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Qin bios Leng the Immortal's Sixteen Rules for Qin Tones (冷仙琴聲十六法) 首頁
Leng Qian
- Qin Shi Xu #66
冷謙 1
琴史續 #66 2
Leng Qian3            
Leng Qian (ca. 1310 - ca. 1371) was and painter and musician from either Wuling in Hubei or the Hangzhou area. During the Yuan dynasty he was a Daoist recluse in hills around Hangzhou, noted for involvement in magic practices. At the beginning of the Ming dynasty he became an important court musician, but then he apparently lost favor. His style name was Qijing, nickname Longyangzi, but he was also called Immortal Leng (Leng Xian). Some stories suggest he died shortly after 1403 when he was over 100 years old. He is said to have played the se as well as the qin.

Regarding his official work in the Ming court, in 1367, the year before the formal establishment of the Ming dynasty, the emperor-to-be made him a Chief Musician (Xielü Lang4) within the newly re-created Office of Imperial Sacrifices (Taichang Si5). One of his duties was "to set ritual texts to music so that they could be sung".6

Qinshu Cunmu credits him with two works:

  1. Lengxian Qinsheng 16 Fa   (Leng the Immortal's Sixteen Rules for Qin Tones)
  2. Taigu Zhengyin.

The latter is apparently lost. The former, translated into English by R. H. van Gulik in Lore of the Chinese Lute,7 is often assumed to have inspired several later essays of a similar nature, in particular Xishan Qin Kuang by Xu Hong (for example, in his biography below, written in the 20th century). However, a comment tagged on at the end suggests that quite likely the document attributed to Leng Qian was a later forgery.

The biography of Leng Qian in Qinshi Xu is as follows,8

Leng Qian, style name Qijing, was from Qiantang (Hangzhou). He became a recluse on the top of the Wu mountains. He understood music theory and was good at playing qin. He was airy and graceful, with interests beyond the dusts of society. At the beginning of the Hongwu period (1368-99), with Chen Meizhan and also Tao Kai, Wang Wei and Xiong Taigu, they 同定郊廟諸樂章 together fixed imperial temple sacrifices as they concerned musical movements. 樂成授協律郎 The music completed, he became Xielü Lang. He wrote Leng the Immortal's 16 Rules for Qin Tones, and Taigu Zhengyin, one folio.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Leng Qian 冷謙 (ca. 1310 - ca. 1371)
Dictionary of Ming Biography. Bio/1118: 元明間湖廣武陵 from Wuling in Hubei; 字起敬,號龍陽子 style name Qijing, nickname Longyangzi. Also known as 冷仙 Immortal Leng. Other sources say he was from 武林 Wulin (Hangzhou). Joseph Lam, State Sacrifices and Music in Ming China discusses him on pp. 101 and 115.

The Encyclopedia of Taoism (Routledge), pp. 630-1, has a biography of Leng Qian by Martina Darga. It says, in part,

Leng Qian, whose birthplace is indicated in various sources as 嘉興 Jiaxing (Zhejiang) or 武陵 Wuling (Hubei), was a painter and noted musician.... His biographical profile is blurred by legends. He is said to have painted the picture "The Immortals' Beauty on Penglai"...in 1340. The colophon on this scroll...says that Leng first studied Buddhism but later devoted himself to Confucianism and Taoism....Leng spent part of his life as a hermit on Mount Wu (Wushan 吳山, near Hangzhou). In 1367, Ming Taizu appointed him as a court musician. There are several explanations of why he lost the emperor's favor and under what ciscumstances he disappeared...."

In addition to the two works mentioned above Leng Qian also wrote Essential Purport of the Cultivation of Longevity (修齡要旨 Xiuling Yaozhi). Like the 16 Rules it can be found in 學海類編 Xuehai Leibian.

2. 5 lines; references:雙槐歲鈔 Shuanghuai Suichao, 錢塘縣志 Qiantang Xianzhi, 明藝文志 Ming Yiwen Zhi, 千頃堂書目 Qianqingtang Shumu.

3. The image has vertical text at left saying 協律郎冷謙 Chief Musician Leng Qian; the horizontal text below says it is from(清)上官圖 (Qing dynasty) Illustrations of High Officials.

4. Chief musician: 協律郎 Xielulang
Hucker 2477 and 6145. Lam, p. 101, calls him "music director", a position that "ranked seventh in a bureaucratic hierarchy of nine grades."

