Qin tables
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Qin Tables
Qinzhuo or qin'an 1
also 琴案  
Qin played on a table2 (further images)      
Although traditional Chinese paintings and/or illustrations often show the qin played on a player's lap (example from 1539 but linked here), normally when played it is placed on a table, using mats (qin jian) to hold the qin in place. There are classical essays that describe how a table can have considerable influence on the sound produced by the qin;3 an interesting item here is the so-called "qin block.4

If the table is purposefully built it may be called a "qin table", if the chair (which must be armless) is purposely built it may be called a "qin stool".5

The most important characteristics of such a table are:

The long thin shape of a solo qin table has aesthetic appeal, and this shape may also allow one to use side tables of similar shape - as long as they are not too high and do not have obstructions that prevent the player's legs from going under the table.6

The table in the illustration at right is also quite typical - wider than some but not as wide as others, in particular not as wide as tables designed to support two qins played by players facing each other, as in a teaching situation. there are further images below.7

On a separate page there are details for making a basic table.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Qin table (琴棹 qinzhuo or 琴案 qin'an)
21570.xxx for either. An internet search for "guqin table" shows a number of commercial options.

2. Qin table (琴棹 qinzhuo or 琴案 qin'an)
This image was copied from Van Gulik, Lore, p. 5; the original is in the Qing dynasty qin handbook called Qin Xue Rumen (1864).

3. Influence on the sound
A solid table made of suitable wood can help give the qin a rich, full sound; likewise, or perhaps even more so, a table with drawers can act as a soundboxe. More dramatic, though, are the "qin blocks" (琴磚 qin zhuan), also called "Master Guo's blocks" (郭公磚 Guo gong zhuan; see below) sometimes mentioned in connection with sound amplification and/or an idealized qin studio. Here are references from two classical essays.

It is my understanding that these have never been commonplace. On the one hand, the very existence of these sound boxes perhaps challenges such ideas as that, with qin music, unheard sounds are an essential part. On the other hand, to those who say the interest in these boxes contradicts the idea that qin was intended only for the self or a few friends, one might point to people who play their music loud for its own sake, not because they want (or care whether) others listen.

4. Qin Block (琴磚 qin zhuan) and Master Guo's block (郭公磚 Guo gong zhuan)
"Qin zhuan" seems to be the more common term today, but perhaps Guogongchuan is older, at least when used for a qin table.

It is my understanding that these blocks were common building materials during the Han dynasty and perhaps earlier, particularly on above-ground mausoleums. They often had geometric patterns on them, but they could also be decorated with images, such as with these famous images of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.

These zhuan came in many shapes and sizes, but some were long and narrow. Apparently it was some time during the Ming dynasty that people first got the idea of using them as resonance chambers for qin play. This suggests that the term qinzhaun can not be found in literature prior to the Ming dynasty (further research needed to confirm this).

From what I have heard, these hollow blocks do not amplify sound any better than qin tables with sound boxes attached or built in. Their popularity during the Ming and Qing dynasties perhaps was related to their dating from the Han dynasty. Recently interest in them has again revived, perhaps for the same reason: antiquity rather than sound. Quite a few images of such blocks can be found on the internet, including on commercial sites. These are all long rectangular blocks of stone and/or baked clay (later ceramic?), hollow inside and open at both ends. (If made of ceramic or clay presumably they should be called 琴甎, while similar objects made of wood might have another name altogether.)

5. Qin table, mat and stool
See also the Japanese table below. The Chinese names are:

The common name for what the qin rests on is 琴枕 qinzhen (qin pillow); do not confuse this with 琴軫 qinzhen (qin pegs, a term that has now been borrowed to refer to frets as on a guitar).

6. Sturdiness and height
Folding tables are almost never sturdy enough. Desks often work well when staying in a hotel, or may work when lecturing in a classroom, but if they are large enough then they usually are not very portable. Also, if the body of the table is too high it might make it difficult to put one's legs underneath.

7. Images of other tables
These are identified individually underneath the images (select any image to enlarge it):

The above tables, from left to right, are as follows:

The images here, from left to right, are as follows:

On a separate page are illustrations showing how to make a basic table.

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