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Wuyin Qinpu
Five Tones Qin Handbook 1
  End of Wuyin Qinpu preface 2    
This handbook was published in two folios plus an appendix. It has 36 melodies, none with lyrics or commentary.3 Four of the melodies have their earliest surviving version here, as follows (I have reconstructed and recorded the first two):

  1. Jing Guan Yin (popular in Qing dynasty)
  2. Shuixian Qu (later a popular title, but this melody only here)
  3. Xiangyang Ge (only here)
  4. Ruilong Yin (popular melody later called Shuilong Yin and Canghai Long Yin)

For all of these I have written out transcriptions and I play the first two; I play Shuilong Yin from 1589.

Beyond this the handbook has been rather mysterious, beginning with the reason Zha Fuxi said the compiler of the book was named 朱珵 Zhu Cheng. This is also the name given on all the references I have been able to find, especially on the internet, but the correct name is 朱珵坦 Zhu Chengtan.4

In the only commentary from the handbook itself, the brief preface to 1579 shown above (complete version), the author gives his name only as "瀋國保定王德軒 Dexuan (his studio name), Prince of Baoding, House of Shen.5 There does not seem to be anything about when, where or how he may have gotten the tablature. Nor is there any information about any teachers he may have had. In fact, there seems to be nothing here or (as far as I have so far found) elsewhere to clarify who he was other than that he was Prince of Baoding of the House of Shen. In addition, the actual location of the Shen region is somewhat puzzling. The prince of Shen is said to have been based Lu (潞, in Shanxi), while the Prices of Lu (in particular Zhu Changfang) was actually based in Weihui, about 100 km to the southeast.6

In the preface dated 1579, the end of which is shown at right, the compiler Prince Dexuan says he collected old tablature and put the 31 melodies he could play into two folios. This suggests that it was at an unspecified later date that he appended the five melodies from "non-standard" modes. At the beginning of each folio is the statement, "瀋藩保定王德軒校刊 Revised and engraved by Dexuan, Regional Prince of Shen". This seems to be the same title as the author of the preface, but it adds nothing about who he was.

The style of music in this handbook seems somewhat different from that of its contemporaries; perhaps this is related to its place of origin; on the other hand, although it seems to have been compiled by someone it Shanxi province, this does not mean that it reflects a particular style from that place. It should be mentioned also that this handbook repeatedly uses several figures/clusters not mentioned in its explanation of finger techniques. Perhaps the editor simply copied fingerings from other handbooks, without regard for the actual usage in the handbook.7

The Preface by Zha Fuxi (QQJC IV/1), translated below, adds some analysis but fewer new details.

by Zha Fuxi
from Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. IV/1
Beijing, Zhonghua Shuju Chuban Faxing, 1982

(This qin handbook), in the collection of Shanghai Library,9 is a Ming dynasty edition, in two folios. It was compiled by the Ming Regional Prince Zhu Cheng (should be Zhu Chengtan). It has a preface, dated autumn, (the 15th night of) the 8th lunar month of the 7th year of the Wanli reign (1579), by Shen'guo Baoding Prince De Xuan. The first folio has melodies in the gong and shang modes. The last folio has melodies in the (jue, zhi, yu and) shangjue modes as well as modes using non-standard tuning.10 There are 36 melodies in all.

The author's own preface says (the original is above),

"During leisure time I inspected old tablature, roughly added amendations; I recorded the 31 melodies11 that I was able to play; as for the ones I couldn't (play), I did not dare include them as I could not be sure of their correctness."12.

Since this was a handbook that he himself used, it has differences from the collecting and storing style of the other tablature collections of all early periods. Its own style is uniform, as are its techniques.

(Some online sites seem to copy the original Chinese incorrectly. They also copy that the book was compiled by "Zhu Cheng" without questioning where that information came from.)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Wuyin Qinpu 五音琴譜 (1579; QQJC IV/193-257)
262.539 五音 wuyin: gong, shang, jue, zhi, yu. Nothing about a book.

2. Image
Copied from QQJC/IV/189; partially translated below.

3. Melodies in Wuyin Qinpu
Versions of 19 of its 36 melodies are in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425).

4. Ming Regional Prince Zhu Chengtan 明藩王朱珵坦 (not 朱珵 Zhu Cheng by itself)
14779.484 is 朱珵堦 Zhu Chengjie, but it has none of the other Zhu Cheng...'s and no two character 朱珵; Bio/547 is same. The references I do have for him were kindly sent to me by Jerome Kerlouegan, who has written on Ming princely publication. In a personal communication he explained why it must be Zhu Chengtan: "The preface is dated 1579, and the prince of Baoding at that time was Zhu Chengtan (he ruled the house of Baoding from 1559 to 1600). That secondary house had been created for him by his father, 瀋王朱恬烄 Zhu Tianjiao, the prince of Shen."

Of Zhu Chengtan one can read on the internet, e.g.,

Zhu Chengtan was a 9th generation descendant of Ming Taizu (founder) Zhu Yuanzhang; 8th generation descendant of Shenjian Prince Zhu Mo and second son of Shenxuan Prince Zhu Tianjiao's principal wife. In 1559 he was enfeoffed as Baoding prince; he died in 1600. His temple name was Baoding Shunhui Prince.