5. Office of Imperial Sacrifices (太常寺 Taichang Si)
Hucker 6145: one of of the Nine Courts (九寺 Jiu Si) in the central government and foremost in prestige from the North-South division after the Han through the Ming.

6. Lam, p. 101. Lam goes on to describe Leng Qian's further activities, including "tuning the stone-chimes, bell-cimes, and other musical instruments to their proper and accurate pitches".

7. Sixteen Rules for Qin Tones (琴聲十六法 Qinsheng Shiliu Fa)
Van Gulik, Lore, p.107-116, translates these as Sixteen Rules for the Tones of the Lute. The original text is below. It is also discussed in QSCB, VII.C.

8. The people mentioned in the Qinshi Xu biography of Leng Qian are:
陳昧詹 Chen Meizhan (NFI)
陶凱 Tao Kai (42642.143)
王鰄禕 Wang Weiwei (212195.1583)
熊太古 Xiong Taigu (19738.15, son of 熊朋來 Xiong Penglai)
Xiong Penglai is mentioned further here.

冷謙 Leng Qian (?), Sixteen Rules for Qin Tones (琴聲十六法 Qinsheng Shiliu Fa)
Slightly modified from Van Gulik, Lore, pp. 107-116 (compare the 24 Rules of Xu Hong's Xishan Qinkuang);
the original Chinese can be found there and elsewhere (with some inconsistencies)

  1. 一曰「輕」 Qing: the light touch
    Not light and not heavy are the tones of balanced harmony. When the melody starts, one should aim at playing in these balanced tones. If, in applying the light and heavy touch, the rules of decrescendo and crescendo are adhered to, the sentiment of the tune appears of its own accord. The light touch is the most difficult of all. If not enough force is applied, then the tone is vague and not true, dim and not clear; though light, it is not elegant. The middle light tones are faultless, clear and true. [When applying the light touch] one should consider the string being as thin as one single silk thread of one one-thousandth of an inch, the sound of which is spoilt when the finger as much as approaches it. Then these tones shall express a sentiment of infinite profundity. Sometimes one whole phrase or bar (jie) is played in the light touch, but there exist also the mixed, the higher and the lower light touches. Their tendencies vary, but, with regard to all, the main point lies in clearness and truth.

  2. 二曰「鬆」 Song: the loose touch
    The beauty of vibrato (yin) and vibrato ritardando (nao) lies in the loose touch. The left hand should move up and down over the string in a rounded-off movement, lightly and freely, without any jerks or hitches. It should not be too hasty, nor too slow, but just right; this is what is called the loose touch. Heavy, thin, slow and quick vibrato and vibrato ritardando, all are based on the loose touch. Therefore, the wondrous music of the qin entirely depnds upon touch. If the touch is rounded off, then the emotions ar unified; if the loose touch is lively, then the thoughts are elated. The loose touch should evoke an impression as of water rising in waves, its substance should evoke an impression as of pearls rolling in a bowl; its sound should be like the resonance of intoning a text: this is what is called the loose touch.

  3. 三曰「脆」 Cui: the crisp touch
    The crisp touch is firm. Even for playing tunes of soft harmony and great elegance, both hands should attack the strings, firmly, so that the tones will not be turbid. For each hand this crisp touch is used, but it is hidden and does not come into sight, and it is not easy to express. When the right hand drags on the strings, then the tones will be turbid and dull. Therefore it is said: One should attack the strings with the tips of the fingers, touching them vertically from above. If one does not attack the strings smartly, then the tones will be sticky and irregular. Therefore it is said: The resonance should be like metal or stone, the movement of the fingers should be like the rising wind. For understanding the crisp touch, the swiftness of the fingers should first be known. The swiftness of the fingers is rooted in firmness. The firmness of the fingers is rooted in the arm. If the strength of the arm is applied, then the firm, crisp touch may be executed. Not until then can it be understood that the tendency to turbidity inherent in the strings does not anny the true musician.

