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Lo Ka-ping
or: Lu Jiabing (1896-1980)1
Lo Ka-Ping at home 2 

Lok Ka-ping's family was from Zhongshan in Guangdong but he was born in Guangzhou and in 1906 graduated from Lingnan College there (this was before it moved to Hong Kong). He then went into teaching (including English language, using the English name Philip Lo), working in various places, including Singapore and Macau. During WWII he was either in Macau or Hong Kong, teaching at government schools. His permanent residence in Hong Kong apparently begin after 1945, when he took up teaching positions in the New Territories in and around Yuen Long. He also worked in school administration, then in 1964 started his own school. Although he retired from government work in 1969 he still continued doing some teaching.

Lok Ka-ping began at the age of 16 to study qin from his father, then later in Guangzhou also studied with 容心信 Rong Xinyan. Rong is said to have been from the Guangling school of his father Qing Rui, but perhaps he was more influenced by study with Qing Rui's 側室 concubine, 林芝仙 Lin Zhixian, who had inherited what is said to have been a Lingnan style. If this is correct, then her style also had a great influence on the successors of Rong Xinyan, such as his son Yung Sze-chak and grandson Yung Hak-chi (Hammond Yung, now actively teaching in Hong Kong).

In the late 1920s Lo Ka-ping taught this Lingnan style to Yang Xinlun, who was then visiting relatives in Guangzhou. He apparently also taught 祁偉奧 Dale Craig, author of this article.

Lo Ka-ping also was seriously involved with Daoist studies and practice. This can be seen from his writing and recordings. When I met him in 1976/7 he said he was just finishing his translation of the Yi Jing into English.

In addition to playing traditional qin melodies Lo Ka-Ping also created new ones. (Most of?) these were published in his 春雨草堂琴譜 Chun Yu Caotang Qinpu, an edition of which was published here in Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu.3 Some of his compositions are included amongst his other recordings, here and here.

Lo Ka-Ping's qins 4

Lok Ka-Ping had a large collection of antique qins, apparently most of them acquired from impoverished scholars who were coming to Hong Kong at that time. When in 1977 Tong Kin-Woon took me to visit Lo at his quiet old home in the New Territories, and to see his qins, I recall being told there were two each from the Tang, Song and Ming dynasties, one from the Yuan and a number more from the Qing. The beauty of these old instruments was quite amazing to me, but for the ones I had the chance to play I was simply in awe. The experience of playing these instruments is recounted further here.

The article by Dale Craig linked here (pdf) says Lo Ka-ping would occasionally sell one to someone who gave evidence of being serious about playing it. The prices for selling them at that time, I was told, was apparently in the upper hundreds of dollars. Perhaps this meant he was only willing to sell his later instruments. In any case, when I met him several years later there was no indication that he might ever sell them at all.

Recordings of Lo Ka-ping's qin playing 5

There is further detail in the footnote, but two places on this site have further information about his recordings,

  1. Eight tracks on CD3 of Jue Xiang
  2. 10 (of 13) tracks on the CD Lost sounds of the tao

There is tablature for some of these in his handbook 春雨草堂琴譜 Chunyu Caotang Qinpu.

Footnotes (Numbers refer to entries in Zhongwen Dacidian)

1. Lo Ka-Ping (盧家炳; Lu Jiabing, 1896-1989; Lu Jiabing is the mainland Romanization of his name)
In addition to the article by Dale Craig I also looked at a detailed online account here (from here).

2. Lo Ka-Ping plays qin at his home in Hong Kong
Copied from the back cover of his World Arbiter CD Lost Sounds of the Tao.

3. 春雨草堂琴譜 Chun Yu Caotang Qinpu
It is not clear to me how complete is the edition copied here in Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu. Another edition is said to have been published around 2002, but as yet I have no further information about that. One of the pieces that apparently should be included in it is something of a mystery:

Bi Yun Shen: 碧雲深 or 碧云深?
This composition by Lo Ka-ping is something of a mystery. It was
recorded on the CD but is missing from the handbook (unless it is in a later edition), was translated on the CD as "Murmuring in the Boudoir", without Chinese characters. In Chinese the title has been written both as 碧雲深 and as 碧云深, both pronounced "bi yun shen. If "雲" ("cloud") is correct then the title means "the jade-green clouds are deep"; the translation "murmuring..." thus suggests the translator saw "云" and interpreted it in its common usage as "speak", not aware that here "云" is used here simply as the shorthand form for "雲". "Jade-green speak deep" doesn't make much sense.


4. Lo Ka-Ping's qins 15 qins once owned by Lo Ka-Ping          
Tong Kin-Woon's's Qin Fu illustrations #260-289 (shown at right, from the beginning of Volume 2) show the front and back of 15 antique qin's that once belonged to Lo Ka-Ping. Dr. Tong gives further details (Chinese only) on pp.1657-1672 [pdf]). In addition, the last page of the linked article by Dale Craig (in Qin Fu p.1983) shows the top and bottom of five qins belonging to Lo Ka-Ping, with some details in English. Craig says that Lo bought the instruments for just hundreds of dollars and would occasionally sell one. From my understanding, he never sold the really valuable ones, and he had some very valuable ones indeed.

