Qin Shi Chubian 7 A2  
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Chapter Seven: Ming dynasty
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, p. 125-8 1

(A). 2. Yushan School2

Yan Cheng3 (1547-1625), nicknamed Tianchi and style-named Daoche, was from Changshu in Jiangsu province. A son of the Grand Councilor (Yan Ni4), he himself served for three years from 1604 as Prefect of Shaowu (now in northwest Fujian, near Jiangxi). His prominent social status gave him great influence in qin circles, much like Yang Zan at the end of Song Dynasty. In qin circles he mainly did three things: 1. organized the Yushan school; 2. edited Songxian Guan Qinpu (1614); 3. criticized the trend of excessive and indiscriminate creation of qin songs.

The Yushan school is named after a small mountain, Yushan, in the Changshu area. At the foot of Yushan is a river named Qinchuan; the qin society organized by Yan Cheng was named "Qinchuan Society", so the Yushan school is also known as the Qinchuan school.5 The Changshu area had many qin players, who were influenced by the Xu family. Xu Hezhong's father, Xu Mengji, nicknamed Xiaoshan, once taught at Changshu. Later on there was a famous qin player named Chen Aitong6 and it was from his son, Chen Xingyuan,7 that Yan Cheng learned to play qin. It is said that Yan Cheng also learned qin from an anonymous woodsman, to whom Yan Cheng gave the name Xu Yixian.8 Yan Cheng inherited the qin ideology of the area as well as absorbed the strengths of a famous player in the capital, Shen Yin,9 style name Taishao. In his own words, he "used the strength of Shen to compensate for the flaws of Qinchuan, while using the strengths of Qinchuan to compensate for the flaws of Shen". The integration of strengths from various styles produced the popular Yushan school. Later on, people summarized the major characteristic of the Yushan school as qin aesthetic of "clarity, subtlety, unembellished elegance, distance".10 The Yushan school, also known as the Shu school ("Shu" as in Changshu), was the most influential school during Ming and Qing dynasties.

Songxianguan Qinpu (1614) is the representational qin tablature collection of the Yushan school. It was edited by skilled local players such as Zhao Yingliang,11 presided over by Yan Cheng. All the twenty-two melodies collected were melodies that Yan Cheng himself played, including Shen Yin's Dongtian Chunxiao, Xishan Qiuyue, and so forth. From its first publication in 1614 until 1656 it was published many times and the number of melodies was gradually increased to twenty-nine. This Songxian Guan Qinpu, for a while, was considered in qin circles as carrying the orthodox tradition. The "clarity, subtlety, unembellished elegance, and distance" that Yan Cheng advocated was considered the most ideal style for qin performance. In reality, this was only the fancy of the literati-official class and when it came to musical expression (when playing actual) qin melodies it was very limited. For example, excellent pieces that Chen Aitong played particularly well, such as Wu Ye Ti, Zhi Zhao Fei and Xiao Xiang Shui Yun, were rejected from inclusion in Songxianguan Qinpu because their rhythm was fast and did not match Yan Cheng's taste. Later on, when Xu Qingshan collected qin melodies, he righted this partiality.

Included in Songxian Guan Qinpu is Yan Cheng's essay "Preface to the Qinchuan Tablature Collection".12 It can be considered as stating the guiding principles of Yushan school. It advocates giving full play to music's own expression without the aid of literary text, and holds that the emotional expression of music has unique qualities to which literary text is inferior. "The way of sound is subtle and nimble; it may be rooted in literary text but is not limited to it. Thus sound is more refined than literary text."

(Yan Cheng's preface also) criticized the then-popular qin songs, considering them to have violated the real tradition of qin songs.13

"I just find it odd that one or two recent vulgar craftsman have taken ancient literary text and matched each character to a note, then claimed they can compose music; or taken an ancient melody and matched each note to a character, forming vulgar expressions but claiming they can write lyrics. Yi! Was old music like this? (As with reciting poetry) each character would be sung with a prolonged sound, almost covering all five tones. Thus in old music, for each character one voices, there is no telling how many total notes one should pluck. But to attempt to match one note to each character: does that have any logic? In fact it drives connoisseurs of music to laughter."

