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Wuzhizhai Qinpu
Qin Handbook from the Studio of Five Knowings 1
1722 (or before 1670) by 徐祺 Xu Qi
First two pages of tablature 2          
This website is generally focused on qin music published during the Ming dynasty, and in this context a handbook published in 1722 seems somewhat late. In addition, Wuzhizhai Qinpu is often said to be the basic handbook of a style of play popular in the Qing dynasty, the Guangling Qin School. However, a good case could be made that much of the tablature in the handbook dated from the end of the Ming dynasty since it was apparently compiled through an extended project that overlapped the two dynasties. Its commentary gives the source of many of the melodies, and these seem to come from various parts of China. It is thus difficult to confine its style to just one "school".

Some details of this handbook were outlined by Xu Jian in the QSCB chapter on Guangling qin players. Here, after briefly summarizing the activities of Xu Qi (as well as his son Xu Jun and their assistant Zhou Lufeng, it says of his handbook,3

After (Xu Qi) compiled (the tablature and essays for) Wuzhizhai Qinpu (he died and) it was a long time before it was able to get published. Then 54 years later his son Xu Jun in Anhui a music connoisseur named Zhou Lufeng, and with Zhou's help, he was finally able to publish a first edition in 1722. Xu Jun had the style name Yueqian; Zhou Lufeng had the style name Zi'an. The relationship between the two of them has been compared to that between Boya and Ziqi. "Yueqian had the tablature; Zi'an had the skill to examine and make it into a jewel. Zi'an was good at qin; Yueqian could scrutinize and collate." Zhou Lufeng participated in the editing and revision work for Wuzhizhai Qinpu. He emphasized that, "every piece should have that piece's own implications, and if the commentary can not get into the tune as a sort of duet, and the existing writing can not bring out the result, it will not fully live up to what was in the heart of the ancient who created the piece." Some melodies had undergone development. Some originally had lyrics but by now they could no longer go along with the melody; for these the lyrics have been put in front of or after the tablature. Thus for Hujia Shiba Pai they selected the tablature of Shu (Sichuan) and the lyrics of Wu (Zhejiang), so they used this separation method.

Meanwhile, the preface by Zha Fuxi in Qinqu Jicheng says,4

This book attributes its form and arrangement to four people, the Old Man of Gulang Xu Qi "Dasheng" examined and authenticated (the materials); Kuaiji's Huang Zhen "Zhongan" inspected and fixed (them), Xu Jun (Xu Qi's son) "Yueqian" proofread/collated (them); and Yanshan's Zhou Lufeng "Zi'an" assembled and compiled (them). According to Zhou Lufeng's preface, he originally studied qin with Xu Jun; it also says that the tablature was Xu Jun's "half a life of soul and blood". Further, Xu Jun's own preface emphasizes clearly that it was his father Xu Qi who, "traveled to (places in) Yan (around Hebei province), Qi (in Shandong), Zhao (around Hebei/Shanxi) and Wei (around Shanxi/Shaanxi) as well as Wu (around Jiangsu and inland Zhejiang), Chu (Hubei/Hunan region) and Ouyue (coastal Zhejiang)... evaluating materials for over 30 years and beginning to put them in order." Several attempts were made to print these but without a result. Thus the tablature's secrets were boxed away for 54 years. When it first gained the assembly and compilation of Zhou Lufeng, then in 1722 it was checked and published, and in 1724 it officially came out.

This tablature is distinctive from other tablature in several ways. The fingering has been standardized, the copying is meticulous and thorough, each melody has commentary. It carefully clarifies points about the original tablature's school, source and/or revisions. And it even for each phrase or for some sounds gives indications of light/heavy, hurried/calm, theoretical and actual changes (?) and the intended emotions, for all this giving annotations in the margins. From this one can see the special nature of Xu Qi and his son's performance art and aesthetic sense: emphasize tradition, but also pay attention to changes. Everything starts from being "vivid" ("lifelike"). Emphasize for both the right and left hands the correlative contrasts between light and heavy plus slow and fast, as well as firm and soft plus empty and firm, and also dexterity and a natural flow. Thus in the performances the deep feelings are distinctive, and the imagery is vivid, causing one's emotions to flow. (Thus) during the Qing dynasty and afterwards (this handbook) has been held in very high esteem within qin circles.

The "Wuzhizhai" tablature is the most broadly transmitted existing Qing dynasty qin handbook. The tablature has gone through numerous reprintings, so the versions are numerous. The present photocopy is made from the best surviving version -- the original copy on white cotton paper of the Qing dynasty Kangxi edition in the collection of the Music Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Art. To this is added the missing Xu preface and the Qianlong copy of Yang Huiji's biography at the end, for use as reference.