The Qin Fu entry for Lo Ka-ping (pp.1657-1672) actually lists 24 qins belonging to Lo Ka-ping. They are (with their entry #s, titles and illustration numbers):

  1. 百衲         Bai na (#260-1)
  2. 八極引     Ba Ji Yin (#262-3; further comment)
  3. 鳴鳳         Ming Feng (#264-5)
  4. 明蜩         Ming Tiao (#266-7)
  5. 萬壑松風 Wan Huo Song Feng (#268-9)
  6. 九霄明珮 Jiu Xiao Huan Pei (#270-1)
  7. 海天秋     Hai Tian Qiu (#272-3)
  8. 秋蟬         Qiu Chan (#274-5)
  9. 邵鳳         Shao Feng (#276-7)
  10. 玉壺冰     Yu Hu Bing (#278-9)
  11. 寒泉漱石 Han Quan Shu Shi (#280-1)
  12. 百衲         Bai na (#282-3)
  13. 秋聲         Qiu Sheng (#284-5)
  14. 無名舊琴 No name (single image)
  15. 無名舊琴 No name (286-7)
  16. 秋梧         Qiu Wu (No image)
  17. 一天秋     Yi Tian Qiu (No image)
  18. 海雲         Hai Yun (No image)
  19. 流泉         Liu Quan (No image)
  20. 混龍吟     Hun Long Yin (#288-9)
  21. 鳴鸞         Ming Luan (No image)
  22. 石泉         Shi Quan (No image)
  23. 太古遺音 Tai Gu Yi Yin (No image)
  24. 萬壑松風 Wan Huo Song Tao (No image)


5. Recordings of Lo Ka-ping's qin playing (plus more qin images) 八極引 Ba Ji Yin and 邵鳳 Shao Feng      
The image at right of two qins (#2 and #9 above) was copied from page 19 of the CD Lost Sounds of the Tao (the same 10 recordings, re-ordered, can also be found in CD3 of Jue Xiang.) Those recordings were all made in 1970 and 1971. The commentary with Lost Sounds of the Tao (which includes an article entitled "Should Chinese Music be Taught in Christian Schools", by Philip Lo [Lo Ka Ping], 1920) contains an account of how this came about. Apparently all but three were made at Hong Kong Chinese University's Chung Chi College, but those tapes were almost lost. Two tracks (including the one of Shitan Zhang) come from a cassette I had of recordings by several people including Lo, but I have no record of where the music on that cassette was copied from. One was apparently made at Hong Kong City Hall on the only known occasion of a public performace by Lo. Beyond this CD, no other recordings of him seems to exist.

None of the accounts of those recordings say anything about which qins were used, but one can assume they were made using one or more his antique qins.

Here is a link to my account of visiting Lo and playing some of his instruments (see also the footnotes there). I do not recall with certainty which one of these qins it was for which after playing almost any note I felt it was so perfect that I was hesitant to go on and play the next note. I do recall it was said to be a Song dynasty qin, so perhaps it was the one at right called 八極引 Ba Ji Yin.

After Lo Ka-ping died in 1980 his qins were kept for some years by family members. I don't know how many have been sold but, according to Poly Auction, his Song dynasty qin named 八極引 Ba Ji Yin sold in 2014 at a Poly Auction in Hong Kong for over US$850,000 (one of four sold at that auction). Its top and bottom are the upper left pair of images in the left panel above right and qin#2, pp.1665 of Qin Fu; see also the outside images here and here. The fact that these images were included with the CD mentioned here does not seem to be an indication that either was used for the recordings.

九霄環珮 Jiu Xiao Huan Pei (compare 九霄環佩) Lo Ka-ping's Jiu Xiao Huan Pei  
Here special mention might also be made of Lo Ka-Ping's qin named "Jiu Xiao Huan Pei" ("珮" with the "jade" radical, not 佩 pei with the "man" radical). This is the qin shown at right (and also among the 15 qins shown in the previous footnote, in the upper right of the central panel). All 15 are described in some detail in Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu, pp. 1657-1692 (see the pdf).

According to Dr. Tong's comments in Qin Fu (Qin #6, pp.1667-8), this qin had the best sound (音色...最精者) of all of Mr. Lo's antique qins; in fact it perhaps had the best qin of any he had ever heard. Inside is an inscription saying it was made by (for?) 明益王 the Ming Prince of Yi (Zhu Houqiao, 16th c.). His reputation as a skilled qin maker is also mentioned here.

Nevertheless, I do not think this was the qin that impressed me the most during my 1971 visit to Lo Ka-Ping (also just mentioned above).

Defiling ancient treasures such as these with metal strings?

In contrast to the amazing experience of playing on these beautiful old qin with their silk strings, a 2023 event spread around the world through online videos such as this one, showed a Tang dynasty qin called 九霄環佩 Jiu Xiao Huan Pei (i.e., with "佩" instead of "珮") being played for the French President Emmanuel Macron. In fact it is not clear that this is the qin being played in the video - casual observation is enough to show that the hand movements are not in sync with the actual music - but clearly the sound track has the sound of nylon metal strings, which gave it a nice clean sound but one that was almost completely devoid of the color that should characterize the sound from an ancient qin of this quality.

There is certainly a place within the qin tradition for the use of nylon metal strings; developed during the Cultural Revolution, they epitomize the evolution of qin from an instrument of self-cultivation to one of performance. But if they were indeed put on this antique qin, then this is a sign either of ignorance or deep disrepect of the qin tradition (further comment on the potential for damage).

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