Shiyixianguan Qinpu 十一絃館琴譜
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Shiyixianguan Qinpu
Qin Handbook from the Chamber of 11 Strings 2
十一絃館琴譜 1
  Original cover of Shiyixianguan Qinpu3 (complete pdf)      
This handbook, in one folio, was compiled by the writer/official and archaeologist 劉鶚字鐵雲 Liu E, style name Li Tieyun (1857-1909; Wiki: Liu E). Liu E is most famous for his book 老殘遊記 Travels of Lao Can (Wiki); the book includes a story connected to guqin. It includes eight melodies, as follows:

十一絃館琴譜Shiyixianguan Qinpu Table of Contents:
Includes four essays and eight pieces, as follows (Liu E's teacher 張瑞珊 Zhang Ruishan created numbers 5 to 8):

    - Essay: 廣陵夢記 Guangling Meng Ji; says 金陵汪安侯選 it was compiled (copied out?) by Wang Anhou of Nanjing; XXIX/3
    Connects the short Guangling San to
    1634 but see ≥1802 (details; article begins 中文 as here; afterword)
  1. 廣陵散真趣 Guangling San Zhen Qu; 10 Sections (comments at end of each section); XXIX/5
    Almost identical to
    ≥1802; similar to versions dating back to the 10 section Guangling San of 1634 that has a prelude called 廣陵真趣 Guangling Zhen Qu: Guangling's True Essence (pu).
    - Essay: 劉鐵雲識文 Annotation by Liu Tieyun; XXIX/8
    Music is connected to
    1634 but not identical; a preface to the new interpretation begins as here; see further
  2. 廣陵散新譜 Guangling San Xinpu; 10 Sections (comments at end of each section); XXXIX/12
    Recording. This is tablature for music played by Liu E's teacher 張瑞珊文祉 Zhang Ruishan (張文祉 Zhang Wenzhi, perhaps also a teacher of Ye Shimeng).
  3. 耕莘釣渭 Geng Shen Diao Wei; 2 Sections; XXXIX/14
    Recording; further comment
  4. 平沙落雁 Ping Shan Luo Yan; 1+7+1 Sections; XXXIX/15
    No recording;
    further comment
    - Essay: 劉鐵雲識文 Annotation by Liu Tieyun; XXIX/19
    A preface for the four newly composed pieces that follow; it begins, "琴操之傳於今者大概非古也。詩三百首衍為....")
  5. 天籟 Tian Lai; 3 Sections; XXXIX/21
    Recording; further comment
  6. 武陵春 Wuling Chun; 3 Sections; XXXIX/22
    Recording; further comment
  7. 鷓鴣天 Zhegu Tian; 3 Sections; XXXIX/23
    Recording; further comment
  8. 小普菴咒 Xiao Pu'an Zhou; 3 Sections; XXXIX/24
    Recording; further comment
    - Essay: 重印十一絃館琴譜書後 After finishing a reprint of Shiyixianguan Qinpu (1953); XXIX/25
    Grass writing
    - Essay: 十一絃館琴譜查阜西跋 Afterword by Zha Fuxi about Shiyixianguan Qinpu (1953); XXIX/26
    Grass writing

Information from a webpage originally created by Julian Joseph4  劉鐵雲鶚 Liu Tieyun (Liu E)      


The Shiyi Xian Guan Qinpu was compiled by Liu E (style Tieyun) (1857-1909), a minor official, entrepreneur and novelist in the last years of the Qing Dynasty. It is highly personal and does not follow the format of a typical qinpu. It is significant because it appears to be the only pre-modern qinpu which contains the work of someone who was not a literatus. It contains a selection of pieces performed by Liu's qin teacher Zhang Ruishan. Among these scores are two unusual versions of the well-known qin piece Guangling San, two pieces for pipa and qin together, and four qin pieces said to have been composed by Zhang himself. Liu himself appears to have had a somewhat checkered career, on which his famous novel Lao Can You Ji is partly based.

Liu E was born in Liuhe, Jiangsu Province. His father was an official in Henan. As a boy he was wild and impulsive and made his friends among the wilder youths of the common people. He was energetic and studious but refused to write the "eight-legged essays" for the official examinations. Later in life he became a specialist in flood control. When in 1888 the Yellow River burst its banks he successfully repaired the dike. This started him on a government career in the field, reaching the rank of prefect. After differences of opinion with various officials over a railway scheme, he gave up his government career and spent the rest of his life on various unsuccessful commercial and industrial projects. His private interests included poetry, music, astronomy and medicine. He one of the first people to collect the inscribed oracle bones of the Shang Dynasty and the first to publish a book of reproductions of them.

Through the machinations of the enemies he made while he was an official, he was eventually exiled to Xinjiang, where he died.

