Sun Yü-Ch'in (Sun Yuqin)
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Sun Yü-Ch'in 1 孫毓芹
  Sun Yü-Ch'in in 1978 (also: video 1989/image, 1990) 2    
Sun Yü-Ch'in (1915-1990), in 1989 named by the government one of its first Living National Cultural Treasures,3 began teaching guqin in Taiwan in the 1960s.4 I studied with him from 1974 to 1976,5 learning from him the following 17 melodies; to my knowledge this was his entire repertoire at the time.6 I do not recall in what order I learned them so the listing here is alphabetical; the links have further information on each melody.7
  1. Changmen Yuan (Lament at Changmen Palace)
  2. Gui Qu Lai Ci (Come Away Home)
  3. Liangxiao Yin (Peaceful Evening Prelude)
  4. Liu Shui (Flowing Streams)
  5. Meihua Sannong (Three Repetitions of Plum Blossom)
  6. Oulu Wang Ji (Amongst Seagulls, No Ulterior Motives)
  7. Pingsha Luo Yan (Wild Geese Descend on a Sandbank)
  8. Pu An Zhou (Incantation of Pu'an)
  9. Wuye Wu Qiufeng (Wu Leaves Dance in the Autumn Breeze)
  10. Xiangjiang Yuan (Lament of the Xiang River Concubines)
  11. Xianweng Cao (Transcendent Venerable One)
  12. Xiao Xiang Shui Yun (Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers)
  13. Yangguan Sandie (Thrice [Parting for] Yangguan)
  14. Yi Guren (Thinking of an Old Friend)
  15. Yu Lou Chun Xiao (Spring Dawn at Jade Tower)
  16. Yu Qiao Wenda (Dialogue between a Fisherman and Woodcutter)
  17. Zui Yu Chang Wan (A Drunken Fisherman Sings in the Evening)

See also this comment on Ao Ai, the earliest version of which I also now play.

Sun Yü-Ch'in was born in 1915 in Tangshan, Hebei province. In 1930 he began studying a variety of music instruments, including the xiao and di flutes, the yueqin moon lute and the huqin two-string fiddle. In 1936 he began studying guqin with Tian Shounong8 of Tianjin, learning over 20 melodies from him. Sun graduated in politics and economics from Chinese College in Beijing, then joined the army in the war against the Japanese invasion. He went to Taiwan with the army in 1950 but there were few qin players in Taiwan at that time,9 and he was unable to play qin again until 1955, at which time his Chan (Zen) Buddhism master introduced him to Chang Chih-Sun.10 Sun revised his playing style when studying with Chang, later also learning melodies from recordings he was able to get from the Mainland. Due to the difficulty in getting qins in Taiwan he learned to make them himself, though his main achievement in this regard was teaching others such as Ye Shih-Ch'iang to make them.11 There are at least two publications of CDs with his playing.12

Footnotes (Numbers refer to entries in Zhongwen Dacidian)

1. Sun Yü-Ch'in (孫毓芹 Sun Yuqin)
For further information in English see also:

  1. Sun Yuqin on qin making
  2. Though I Adore the Ancient Melodies, No One Plays Them Any More, by 蔡文婷 Cai Wenting (Appendix III)
  3. In Search of the Perfect Ch'in, by 蔡文婷 Cai Wenting (Appendix IV)

There have been online videos of Sun Yuqin playing qin, but at last look they were no longer available. For recordings, see below.

2. Sun Yü-Ch'in in 1978 (also: video 1989 / image, 1990)
These three events are:

If anyone knows of other videos of Prof. Sun I would appreciate their contacting me.

3. National Living Cultural Treasure (國家國寶 Guojia guobao)
Also called 國寶級民族藝師 Guobao Ji Minzu Yishi (National Treasure Folk Artist? I have not yet seen an official translation.)

In honor of Sun Yü-Ch'in being named a Living National Cultural Treasure there was were guqin performances in Taipei (22 August 1989) and Tainan (26-27 August 1989). In addition to 孫毓芹 Sun Yü-Ch'in, performers included 唐健垣 Tong Kin-Woon, 陳蕾士 Chen Leishi, 陳玟 Chen Wen and 葛瀚聰 Ge Hancong and 唐世璋 myself. The performances were called Guangling San Dialogues (廣陵散對話 Guangling San Duihua).

4. Sun Yü-Ch'in as teacher
Tong Kin-Woon studied with Sun Yü-Ch'in just before I did; some years later Sun's students included Yuan Jung-Ping, a founder of the New York Qin Society.