  4. 四曰「滑」 Hua: the gliding touch
    Gliding means flowing: it is the opposite of halting. The tones tend to be halting, and the fingers tend to be gliding. By nature the tones tend to be drawn out, and to follow each other in slow succession, like the bubbling sound of a stream, that goes on gurgling endlessly. Therefore this is called halting. If the finger technique is impeded then it is not swift. The fingers should move up and down like gusts of wind, therefore this touch is called gliding. The most important point in the movement of the fingers is of course sliding. But sometimes also stopping is important This stopping should be considered as a pause in the gliding. So that when in a tune there is halting, there must also be gliding; and if there is gliding, there must also be halting. Then both obtain their real significance.

  5. 五曰「高」 Gao: the lofty touch
    Although the lofty touch resembles the antique touch (#11), they are essentially different. The antique touch is expressed by resonance, the lofty touch is modelled after melody. If the finger technique is serene and clear, and if moreover one can apply the lofty modulation, only then shall the meaning of the tones reach the mysterious wonder. Therefore this touch is of the utmost tranquillity, like a deep well that can not be fathomed, like a high mountain whose top is lost to the eye. It flows on, like streams that are never exhausted, and it is soundless like the threefold sound of emptiness.

  6. 六曰「潔」 Jie: the pure touch
    If one wishes to attain perfection in tone, one should first attain perfection in the finger technique. The way of perfecting the finger technique passes from being to not-being, through multiplicity to simplicity. Not discoloured by one speck of dust, not defiled by one flaw, the secret of the finger technique dwells in the stage of the highest purity. But generally people do not realize this. If in the finger technique purity is perfected, then the tones become more and more rarefied. The more rarefied the tones are, the more the spirit nears eternity. Therefore I say: if one wishes to perfect wondrous tones, one should first prefect the wondrous finger technique. In orer to perfect the wondrous finger techiques, one must necessarily start with cultiviting purity in oneself.

  7. 七曰「清」 Qing: the clear touch
    All tones are governed by clearness. If the place where the music is performed is secluded, clearness results; when the heart is serene, clearness results; when the spirit is solemn, clearness results; if the qin is true, clearness results; if the strings are clean, clearness results. Only when all these factors that affect clearness are assembled may one aim at clearness in the finger technique. Then left and right hand shall be like Male and Female Phoenix, chanting harmoniously together, and the tones shall not be stained with the slightest impurity. The movement of the fingers should be like striking bronze bells or sonorous stones. Slow or quick, no secondary sounds shall be produced, so that when hearing these tones one obtains an impression of purity - as of a pool in autumn; of brilliancy - as of the shining moon; of dim resonance - as of the babbling water in mountain gorges; of profundity - as of a resounding valley. These tones shall in truth freeze alike heart and bones, and it shall be as if one were going to be bodily transformed into an Immortal.

  8. 八曰「虛」 Xu: the empty touch
    While playing the qin to express true tones, this is not very difficult. What is really difficult is to express emptiness. If asked, "The fingers move to produce tones; where does emptiness come in?" I would answer, It lies exactly in the production of tones. If the tones are sharp, the player shows his precipitation; if the tones are coarse, then the player betrays his impurity; but if the tones are serene, then the player shows that he has achieved the expression of emptiness. This is the right way for appreciating music. The merit of the finger technique lies in two things; on the one hand in expressing the spirit of the melody, and on the other in refining its purity. When the spirit of the melody is expressed, then the heart will become serene as a matter of course, and when the purity is refined, the tones shall naturally be empty. Therefore though being quick they will not be disorderly, and though being many they will not be confused. The self-sufficiency of a deep well, and irradiating splendour, high mountains and flowing streams: with the spirit of these one's soul should harmonize.

  9. 九曰「幽」 You: the profound touch
    If tones are profound, then they come up to the standard of qin music. The quality of music depends upon the personality of the player; thus profundity comes from within. Therefore, when a high-minded and cultivated scholar executes a tune, then the resonance is profound. If one truly understands profundity as expressed by the fingers, the player can let himself go, whether the movement be slow or quick. The music will be broad and generous like the wind, and unstained by earthly dust. It will serve to show the elevated disposition of the player, and the fingers will depict the emotion that inspired each part of the composition. This is meant by the saying: Let the fingers express what the heart expriences. When one hears his music one shall know the personality of the player. Such are the wonderful qualities of the profound touch.