According to Van Gulik5 this handbook was and remained to his day the "most popular handbook in existence". He also wrote that the scholarship shown on this handbook was not very high. It is not clear precisely what this means, but it could be related to the way the materials that had been gathered by Xu Qi himself were collated and edited by his son and Zhou Lufeng.

Another characteristic of the handbook is that almost all of the melodies have both a preface and an afterword. The first afterword says it was written by Xu Jun, with the date given. Perhaps this means he wrote all of the afterwords, otherwise it is not clear where most or all of the comments originated.6

The handbook has 33 melodies that seem to be from all over. More specifically, its commentary categorizes 27 of the melodies as belonging to one of the following schools (some [marked "?"] seem to be associated with more than one school):

  1. 金陵派 (金派?) Jinling School (see #s 3, 4, 13?, 15?, 17?, 18 and 21)
  2. 吳派 Wu School (see #s 5, 16, 25 and 31?)
  3. 熟派 Shu School (of Xu Qingshan from 常熟 Changshu (see #s 1, 2, 6?, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13?, 14, 15?, 17?, 19?, 20, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30); compare Yushan School)
  4. 蜀派 Shu (Sichuan) School (see #s 6?, 17?, 22 and 31?)

Discussion of schools is complicated. For example, this chart was intended to clarify things but, of the schools mentioned here, the chart has only the Guangling school, which it traces to Xu Qi. Meanwhile it is not clear how the Shu School of Changshu was connected to the Yushan School (also called the Chuan School and Fanchuan School), said to have been the most important school in the Qing dynasty. Regarding this see the above-mentioned schools chart (which does not mention the Yushan school) as well as this discussion.

Xu Qi apparently aimed to be as accurate as possible to tablature he found. Thus, any revision to the melodies Xu Qi found is thought to have been done by Xu Qi himself to eliminate perceived mistakes. Related to this it is not clear whether he himself transcribed (some of) the music from actual performance, or whether he only collected existing tablature, and if so whether he then edited it himself. It is assumed that Xu Jun and/or Zhou Lufeng re-copied it but added commentary any time they thought something had been changed.

Wu Zhi Zhai Qin Pu Table of Contents

The following list has links to the tracing list or chart for the earliest version of each piece. Note that:

    Folio 1 (XIV/373)
    Prefaces, Essays, player list, famous qin images, fingering diagrams and explanations, etc.

    Folio 2

  1. 洞天春曉 Dongtian Chunxiao (XIV/430)
    Gong mode, 18 sections, Shu (Changshu) school; one of the "Five grand qin melodies"

  2. 高山         Gao Shan (XIV/438)
    Gong mode, 8 sections, Shu (Changshu) school

  3. 圯橋進履 Yi Qiao Jin Lü (XIV/441)
    Gong mode, 7 sections, Jinling school ("good for beginners"; further details)

  4. 鷗鷺忘機 Ou Lu Wang Ji (comment; XIV/443)
    Gong mode, 3 sections, Jinling school ("mode perhaps qing gong")

    Folio 3

  5. 墨子悲絲 Mozi Bei Si (XIV/445)
    Shang mode, 13 sections, Wu school; originally copied in 1677....
    Transcription of a recording by Xu Yuanbai in Guqin Quji 1/216

  6. 風雷引     Feng Lei Yin (XIV/449)
    Shang mode, 10 sections, both Shu schools but this one Sichuan school (?)

  7. 釋談章     Shitan Zhang (XIV/452)
    Shang mode, unnumbered sectioning, no school mentioned; compared with 1665; lyrics (南無佛陀....) paired.

  8. 普庵咒     Pu'an Zhou (XIV/460)
    Shang mode, unnumbered sectioning, no school mentioned; 參改 examined and revised based on central sections; lyrics (迦迦迦妍界....) paired

  9. 靜觀吟     Jing Guan Yin (XIV/466)
    Shang mode, 3 sections, Shu (Changshu) school (here associated with Li Mian)

    Folio 4

  10. 蒼梧怨     Cangwu Yuan (XIV/467)
    Jue mode, 13 sections, Shu (Changshu) school

  11. 箕山秋月 Jishan Qiu Yue (further details; XIV/471)
    Jue mode, 24 sections, Shu (Changshu) school (no lyrics; one of the "Five grand qin melodies")

  12. 良宵引     Liang Xiao Yin (XIV/479)
    Jue mode, three sections, Shu (Changshu) school
    Transcription of a recording by Guan Pinghu in Guqin Quji 1/226

    Folio 5

  13. 關雎         Guan Ju (XIV/480)
    Zhi mode, 10 sections, Shu (Changshu) and Jin(ling) schools but this one Jinling