Liu E's Musical Background and Achievements

Liu E lived in a family which was closely involved with music, and they often played music together at home when he was a child. Liu E's second sister played the qin. Liu E himself, as well as being a qin player, also sang Kunqu. He was  a collector of antique qins, and is said to have owned the famous Tang Dynasty qin known as Jiu Xiao Huan Pei, now in the Palace Museum in Beijing.

The Author's Qin Teacher, Zhang Ruishan (b. 1836?)

Very little is known about Zhang Ruishan. According to Zha Fuxi, he was born in Baoding District in Hebei Province. He ran a shop called Jiaoye Shan Fang (House of Banana Leaves) in Liulichang in Beijing which sold and repaired qins. His qin teacher was Sun Bao (style Jinzhai). Zhang was one of the teachers of  van Gulik's qin teacher Ye Shimeng. Although Zhang was a highly respected qin teacher, he was a folk artist, and hence of low social status. This was unusual in the qin fraternity.

Zhang Ruishan's son Zhang Lianfang was a well known qin maker but not a player. He is said to have made a number of fake antique qins, which were so good that they were not detected.

The Book

(The Shiyi Xian Guan Qinpu originally contained eight pieces; a later edition dated ___ added a ninth piece. These can be grouped as follows):
  1. Guangling San - two versions, with introductory texts
  2. two pieces, presumably for qin and pipa together, with gongche (pitch) notation and qin tablature
  3. four short qin compositions by Zhang Ruishan
  4. a ninth piece, Zhuang Zhou Meng Die (Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream) identical to that in the 1998 reprint of the Wuzhi Zhai Qinpu version with all the original accompanying text, and which was not in earlier editions.

Guangling Zhen Qu and Guangling San as played by Wang Anhou (q.v.)

The introductory text to this piece (XXIX/3-5) describes how Wang Anhou (b. 1619), a noted qin master in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, learned the piece around the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. The story, entitled Guangling Meng Ji, relates how Wang had set out with a friend on a journey. One night, while on this journey, he dreamed he met an immortal who played this piece but would not teach it to him. Subsequently, he was given a qin handbook that contained the score of the same piece. As Wang put it "...It was no different from what I had heard the immortal play in my dream. The sound in the dream had become real...". The name of this handbook is not given. However, it says that Wang Anhou obtained the score of this piece from a Ming Dynasty qin handbook from the Fiefdom of Lu. Now, the guqin handbook Guyin Zheng Zong, compiled in 1634 by Zhu Changfang of the fiefdom of Lu, has as its last two pieces a prelude in one section called Guangling Zhen Qu and its melody Guangling San, which has 10 sections. The prelude is not found in any other handbook but its Guangling San is related to the melody here in Shiyixianguan Qinpu. Therefore it seems likely that this piece was what Wang was given. The piece is very different from the Shenqi Mipu version of Guangling San usually played today.

Wang Anhou's Guangling San and its Zhen Qu seem to contain a number flatted notes (3rds especially), giving it the sound of a minor key. In this it is rather unusual. In addition, the mood of the piece seems somewhat subdued, perhaps conservative. This is however not the case for the version here in Shiyixianguan Qinpu.

Guangling San Xin Pu: A new version of Guangling San by Zhang Ruishan

The preface presents evidence for the supposition that, although it is popularly believed that Guangling San was lost when Ji Kang was executed, in fact the piece that was lost was not Guangling San but Taiping Yin. It records that Ji Kang actually said, "Tai Ping Yin will die now". It also gives evidence for the continued existence of Guangling San.

Guangling San Xin Pu seems to be based on a pentatonic scale, like most qin music. It is much more dynamic than Wang's, containing quiet, reflective passages as well as energetic and passionate ones. This lack of inhibition perhaps stems from his position as a folk artist rather than a literatus. Zhang also simplified the fingering, and his version is easier to play than Wang's.

A point to note is that the version of Guangling San in Guyin Zhenzong is preceded by a short piece, not divided into sections, called Guangling Zhen Qu, similar to a diaoyi. The Shiyi Xian Guan Qinpu omits this "diaoyi" for both versions.

Pieces for Qin and Pipa together

Liu says in the preface to the new Guangling San score, "Zhang Ruishan was also good at playing the pipa. He could accompany qin tunes on the pipa. He had [even] mastered the ornamentation (yin/nao) and harmonics that give the qin its special charm. He had thoroughly mastered the pipa. People would exclaim, "Was his skill not divine?"

There are two pieces which contain alternate lines of gongche notation and qin tablature:

There is no prefatory text to these two pieces, but in view of Liu's remark above, one might assume that the pitch notation is intended for an accompanist, as it is not needed to play the qin part.

