Liu Xiang
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Liu Xiang
- Qin Shi #70
劉向 1
琴史 #70 2

劉向 Liu Xiang (77-6 BCE), a descendant of a younger brother of Liu Bang, founder of the Han dynasty, was in and out of office during his official career. At one time he was almost executed, but he later rose to high rank within the imperial palace. The biographical entry here mentions his writings on qin but does not directly say that he himself played it.

Liu Xiang is known mainly as a bibliographer and anecdotal historian, but he was also a poet and writer of prose lamentations. The following works attributed to him are mentioned here and/or elsewhere on this site:

  1. 琴頌七篇 Qin Song (Qin Praise, 7 Entries)4
    Qinshu Cunmu, #7; no longer extant.

  2. 琴錄 Qin Lu (Qin Records)5
    Qinshu Cunmu, #8; no longer extant, but some parts apparently survive in other sources.

  3. 琴傳 Qin Chuan (Qin Traditions)6
    Mentioned only in the present biography? I have not yet found any further detail elsewhere.

  4. 列女傳 Lienü Zhuan (Biographies of Exemplary Women; compiled 16 BCE; original text; Wiki) 7
    Good online intro at China Knowledge. Also romanized as Lie Nü Zhuan, as with the illustrated Chinese edition made available online by the China Text Project. The entire book has been translated by Anne Behnke Kinney in her Exemplary Women of Early China: The Lienü Zhuan of Liu Xiang (NY, Columbia University Press, 2014); she translates the actual book title as "Categorized Biographies of Women", saying "列 lie" can mean "illustrious" as well as "categorized" but that Liu Xiang himself generally uses the word in the latter meaning. The original is said to have had 125 entries but the surviving edition (from the Song dynasty) has only 124, missing one from the first section.

    The biographies listed below do not themselves all mention the qin, the connections sometimes coming from elsewhere. The relevant biographies8 include:

      - Xiang Fei (Scroll 1, #1; see the melody Xiang Fei Yuan)
      - Fan Ji (Scroll 2, #5; see the melody Lienü Yin)
      - Ban Jieyu (Scroll 8, #14; see the melody Han Gong Qiu).
      - Queen Jiang (Scroll 2, #1; no surviving melody; Qin Shi Bu said her daily qin play made King Xuan of Zhou a better ruler.)
    - Wuling Qi (Scroll 2, #15; wife of Wuling Zi [於陵 = Wuling, not Yuling]; she had "左琴右書 qin to her left, books to her right" [see Guanyuan Cao, not surviving])
      - Zangsun Mu (Scroll 3, #9; mother of Zangsun Chen [see Xing Tan but no apparent connection]; the biography says "琴之合,甚思之 The harmony of the qin, how I long for it!" [Kinney])
      - Governess of Boji (Scroll 4, #2 is Boji; Boji Yin [Prelude #2], attributed to the governess, does not survive)
      - Wife of Qi Liang (Scroll 4, #8; Lament of the Wife of Qi Liang does not survive)
      - Maiden of Agu (Scroll 6, #6; illustration shows Zigong with a qin, but no surviving melody; text mentions 琴 qin three times)
      - Zhao Feiyan (Scroll 8, #15; her two melodies do not survive)
      - Liang Hong Fu (Scroll 8, #18; "誦書彈琴 chanted verse and played qin" with her husband, Liang Hong; no melody mentioned)

    In addition, 魯母師 Mother-Teacher of Lu (Scroll 1 #12) is mentioned elsewhere in connection with a possible early name for hui.

  5. 列仙傳 Liexian Zhuan (Biographies of Exemplary Immortals; original text; Wiki) 9
    Also romanized as Lie Xian Zhuan, as with the version made available online by the China Text Project; while the Lienü Zhuan is said ot have been written by Liu Xiang, he is credited only with having compiled and/or edited the exisiting Liexian Zhuan. This version, like most, has 70 entries. People mentioned on this site who have biographies in it include the following (seven of these biographies themselves mention the qin; otherwise the connection comes from elsewhere):

    ICTCL, p.566, says it had "seventy brief hagiographies of Daoist adepts", adding that the attribution to Liu Xiang is probably erroneous since it must date at least in part from several centuries later.

    A number of illustrations on this website are reprints from 李攀龍 Li Panlong's illustrated Liexian Quanzhuan (Lie Xian Quan Zhuan) with 581 entries, first published by 汪雲鵬 Wang Yunpeng (? in 1600. The reprints are mostly taken from:

    1. 中國古代版畫叢刊 Zhongguo Gudai Banhua Congkan's facsimile edition, 1961, or,
    2. 中國的神仙 Immortals in Ancient China, 岳麓書社 Yuelu Publishing House, 2003 (said to come mostly from Li Panlong).