In Richard G. Wang, The Ming Prince and Daoism: Institutional Patronage of an Elite (OUP 2012), one can read, "Finally, in the Shen principality, both the commandery prince Huishun of Baoding 保定惠順王 (Zhu Chengtan 朱珵坦, titled 1559–1600) and Zhu Tianwan 朱恬烷.... wrote poems on Daoist temples that are included in a Qing local anthology." (Note the reversal to "Huishen".) I have not seen that poem, but the following poem attributed to Zhu Chengtan can be found online:


Zhu Chengtan was one of at least four Ming princes to have compiled a qin handbook. However, I have not as yet seen mention of his possible connection with the famous late Ming 潞王 Prince of Lu, 朱常淓 Zhu Changfang. Musically, the qin handbook compiled by Zhu Changfang, Guyin Zhengzong, seems to have little if any connection to Wuyin Qinpu.

5. 瀋國保定王德軒題 Shen Regional Protective Prince Dexuan
The commentary by Zha Fuxi/Wu Zhao does not elaborate on this name, only quoting the statement at the end of the preface, "Recorded by Dexuan, Regional Prince of Shen Principality" (Shen Guo Baoding Wang Dexuan ti 瀋國保定王德軒題). The Zha/Wu commentary does not mention that this name is repeated at the beginning of folios 1 and 2 (IV/195 and /222), changing only the second character: it has 藩 fan (fiefdom) instead of 國 guo (country), making it Shen Fan Baoding Wang Dexuan jiao kan 瀋藩保定王德軒校刊). Thus the meaning seems to be the same.

Here is my understanding of this name, in part from consulting a Chinese Wikipedia template about Shen Guo:

6. 瀋 Shen and 潞 Lu regions (principalities/fiefdoms)
As discussed above, although it seems that the administrative center for the Shen principality, the extent of the region is not explained clearly. This is an important details in part because during most of the Ming dynasty princes were not allowed to leave their fiefdoms.

7. Unexplained fingerings in Wuyin Qinpu Some unexplained fingerings in Wuyin Qinpu  
The five examples given here are all figures that appear more than once in this handbook, so it seems likely that they are not simpy copy errors. Starting from right:

  1. Two columns, each showing an open string followed by its octave. One is played 應聲 the other 連聲, but there is no explanation of the difference (IV/203)
  2. The figure meaning 分開 is usually applied to two right hand strokes: with sixth or seventh string? (IV/201 [first notes Section 5]; same in 1525 [first notes Section ])
  3. The right column under 女二 has 半輪 on 二 but other versions all have octaves played here (IV/205; see also next)
  4. The individual components of this figure (here repeated) would seem to be 綽打 (綽 chuo and 打 da), but although this figure appears numerous times (e.g., in the previous example here), there is never any confirmation that this is indeed what the symbols stand for, much less an indication of where or how to play it (IV/241)
  5. This shows 吟猱 followed by 細猱, with two right hand strokes above. Should one do 吟猱 on the first then 細猱 on the second? 吟猱 appears quite frequently: does it mean do both 吟 (fast vibrato) and 猱 (slow vibrato), or could it be copying some old tablature that says 吟 is a type of 猱? (IV/203)

Considering the lack of explanation for some fingerings it is perhaps ironic that right after the fingering explanations the editor has included (without attribution) a verse by Cao Rou about looking up fingerings that are not understood. (Before the verse is written, "法曰 The rules say:"). It seems that generally finger explanations are copies of earlier, supposedly authoritative, versions. In early Ming this does not seem to be a problem, but later on it seems likely that some players were using new techniques for which there was no existing tablature, but the scribes could not imagine inventing new terms to describe these techniques.

8. Commentary by Zha Fuxi
查阜西 Zha Fuxi apparently wrote it originally, then it was edited by 吳釗 Wu Zhao. The full text of his commentary is as follows:



Zha's introduction in his Guide says the volume he had belonged to 胡公玄 Hu Gongxuan. It has basically the same information as here, with no speculation as to whom the mames 朱珵 Zhu Cheng (朱珵坦 Zhu Chengtan), 德軒 (Zhu) Dexuan or 保定王 Baoding Wang might refer.

9. 上海圖書館; still in the Shanghai Library?

10. Melodies using non-standard tunings
In the text (not the table of contents) above the title for Zhuangzhou Mengdie, which is in the shangjue mode, is the character 附 fu, meaning "appendix". The four following pieces are identified as "non-standard tuning": Ao Ai and Yang Guan use ruibin mode, but this is not mentioned, though the tuning method is given at the front of Ao Ai; Li Sao uses qiliang mode (this is mentioned in the table of contents); Feiming Yin uses guxian mode, but this is not mentioned, though its tuning method is given. Mode names are also mentioned in the central column which has the page numbers, but there are mistakes.

11. Zhu Chengtan Preface
The preface misprints this as "30". The handbook's own table of contents does indeed list 31 melodies. The one here has 36 because it includes the five modal preludes, which in the book's own text but not in its Table of Contents.

12. He adds, "I have sighed over this many times."

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