Xi reign of the Ming dynasty (the year Zhu Quan wrote this preface in the Shen Qi Mi Pu) is exactly 837 years.

24. This 後跋 Hou Ba says, "The first section of Zheng Sheng is called Qu Han Xiang; the 13th section is called Bie Jie", the same as in Xilutang Qintong Tablature B.

25. (Transl. : New footnote
聽琴圖 Ting Qin Tu [Illustration: Listening to the Qin]   Compare this version by 唐寅 Tang Yin      
Wang Shixiang's article, which calls the painting 宋人聽琴圖 Songren Ting Qin Tu [Song dynasty {painter}, Listening to the Qin] has the image in black and white; the version above was copied from a Taiwan website that features digital archives from the 國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum. The commentary there says the painting can be attributed to someone in the near lineage of 周文矩 Zhou Wenju [10th c. CE], which would make it early Song dynasty. The title in both cases, 宋人聽琴圖 Songren Ting Qin Tu, could also be translated as "A Man of the Song Dynasty Listening to the Qin", but Wang Shixiang's commentary suggests that it would be better considered as 宋人,聽琴圖 Listening to the Qin, [painted by] a man of the Song dynasty". Wang adds that it shows 嵇康 Xi Kang learning Guangling San from 古鬼幽魂 an old ghost.

The ghost in the black and white illustration used by Wang Shixiang (the basis for the above) is apparently a barely if at all visible head coming out of the ground in front of the figure in the lower left side of the image.

This ghost is somewhat more visible in the lower left corner of the version shown at right, attributed to 唐寅 Tang Yin [1470-1523]. This painting is in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and their website currently has it here (the address seems sometimes to change). Museum commentary [see also here] says that, as with the painting in the Wang article, this also depicts Xi Kang playing qin for ghosts. [Thanks to Jim Binkley for pointing this out.])

26. 宋,紫陽琴書 Song dynasty, Ziyang Qinshu
(Transl.: 28068.808/3 紫陽 says Ziyang was a nickname of Zhu Xi: did he write it?). (This book), in discussing Guangling San, says,

"Xi Kang wrote Guangling San during the latter Wei (386-535) or early Jin (317-420). He was angry towards the Jin's desire to take over Wei by force. He lowered the shang (second) string, causing it to sound the same as the gong (first string). This represented the servant insulting his lord. Its music was indignant and restless, like the unrest among the people. Thus one can see the rhythm. Qin players prefer Guangling San best. As I see it, it has the least peaceful sounds, and the meaning of a servant insulting his lord."

Song Lian of the Ming said in his postscript to Taigu Yiyin,

"Construct music and establish the modes. [Music's] value is in its peaceful sounds. The gong string stands for the lord, while the shang string stands for the servant. The lord has honor while the servant is inferior. [This has the meaning that] you have absolutely no right to be a usurper. Xi Kang, at the time when the Jin wanted to take over the dynasty of the Wei, could not dissipate his grievance and indignation. For his version of Guangling San he especially tuned the shang string down to the level of the gong string, so the music was indignant and restless, and he could not be admonished. Is it still possible to figure the method? [or: Could that be considered lawful?]....A thousand years later, the correct sounds are hardly passed on at all. How does one get to know the sounds bequeathed by [Emperor] Yu and Confucius? Together discussing this affair!"

For the above, see Qin Shu Da Quan, Folio 12 and Folio 16 [Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. 5, p.247 ff and p.344 ff ??].

27. Lou Yue's poem (line 9) says,

"To describe the floating (i.e., harmonics) silk sounds, he uses clouds and catkins without root or peduncle."

Thus we know that Lou Yue understands that the two lines of the poem which say, "Like floating clouds..of heaven and earth," describe harmonics.

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