Jing Guan Yin
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五音琴譜 Wuyin Qinpu (1579)  ToC / Ou Cheng / Ting Qin Yin My 聽 initial recording and 聽 3 memorial recordings / 首頁
08. Contemplative Intonation
Shang Mode:2 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
靜觀吟 1
Jing Guan Yin
The poem by Chengzi 3    
This short instrumental melody, usually in three sections, was once very popular, in particular during the Qing dynasty.
4 After the earliest surviving publication here in 1579, it survives in at least five more Ming dynasty handbooks; it can then be found in at least 29 Qing dynasty handbooks, the last dated 1899. And a comparison of the opening of the earliest versions suggests that it may have inspired, or otherwise had some connection to, at least the opening phrases of the melody Ting Qin Yin, which survives first from the 1589 edition of Zhenchuan Zhengzong Qinpu.5

In addition, although there is no commentary with this 1579 version, its third surviving publication (in the 1609 edition of Zhenchuan Zhengzong Qinpu) connects the melody to the Song dynasty Confucian scholar Cheng Hao (referred to only as Chengzi).6 Specifically it quotes a couplet from a poem attributed to Cheng Hao, the full text of which is used as lyrics for the melody Ou Cheng. The couplet is:7

All things in a contemplative manner attain what they need;
In all seasons their beauty flourishes, just as with people.

In other words, people can achieve what they need simply by having the same contemplative manner that one finds throughout nature.

Starting with 1722 Jing Guan Yin is more commonly associated with the Tang dynasty scholar Li Mian.8 However, this does not significantly alter the commentators' understanding of the mood of this piece. In the 1722 introduction the mood is described as follows:9

All the phrases are beautiful in their soft purity. The second section (in harmonics) has the sound of discussing a life of leisure combined with the flavor of quietude. Although the melody is short its meaning is grand. Play it on a quiet evening and it will itself point out how to achieve this.

Meanwhile, the introduction to a recording by Xia Yifeng of this melody says as follows:10

The legend goes that this piece of music was composed by Li Mian of the Tang dynasty. The music illustrates that one will naturally identify the essence of things by observing them calmly and objectively. This small piece, tranquil and simple, expresses the artistic conception of "observing calmly".

The fourth surviving publication of Jing Guan Yin comes from Songxianguan Qinpu (1614), the earliest handbook of the very popular Yushan school, and this probably helps account for its later popularity.11 Later versions seem largely to be elaborations of 1614, adding mostly ornamentation.

Other silk string recordings include ones by,

Original preface 14
None here

Music (transcription from IV/209; timings follow my recording (listen 15; there are also three others16)
Three Sections, untitled, plus coda.

00.00  Section 1 (compare the opening of Ting Qin Yin; 1589)
00.45  Section 2 (in harmonics)
00.56 (Section 3 in some later versions)
01.32  Section 3 (in some later versions Section 4)
02.17  Harmonic Coda
02.35 (End)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Jing Guan Yin (靜觀吟; Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. IV/209)
Also written Jingguan Yin; alternative translations include "Meditation in Stillness" and "Observing Calmly". 43533.322 only 靜觀 jing guan, with three references:

王維 Wang Wei poem 酬諸公見遇詩
白居易 Bai Juyi poem 自題寫真詩
程顥 Cheng Hao (see below) poem 秋日詩, same as below.

2. Shang mode (商調 Shang Diao)
In this melody the tonal center is do (gong; open first string), but a strong secondary tonal center is re (shang): many phrases end on shang, and hearing such endings prepares one for following phrases ending on gong. For further information on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Image
This calligraphy, by 劉嘉雄 Liu Jiasong, was found on the Taiwan website http://www.jwt.url.tw/bus1-ruuchasyau.htm. It consists of Liu's calligraphy for the complete text of the Cheng Hao poem quoted below.

4. Tracing 靜觀吟 Jing Guan Yin
Zha Fuxi's Guide 25/210/-- lists it in 35 handbooks from the present one to 1899, none has lyrics. The first 16 are as follows:

  1. 1579 (IV/209; see above; opens at 13.1 on 1st string; precedes Gu Jiao Xing)
  2. 1590 (V/478; like 1579 [but adds open 1st string at front]; only version entitled 靜觀音, also pronounced Jing Guan Yin: "Sounds of Contemplation")
  3. 1609 (VII/194; preface; quite different; starts with 1st string at 13.1 twice then slide and open 4th, then rather longer)
  4. 1614 (VIII/103; begins with open 4th string played twice then first string stopped in 4th position; not divided into numbered sections; earliest Yushan school handbook)
  5. 1634 (IX/309; opens as 1609)
  6. late Ming (IX/428; opens as 1579, then diff.)
  7. 1647 (X/93; opens as 1614)
  8. 1660 (XI/25; no image; opens as 1579)
  9. 1670 (XI/358; 2nd handbook with commentary: preface similar to 1579 but shorter; opens as 1614)
  10. 1673 (X/365; opens as 1614)
  11. 1676?-Japan (Facs III/52; as 1609; not listed in Zha Guide)
  12. <1700 (XIV/114; opens as 1614; not listed in Zha Guide)
  13. 1689 (XIV/232; opens as 1614)
  14. 1691 (XII/525; opens as 1614)
  15. 1702 (XIII/226; opens as 1614)
  16. 1705 (XIII/359; opens as 1614; several modern recordings credit this one)
  17. 1722 (XIV/466; third note is 4th string stopped at 外 wai then slide up to 10th position)
Based mainly on looking at the opening phrase, it seems that early versions developed either from the 1579 or the 1614 handbooks. Within the melodies there are considerable similarities, though the variations available support assertions that this became quite a popular melody, in particular after 1614.

