Qin Shi Chubian 6C4: Liu Ji, <I>Qin</I> Critique
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Chapter Six: Song and Yuan dynasties 1
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, p. 117-8

6.C. Qin Essays 2

4. Liu Ji,3 Qin Yi (Qin Critique) 4



The Qin Critique by Liu Ji can be seen in the Taigu Yiyin from the Jiading years (1208 - 1224) of the Southern Song dynasty (q.v.). In Qin Critique he divides music into three processes: sheng (sound), yun (sonority) and yin (music).5

  1. (Sheng:) "Whatever is concordant when resonating is called 'sound'";
    This says that harmonious vibrations form musical tones.
  2. (Yun:) "If (these sounds) mix in an organized manner as they resonate it is called "sonority";
    This proposes that the relationship of musical tones working together in concert forms "sonority".
  3. (Yin:) "If while sonorous it forms wen (discourse), it is called "music".
    After this, it also follows that the changes of sonority organize to become music.

(Liu Ji) also discussed the relationships between zhi (aims), yan (statements), wen (discourse) and yin (music),6 saying,

  1. (Yan:) What people preserve of their aims is accumulated together and formed as "statements";
  2. (Wen:) The insufficiency of statements calls for "discourse";
  3. (Yin:) The inability of discourse to reach goals calls for "music".
  4. (Zhi:) The ultimate aim of statements, discourse and music is to reach one's goals, that is, express thoughts and feelings.

He pointed out the use of music arose as a way to express what could not be represented with language and literature: this is also very much correct.

Li Ji, after having analyzed the structure of music and use of music, and having gone on further to explore the reason that music was able to move people, discovered that,

"Although marvelous sounds and elegant sonorities were soon cast off into silence, their profound feelings flourished for a long time, and were often preserved with great fondness."

And why was it that after a performance of beautiful music had ended its profound and expansive mood could still remain in peoples' memories, not leaving them for a long time?

He believed that the artistic expression of music could be divided in three: de (conduct), jing (circumstance/imagination) and dao (path):7

First was Qin De (qin conduct), in other words, style and skill.

"Whenever the meaning of the music is profound and correct, and the fingers are used to make this clear, the movement is well-trained, selections are made without seeming to do so....the mixed sonorities are broken off, establishing sounds only elegant, this is conduct applied to the qin".

Second was Qin Jing (qin imagination), applying imaginative thought to form a creative concept.

When encountering something to be made into music, it takes imagination to form the melody. Rivers and mountains becoming dark or bright: controlling the setting moon using qin strings; wind in the pines soughing: experiencing a clear wind using the fingers. These are then the profundities of imagination.

Third was Qin Dao (qin path), thoughts and feelings, human nature.

Also, when sages and noble people are thwarted and lament the times they are in, hating these profound sorrows, they express this in sound. At first it is so impassioned that it brings joy to spiritual beings, high and low; in the end practicing (qin) conduct harmonizes it with elegant odes. This ensures that, after doing it 10,000 times, the same sounds bring realization. So this is the profundity of the qin path.

This sort of discourse by Liu Ji supplied a great deal of materials with regard to our country's traditional musical aesthetics,

(Continue with next, Chen Minzi, Qinlü Fawei

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Chapter 6 covers these dynasties (dates, capital city [modern name]):

Northern Song (960-1126; Dongjing [Kaifeng])
Liao (907-1125; Dading Fu [Daning?])
Southern Song (1127-1280; Linan Fu [Hangzhou])
Jin (1115-1260; Zhongdu [Beijing])
Yuan (1206-1280-1368; Dadu [Beijing]) (Return)

2. When translating this essay I consulted a draft article by 袁中平 Yuan Jung-Ping entitled "The culture of the qin in Song times" (see quote below). He presented a revised version of the paper was at the 2001 annual conference of the New York Qin Society; that version of the paper is available online.

3. Liu Ji 劉籍 (not 劉基)
Bio/xxx; The above account of Liu Ji's "琴議 Qin Critique has no further information beyond what is with QSCM, 琴議 Qin Yi. It is suggested there that Liu Ji lived at the beginning of the northern Song dynasty, perhaps 10th c.

4. Qin Critique (琴議 Qin Yi
This essay apparently can also be called 琴議篇 Qin Yi Pian (Qin critical essay). The original of all the quotes here can be found in an essay of this title (no author's name given) in Taiyin Daquanji Folio 4 (QQJC, I/73-4). The original text is as follows:


5. Three processes: sound, sonority, music (三個程序﹕聲,韻,音 san'ge chengxu: sheng, yun, yin)
See in original text. 袁中平 Yuan Jung-Ping in an undated paper described these as follows.

Each of these levels distinguishes a more detailed and sophisticated organization compared to the previous level. Sheng) refers to any sound simply as sound, natural or manmade. On the qin the closest analogy might be said to be the notes taken at the level of sound. Yun is the detailed physical qualities of a sound, including its volume, pitch and duration. Finally, yin refers to the expression, the interpretation that a player adds to yun from his feelings and from the sum of his life experience. These three levels are conceptual ways of analyzing the structure of music. They are not distinct things that can be heard separately in music. When music is played, they occur together and are heard together as an undivided whole.

6. 志,言,文,音 : see in original text.

7. 德,境,道 : see in original text. The first, 德 de often means virtue, but here seems to refer more to required conduct. The second, jing, is generally defined as circumstances; Yuan Jung-Ping (op. cit.) translates it as "state of mind". The text also mentions 意境 yijing: creative concept, mood, frame of mind.

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