Taigu Yiyin, Additional comments
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Taigu Yiyin
Music Bequeathed from Antiquity
1511 and 1515  
Zhang Peng preface (view)  
Additional Commentary 1
John Thompson

As with Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, this handbook consists of pieces with lyrics. However, they seem more genuinely to represent a sung tradition, as is discussed in the preface by Zha Fuxi. And whereas no earlier source for the Zheyin lyrics has been found,3 most lyrics here can be found in classical sources. These include two from the Shi Jing and at least 20 from the Song dynasty edition of the Yuefu Shiji (YFSJ), including all ten qin pieces by the Tang poet Han Yu.

Also of note is the fact that, whereas in other handbooks of that day the melodies are arranged according to mode, the 38 melodies of Taigu Yiyin are arranged instead according to a supposed chronology, with little to no mention made of mode. In fact, all pieces use standard tuning except three:4

#20, Chu Ge
#23, Zhaojun Yuan
#31 Yangguan Qu

It may be useful also to categorize the Taigu Yiyin melodies by length, especially when trying to compare related melodies in other handbooks.5 Here in Taigyu Yiyin there are 18 short songs consisting of only one section, with 16 having lyrics also found in the Yuefu Shiji (YFSJ). Meanwhile, the 20 longer pieces are almost all divided into unnumbered sections, the sections indicated only by relatively large circles; these can be either single large circles within the tablature columns, or such single large circles plus a smaller circle in the lyrics columns.6

However, although none of the melodies is divided into numbered sections, four do have section titles and one has a narrative between sections. The section titles are all written in separate columns, but again are unnumbered. Those sectioned thusly are as follows:

#20, Chu Ge (each of its five songs has subdivisions indicated by circles),
#21, Caishi Wunong
#26, Meihua Qu
#29, Ting Qin Fu (has a narrative between sections)
#36, Ke Chuang Ye Hua

In addition, there are four long pieces with no circles dividing them into sections. These are:

#25, Gui Qu Lai Ci
#34, Zheng Qi Ge
#37, Qian Chibi Fu (from 1515)
#38, Hou Chibi Fu.

As for the overall division by number of section for all 38 Taigu Yiyin pieces, this is as follows (further comment):

Regarding commentary within Taigu Yiyin

The foreword by Zhang Peng (see image above) covers two double pages, but it is missing the top half of the first; the bottom half reads as though the top half included information such as who Xie Lin's teacher was, what pieces he had studied and what tablature he had worked with, adding that Xie improved upon these materials. It goes on to say that this included (tablature for?) the famous poem by Han Yu about hearing a monk play Guangling San, and from hearing this sort of music the author realized the greatness of qin. Zhang told Xie that the experience was like going to heaven and hearing its music, that it must also be like the missing Shao music (of Emperor Shun), and that all music should have been like this. Having this experience allowed him to understand Tao Yuanming's opinion that those who understood qin didn't need actually to put on the strings and play, and he realized that common people would not understand this. Xie Lin agreed with this analysis. However, although it was true that if people had this understanding there would be no need to pass on tablature and pluck the strings, such tablature could also allow the music to improve even more and also allow beginners to learn it, so how could we not hope that the tablature not continue to be available?

On the third page, just before the sketch presumably of Xie Lin then the songs, is a comment that the preceding explanation finger techniques is designed for beginners, so it does not include all the techniques to be found in the book.

After the songs there is a lengthy fu poem by 何旭 He Xu about the qin and this handbook. It begins with commentary (I/320),

拙莫拙於洿樽....(cols. 7-15:) 黃山居士謝良璧(謝琳),其門第古,其狀貌古,其性行又古。乃於讀書之暇,拂三尺之桐,坐於靜室,殫精神、竭志慮,集諸家之譜,校對研勘,指下尋文,求太古之意。于義皇之上既而克然自得方且說說。然與世辨得失於秦箏竽琯之間,其計不亦左乎。然而篁墩先生一聞其奏,即書「太古遺音」以旌之;石田沈先生一聆其妙,即圖《高山流水》以贈之。其諸賢士大夫兢為詩歌,莫不極言造理之微,得古之道。」....

The fu poem itself then begins (I/321, col. 3:) "新安世家黃山居士焚香,正䌝置琴於几凝神端居....

In introducing the fu He Xu's says that his friend Xie Lin (謝雪峰 Xie Xuefeng) came from a good family and had a good appearance. (So?) when he started devoting himself to qin -- collecting books, playing qin music, and spending a lot of time in his studio going over the materials -- He Xu wondered why Xie was so interested in qin instead of in more popular instruments like the qinzheng (zither) and yuguan (mouth organ: 竽管, here written 竽琯). Later, however, the famous literati official Huangdun (Cheng Minzheng), after hearing Xie play, wrote the calligraphy "Tai Gu Yi Yin" for him to use as a banner, and the famous painter Shitian (Shen Zhou) appreciated listening to Xie's play so much that he made a High Mountains Flowing Streams painting (or: landscape painting?) and presented it (them?) to Xie Lin. Other scholars also wrote poems of encouragement. After this He Xu realized that his original opinion had been wrong. His appreciation of qin became so deep that he wrote the fu which follows his foreword.

The handbook ends with an afterword by He Zhuang; it says basically that there is a lot of phony music around, but this is the real thing.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. This commentary supplements that in the prefaces by Zha Fuxi (later edited by Wu Zhao).

3. Source of the lyrics
The instrumental nature of most of the music suggests the possibility that the lyrics were added because of a theory that qin music should be sung, but that in fact no one sang these pieces.

4. Tuning and Mode in Taigu Yiyin
As mentioned above, the 38 melodies of Taigu Yiyin are arranged according to a supposed chronology rather than by mode, with little mention made of mode. In fact, all pieces use standard tuning except three:

  1. Chu Ge
    Indicates tuning: raise second and fifth strings (2 4 5 6 1 2 3)
  2. Zhaojun Yuan
    Indications tuning: lower first, raise fifth (1 3 5 6 1 2 3)
  3. Yangguan Qu
    Tuning method not indicated (raise second and fifth strings: 2 4 5 6 1 2 3)

As for the actual music, the modes seem to be used much as they are in other early Ming handbooks (see Modality in early Ming qin tablature).

5. Comparing Taigu Yiyin melodies in other handbooks
Here it could be particularly interesting to compare versions of the same titles as they occured in the next handbook to focus on qin songs, Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585). For example, of the 18 short songs here in 1511 at least 14 are in 1585, where they are mostly placed together (see especially its ToC #s 49-61 but also search there for "1511") and have music similar to here, including which notes are in harmonics, but they are not identical.

6. Section numbers
I do not know of any other handbook that indicates sections in this way.

Return to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.