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Zhu Xi
- Qin Shi Xu #10
朱熹 1
琴史續 #10
14th c. portrait of Zhu Xi2              
Zhu Xi (1130 - 1200), also known as Zhuzi,3 was a major Song dynasty philosopher and commentator, but at the time his ideas led to his being dismissed several times from official positions. His father Zhu Song4 (1097 - 1143), a scholar and high official, also had problems with the government, in his case due to his opposition to peace with the Jin, as a result of which he retired.

Zhu Xi was born in what is today Youxi County in Fujian province,5, where his father was serving as an official, but his home town is considered to be Wu Yuan, now in the northeast corner of Jiangxi province, but then part of Huizhou, a district just south of Huangshan.6 He spent many years teaching in the Wuyi Mountains on the modern Fujian/Jiangxi province border,7 and is also particularly associated with two Confucian academies, the Yuelu Academy in Changsha8 and one at his retreat by the White Deer Grotto in Lushan, northwest of Poyang Lake.9

Connections between Zhu Xi and specific guqin melodies are all tangential or after the fact. Examples include,

Most or all of Zhu Xi's writings were collected into a compendium called Mr. Hui'an Zhu Wen'gong's Literary Collection.11 Works from this collection that concern guqin are discussed further below.

Speaking of Qin Music Standards (Qin Lü Shuo),12 also referred to as Zhu Xi's "Qin Book" (or perhaps part of his "Qin Books"?), is probably the most relevant of these writings. In it Zhu Xi seems to have taken details of the Pythagorean (sanfen sunyi) tuning system, previously applied to flutes and connected to gongs, and applied them to qin strings. This publication of the calculations in terms of their resulting positions on the qin, according to Prof. Rao Zongyi, influenced the Qin System of Xu Li, eventually incorporated into the Qin Tong of Xilutang Qintong. Zhu Xi's calculations perhaps thus provided a basis leading to the later decimal system for indicating finger positions.13

Tong Kin-woon's Qin Fu, pp.1690-1, has selections from four folios in the collected works of Zhu Xi, as follows:

Qinshu Daquan also has inscriptions and poems by Zhu Xi that mention qin.18 These include:

There is an essay called Ziyang Qinshu perhaps by Zhu Xi: one of his nicknames was Ziyang.19

Zhu Xi apparently transcribed into Lülü notation 12 settings of Shi Jing poems in Zhao Yansu's Fengya Shiershi Pu (ca 1170).20 These were also copied in se tablature by Xiong Penglai (1246-1323).21 In the 19th century handbook Lüyin Huikao they were also set to qin tablature.22

The biography in Qinshi Xu seems largely to concern Zhu Xi's writings on qin tuning and intonation, saying that he took rules that previously had been applied to bells and applied them instead to qin strings. It begins,23

Zhu Xi, style names Yuanhui and Zhonghui, was from Wuyuan in Huizhou....

Not yet translated.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Zhu Xi references (Wiki; Stanford)
14779.803 朱熹 Zhu Xi, 字元晦 style name Yuánhuì, 號 晦庵 nickname Huì Àn, commonly known as 朱子 Zhuzi: Master Zhu.

H. Giles; ICTCL has many references but no separate entry

2. Surviving Portrait of Zhu Wen Gong, State Duke of Hui of the Song Dynasty (宋徽國朱文公遺像 Song Hui Guo Zhu Wen Gong Yixiang)
Copied from Wing-Tsit Chan: Chu Hsi, Life and Thought. Hong Kong, Chinese University Press, 1987, p.2. The accompanying comment says, "by an unknown artist, circa. 1330"; no publication is mentioned. (Compare this image [cleaned up] copied from 14778.803, which took it from 三才圖會 Sancai Tuhui)

3. 朱子 Zhuzi
In addition to Zhuzi one can also find 朱夫子 Zhu Fuzi, as with Confucius. In fact Zhu Xi used many style names: 元晦 Yuanhui, 仲晦 Zhonghui; and nicknames: 晦庵 Hui'an, 沈郎 Shenlang, 季延 Jiyan, 晦翁 Huiweng, 遯翁 Dunweng, and 雲谷老人 Yun'gu Laoren. He was made a 公 duke and canonized 文 Wen, making another name Wen'gong

4. 朱松 Zhu Song
Zhu Song (Giles, Bio/542), style name 喬年 Qiaonian, nickname 韋齋先生 Mr. Weizhai, wrote several poems connected to the qin. See

Folio 19B, #66 and
Folio 20B, #53

5. 尤溪 Youxi, in central Fujian province.