(In other words), Yan Cheng believed that in traditional sung melodies, each character was generally sustained by singing it with many different notes, rather than matching with a single note as done at the time. This opinion is correct. In qin circles at the time, there was a trend to produce qin songs excessively and with poor-quality. This began with Gong Jing's Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, which for all the instrumental melodies mechanically filled in a character for every note.14 This form of lyrics was nondescript in categorization, incomprehensible in logic and repetitive in meaning, without literary grace or poetic effect. Yang Lun, Yang Biaozheng and others hurried to imitate this, taking some old poems and even prose and indiscriminately matching their characters to notes, creating melodies that were banal and stiff and that could not be sung at all. This contagion filled qin circles for quite some time, leading to the publication of many poor-quality tablature collections. As a result of Yan Cheng's warning that gave well-timed, relevant criticism, "the way of the qin was at once roused" and the situation changed. Thus the Yushan school received much respect.15

Xu Qingshan 16 (1580 - 1650), proper name Xu Hong, was originally named Xu Shangying; Qingshan was his nickname. He was from Taicang (not far southeast of Changshu). His qin ideology and that of Yan Cheng both came from the same source, Chen Aitong. He studied Guan Ju and Yang Chun from Aitong's son, Chen Xingyuan (who was also a teacher of Yan Cheng), plus Zhi Zhao Fei and Xiao Xiang Shui Yun from Aitong's private student Zhang Weichuan.17 Xu Qingshan and Yan Cheng were both qin friends and fellow students, but their performance styles were not the same. Xu Qingshan was not opposed to fast melodies, thereby enriching and developing the qin style of Yushan school. Zhou Xunlong of early Qing dynasty, in his preface to Chengyitang Qinpu (1705), summarized the two qin players' contributions to Yushan qin ideology:

Mr. Yan Tianchi flourished in Yushan. He was creative with old melodies, reforming long-standing practices.18 He collected ancient and recent tablatures, amending and determing (the best versions). He retained ancient, subtle, clear and elegant sounds while discarding trivial, excessive noise. With regard to qin learning his approach came closest to the ancient (traditions), and this is what has been transmitted within the country as the "Shu (Changshu) playing style" (or "Shu melodies"). Xu Qingshan followed in (Yan Cheng's) footsteps, but was somewhat more flexible. In order for there to be slow melodies there also had to be fast ones, much as the sky and earth have yin and yang and the four seasons have summer and winter. Thus to bring complementary balance he included such melodies as Zhi Zhao Fei, Wu Ye Ti and Xiao Xiang Shuiyun. Thus both slow and fast melodies were added, as befitting both the past and present. Tianchi began the work, Qingshan followed it up, and these two gentlement can be considered as having been able to make a great collection by selecting only the very best.

As for Xu Qingshan's playing skills, there was this brief story: He especially excelled at playing Han Gong Qiu, a popular piece at the time. When 陸符 Lu Fu, the official responsible for overseeing ceremony and music in the capital, came to the Jiangnan region and heard Xu's performance, he was astonished and thought it far superior to the performance of musicians in the capital. So he asked Xu, "Would you like to go to Beijing?" Xu said, "I was once selected in the military exam and am skilled in martial arts. This would be an opportunity for me to repay my country." Lu shook his head and said, "You are not meant for a military position and your martial arts skills will not be needed." Lu told him that Emperor Chongzhen could play some thirty melodies, all taught by Yang Zhengjing from Shu [Sichuan]. "Yet the version of the melody that he especially loves to play, Han Gong Qiu, cannot compare with your performance. I plan to recommend you to the Imperial Eunuch Senior Qin Master, so they can amend their errors." But the next year, the Ming Dynasty collapsed and Xu Qingshan was not able to go to the capital (Source: Lu Fu, Preface to Qingshan Qinpu).

