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Su Shi 1
Su Dongpo with a lady musician (pipa) 2      
Su Shi (1037 - 1101), better known as 蘇東坡 Su Dongpo, was one of the most influential poets and essayists during the northern Song dyansty (960–1127). His brother Su Che was also a poet.3 There is some discussion of Su Dongpo's connections to the qin in Xu Jian's Introductory History of the Qin, 6a2.

A collection of writings by Su Shi about the qin, under the title Miscellaneous Accounts of Qin Matters, was included in Folio 100 of the 14th century encyclopaedia called Shuo Fu. This volume still exists.4

Poems by Su Shi directly mention qin at least 61 times.5 Qinshu Daquan (QQJC Vol. V) includes at least 22 such poems and essays he wrote concerning qin. These poems and essays include (original texts are in a footnote below):6

Folio 16, #53 (V. 362/3; seven writings)
Folio 17, #56 (V. 384; 1 writing, including 1 poem)
Folio 17, #57 (V. 384; 1 letter)
Folio 18, #55 (V. 403; inscription [with comments])
Folio 19A, #31 (V. 418; [from an essay {repeated} that has 1 poem])
Folio 19A, #33 (V. 419; 1 poem)
Folio 19B, #91 - #93 (V. 431; 3 poems)
Folio 19B, #161 (V. 441; 1 poem)
Folio 20A, #53 - #55 (V. 447; 3 poems)
Folio 20B, #56 - #58 (V. 455/6; 3 poems)

Qinshu Daquan also has stories by other people that mention Su Dongpo and qin, sometimes quoting him. For example, see (original text below):7

Folio 17, #32 (includes a poem; V. 379)
Folio 17, #39 (mentions him with 武崇穆 Wu Chongmu; V. 380)
The following poem was included together with one of the essays above:8

If you say music from the qin does rise,
Why in its case will the strings not sing?
If you say sound in the fingers lies,
Why from your fingers do we hear no ring?

Some handbooks say he wrote the melody He Wu Dongtian. And his lyrics set to qin melodies (by others) include the following,

  1. Zui Weng Cao (lyrics)
  2. Qian Chibi Fu (lyrics)
  3. Hou Chibi Fu (lyrics)
  4. Shui Diao Ge Tou9

Should this also include the melody Xiangsi Qu (Gu Qin Yin)?10 Introductions to it suggest he created it, or at least the lyrics, though it does not seem to be part of his canonical work. The various introductions all concern Su Dongpo and a female ghost who played the qin. In the version translated by Van Gulik,11 Su Dongpo hears someone playing a sad song outside his window. When he goes to look he sees a young woman, who immediately disappears. In the morning when digging in that area he finds an old qin.

It may also be appropriate to mention Su Dongpo's Three Songs on Yangguan Lyrics. This and related comments by Su himself may be of relevance in tracing the source of the melody used today with Yangguan Sandie, but as yet I have not carefully analyzed this.12

Su Dongpo is said to have created a list of "16 Enjoyable Activities, the final one of which mentioned "playing qin for an understanding listener".14

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Su Shi 蘇軾 (蘇東坡 Su Dongpo, sometimes written Su Dongbo)
33250.234 眉山人,洵子,轍兄,字子瞻 from Meishan, son of Su Xun, brother of Su Che, style name Zizhan. Sources (see also Wiki) include:

Nienhauser, Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, p.729.
Michael A. Fuller, The Road to East Slope, The Development of Shu Shi's Poetic Voice
Burton Watson, Selected Poems of Su Tung-p'o
Xu Yuanzhong, Su Dong-po - A New Translation
Lin Yutang, The Gay Genius, The Life and Times of Su Tungpo

The references quoted here come from various poetry collections and The Collected Writings of Su Dongpo (東坡文集 Dongpo Wenji).

2. Su Dongpo with a lady musician (pipa) Japanese image: Su Dongpo with qin?    
The image above is part of 仇英,東坡寒夜賦詩圖 a long scroll by Qiu Ying (款) called Dongpo on a cold evening writes poetry. The woman with the pipa is said to be a female entertainer (or Skilled Woman). The full scroll is here. There are many online copies but I haven't found where the original is kept.

Compare the image at right, from a standing screen, copied from a Japanese web page. The image seems clearly to be of 鍾馗 Zhong Kui, but the text there says (in part),

蘇東坡 八僊畫衝立 Su Dongpo, from standing screen drawingss of the 8 Immortals (? See Wiki)
古裂會   骨董品古美術品専門オークション Bone (?) valuable object and old beautiful object
寶曆元年 (1751: Houreki 1st year).... 僧泉寺(極書)天保元年(1830: Tenpo 1st year)
長泉寺 裏鐘馗抱琴畫(紙本 ヤケ シミ スレ)

The last line says "Chosenji Temple, Drawing of Zhong Kui embracing a qin". On the left side of the screen the writing says: 七十叟野某姚宋敬 .

Is it saying that Su Dongpo was the painter? Otherwise I do not understand this inscription, or the relationship between Su Dongpo, the Eight Immortals, the inscription and the image, which is clearly Zhong Kui (Wiki), who was not one of the 8 Immortals.