6. 婺源、徽州 Wu Yuan

7. Wuyi Shan 武夷山 has a number of buildings commemorating Zhu Xi, including his grave and a memorial hall.

8. Yuelu Academy (岳麓書院 Yuelu Shuyuan) (Wiki)
Named after Yuelu Shan, a range of hills across the Xiang River from central Changsha. The current building marking the old academy is of much more recent construction

9. White Deer Grotto Academy (白鹿洞書院; Bailudong Shuyuan) Wiki)
On Mount Lu (廬山 Lushan) in Jiangxi province. Today a landmark, there is apparently a plaque on 五老山 Wulao Shan (Five Elders Peak) commemorating the spot of the academy.

10. There is no suggestion that he had any connection with the music.

11. Mr. Hui'an Zhu Wen'gong's Literary Collection (晦庵先生朱文公文集 Huian Xiansheng Zhu Wengong Wenji)
This is the full title, e.g., as found in the China Text Project, of the Collected Writings of Zhu Xi (14281.33 晦庵集 Hui'an Ji: 100 folios, with a continuation in 11 (5?) folios and extra essays 10 (7?) folios. The selections in Tong Kin-woon's Qin Fu, pp.1690-1, are from folios 1, 4, 66 and 85 (see following footnotes). His comments are on pp. 1738-9. I do not yet know of any available translations.

12. Discussion of Qin Tones (琴律說 Qin Lü Shuo)
21570.xxx. The complete text can be found at the end of Folio 66 of Zhu Xi's Complete Works (晦庵先生朱文公文集 Mr. Hui'an Zhu Wen'gong's Literary Collection: see below). Online it can be found in Volume 15 of the China Text Project copy. It is organized into an opening pus two titled sections:

Qinshu Cunmu #108 has 28 lines discussing this work. It seems to have at least one direct quote, from Ding Lü, as follows:

_則凡下之為無也,_則凡上之為應也,六則六之為黃清也。 (__ is like 川 without the middle line)
(Qinshu Cunmu omitted the last phrase, then continued: 陳澧聲律通考云....)

There are a few differences in the text - corrected here from the standard version. Symbols such as 厶 and マ seem to be a shorthand for pitch names; none is in standard use for qin tablature.

13. Zhu Xi's calculations in Qin Lü Shuo
The sort of calculations are as follows, from the opening of Qin Lü Shuo:

太史公五聲數曰:九九八十一以為宮(散聲)。三分去一,得五十四以為徵(為九徽)。三分益一,得七十二以為商(為十二徽)。三分去一,得四十八以為羽(為八徽)。三分益一得六十四以為角(為十一徽)。十二律數曰:黃鐘九寸,為宮(琴長九尺而折其半,故為四尺五寸,而下生林鐘)。林鐘六寸為徵(為第九徽。徽內三尺,徽外一尺五寸。上生太蔟)。太蔟八寸為商(為第十三徽。徽內四尺,徽外五寸。下生南呂)。南呂五寸一分為羽(為第八徽。徽內二尺七寸,徽外一尺八寸。上生姑洗)。姑洗七寸一分為角(為第十一徽。徽內三尺五寸,徽外九寸,下生應鐘).... These calculations give precise positions in terms of the overall length of the qin strings. Later on, in an essay entitled "Qin Precision Measurements" (琴準異同 Qin Zhun Yi Tong; QQJC, p. 18), Xilutang Qintong had similar calculations, but giving the positions in terms of their distances from qin studs. However, both of these works give positions in terms of physical distances (e.g., inches), not decimal percentages (e.g., 7.6), and neither work seems to have suggested that these mathematical relationships could be used for indicating finger positions in qin tablature.

