Lixing Yuanya
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Lixing Yuanya
Rational nature basic elegance 1
Music for 1 string qin 2     
Lixing Yuanya contains music compiled by Zhang Tingyu,3 a man said to be either from Guanzhong (apparently referring to the central Shaanxi plain) or Yan'an (northern Shaanxi). According to the entry in Qinshu Cunmu he achieved his jinshi degree in 1610 then rose in rank to Gentleman of the Interior in the Ministry of Works.4 The preface by Zha Fuxi adds he spent much time in Zhejiang province, and also speculates that he may have been a follower of Xu Nanshan.5 However, no source is given for this information. It seems generally to be considered that his handbook, Lixing Yuanya, was published in Nanjing, or at least circulated there.

Li Xing Yuan Ya has 72 melodies, all with lyrics; at least 28 titles are only here and three are the first of several; many more are new versions of old titles. Individual pieces for which I have made commentary include:

    With recording
  1. 鹿鳴 Lu Ming (Deer Calls, lyrics from the Shi Jing)
  2. 把酒問月 Ba Jiu Wen Yue (Wine in Hand Asking the Moon; lyrics by Li Bai)
  3. Xiang Si Qu (Melody of Mutual Love; third of multiple versions)

    No recording
  4. 風雲會四朝元 Feng Yun Hui Si Chao Yuan
  5. 茶歌 Cha Ge (Song of Tea)
  6. 接輿歌 Jie Yu Ge (Song of Jie Yu; for 9 string qin)

From trying to play a number of melodies in this handbook I have often found the music rather eccentric. Song of Tea is a case in point: Qin and tea are associated together so much that it would be especially interesting to play a melody that connects the two, but I have not yet been able to find the key to interpreting this melody in a way I find convincing.

Nevertheless, it is said that the music in Zhang Tingyu's handbook is more straightforward than virtuosic, its melodies reflecting the qin song style that flourished especially in that region towards the end of the Ming dynasty. 6 Some of the melodies and/or lyrics are quite similar to those of the same name in earlier handbooks; others have been changed quite a lot and many are new. The new ones tend to be attributed to Zhang Tingyu himself, but none of this has been studied very much. What does one make, for example, of a melody like Feng Yun Hui Si Chao Yuan, which sets for qin lyrics from the famous opera Pipa Ji? Did it include actual melodic material from an opera production?7

This handbook soon circulated in Japan. In Lore of the Chinese Lute, Van Gulik writes that the Japanese qin expert Kodama Koku (1734-1811) had a manuscript copy on which he wrote various colophons.9

Organization of Lixing Yuanya

Lixing Yuanya is organized into four folios. Its 72 melodies are grouped as follows:

This data underlines the uniqueness of this handbook. In this regard note the following further details:

Melodies here for 7-string qin using non-standard tunings

The 49 seven-string melodies in Lixing Yuanya use 20 non-standard tunings: the handbook with the second largest number of tunings is Xilutang Qintong (1525), which uses 14 tunings for its 169 melodies.8 As for the 20 special tunings here, the names and tuning details are often different from those used in other handbooks; they also do not include at least four of the tuning methods in 1525. Note also that although Qinshu Daquan, Folio 13 (1590), lists melodies for 19 non-standard modes, it has only titles, no actual tablature or indications of tuning method.

Melodies here for 1-string qin

Some Japanese say their ichigenkin one string zither came from China in the 1600s, around the time this handbook was published. Indeed it seems quite possible that the idea of such an instrument came from there, but little work has been done to find out what connections there might originally have been, if any. Why did a one string qin gain a following in Japan whereas there is virtually no record of one actually having been played in China? Why does the modern ichigenkin not much resemble Chinese one string zithers as depicted in old Chinese illustrations? In sum, whereas the ichigenkin is uniquely designed to play melodies on one string (the melodies seeming to share characteristics with such other Japanese instruments as the three-string samisen), depictions of Chinese one-string qin show them to be the same as standard seven-string qins, with the other strings removed. And whereas the ichigenkin has developed a unique repertoire, these Chinese one-string melodies seem simply to be adaptations from existing melodies for standard qin.

Melodies here for 9-string qin

This instrument is commonly said to have been developed at the command of Song emperor Taizong, though Cai Yong is also said to have played one. Lixing Yuanya's five melodies for 9-string qin have been little studied. They may have been inspired by the Song emperor's work, but there otherwise seems to be no connection, but just as the earlier effort ended in failure, the 9-string melodies in Li Xing Yuan Ya do not seem to have been further transmitted.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 理性元雅 Lixing Yuanya (2010 QQJC VIII/173-343)
理性元雅 21475.37 and 1356: only 理性 (no 元雅 "original elegance"). In general, "lixing" is a term in philosophy and Buddhism that means something like "the nature of being li", li being the "inherent or informing pattern in an object, action or idea" (Kroll); it could also be described as "rational but also moral nature".

As for Lixing Yuanya ("The original elegance of a rational but also moral nature"?), Qinshu Cunmu adds some details, perhaps from its reference, Siku Cunmu (新傳理性元雅 Xinchuan Lixing Yuanya is included in Siku Quanshu Cunmu Congshu, Zi 74).

2. Tablature for 1 string qin: Xing Tan music and lyrics
Lixing Yuanya (QQJC VIII/339-343) has five melodies in one string qin tablature. This is the only Chinese handbook with tablature detailing music for one-string qin; the image above is from QQJC VIII/342.

3. Zhang Tingyu 張廷玉 (Bio/xxx)
Zhang Tingyu had the style name 汝先 Ruxian and seems sometimes to be referred to as 張子 Master Zhang. He signs his opening remarks 關中張廷玉 Zhang Tingyu of Guanzhong. 42402.26 關中 says Guanzhong is the Shaanxi plain around Chang'an (today Xi'an). No other location or meaning is mentioned.

4. 工部郎中 Gentleman of the Interior in the Ministry of Works。 Qinshu Cunmu also said Zhang Tingyu was from 延安 Yan'an (northern Shaanxi).

5. Xu Nanshan (Xu Shiqi)
Comments with the handbook Luqi Xinsheng (1597) deal with problems identifying Xu Nanshan.

6. The preface discusses this but does not give much detail.

7. Feng Yun Hui Si Chao Yuan
It seems unlikely that this reflects an actual opera melody, but it is a subject certainly worth pursuing.

8. Modes
See further in Qinshu Daquan, Folio 13 (1590).

9. Lore, p. 220

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