  10. 十曰「奇」 Ji: the rare touch
    The special quality of tone that is produced by the rare touch appears in the vibrato and the glissando (dou). If while playing it is applied in the right way, it should evoke an impression as if a thoughand mountain peaks vied with each other in verdure, as if the ten thousand streams emulated each other's effervescence. It shoould impart to the hearer a sensation of flowing, of going on forever, an unbroken continuity. Where in a tune periods or bars are suddenly broken off, and at the end of a tune, care should be taken especially not to let the muic end in a vague, careless way. For each part of a tune has its special sentiment that should be expressed by the performer. Moreover and expression should be given as if one were riding on horseback high in the mountians, amidst drifting clouds. When every note is made to express the sentiment inherent in it, then only shall one know the wonder of the rare touch.

  11. 十一曰「古」 Gu: the antique touch
    In studying the qin there are only two ways: either one follows the old methods, or one follows the methods that are in vogue at the time. Although the old music is obscured by its high antiquity, still if one tries to appoach its meaning, its harmony and simplicity may be reached as a matter of course. Therefore, when in playing one does not fall in with the tunes that are in vogue at the time, then the music breathes the spirit of the Emperor
    Fu Xi. It should be grand, broad and simple, boldly moving over the strings, disdaining petty virtuosity. It should be unmoved like a profound mountain, like a cavernous vale, like an old tree or a clool stream, like the rustling wind, causing the hearer suddenly to realize the True Way. This is something that certainly is rarely seen or heard in this world; therefore it is called the antique touch.

  12. 十二曰「澹」 Tan: the simple touch
    The qin masters of the present time aim at charming the ears; they insist upon producing captivating sounds, thereby greatly sinning against refined elegance. This is because they do not know that the basis of qin music is simplicity. I, on the contrary, tune my qin to simplicity, therefore the great mass does not understand my music. Where is it that simplicity dwells? I love its sentiment, which is not expravagant nor contending. I love its flavour, which is like snow or ice. I love its echo, which is like the wind blowing over pines, like rain on bamboo, like the bubbling of a mountain stream, or like lapping waves. It is only with great musicians that one can talk about simplicity.

  13. 十三曰「中」 Zhong: the balanced touch
    Balanced sounds occur in all music, but they are inherent in the music of the qin. After the old music was lost, there were many that pulled the strings with ardent fervour, and carefully listened to the qin; but only the most excellent musicians are able to transmit the echo of the empty vale. When, ignorantly, one rejoices in elaborating mellow and captivating tones, obliquity (pian) results. When the finger technique is heavy and impure, obliquity results. When the resonance is strained and hasty, obliquity results. When the tones produced are coarse and sharp, obliquity results. When the strings are attacked hurridly, obliquity results. When the personality of the player is unstable and casual, obliquity results. Rectifying this obliquity, returning to completeness, banishing the devious and aiming at the right, this is the way to obtain the tradition of the balanced touch.

  14. 十四曰「和」 He: the harmonious touch
    Harmony is the basis of all tones: it means neither overdoing nor falling short. It is modulated on the strings, it is experienced in the fingers, it is diversified in the notes. The strings have their own nature: if they are compliant, then they will be in harmony with each other. If they are recalcitrant, then they are false. When the movement of the fingers moving up and down, from one string to the other, is smooth like lacquer, then the strings harmonize with the fingers. The tones are regulated by the gamut: sometimes they are to be produced exactly on the spot indicated by one of the thireen studs, sometimes they are not. The numerical indications fix the notes. The important point is to make the vibrato smooth, and to make the chords harmonize precisely, in order to express the sentiment of the tune. Then fingers and tones will be in harmony. Every tone has its own special significance; the signifance comes first, for the notes adjust themselves to the significance. So all the wonders of this music are completed. Therefore, heavy and not vain, light but not floating, swift but not hasty, slow but not slack; with regard to the vibrato and the vibrato retardando: smooth but not vulgar; with regard to glissandos: correct and not inaccurate; whan all the movements are linked up together smoothly; then the crescendos and decrescendos are crips and yet connected...then tone and significance shall be in harmony. Then the soul shall be free and the spirit at rest, fingers and strings melt together, and the pure harmony that leaves no trace shall be produced. These are the signs by which I recognize the great Harmony.