These calculations are discussed by 李玫 in 《琴律說》文本解讀——兼及常見的校勘錯誤,音樂研究 2008, 第5期 (thanks to Tse Chun Yan for the references). There is also further comment on this under Origin of the modern decimal system for indicating finger positions.

14. Folio 1: Qin Compositions (琴操 Qin Cao)
The three entries are:

  1. Beckoning a Recluse (招隱操 Zhao Yin Cao; compare Zhao Yin)
  2. Against Beckoning a Recluse (反招隱 Fan Zhao Yin)
  3. Listening to Qin (聞琴 Wen Qin) 瑶琴清露後,寥亮發窗間。

Not clear whether the poem is associated with a particular melody.

15. Folio 4. Poem (詩 Shi)


Not translated.

16. Discussion of Qin Tones (琴律說 Qin Lü Shuo)
Dr. Tong says, "內容深奧,而所論非詳解不能明白". It is one of the 雜著 Miscellaneous Writings; further details above.

17. Folio 85. Inscriptions (銘 Ming)
The inscriptions are:

紫陽琴銘 ("養君中和之正性,禁爾忿欲之邪心。乾坤無言物有則,我獨與子鈎其深。")
Not translated.

18. Selections from Qinshu Da Quan
There is no index for this book, so I may have missed some selections.

19. Ziyang Qinshu 紫陽琴書
See further information.

20. 風雅十二詩譜 Fengya Shiershi Pu by 趙彥肅 Zhao Yansu
This includes Zhu Xi's 12 Shi Jing poem settings ("Picken: Twelve Ritual Melodies of the T'ang Dynasty"), of which Pian, p.10, writes (romanization revised),

As for the twelve songs, Zhu Xi noted that they were not in the style in his time, and that they were cited from a collection made by one Zhao Yansu 趙彥肅 (ca. 1170), who claimed that the songs dated back to the Kaiyuan (713-741) period of the Tang.... Whatever the origin of these twelve ritual songs, it was Zhu Xi who provided a precedent for countless similar musical compositions by later Confucian musicians.... Zhu Xi's settings were later included in the qin handbook Lüyin Huikao together with several others, including qin and se settings (details below).

21. 瑟譜 Se Pu by 熊朋來 Xiong Penglai, ca. 1300
See further details here.

22. Settings in Lüyin Huikao by 邱之稑 Qiu Zhilu (1835; QQJC XXII/171-209)
Lüyin Huikao includes Zhu Xi's transcriptions of song settings for 12 Shi Jing lyrics. The songs are said to date from the Tang dynasty but their earliest survival is from their publication in 風雅十二詩譜 Fengya Shiershi Pu (ca. 1170, see above) by 趙彥肅 Zhao Yansu (QQJC XXII/171-8; various additional transcriptions is in an appendix, pp.179-209). Zhu Xi himself did the transcriptions into lülü notation; modern transcriptions into staff notation include those mentioned above by Pian and Picken.

In addition to this publication in Lüyin Huikao these songs were apparently later published in Qinzhi Shen Qiu (1889; not in QQJC). As far as I can tell these latter were developed from/copying the Lüyin Huikao settings.

Details of the Lüyin Huikao settings are as follows:

There is further mention of 邱之稑 Qiu Zhilu's work in Pian (pp. 154-173 and search for "Chiou Jyluh"). She includes (p.166) a transcription said to be by Qiu himself of Guan Ju (q.v.), but her practice of not including the original notation makes it difficult to know where it is in Lüyin Huikao.

My own understanding of this is minimal. From looking at the original lülü notation it seems there are no ornamentation or rhythmic indications, just one note name for each character of the lyrics; they would thus seem not to have been designed for any particular instrument. I also do not know whether the 19th century qin tablature arrangements might give some hints at the then current rhythmic understanding.

23 Zhu Xi (Qin Shi Xu #10; 34 lines)
The original text begins,


The reference given is 宋史 the official Song dynasty history.

Return to QSCB, or to the Guqin ToC.