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Penn Museum
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
賓尼博物館 1
Qin 2  

The Penn Museum's qin collection has a least four instruments called "qin", but only two of them have the standard form. Nevertheless, each of the four is notable in its own way.3 The four are:

  1. Eight Sounds Zither (八音琴 Ba Yin Qin)
    Object number A916A, it had 20 metal tuning pegs for 20 strings apparently made of silk; not lacquered. Presumably the reason it is called a "qin" is that it does not seem to have had any moveable bridges. The images on the museum website are quite dark, so this copy has been edited to show the form more clearly. This form suggests that the strings were to be played only as open strings, but it is not certain that such an instrument was ever actively played.

  2. Five String Qin (五絃琴 wu xian qin)
    Object number A917, it is one piece of wood and not lacquered. It is thus quite different from the five-string qins shown in the best-known earlier Chinese illustrations, which has five string qins looking the same as standard seven-string qins (example).

  3. Qin (zither)
    Object number A918, see image at right. Its form is standard but it is unusual for having its inscription painted in seven large gold characters on the front. These characters come from a poem by the noted Ming dynasty painter, calligrapher and scholar Wen Zhengming.4 According to Wu Bin it is "highly possible" it was specically ordered by a Westerner to exhibit in the Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial World Fair.

  4. Qin ("lute"; should be "zither") (image 5)
    Object number A920. Museum says it is in "good condition. One string missing, two legs detached, three tassels missing. Made in Kyoto, Japan according to label inside of sounding board."

I have not yet seen these instruments.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Penn Museum (賓尼博物館) (website)
Also called the University of Pennsylvania Museum (賓夕法尼亞大學博物館), the full title being the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (賓夕法尼亞大學考古人類學博物館). Philadelphia is 費城 Feicheng.

Some of the information here comes from 伍彬 Wu Bin, personal communication and a paper she wrote while doing an assistantship at the Museum.

2. Stone tripod boils up clouds regarding islet fragrance" (石鼎烹雲顧渚香 Shiding pengyun gu zhu xiang)
The image (see larger) was copied from the Museum website, but then edited, the back in particular as the original was very dark. The museum website has more detail. The inscription is discussed in the next footnote.

3. Are they all "qin"?
The latter two items (A918 and A920), qin in standard form, were donated to the museum in 1897 by Mrs. Sarah Sagehorn Frishmuth (Mrs. William D. Frishmuth).

As for the first two items (A916A and A917), it is not clear to me how they came to be called "qin"; likewise I do not know whether they represent instruments that at one time were actually played, or whether they were made for some decorative or ther purpose.

4. Wen Zhengming (文徵明 1470-1559) (Wiki)
The full-poem by Wen Zhengming is as follows:


The phrase selected for the qin in the Penn Museum is the second half of the third line. As for the entire third line, it was written separately as a paired couplet in calligraphy by the Qing dynasty calligrapher Liu Yong (劉墉 1719~1804), and in this form achieved some popularity.


Not yet translated.

5. Image for Japanese qin
Sent by Wu Bin, from a Penn Museum catalogue; there is no online image. The qin has three of the original silk strings.

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