  14. 雁過衡陽 Yan Guo Hengyang (XIV/484)
    Zhi mode, 10 sections, northern tablature of Shu (Changshu) school

  15. 漁歌         Yu Ge (XIV/488)
    Zhi mode, 18 sections, Shu (Changshu) and Jin(ling) schools; lyrics added at end ("家住吳楚大江頭....") are as for the unrelated raised 5th string versions of 1491 and 1585
    Transcription of a recording by Wu Jinglue in Guqin Quji 2/78 and a recording by by Wu Zhaoji in Guqin Quji 1/104

  16. 樵歌         Qiao Ge (XIV/494)
    Zhi mode, 13 sections, Wu school

  17. 塞上鴻     Sai Shang Hong (XIV/499)
    Zhi mode, 16 sections, revised based on northern Shu (Changshu) tablature but played by Jinling and Shu (Sichuan) schools

  18. 秋塞吟     Qiu Sai Yin (XIV/503)
    Zhi mode, 9 sections, Jinling school; "also called Sao Shou Wen Tian"
    Transcription of a recording by Wu Jinglue in Guqin Quji 1/152

  19. 醉漁唱晚 Zui Yu Chang Wan (XIV/506)
    Zhi mode, 12 sections, examined versions of Xu Qingshan (1673) and Yin Ertao (? cannot find here)

  20. 山居吟     Shan Ju Yin (XIV/510)
    Zhi mode, 3 sections, Shu (Changshu) school

    Folio 6

  21. 漢宮秋月 Han Gong Qiu Yue (further; XIV/511)
    Yu mode, 16 sections, Jinling school, lyrics at end ("昭陽昭陽昭陽殿....") as in 1589

  22. 滄海龍吟 Canghai Long Yin (XIV/519)
    Yu mode, 9 sections, Shu (Sichuan) school (related to Shui Long Yin)

  23. 佩蘭         Pei Lan (XIV/523)
    Yu mode, 13 sections, no school mentioned

  24. 雉朝飛     Zhi Zhao Fei (XIV/528)
    Yu mode, 14 sections, Shu (Changshu) school; lyrics at end (天和風日暖....)
    Transcription of a recording by Wu Jinglue in Guqin Quji 2/37

  25. 烏夜啼     Wu Ye Ti (XIV/534)
    Yu mode, 10 sections, Wu school

    Folio 7

  26. 莊周夢蝶 Zhuang Zhou Meng Die (XIV/537)
    Shangjiao mode, 13 sections, Shu (Changshu) tablature that should be 輕舒緩奏 lightly and smoothly

  27. 羽化登仙 Yu Hua Deng Xian (XIV/541)
    Shangjiao mode, 30 sections, Shu (Changshu) school; 4th surviving version; one of the "Five grand qin melodies"

  28. 神化引     Shen Hua Yin (XIV/549)
    Shangjiao mode, 10 sections, Shu (Changshu) school

  29. 平沙落雁 Ping Sha Luo Yan (XIV/551)
    附徴羽音 belongs to Zhiyu mode, 7 sections, Shu (Changshu) school

    Folio 8

  30. 瀟湘水雲 Xiao Xiang Shui Yun (XIV/554)
    Ruibin mode (tighten 5th string), 18 sections, Shu (Changshu) school
    Transcription of a recording by Wu Jinglue Guqin Quji 1/181

  31. 胡笳十八拍 Hujia Shiba Pai (XIV/558)
    Huangzhong mode (tighten 5th, loosen 1st), 18 sections, Shu (Sichuan) tablature, Wu school;
    at end is a short afterword then the famous lyrics (我生之初尚無為....; see all), which are the same as in 1597 though melody is different and does not fit;
    instead it is an early version of the most common modern interpretation: see chart tracing Da Hujia and this analysis.
    The transcription ("14.07") in Guqin Quji 1/135 is of a performance by Wu Jinglue (listen, but note: "15.36")
    One of the "Five grand qin melodies"

  32. 秋鴻         Qiu Hong (XIV/567)
    Guxian mode (tighten 2nd, 5th and 7th), 36 sections, no school mentioned;
    after the tablature instead of an afterword there are the lyrics as in 1491 ("澤國秋高封露凉...." [q.v.]: closer to 1585? [q.v.]);
    one of the "Five grand qin melodies"

  33. 搗衣         Dao Yi (XIV/579)
    Qingshang mode (tighten 2nd, 5th and 7th), 12 sections, no school; lyrics at end "秋風起,碧雲飛,胡草...." (from 1589; see 1589 transcription) don't fit.