The thirty-odd melodies passed down by Xu Qingshan were collected and published in the twelfth year of Kangxi (1673 CE) by his student Xia Pu, as the Dahuange Qinpu, or the original Qingshan Qinpu. He also wrote a Xishan Qin Kuang; its 24 entries systematically and comprehensively discuss performance requirements, making it a treatise of qin aesthetic theory. This discourse is considered to have developed on the ideology of Cui Zundu from the Song dynasty: "Light, beautiful and quiet, peaceful, smoothful and distant" (see his Qin Jian).

(Continue : Shaoxing School)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Basic translation by 金秋雨 Jin Qiuyu.

2. Yushan School (虞山派 Yushan Pai: see Chinese 看中文)
This commentary above documents the early history of the Yushan school beginning with its origins in Changshu. On the other hand, this school is not included in this chart of existing qin schools that was based on Zha Fuxi's research in the 1950s. Nevertheless, some modern commentators say that this was not only the most famous qin school in the Qing dynasty, it continued into the present. Modern representative are said to include Wu Jinglue and his son ">Wu Wenguang, both of whom were born in Changshu. Their style may also be specificied as the 虞山吳派 Wu School of Yushan, suggesting a modern form of the school. Their actual musical relationship to the old Yushan school, however, is not at all clear. As mentioned elsewhere, the style of music reflected in the earliest Yushan handbook, Songxian Guan Qinpu (1614), seems quite different from that of any players today who claim Yushan heritage. On the other hand, to my knowledge there have been no in depth studies that have tried to explain where the early form or forms of the Yushan School may intersect with the so-called modern forms.

Further regarding the original form of the Yushan school, my examination of the two major handbooks said to be representative of that school suggests that two characteristics are particularly noteworthy:

  1. Many Songxianguan Qinpu melodies use the note fa as well as the note mi (see, e.g., my comments under Qiujiang Yuebo and Dongtian Chunxiao, then compare those about mode in Yu Qiao Wenda).
  2. Melodies in Dahuan'ge Qinpu (1673) have had most of these non-pentatonic notes removed, presumably by Xu Qingshan himself, though not necessarily so since its original individual tablatures were probably first written down quite a bit earlier.

However, none of the discussions I have seen so far considers these modal characteristics in the development of the Yushan style. To my knowledge, as of 2010 I was the only person playing melodies directly from Songxianguan Qinpu tablature.

3. Yan Cheng 嚴澂 (1547-1625; sometimes written 嚴徵 Yan Zheng)
Yan Cheng (Bio/816), 字道澈 style name Daoche but also known as 嚴天池 Yan Tianchi, was a son of 嚴訥 Yan Na (see next). He is said to be from 常熟 Changshou in Suzhou district. His Qin Shi Xu entry also concerns his teacher Shen Taishao.

The Cleveland Museum has a qin that apparently belonged to Yan Tianzhi (details). And in addition to the information above there is an interesting story about him under Qiujiang Yuebo (a melody from his handbook). Bio/816 says he 因《燕儿圖》而變通之,以句服之形,作三角相錯,形如蝶翅,名《蝶儿譜》,甚巧。

4. Yan Na 嚴訥
Yan Na (Yan Ne, Yan Ni? Bio/812; 1511-1584) was a literati official. The biography does not mention the term 宰相 zaixiang (councilor), but it does mention being a 翰林學士 Hanlin academician, 太常少卿 vice minister of the Chamberlain for Ceremonials (?), 禮部尚書 secretary in the Ministry of Rites, 吏部尚書 secretary in the Ministry of Personnel, 武英殿大學士 great scholar in the Hall of Military Glory, and so forth. It adds that he was a skilled writer fond of 習鐘 (cups? bells?) and 王書 Wang-style calligraphy, and also a good painter of flowers and plants.

5. Qinchuan School 琴川派
This name is discussed further here. It is is clearly different from "川派 Chuanpai which, in constrast to Qinchuan Pai, is a style of qin play from 四川 Sichuan. It is said that by the 20th century Chuanpai had spread throughout China as 泛川派 Fanchuan Pai (17687.xxx), "widespread Chuanpai" (also called Yushan pai), but compare the this comment here. It is also not made clear how the Yushan/Chuan/Fanchuan schools would have differed fromt the Shu (i.e., Changshu) School discussed here.