    In addition to images of most of the people listed from the Han edition below, Liexian Quanzhuan also has many images of people to be found only in the later editions, including Chen Tuan, Guangchengzi, Liu An, Lü Yan, Mozi, Sima Chengzhen, Sun Deng, Taizhenwang Furen, Xi Kang, Xiang Fei Er Nü, Yin Xi, Zhang Liang and Zhang Zhihe and Zhuangzi.

    This website has Liexian Zhuan references in the commentary on a number of qin melodies, in particular: You Lan, Yi Ye Zhi Qiu, Yao Tian Sheng He, Yuan You, and Gu Guan Yu Shen.

  6. 世本 Shi Ben (Basics of Hereditary Lines; mostly lost)
    Qinshu Daquan,
    Folio 16, #20; YFSJ, Preface

  7. 新序 Xin Xu (New Preface; ICTCL: "moral tales and political persuasions")
    Qinshu Daquan,
    Folio 16, #33 (QQJC V, p. 352); YFSJ, Yang Chun

  8. 說苑 Shuo Yuan (Garden of Sayings)
    Complete translation (2021) by Eric Henry as
    Garden of Eloquence; ICTCL: "moral tales and political persuasions"
    Qinshu Daquan, Folio 16, #34 (QQJC V, pp 358-9) quotes four passages
    The standard edition of Shuo Yuan had 20 chapters but some editions, including the China Text Project edition, add a 21st chapter called 佚文 Yi Wen: "fragmentary or apocryphal essays", collected from other sources that attribute them to Shuo Yuan. Shuo Yuan, Yi Wen includes a quote concerning Sun Xi.

  9. 別錄 Bie Lu (Detached Accounts; later comments on early classics)
    One mentions a large number of qin players in Pi, over a century after
    Shi Zhong (Xu Jian Chapter 2.A., p.12).

In addition, Xu Jian, Chapter 2.A. (p.13) quotes him from Qin Shi (original source unmentioned) making a comment about the qin player Long De.

The original biographic entry on Liu Xiang in Qin Shi is as follows.10

Liu Xiang, style name Zizheng, was a great Confucian during Han dynasty. He wrote Qin Chuan and (Qin) Song. (Liu) Xiang had great learning from numerous books, so what he wrote was very thorough. That I have not been able to see any of this is a great pity! Some say that Yang Xiong actually wrote Qin Qing Ying, but today that seems to be completely lost.

Translation tentative.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Liu Xiang 劉向 (Qin Shi bio #70; 3 lines)
2270.260; ICTCL, p.583; Xu Jian, Chapter 2.A. (p.13).

2. 3 lines

4. Qin Praises (琴頌七篇 Qin Song), 7 entries
The entry in Qinshu Cunmu begins with a brief account of Liu Xiang himself before mentioning Qin Song. The full text is as follows,


Not yet translated. (漢書,藝文志 refers to 劉向賦三十三篇. CTP [李善注]卷三至卷四 seems to have three or four references to 雅琴賦 Ya Qin Fu in the Li Shan note to Wen Xuan.)

5. 琴錄 Qin Lu (Qin Records)
The main text of the entry in Qinshu Cunmu mainly quotes seven rules for playing qin attributed to Liu Xiang. This text is as follows.

漢,劉向選。《琴苑要錄》引向《琴錄》曰:凡鼓琴有七利(例?)。一曰明道德,二曰感鬼神,三曰美風俗,四曰妙心察,五曰制聲調,六曰流文雅,七曰善傳授。 (Xu Jian quoted them from "琴錄" in "Qinshu Daquan", where they apparently are the same.)

Not yet translated; the QSCM adds some further commentary on the sources. Could these seven also be considered as 七頌 seven praiseworthy aspects, i.e., the same as the praises above?

6. 琴傳 Qin Chuan (Qin Traditions)

7. 列女傳 Lienü Zhuan
1921.16 列女傳 also mentions a Ming dynasty 古今列女傳 Gujin Lienü Zhuan. Further detail also at China Knowledge.

8. Indirectly relevant biographies
Lienü Zhuan biographies of women mentioned on this site, but apparently with only an indirect qin connection, include:

  - Wei Ji (Scroll 2, #2; she was the wife of Duke Huan of Qi)
  - Mu Ji (Scroll 2, #4; she was the wife of Duke Mu of Qin)

Scroll 8 is called Xu Lienü Zhuan (續列女傳 Continuation of LXZ). Its 20 entries are said to have been added after Liu Xiang, but the general attributation of the rest to Liu Xiang has also been questioned.

9. 列仙傳 Liexianzhuan (Biographies of Exemplary Immortals) 9 (original text; CTP illustrated version)
1921.25 says Liexian Zhuan includes 71 people but most sources say 70. ICTCL, quoted above, also mentions other later collections with more people and longer entries, including the 列仙全傳 Lie Xian Quanzhuan by Wang Shizhen (王世貞 21295.294; 1526 - 90), with 640 entries.

10. Liu Xiang biography in Qin Shi
The original text is as follows:


Tentative translation above.


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