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Qin Studio
Ideal places to play qin
琴室 1
Qin Shi
Studio for Seeking Solitude 2 
Countering the romantic ideal of playing the qin in nature are various commentaries saying the best place to play is in the quiet of one's home. One advantage specific advantage of playing indoors is that you are more likely to find an appropriate table. In some cases particular attention has been paid to this table, not just for its aesthetic appearance but also for its influence on the sound. This is discussed further under "qin tables".

More likely, though, rooms for playing qin will be described simply, as in this quote (notwithstanding the cranes) from the 17th century Classic of the Qin (Qin Jing)4

In a modest dwelling there should be a stand for laying the qin on, and a case for storing it away. There should be a flywhisk, a sonorous stone, brushes and ink to keep the qin company and there should be lustrous flowers and cranes to be its friends. All these things belong to the doman of the qin.

A more elaborate description, focused on sound, can be found in the Ming treatise "Desultory Remarks on Furnishing the Abode of the Retired Scholar (Kaopan Yushi), compiled by Tu Long and originally published in 1590.5 as follows:

It should truly reproduce the tones, and not sound hollow. The best is a room in a storied building; there the boards of the ceiling ensure that the tones are not dispersed, and the empty space beneath makes the tones ring through. If one chooses a high hall or a spacious chamber, then the tones are dispersed and thin. And when one plays in a narrow room or in a small house the tones cannot ring through. If the building consists of only one floor, a big jar should be buried underneath. In this jar a bronze bell should be suspended, and then the jar should be covered by boards.

Wise men living in retirement also take for their qin chamber tall pines and high bamboo, or a cavern in the rocks; in such a pure and airy abode in the serenity of nature and quiet surroundings, and especially when there is the impressive sight of a rivulet babbling over stones, the tones of the qin shall gain in clearness. Is not such a place like the Moon Palace of Wide Coolness?

A similar attitude towards qin studios is expressed in the Treatise on Superfluous Things (Zhang Wu Zhi) by Wen Zhenheng (1585 - 1645).6

Qin Studio: The Ancients in their single story dwellings would bury a vat; from the middle of the vat they would hang a bell in order to help spread sound from the qin. But this is not as good as being under a multi-storied building, in which case, if there are wooden beams above then the sound will not become dispersed, if underneath there is an empty space then the sound will be penetrating and complete. Or perhaps (they will be) amongst soaring pines and tall bamboo (or) in a stone cavern beneath a cliff. If the place is clear and the environment serene, then the elegance will manifest itself.

Other references on this site to qin studios come in the following poems.

The latter two are not yet translated.7


1. Qin studio (琴室 Qin Shi)
Also "qin room"; 21570.xxx. (Compare 21570.52 琴堂 qin tang (qin hall)

2. Studio for Seeking Solitude (招隱室 Zhao Yin Shi)
Qin studios often have a name: this is the name of mine. (Thanks to 于水山 Yu Shuishan [Wiki] for the calligraphy.)

4. Quote from Classic of the qin 琴經 Qin Jing
See Van Gulik, p.179; translated on p.69. The original text is:

環堵案,櫝以受桐,猊、磬、翰、墨以侶桐。瓊葩仙禽桐之侑也,江風山月桐之供也。江風山月桐之供也,此皆通籍干嶧陽也。 Romanization from VG modified. Here the word "桐 tong" (type of wood) stands for "qin".

5. 考盤餘事 Kaopan Yushi, compiled by 屠隆 Tu Long (1590; Wiki)
See Van Gulik, p.179; translated on pp.67-8. The mention of a storied building suggests not playing on the ground floor, unless a space under the floor is opened up.

The original text is:



Romanization from VG modified. Van Gulik continues the paragraph as follows:

It seems difficult to justify the suggestion for burying a jar with a bell by the laws of acoustics, but it must have appealed to the imagination of the lovers of qin music. Other Ming authors criticize this statement, which seems to be based on a story told about the Han poet Sima Xiangru: he used to play the qin on a special terrace called 琴臺 qin tai. When later the state Wei attacked Shu, and soldiers camped on that place and dug tranches, they found more than twenty big jars, which had served to make the music resound.

Reference given as ch. 79 of 潛確居類書 Qianque Julei Shu, 1630.

6. Description in Zhang Wu Zhi by Wen Zhenheng
The original of this passage is,


Compare with the account by Gao Lian above. There are some problems with this depiction. For example, in the case of the underground vat, is the player also underground? Is the bell hanging from, say, a board placed across the vat, or is it hanging into the vat from the ceiling?

7. Other qin studio references
Thanks to Luca Pisano for locating some of these quotes, which he found in 秦蓁 (Qin Qin), 在何處鼓琴. ——略論建築聲學與古琴美學. (Not yet translated.)

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