Ping Sha Luo Yan

This is a standard piece in the qin repertoire. According to Chen Changlin, the versions here of both it and Geng Shen Diao Wei probably came from the
Yi Liu Zheng Wu Zhi Zhai Qinpu (compiled by one of Zhang's qin teachers, Sun Bao, in 1875). It is also different from the versions commonly recorded today. In particular, it is more ornamented, with a lot of yin, nao and glides, and there are parts in harmonics within the body of the piece.

Geng Shen Diao Wei

A search though the tablatures in Qinqu Jicheng failed to reveal any piece with this title, although there are several versions of a piece called Geng Ge, which appears to be unrelated, and one called Geng Shen Yin which doesn't seem to be related to either of these.

Geng Shen Diao Wei is on two commercial CDs, one by Mei Yueqiang and one by Lau Chor Wah, but neither names a source. Both show differences from the version in Shiyi Xian Guan Qinpu. The notes to the recording by Lau Chor Wah merely say that it came from a late Qing qin score.

Original Compositions

The handbook has four short pieces composed by Zhang Ruishan:

Zha Fuxi says these are all ensemble pieces, but as only qin tablature is given, this seems unlikely.

Liu's preface says they are "... sometimes like the call of a phoenix, sometimes like the roar of a dragon, truly exquisite...", "...the rhythm is taken from the ancient, but it is used in a subtle and original way; it suits both the old and the new, the popular and the refined...".

Tian Lai

This piece has a distinctive and very attractive melody. There is no other surviving qin piece with this title in Qinqu Jicheng. It has been suggested that this and the following two pieces might be based on pipa pieces, but no one has yet been able to identify any such pieces in the pipa repertoire.

Wuling Chun

There is one other qin piece with this title in Qinqu Jicheng, which has the alternative title Wulin Chun and does not appears to be related to the present one. The mood of the piece is of a pleasant awakening on a spring day.

Zhegu Tian

Zhegu Tian is a standard title. The entry for Zhegu Tian in Zhongguo Yinyue Cidian (Dictionary of Chinese Music) states that is "the name of a tune ... often used in scenes of parting". The mood of the piece seems consistent with this idea. It has been compared to that most famous of qin pieces on this theme, Yangguan San Die, which uses the same tuning (Ruibin - raised fifth string).

Xiao Pu'an Zhou

Xiao Pu'an Zhou in the Shiyi Xian Guan Qinpu is almost identical to the pipa piece of the same name. It would thus seem that the Xiao Pu'an Zhou in the Shiyi Xian Guan Qinpu was transcribed from the pipa score. The pipa version of Xiao Pu'an Zhou was composed by Yang Tingguo of Wuxi in Jiangsu in the 18th century.

Zhuang Zhou Meng Die

The Zhuang Zhou Meng Die score was not in the original edition of Shiyi Xian Guan Qinpu, but was appended to the 1994 edition. It is identical to that in the 1998 reprint of the Wuzhizhai Qinpu.


Grateful thanks are due to Professor Cheng Changlin of Beijing, whose article in the Beijing Qinxun first drew the Shiyi Xian Guan Qinpu to my attention, and inspired my interest in it. Without his help and encouragement, especially in correcting my translations of the text, and answering in detail my numerous questions, I would not have been able to undertake this project. Grateful thanks are also due to Chan Chonghin of Kuala Lumpur for much help with the translations, to Cheng Yu for playing the pipa part of one of accompanied pieces, and to Christopher Evans and John Thompson.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a
separate page)

1. 十一絃館琴譜 Shiyixianguan Qinpu (1907); QQJC XXIX/1-26)
One folio, 8 melodies.

Listed or linked here are recordings by Chen Changlin of four melodies from this handbook.

2. Zha Fuxi's preface in Qinqu Jicheng
The original text begins,

When the finger of oracle bones Liu E lived in Beijing he loved to engage in the arts. He studied guqin from Zhang Wenzhi of Changsi (i.e., 琉璃廠 Liuli Chang). Zhang equally loved the pipa, and so used the four strings of the pipa and the seven strings of the guqin to call himself "Master of the Studio for 11 strings". Zhang and Liu acquired the "Guangling San Zhen Qu" (compare Guangling Zhen Qu) printed by Wang Anhou of the early Qing dynasty and "Dream Tales of Guangling" compiled by Wang himself....

The complete original text of the preface is:



Not yet fully translated.

3. Image: Handbook Cover

4. Julian Joseph
Julian Joseph, who translated the book title as "House of 11 Strings", is Secretary of the London Youlan Qin Society. He has done considerable work on this handbook, including reconstructing and/or playing seveal of its melodies. He used to maintain this on his own website but subsequently gave me permission to include it here.

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