5. Melodic connection to Ting Qin Yin
This is easily seen in the opening of my transcriptions of the 1579 edition, but when I wrote this I had not completed my reconstruction of Jing Guan Yin and I have not yet carefully compared the latter parts.

6. 程顥 Cheng Hao and 程子 Chengzi
As discussed under the melodies
Ming De Yin and Kongsheng Jing, 子程子 Zi Chengzi actually refers there to two brothers:

The two brothers lived in 洛陽 Luoyang (Henan).

The 1609 preface quotes Cheng Hao as follows:


With Jing Guan Yin it seems that the reference is only to Cheng Hao, as the poem quoted below has been attributed to him.

Further on 程子 Chengzi
There was also an ancient philosopher of this name, but the references with the qin melody
Jing Guan Yin do not seem to be to him. As for him, Bio/2308 程本 Cheng Ben says this is another name for 子華子 Zi Huazi, adding that he was a man of great learning and that, "Confucius, meeting him at 郯 Tan, called him 天下賢士 the most worthy of persons." According to 7072.534 子華子 Zi Huazi was actually a book also referred to as the "Cheng Volume" (Cheng ben), adding that it was known as the Cheng Ben in Kongzi Jiayu, while it was known as Zihuazi in Liezi (? Huazi is in Liezi Book 3/7 周穆王 King Mu of Zhou). The book had apparently disappeared by the Han dynasty. When it was "re-created" during the Song the author was said to be Chengzi. Zihuazi (the philosopher Huazi) is also mentioned in Zhuangzi, e.g., Chapter 28 讓王 Yielding kingship.

7. Couplet from the poem 秋日偶成 Stray Thoughts on an Autumn Day, by 程顥 Cheng Hao
As mentioned, the original text of the entire poem serves as lyrics for the melody 偶成 Stray Thoughts. Here only the second line is quoted, as follows:

On serene contemplation, everything of the world seems proceeding by itself.
  Exquisite beauties of four seasons revolve together with mankind.

This translation is from www.quora.com; there have also been others online. (see the differences).

8. Li Mian 李勉
See separate entry

9. Quote from 1722
The original Chinese is:

10. Recording of Jing Guan Yin by 夏一峰 Xia Yifeng
The note to this recording (#9) says only that it comes from a 抄本 handcopy, but the actual music is almost the same as in 1722 and 1868. There is a transcription of Xia Yifeng's performance in Guqinqu Huibian.

11. Later popularity of Jing Guan Yin
I have not carefully searched the later handbooks, but have noted that #31 on the list, dated 1868, is very similar to #15, dated 1722.

12. Recording of Jing Guan Yin by 汪鐸 Wang Duo
In addition to his CD recording, mentioned above, a performance by Wang Duo of Jing Guan Yin has also been posted on YouTube.

13. Recording of Jing Guan Yin by 伏見无家 Muka Fushimi
This recording is available on YouTube.

14. Original preface
See comments in the text above.

15. Music
The above recording was made in April 2019 using a guqin made by He Mingwei in the 1990s.

16. Three other recordings of the 1579 Jing Guan Yin

I originally worked on reconstructing this piece before doing Ting Qin Yin, but did not complete it. It was noticing the connection between the two which provided an important key to my understanding of the 1579 Jing Guan Yin. I first recorded my Jing Guan Yin in September 2015 using the three guqins that had belonged to Professor Alan Berkowitz (1950-2015). These recordings are linked below: timings follow these three recordings

  1. made by 張建華 Zhang Jianhua (listen)
  2. made by 王鵬 Wang Peng (listen).
  3. (with metal strings) made by Li Mingzhong (listen).

00.00 (00.00; 00.00)   1.
00.34 (00.34; 00.39)   2.
00.48 (00.48; 00.48)   2a. (some later versions start Section 3 here)
01.15 (01.15; 01.16)   3.  
01.51 (01.53; 01.52)       Harmonic coda.
02.06 (02.12; 02.11)       End

Alan was a good friend who would have appreciated the sentiment of this melody. Further regarding the three qins recorded here:

For both silk string instruments the strings were a bit too close to the top surface of the qin; on the Zhang Jianhua I alleviated this by putting a thick silk string along the top of the bridge, under the lower four or five strings, then tried to play gently.

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