Qin Shi Chubian 6C7: Cheng Yujian, Lun Qin
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Chapter Six: Song and Yuan dynasties 1
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, p. 120

6.C. Qin Essays 2

7. Cheng Yujian,3 Lun Qin (Discussing Qin) 4



This (essay) is seen in Qinshu Daquan (Folio 10). The author, during the Zhenghe period (1111-1117) of the Northern Song, for the circumstances of the qin world carried out a broad critical essay, pointing out that at that time,5

In the capital (Kaifeng), Double Zhe (Zhejiang and part of southeast Jiangsu) and Jiangxi (the modern province and somewhat east) the number of people skilled at the qin is very great; moreover each has its own finger techniques. In Kaifeng most of it is vigorous, in Jiangnan they err on the side of playfulness; it is only in Double Zhe that it is hidden and not wild, literary but not historical.

This paragraph makes an outline of the different styles of each of the northern and southern schools, regarding with special approval the Double Zhe qin school. From this one can see that the ascent of the Zhe School certainly had long tradition. As early as the Northern Song it already had a leading position.6

The same as with Zequan, (Cheng) paid a lot of attention to the differences between diaozi and caonong, saying,7

Caonong value wave-like fluttering, and are more likely to get lost in excess;
Diaozi value calm and quiet, and are more likely to sink into obscurity.

This points out that the two (types of melodies) had different styles of play, and also the tendencies they could easily produce. He also laid out a list of the popular diaozi of his day, dividing them into different styles and adding commentary.8

(Cheng) opposed just blindly following old tablature, saying,9

"Old melodies are rarely achieved. The ones now commonly transmitted never have clear modality/melodies, the intonation has dissonance, the sounds are chaotic, there naturally are omissions: how can one be blinded by such a melody?"

(Instead) he advocated,10

"Examine all the experts, select the good ones, and follow them."

Regarding peoples' bearing during performance, for all such aspects as every sort of finger technique and dynamic process he put forward detailed explanations and advocated strict and concrete requirements. However, he stressed even more comprehension of melodies, saying,11

"Temper yourself over a long period of time, then suddenly you will achieve comprehension, and then there will be nothing you cannot do."

If towards musical concepts one has no deeply ingrained structural knowledge, this will only be a bitter experience, and one will not be able to attain a beautiful space.12

"As for this lack of comprehension, although one may use a lot of effort seeking it, in the end there will be no beautiful space."

(Continue with next, Zhao Xikuang, Lun Tan Qin)

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. Translation by JT

3. Cheng Yujian 成玉磵
Cheng Yujian (11820.xxx lived during (1111-1117), but there seems to be no information about him other what what is written in the sources mentioned here. There is also a collection of his explanations of finger techniques (Zhi Fa, Qinshu Cunmu #128), included in Qinshu Daquan, Folio 8 (Qinqu Jicheng, V/155 apparently to 158).

4. Discussing Qin (論琴 Lun Qin) (QQJC V/206-209)
This essay is quite lengthy: over six folio-pages in Folio 10 of the original Qinshu Daquan, which organizes it into three sections, of 5, 10 and 142 lines respectively. Qinshu Daquan calls it Qin Lun; in QSCB it is one of nine such discussions in a section of QSCB called Qin Lun, so perhaps Xu Jian reversed Cheng Yujian's title to Lun Qin to distinguish the title from this overall title.

In addition to the phrases from this essay that Xu Jian commented on above, other phrases in it worthy of note include the following:

Selected phrases from this essay have been translated by Pei-You Chang on this webpage. Based on the text in Qinqu Jicheng, copied below, she seems to paraphrase a few of the original quotes (the first few are underlined here).

The original text of Qin Lun by Cheng Yujian begins as follows (copied mostly from a punctuated version found on this Facebook page):










(last quarter of the text not yet copied)

More could be said about this text.

5. 京師、兩浙、江西能琴者極多然指法各有不同。京師過於剛勁,江南失於輕浮,惟兩浙質而不野,文而不史。
See in above text and QQJC V/206, upper right quadrant, beginning near bottom of the last line.

6. Origins of the Zhe School
Elsewhere (see comment) it seems to be suggested that the Zhe school actually began more than a century later than the present article.

7. 操弄貴飄揚而多失於無度,調子貴淡靜而多陷於僻澀
See in above text and QSDQ, Folio 10 (QQJC, V/206 lower left lines 5-6).

8. Cheng Yujian naming and analyzing diaozi
This seems to refer to at least two parts of his Qin Lun. QSCB, Chapter 6b3, has four of his quotes analyzing diaozi. As for naming them, this seems to come in Qin Lun (in QSDQ Folio 10; see in the above text and in QQJC V/207 lower right quadrant). This includes (see line 5) phrases like this,

Manjue mode melodies are numerous, made by contemporary people, such as Jiangshang Wenjiao, Shasai Wanqing, Song Yu Bei Qiu and Penglai Chun Wan...."

Of these four titles, one (Song Yu Bei Qiu is mentioned as a manjue mode diaozi in QSDQ Folio 13, while Xu Jian mentions the first two under Zequan Heshang in Chapter 6b3.

9. 古曲罕得,世俗所傳杳無明調,至律有不協,聲韻繁亂,自當刪除,豈可蔽於一曲哉?
See in above text and in QSDQ, Folio 10 (QQJC, V/207 upper right lines 3-4). This is a very good description of a poorly done reconstruction (dapu),

10. 参考諸家,擇其善者
See in above text and in QSDQ, Folio 10 (QQJC, V/207 upper right lines 3-4). This is a very good recommendation for the tradition oral method of learning.

11. 歲月磨煉,瞥然省悟,則無所不通
See in above text and in QSDQ, Folio 10 (QQJC, V/207 upper right lines 5-6).

12. 至於未悟,雖用力尋求,終無妙處
See in above text and in QSDQ, Folio 10 (QQJC, V/207, upper right lines 6-7).

In his article on Song dynasty music, Yuan Jung-Ping explained this as follows,

"Cheng Yujian wrote....that playing the qin is like practicing meditation: after years of practice, there can be sudden enlightenment. Enlightenment allows one to discover the purpose of life and understand the greatness of nature. While we know that Buddhist philosophy influenced qin theory, at the same time playing the qin must also have helped Buddhist monks achieve their religious goals."

Return to the top or to Song-Yuan in the Qinshi Chubian outline.