3. Su Che 蘇轍 (1039 - 1112)
Su Che, style name 子由 Ziyou, though overshadowed by his older brother Su Shi, was one of the "Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song". (Indiana Companion, p.727)

4. Miscellaneous Accounts of Qin Matters (雜書琴事,十三則 Zashu Qinshi, 13 entries; 一卷 one folio)
Qinshu Cunmu entry 103 (4 lines) bases its discussion of this work attributed to Su Shi on the version in Folio 100 of 說郛本 Shuo Fu, where it is the fifth entry. There are 13 essays in the Shuo Fu edition, as follows:

  1. 家藏雷琴
  2. 歐陽公論琴詩
  3. 琴非雅聲
  4. 琴貴桐孫
  5. 戴安道不及阮千里
  6. 琴鶴之禍
  7. 天陰絃慢
  8. 天陰絃慢
  9. 書醉翁操後
  10. 書林道人論琴、棋
  11. 書仲殊琴夢
  12. 書王進叔所蓄琴
  13. 文與可琴銘


Some of these are quoted again below.

5. Qin mentioned in Su Shi's poetry 61 times
See Stuart H. Sargent, Music in the World of Su Shi (1037-1101): Termiology, Journal of Sung-Yuan Studies 32, pp. 46 (2002; online). Pages 46-51 has a comprehensive account of Su Dongpo's comments on qin; see also pp. 54-5. Sargent is mentioned again below.

6. Su Shi qin-related poems and essays in Qinshu Daquan
There are at least 22 such items in that 1590 compendium, as follows:

Folio 16, #53 (Selections from Dongpo Wenji arranged into seven paragraphs; V.362/3)
Subtitles: 桐貴孫枝、安道介不如千里達、琴偈燒煮琴鶴、伯倫淵明非達

Folio 17, #56 (V. 384)

Folio 17, #57 (V. 384)

Folio 18, #55 (V. 403)

Folio 19A, #31 (V. 418),

Entry 31 from Folio 19 concerned the 3rd month, 18th day; for the 19th day see below

Folio 19A, #33 (V. 419)

Folio 19B, #91 - #93 (V. 431-2; 3 poems),

Folio 19B, #161 (V. 441)

Folio 20A, #53 - #55 (V. 447, 3 poems)

Folio 20B, #56 - #58 (V. 455/6, 3 poems)

More could be added.

7. Stories by others concerning Su Dongpo and qin
These two stories were included in Qinshu Daquan (1590), Folio 17:

Folio 17, #32 (V. 379)
觀宋復古畫序 Preface to Looking at a Painting by Song Fugu (V.379)
Fugu was the style name of 宋迪 Song Di, a well-known painter from Luoyang; he painted a version of 瀟湘八景 Eight Scenes of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers. Two subtitles are given:

  1. 東坡夢中琴詩 (Su) Dongpo's qin poem in a dream
  2. 破琴詩見詠琴 Broken qin poem sees singing qin (?)

However, there does not seem to be a clear division in the text. The entire text seems to concern Su Dongpo and a 13-string qin / zheng, so the second subtitle may simply refer to the included poem(s).

Of old it was said that during 713 - 42 Fang Guan zaied (?) Mr. Lu and the Daoist Xing Hepu (8th c.; Bio/499) .....

In the 6th year of Yuanruo, the 19th day of the 3rd month, I returned from Hangzhou to....

In a dream I....

(The original Dongpo Ji text then continues: 詩曰:
      「破琴雖未修....Broken qin...., see above).

Folio 17, #39 (V.380/1)
昭德樸齋錄 Zhaode Record of Puzhai
There is a 昭德文集 Zhaode Wenji by Zhao Gongwu (晁公武 14239.5: 12th c.), while 樸齋錄 Puzhai Lu is perhaps a work by 蒲瀛 Pu Ying called 蒲氏漫齋錄 Pushi Man Zhailu (32271.17 pushi: a type of fan), but I have not been able to find the connection between that and this text, which mentions Su Dongpo in connection with his friend 王晉卿 Wang Jinqing (王詵 Wang Shen Bio/108; Jin is written here with two 口 instead of two 厶) and two Daoist priests, 武崇穆 Wu Chongmu (Bio/xxx; 16623.xxx) and 費世隆 Fei Shilong (37565.xxx).

東坡觀人知琴 (Su) Dongpo sees people and understands them through qin (note also the mention of 茗 tea)

Daoist priest Wu Chongmu was a skilled qin player who was also fast at dianzhu (a game involving sketching bamboo?)....

There are probably also other references in Qinshu Daquan that I have not yet found.

8. Poem on the source of qin sounds (see above)
The translation is based on that of Xu Yuanzhong, Song of the Immortals, p.212. The original (see p.423) is:


Elsewhere the first phrase is written, "若言聲在琴絃上".

9. 水調歌頭 Shui Diao Ge Tou
This is the name of a 95-character cipai; the lyrics by Su Shi are the most famous ones in this form. The original and a translation are in Wiki; they are included here under the qin melody of this title.

