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Xu Tianmin
- Qin Shi Xu #20
徐天民 1
琴史續 #20 2

Xu Tianmin, literary name Yu, style names Xuejiang (Xueting?) and Piaoweng, was a famous 13th century qin player in Hangzhou, then the Southern Song capital; his family was originally was from Yanling, upriver from Hangzhou.3 At one time he worked under Yang Zuan as a "house guest" (menke). Because of this he had access to tablature of music as played by another well-known player of that time, Guo Chuwang (Guo Mian).

Later, and presumably based on his musical experiences in this milieu, he is is said to have been the founder of the Xumen tradition of qin play, the lineage being as follows:4

  1. Xu Tianmin
    Based on Chapter 6.A. (p. 90), he was active as a qin teacher around 1285, thus probably born no later than 1250.
  2. Xu Qiushan
    He is said either to have been a son or a younger contemporary of Xu Tianmin
  3. Xu Xiaoshan
    Perhaps a son of Xu Qiushan, Xiaoshan is often mentioned in mid-16th century handbooks
  4. Xu Hezhong
    Around 1400 he was declared one of the world's greatest qin masters; Qinshi Xu gives him a separate biography.
Later the compilers of several mid-Ming qin handbooks, Huang Xian and Xiao Luan, are also said to have followed the Xumen tradition.

Zepan Yin seems to be the only melody any handbook directly attributes to Xu Tianmin as creator. Instead he is generally credited as a teacher and transmitter. He is said in particular to have learned from Liu Zhifang many shang mode melodies, of which there are 11 in Shen Qi Mi Pu (q.v.).

According to Xu Jian's Outline History, Chapter 6a3,5 Xu Tianmin "was very good at grass writing, and often used grass characters to write out ci poems by earlier people, expressing their indignation (at the decline of the Southern Song); in this way he expressed his own identical feelings." The Outline History goes on to say that during the years 1224/5 Xu taught Yuan Jue (this should probably be 1284/5, since the dates for Yuan Jue are given as 1266 to 13276), and that at that time Yuan Jue "confirmed that the Zhejiang Tablature transmitted by Xu Tianmin was the old tablature which Guo Chuwang had obtained from the home of Han Tuozhou."

Qinshu Daquan has two poems about Xu Tianmin's qin playing. See

Folio 19B, #106 and #107

The present entry in Qinshi Xu says only

Mao Minzhong, from Sanqu, and Xu Tianmin, from Yanling, wrote 紫霞洞譜十三卷 Zixiadong Handbook, 13 Folios. 何巨濟 He Juji studied from him, and 鄭瀛 Zheng Ying studied from He. Zheng Ying, from 浦江 Pujiang, also wrote a qin handbook.

And the entry for his descendent, Xu Shen, adds only the following about Xu Tianmin,

Xu Shen, style name Hezhong, was descended from people of Qiantang (Hangzhou). His great grandfather was Xu Yu (Xu Tianmin), nickname Xueting (or Xuejiang)....


Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Sources for Xu Tianmin 徐天民
10363.xxx; Bio/xxx. 徐天民,名宇,號雪江、瓢翁 Xu Tianmin, literary name Yu, nicknames Xuejiang and Piaoweng. The Qinshi Xu biography of Xue Hezhong suggests Xuejiang might have been written 雪汀 Xueting.

2. 10 lines, in Qinshi Xu #20; main heading: Yang Zuan

3. 嚴陵 Yanling 4589.160: in 桐廬縣 Tonglu district (modern 嚴州 Yanzhou), about 100 km southwest from Hangzhou (up the 富春 Fuchun River)

4. See also the comment on Xue Zusheng.

5. See also Hsu Wenying, The Ku-Ch'in, p. 225, and the biographical essay for Xu Shen

6. The original indication of date is 甲申乙酉間; according to the Chinese sixty year cycle this could be either 1224-5 or 1284-85; the former does not accord with the dates given for Yuan Jue or other information that concerns Xu Tianmin.

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