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Faming Qinpu
Qin Handbook for Spreading Clarity (1530)1

John Thompson

Faming Qinpu, compiled by Huang Longshan, is the first surviving qin handbook to include both purely instrumental melodies and melodies with lyrics.

During the Ming dynasty there apparently was some controversy about whether qin melodies should have lyrics. The earliest two surviving guqin handbooks, Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425) and Wusheng Qinpu (1457) have no lyrics. Most of the melodies in the next handbook, Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (<1491), are identical to those in Shen Qi Mi Pu, but to all of them lyrics were added, even though many of the melodies are clearly not singable. Then in 1511 Taigu Yiyin was published with 38 melodies, also all with lyrics, many of them clearly singable.

Faming Qinpu (1530), the next handbook after this, has 24 melodies. Nine have no lyrics, 15 have them. The nine melodies without lyrics are all identical to melodies of the same title in Shen Qi Mi Pu. The 12 of the 16 melodies with lyrics are related to versions in earlier handbooks. Four melodies appear here for the first time.2

Some commentators say melodies without lyrics belong to a Zhe (for Zhejiang) School, those with lyrics belong in a Jiang (for Jiangxi) School.3 Another view is that the two schools at the beginning of the Ming were Zhejiang and Songjiang (in Jiangsu), the Jiang school coming later.4 Not enough research has been done to know the validity of these distinctions, or whether there is any correspondence with the Zhe (Zhejiang, centered in Hangzhou) and Wu (Jiangsu, centered in Suzhou) schools current in Chinese painting; the former is said to have been more professional, the latter more literary.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 發明琴譜 (Return)

2. The nine melodies without lyrics are all identical to melodies of the same title in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425).

The 16 melodies with lyrics can be divided as follows:

Of the three first found in Shen Qi Mi Pu, Zhaojun Yuan (#11) has melody and lyrics close to those of Longshuo Cao in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (which has the same music as in SQMP) -- quite different from that of Taigu Yiyin (1411); Chu Ge (#14) has melody and lyrics close to Taigu -- different from Zheyin / SQMP; and Yi Lan (#21) has lyrics the same as in Taigu and a similar melody -- it is still related to SQMP, but is not found in Zheyin.

Of the four from Zheyin not in SQMP, Qu Yuan Wen Du (#7) has music quite close to Zheyin, but different lyrics -- not in Taigu; Guan Ju (#12) has music related to Zheyin but different lyrics -- Taigu even more so; Wen Wang Si Shun (#20) has lyrics related at first to Zheyin, then different -- music simpler than both Zheyin and Taigu; and Yangguan (#18) has lyrics and music similar to Zheyin's Yangguan Sandie and Taigu's Yangguan Qu -- Yangguan Sandie (#23) is more like the modern version.

Of the four melodies from Taigu but not in SQMP or Zheyin, Si Xian Cao (#1) is related to Taigu's Yasheng Cao; the lyrics of Gui Qu Ci (#5) are the same as Taigu's Gui Qu Lai Ci, and the music begins the same, but then becomes quite different; Yuan He Shuang Qing (#9) is quite similar; and Kechuang Yehua (#16) is also quite similar).

The three titles with their earliest extant version here are, Qiujiang Wan Diao (#3), Sheng De Song (#22), and Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou (#24).


The music of Zhaojun Yuan/Longshuo Cao (#11) can be traced to/through Shen Qi Mi Pu.

Music/lyrics of Yangguan (#18) can be traced to/through Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, as can the lyrics of Zhaojun Yuan/Longshuo Cao (#11) and the music of Qu Yuan Wen Du (#7), Guan Ju (#12) and Wen Wang Si Shun (#20).

Music/lyrics of Si Xian Cao/Yasheng Cao (#1), Gui Qu Ci/Gui Qu Lai Ci (#5), Yuan He Shuang Qing (#9), Chu Ge (#14), Kechuang Yehua (#16) and Yi Lan (#21) can be traced to/through Taigu Yiyin.

The lyrics of Gui Qu Ci/Gui Qu Lai Ci (#5) in both Taigu Yi Yin and Faming Qinpu are the same as Tao Yuanming's original.

I have not been able to trace either the lyrics of Qu Yuan Wen Du (#7) and Guan Ju (#12), or the music/lyrics of Qiujiang Wan Diao (#3), Sheng De Song (#22), Yangguan Sandie (#23) (other than the refrain, Wang Wei's poem) and Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou (#24). (Return)

3. Liang Mingyue, The Chinese Ch'in, pp.112ff, says there were two main schools from the Song to the early Ming: Zhe (Zhejiang) and Jiang (Jiangxi); the former emphasized pure music and is still highly regarded; the latter emphasized lyrics, was considered less musical and died away in mid-Ming. However, see further comment on the unreliability of Liang's book. On the present topic I have not yet found any good articles. It should be mentioned that the compilers of Shen Qi Mi Pu and Zheyin Shizi Qinpu were princes in Jiangxi (Nanchang). The compiler of Faming Qinpu was from Yiyang in Jiangxi but lived in Nanjing. The compilers of Taigu Yiyin were in She county, Anhui. (Return)

4. See Wu Wenguang, Wu Jinglue's Qin Music in its Context, Wesleyan University Ph.D. dissertation, 1990, p.31. Again no references are given for the source of this information. He says the founder of the 宋江 Songjiang School was 劉鴻 Liu Hong. (Return)

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