  15. 十五曰「疾」 Ji: the quick touch
    In the finger technique both the slow and the quick touch are used. The slow touch is the basis of the quick, the quick touch is the echo of the slow. In the tunes both touches are alternating continually. Sometimes in the middle of a bar the touch is quick, but near its end it slows down; and a bar that ends on the slow touch sometimes is followed up immediately by a movement in the swift touch. Moreover there are two ways of executing the quick touch. The first is called the little swift touch, which must be brisk. It must be firm, yet the movement of the fingers should not spoil the elegance inherent in the swift touch; it should suggest floating clouds and flowing water. The second is the great swift touch. Its most important point lies in its precipitation, but one should make special efforts not to cause confusion by playing too quickly. Then as a matter of course one expresses a mood of tranquillity, and the sounds will come forth bubbling, like rocks crumbling down or like a cascade falling from a high place. Therefore the quick touch is regulated by the meaning of the tones. It is the meaning that lends tones their divine qualities.

  16. 十六曰「徐」 Xu: the slow touch
    The ancients used the qin to nurture their nature and their emotions; therefore they called its tones rarefied. This quality is to be expressed by the very slow touch. Tones are produced by the fingers, broadly roaming over the strings, but observing the right measure, so that the music produced is in harmony with the gamut. Sometimes one entire bar is played calmly and slowly, sometimes also in the same bar slow and quick alternate with each other. Sometimes a bar breaks off in the middle and then goes on again, sometimes also while going on smoothly it suddenly breaks off. When this technique is executed correctly as each case requires, then naturally one produces the rarefied tones of antiquity, and gradually one penetrates the deepest mystery of this music.

    (Not translated by Van Gulik:) A poem by Yan Daoche says,

    However often one plays the melody Yang Chun,
        with the moon flooding the western chamber the fingering should be slow.

    This captures well the idea of "Xu".

Yan Daoche refers to Yan Cheng (1547-1625); "Xu" here presumably refers to "the slow touch", not to Xu Hong. "The moon flooding the west chamber" was a well-known phrase; as used by Li Qingzhao in her poem (To the tune) A Sprig of Plum (一剪梅 Yi Jian Mei), it is part of the atmosphere depicting the sorrow of a woman separated from her lover. The actual source of this particular couplet is not clear. There is no commentary by Yan Cheng in any of the melodies in his Songxianguan Qinpu, and there is also none for the Yang Chun in Xu Hong's Dahuan Ge Qinpu: so far, the next earliest reference I have found to this poem is in the afterword to the Yang Chun in Chengyitang Qinpu (1705; QQJC XIII/345), which says in full,

雲逸亭曰:「中正和平,疏疏淡淡,此陽春為宮音之正調也。」 嚴天池詩云:「幾回拈出陽春調,月滿西樓下指遲。」余於邇年始得其意。

Whatever its meaning, the above closing phrase of 16 Rules, with its attribution of a couplet to Yan Cheng, is a problem since Yan lived later than Leng Qian (ca. 1310 - ca. 1371). Van Gulik apparently did not realize this: he only says he did not translate this closing passage because he could see it did not fit with the rest of the "slow touch" entry. In fact, the same passage, slightly altered, can be found under the slow touch entry (called "chi) of Xishan Qin Kuang, a similar account to the present one but with 24 touches; it was published in the Dahuan Ge Qinpu (1673, but with the music of Xu Hong, 1580 - 1650).

Zha Fuxi (see his Collected Works, pp.133-4) argued that this inserted passage shows that, in spite of the claims in Van Gulik and Qinshu Cunmu, Xu Hong's essay must have preceded it and thus the present work must have been written after Leng's death. Claims for Leng Qian's authorship come from its inclusion in 蕉窗九錄 Jiaochuang Jiulu, attributed to 項元汴 Xiang Yuanbian (1525-90) but generally considered to be a forgery. In Zha's opinion the earliest known version of "Leng Qian's" 16 Rules was most likely the "16 Qin Sound Methods of Diean, published by Zhuang Zhengfeng in Qin Xue Xinsheng (1664; QQJC XII/59); it also ends with the same line from Yan Cheng.

On the other hand, although Qinxue Xinsheng was published in 1664, thus before Dahuan Ge Qinpu (1670), and although the attribution in Dahuan Ge Qinpu seems to say that the existing Xishan Qinkuang was actually revised by Xia Pu (i.e., around 1670; see also here), the dates of Xu Hong himself are actually earlier than those of Zhuang Zhengfeng. Thus the preponderance of evidence suggests Xu Hong was the author, though Yan Cheng himself might also have also have been involved.

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