As indicated by the preface to the poem, this was one of the poems written by Su Shi during Mid-Autumn (details).

Zha Guide 32/244/470 has six entries with this title, but two are duplicates, so there are actually four melodies for the three sets of lyrics; all lyrics fit into the same ci pattern. The six are as follows:

  1. Lixing Yuanya (1618; QQJC VIII/337)
    The lyrics are those of Su Shi given just above; the melody is one of the handbook's 5 melodies for one-string qin.
  2. Shu Huai Cao (1677 [1]; XII/342)
    "宮音"; "鐵篴老仙去,無復採花船...."
  3. Shu Huai Cao (1677 [2]; XII/363)
    "徵音"; "君山已不作,獻曲久無人...."
  4. Song Sheng Cao (1682 [1]; XII/376)
    Seems to be the same as 1677 #1
  5. Song Sheng Cao (1682 [2]; XII/379)
    Same lyrics as 1677 #2 but different music; mode is "商音"
  6. Ziyuantang Qinpu (1802; XVII/540)
    Seems to be same as 1677 #1, but lyrics are paired instead of at end

None are yet reconstructed here.

10. Xiang Si Qu 相思曲
Also called 古琴吟 Gu Qin Yin. See details in the introduction to the 1585 version, including the original lyrics.

11. Su Shi and the Ghost of Xiang Si Qu
Van Gulik translates this story in Lore, pp.159-160 and there are further details here. Several other stories in that section of Lore also concern ghosts (and in one of his Judge Dee mysteries Van Gulik has a ghost appear to the judge as he plays qin in the middle of the night [illustration]).

12. Su Shi and Yang Guan
See p. 70fn of Stuart Sargent, Music in the World of Su Shi as well as Sargent's "Colophons in Countermotion: Poems by Su Shih and Huang T’ing-chien on Paintings", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 52.1 (June 1992): 263–302. Sargent says the latter has "more on the Yang Pass song and its role as a theme in Song painting".

The 陽關詞 三首 Three Poems on Yangguan Lyrics (SSSJ 3:15.751) are:

  1. 贈張繼願
  2. 答李公擇
  3. 中秋月

As can be seen, these have the same structure as the original Wang Wei poem, which was included in Yuefu Shiji, Folio 80.

Of these Sargent wrote,

(We) have Su Shi’s testimony that he sang some quatrains he wrote to the tune of the ubiquitous farewell song called "Yang Pass." At least one of these quatrains was definitely written in 1077, and looking back on this poem years later (and singing it again, in solitude), Su tells us "I wrote this poem and sung it to 'Yang Pass'" 作此詩, 以《陽關》歌之. This and two other poems apparently made to be sung to the same tune are placed together in his collection as "Three Yang Pass Lyrics." "Yang Pass" seems to have been a simple tune that everyone sang at farewell banquets, perhaps with Wang Wei's original words, perhaps with words composed on the spot for the occasion. In a sense, "Yang Pass" is a lyric meter: the well-known tune imposed a pattern, possibly with even greater strictness than other lyric meters.

With ci poetry, new lyrics were written following the pattern of an old melody long after the melody was lost. The poems here are 詩 shi rather than 詞 ci, and it is not clear whether they were applied to an actual surviving Tang melody, to a supposed Tang melody, or to a variety of melodies all with an appropriate structure. This also leaves out consideration of whether they were always paired, as in the qin examples, using one note for each character/syllable.

14. Su Shi's 十六樂事 16 Enjoyable Matters
Su Dongpo is said to have created a list of "16 Enjoyable Matters", the final one of which was "playing qin for an understanding listener". The 16 (translation incomplete) were:

    Su Dongpo: For a happy mind, 16 enjoyable matters
  1. 清溪淺水行舟 In the shallow waters of a clear stream to ride a boat
  2. 微雨竹窗夜話 With light rain outside a bamboo window have an evening conversation
  3. 暑至臨溪濯足 When summer comes, in a clear stream wash your feet
  4. 雨後登樓看山 After rain to climb a tower and look at mountains
  5. 柳陰堤畔閒行 Along a willow-shaded embankment have a leisurely walk
  6. 花塢樽前微笑 Huawu tea, a cup (of wine), then smile
  7. 隔江山寺聞鐘 Between a river and a mountain temple to hear a bell
  8. 月下東鄰吹簫 Under the moon the Eastern Neighbor (i.e., a beautiful woman) plays xiao flute
  9. 晨興半炷茗香 In the morning arise in half light to tea fragrance
  10. 午倦一方藤枕 When tired at mid-day to have a rattan pillow
  11. 開甕勿逢陶謝 Open a (wine) vat but not meet Tao or Xie (who would drink it all)
  12. 接客不著衣冠 Meet a guest with whom you don't have to get dressed up
  13. 乞得名花盛開 Seek a lovely flower (beautiful woman) and it/she blooms
  14. 飛來家禽自語 (A child who has) flown home like a bird speaks
  15. 客至汲泉烹茶 When a guest arrives to draw water and boil tea
  16. 撫琴聽者知音 Play qin with a listener who understands (your) music

See related image.

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