5. Meeting Sun Yü-Ch'in
When I left the University of Michigan in 1974 my professor, William Malm, gave me a letter of introduction to 莊本立 Zhuang Benli, a renowned professor of archaeology in Taiwan, and told me that for selecting a qin teacher I should take advice from Professor Zhuang, who in turn recommended and introduced me to Sun Yü-Ch'in.

6. Sun Yü-Ch'in's repertoire
Although to my knowledge this list comprised Sun Yü-Ch'in's repertoire at that time, he had at one time played more melodies. After I left Taiwan in 1976 he also added or revived some other melodies. At least three of these are available on recording:

  1. Ao Ai (05.39? See Yu Ge; abridged version from 1876? Instead I have learned the complete >1505 version)
    His memorial CD (孫毓芹紀念專輯; GN 9111-2; Taiwan, 1991, now out of print) includes him playing a shortened version of this old melody; he may have played it earlier, but I believe that this version was also based on his having studied a recording, perhaps Guan Pinghu's from Tianwen'ge Qinpu (1876). Guan's version is 12.36 but that of Li Feng (who studied with Sun Yü-ch'in) is 6.42.
  2. 烏夜啼 Wu Ye Ti (originally Shen Qi Mi Pu)
    On the Historical Record double CD.
  3. 鳳求凰 Feng Qiu Huang (third piece in folio 3 of Yan Yi Xi Qin Zhai Qinpu)
    Taken from Meian Qinpu but lyrics not sung
  4. 太古引 Taigu Yin (first piece in folio 2 of Yan Yi Xi Qin Zhai Qinpu)
    The introduction by Chang Chih-Sun says his teacher 陳壽臣 Chen Shouchen taught this to beginners

The latter two can be heard online here (from the historical record CD published in 2004).

7. Melodies learned from Sun Yü-Ch'in (see Returning to the Sources featuring earliest renditions of these pieces)
Sun Yü-Ch'in was an excellent teacher in the traditional style (see testimonial), and when I arrived in Hong Kong in 1976 I was told that my playing style very much resembled his. However, after this I gradually stopped playing the melodies I had learned from him, changing my focus to the reconstruction of early melodies, and my repertoire now consists almost exclusively of the earliest published versions of any particular melody. The following list shows the versions I play today of the melodies I first learned from him (in the list below, "original" means "earliest known published version"). The list is alphabetical, but subdivided into three parts:
      - melodies with Ming dynasty connections;
      - those with known connections dating only from after the Ming dynasty;
      - melodies I currently do not play.
Altogether the 17 are as follows:

  1. Gui Qu Lai Ci (I play the melodically related 1511 original)
  2. Liangxiao Yin (I play melodically related 1614 original)
  3. Liu Shui (I play the melodically related 1425 original)
  4. Meihua Sannong (I play the melodically related 1425 original)
  5. Oulu Wang Ji (I play the melodically related 1620 original, as well as the melodically unrelated 1425 Wang Ji)
  6. Pingsha Luo Yan (I play Yan Luo Pingsha, the melodically related 1634 original)
  7. Xiangjiang Yuan (I play Xiangfei Yuan, the melodically related 1511 original)
  8. Wuye Wu Qiufeng (I play the earliest published version, published 1664 but presumed to be late Ming)
  9. Xiao Xiang Shui Yun (I play the melodically related 1425 original)
  10. Yangguan Sandie (I play the melodically related 1530 original as well as the >1505 original long version)
  11. Yu Qiao Wenda (I play the melodically related original, dated 1559)

  12. Xianweng Cao (I play this along with various related Caoman Yin beginning from 1552)
  13. Yu Lou Chun Xiao (I play Chun Gui Yuan, the Longyinguan Qinpu original [1798?])

  14. Changmen Yuan (currently not part of my repertoire: no Ming dynasty editions)
  15. Pu An Zhou (currently not part of my repertoire: dates from 1722 [I have reconstructed but do not play its source melody, Shitan Zhang])
  16. Yi Guren (19th c. [?]; I play the melodically unrelated 1425 Shanzhong Si Youren)
  17. Zui Yu Chang Wan (19th c; I play only the melodically unrelated 1525 original)

Sun Yü-Ch'in later recorded four additional pieces that he did not play when I studied with him. These are listed above

8. 田壽農 Tian Shounong
From 天津 Tianjin, but no further information.