6. 陳愛桐 Chen Aitong.

7. 陳星源 Chen Xingyuan, son of Chen Aitong

8. 徐亦仙 Xu Yixian (Xu Also-immortal): name Yan Cheng gave to an anonymous 樵夫 woodsman

9. Shen Yin 沈音
Shen Yin, 字太韶 literary name Shen Taishao, was a famous qin player; Qinshi Xu says that when Yan Cheng met him in 京師 the capital (but here perhaps referring to Nanjing) Shen was "the best qin master at that time...." Zangchunwu Qinpu (1602; VI/292) adds a few further details.

10. 清、微、淡、遠 "clarity, subtlety, unembellished elegance, and distance"

11. 趙應良 Zhao Yingliang

12. Preface to the Qinchuan Tablature Collection (琴川譜匯序 Qinchuan Puhui Xu; VIII/162)
The name of this preface in the QQJC edition (also see the online Table of Contents) is "Attached Qin Stream Tablature Collection Preface" (附琴川匯譜序 Fu Qinchuan Huipu Xu). The relationship between Songxianguan Qinpu and the Qinchuan Puhui Xu (see in Qinshu Cunmu) is not clear; apparently it is no longer extant. It is near the end of the handbook, suggesting that the two pieces following it are from a different source: Liu Shui and Pu'an Zhou, the latter of which includes the lyrics of the chant, though not paired together with the music.

13. Criticism of qin songs
Yan Cheng's criticism here is echoed elsewhere; more specifically, having one character per note makes it difficult for the Chinese tonal patterns to fit the contours of the music. There is also the issue of how music should relate to the ping-ze poetry patterns. Unfortunately, I have not yet seen any descriptions of just how these should match.

At the same time, to someone who finds appealing some of the early qin songs that do follow the common formula, this simply saying that at one time qin songs did not pair words and tablature one character for each note, and that "smart" people dislike qin songs, comes across as rather shallow. Would it not have been more useful to demonstrate how one of the praised ancient qin songs might have sounded? Why did Yan Cheng not suggest how one might create worthy qin songs. (In this regard it is interesting to note that the Pu'an Zhou in the added section to Yan Cheng's Songxian Guan Qinpu pairs lyrics and music by the traditional formula.)

14. Yan Cheng on qin songs
See original (QSCB, p.126) plus the comment above.

15. 浙音釋字琴譜 Zheyin Shizi Qinpu
This handbook is said to have been compiled by 朱奠培 Zhu Dianpei, grandson and successor of 朱權 Zhu Quan. It has mostly instrumental melodies such as found in Zhu Quan's Shen Qi Mi Pu, but with largely unsingable lyrics attached. The attachment method is actually one character for each right hand stroke and certain left-hand ones.

16. Xu Qingshan (徐青山 1580 - 1650
The dates give here for Xu Qingshan (徐谼 Xu Hong) came from an article by James Watt. This would make him 33 younger than Yan Cheng (1547-1625). The suggestions here are that Xu Qingshan was neither a follower nor a rival of Yan Cheng, but that the two had complementary approaches. The handbook of Yan Cheng's playing (or at least the way he taught melodies), Songxian Guan Qinpu, was reissued a number of times beginning in 1614 when Yan Cheng was still alive. The handbook of Xu Qingshan, Dahuange Qinpu, was not published until 1673, 23 years after Xu Qingshan's death.

17. Zhang Weichuan 張渭川
The Chinese 人室弟子 literally means "live-in student", but this can also mean a very close student; in the Song dynasty there are known examples of qin teachers living with wealthy families, but it is not clear whether this was the case here.

18. 創微古調,一洗積習 creative with old melodies, reforming long-standing practice
The translation "creative with old melodies" is supported by stories such as that of his creation of Qiujiang Yebo, which was in fact based on the ancient Yin De. As for 一洗積習, it could also be translated "cleansing them of outdated practices", even more strongly suggesting that he created new music.

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