Afterword by 徐 ? Xu ? (XIV/585)

Biography of 楊恢基 Yang Huiji (XIV/588)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Wuzhizhai Qinpu 五知齋琴譜) (QQJC XIV/371-588)
Attributed to 徐祺 Xu Qi, but edited and published by 徐俊 Xu Jun and 周魯封 Zhou Lufeng, 1722. The "Wuzhi Zhai" of the title has been translated as the Studio (齋 Zhai) of the "Five Knowings" (五知 wu zhi). "Zhai" suggests that the studio is intended as a quiet sort of retreat; as for the "wu zhi" there are at least two interpretations, as follows.

Of wu zhi (the "five knowings") 1/362 says, "為五種修身克己之道 it refers to five ways of controlling self-cultivation". It gives two versions (262.499 五知 wu zhi has the same):

According to 宋任布 the Song dynasty's Ren Bu the "five knowings" are,
  1. 知恩 zhi en (knowing kindness/favor),
  2. 知道 zhi dao (knowing the Way),
  3. 知命 zhi ming (knowing fate),
  4. 知足 zhi zu (knowing what is sufficient), and
  5. 知幸 zhi xing (knowing good fortune).

Ren Bu had a study room called 五知堂 Hall of the Five Knowings.

On the other hand, according to 宋李繹 the Song dynasty's Li Yi (nickname 五知先生 Mr. Five Knowings) the five are,

  1. 知時 zhi shi (knowing the appropriate time),
  2. 知難 zhi nan (knowing difficulty),
  3. 知命 zhi ming (knowing fate),
  4. 知退 zhi tui (knowing when to back off), and
  5. 知足 zhi zu (knowing what is sufficient ).

However, it is not yet clear whether or how this connects to Xu Qi.

2. First two pages of tablature
Note the interlineal comments such as 爰乍 (緩作 do it slowly), 巠 (輕 lightly), ? (重 heavily?), 起 (起 rise?), etc. Compare "輕重疾徐、虛實變化和應有表情" from Zha Fuxi's preface. These do not seem to have explanation.

3. Quote from Qin Shi Chu Bian (QSCB, p.156)
The original Chinese text is as follows:


This largely took its information for the entry on Xu Qi in Qin Shi Xu.

4. Preface by Zha Fuxi in Qinqu Jicheng (QQJC XIV/iii)
The original text is,




Translation tentative. 河東楊恢基傳 Yang Huiji of Hedong's "傳 chuan" ("transmission"?) seems to refer to the preface (序 xu) at XIV/585-587. It is dated 1724, so presumably comes from that "official" edition.

5. Van Gulik on Wuzhizhai Qinpufor
See Lore, p.185.

6. Prefaces and afterwords
The afterword for #1 Dongtian Chunxiao says it was written by Xu Jun; see details there. Could this have been intended to apply to all the afterwords in Wuzhizhai Qinpu?

As for the other afterwords, there are none for six melodies, #s 6, 7, 9, 12, 32 and 33.

Meanwhile, three of the melodies have no prefaces beyond what was written directly under the title: #6, #7 and #12. All three of these also had no afterword.

6. Five Grand Qin Melodies (五大琴曲 Wu Da Qin Qu)
262.xxx; for context see Melodies with 18 or more sections for which there is existing qin tablature (contrast the 四大曲 Four Great Melodies as well as the 蔡氏五弄 Five melodies of the Cai family. "大 Da" could also be "great", "big", etc.

This characterization comes from the afterword to the Jishan Qiu Yue here in Wuzhizhai Qinpu (see QQJC XIV/479). This handbook, which has all five of these melodies, begins its afterword to Jishan Qiu Yue as follows:

The qin has five grand melodies. They are: Dong Tian, Ji Shan, Yu Hua, Qiu Hong and Hu Jia....

The afterword then proceeds to give the characteristics of each of these five pieces. Here are the full titles, given in the order in which the afterword presents the characterizations. It is not clear why they are given in this order, why this afterword was written with Ji Shan Qiu Yue instead of with one of the others (none of which mentions this appellation). In this regard perhaps it is relevant that, like most handbooks, Wuzhizhai Qinpu arranges its melodies following a traditional modal order and each of the five melodies is in a different mode.

  1. Dongtian (Chunxiao; 1722 #1; XIV/430)
  2. Yuhua (Deng Xian; 1722 #27; XIV/541)
  3. Qiu Hong (1722 #32; XIV/567)
  4. Hujia (Shiba Pai; 1722 #31; XIV/558).
  5. Jishan (Qiu Yue; 1722 #11; XIV/471)

The Ji Shan Qiu Yue complete afterword is:


Not yet translated. Of these five I have at present learned the earliest versions of two (Qiu Hong and Hujia) and written out a transcription of a third (Dong Tian).

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