9. Qin teachers in Taiwan in the 1950s to 1970s
Tong Kin-Woon's 近代琴人錄 (Record of Contemporary Qin Players) in his Qin Fu (1971) has on pp.1545-1679 biographical details on 102 qin players outside of mainland China (including some beginners). Mainland players who taught in Taiwan during this period included:

  1. 胡瑩堂 Hu Yingtang (~1896 - 1973)
    Originally from Hubei, in Taiwan he lived in 高雄 Gaoxiong, where his students included 容天圻 Rong Tianqi (1936-1994).

  2. 梁在平 Liang Zaiping (~1910 - 2000; father of 梁銘越 Liang Mingyue)
    From Hebei, he was best known as a guzheng player but also played and taught guqin.

  3. 陶筑生 Tao Zhusheng (~1937 - )
    From Nanchang in Jiangxi but learned qin in Taiwan from Wu Zonghan; moved to Seattle in the 1980s.

  4. 汪振華 Wang Zhenhua (~1914 - ?)
    Student of 汪建侯 Wang Jianhou of Hangzhou (
    below) then of Zhang Zhisun in Taiwan; he also taught other instruments

  5. 吳宗漢 Wu Zonghan (1902 — 1991)
    Mei'an School student of
    Xu Lisun; from 常熟 Changshu, he lived in Hong Kong, then for a few years in Taiwan, before moving to Los Angeles in 1972. According to Tong Kin-Woon, Sun Yü-ch'in studied with Wu around this time (further comment under Xianweng Cao).

  6. 章志蓀 Zhang Zhisun (1885 - 197?; further below)

汪建侯 Wang Jianhou
From Hangzhou, Wang Jianhou was a fellow student of
Xu Yuanbai. In addition to being a teacher of 汪振華 Wang Zhenhua he also taught the well-known mainland players 姚丙炎 Yao Bingyan and 梅曰强 Mei Yueqiang. His handbook was called 琴學津逮,三册 Qinxue Jindai (Gateway to Qin Studies, 3 vols; image; further detail; N.D).

10. Chang Chih-Sun (章志蓀 Zhang Zhisun, 1885-197?)
Zhang, from Anhui province, 字章梓琴 was also called Zhang Ziqin. He was an avid collector of qins and qin handbooks, though most of these were lost before he moved to Taiwan in 1949. He named his studio Hall for Studying the Yi Jing and Practicing the Qin 研易習琴齋 Yan Yi Xi Qin; consequently his qin handbook is titled 研易習琴齋琴譜 Yan Yi Xi Qin Zhai Qinpu. This handbook has 30 melodies in three folios (see Appendix II)

According to comments there at the beginning of the second folio he originally studied qin with 寶慶李緝熙 Li Jixi of Baoqing (in Hunan), then from 1907 he began studying in Shanghai with 陳壽臣 Chen Shouchen (from Sichuan?), learning from him over 20 pieces. After 1911 he met other players, such as 江陵李寶常 Li Baochang of Jingling, plus 裴介卿 Pei Jieqing and 四川劉鳴遠 Liu Mingyuan of Sichuan. After moving to Hangzhou in the 1920s he met 徐元白 Xu Yuanbai and 汪惕予 Wang Tiyu. Traveling around he met other qin players as well. He evidently also studied with Shen Caonong, but details of this are not yet clear.

Two players here are mentioned in connection with some recordings from the 1950s:

I have not yet found further information about Pei Jieqing.

11. Yeh Shih-Ch'iang (葉世強 Ye Shiqiang)
See separate page.

12. Recordings of Sun Yü-ch'in
The two CDs with which I am familiar are:

  1. A memorial CD (孫毓芹紀念專輯); GN 9111-2; Taiwan, 1991, now out of print
    Made in his honor in 1991, it has him speaking about the qin, then playing Xiangjiang Yuan, Xiao Xiang Shui Yun, Yu Qiao Wenda and Ao Ai.
  2. 孫毓芹先生古琴遺音逸輯 (台灣,晨曦出版公司 or 晨曦文化)
    Historical Record Kuchin Pieces of Sun Yu-chin (Taiwan, Chen Hsi Cultural Enterprises, 2004, CT-0401).
    Double CD with 17 pieces (
    Appendix I)

Most of the historical recordings are available in Guo Peng's Jue Xiang.

Return to qin biographies, my performances, my repertoire, or the Guqin ToC

Appendix I
Table of Contents for
孫毓芹先生古琴遺音逸輯 (台灣,晨曦出版公司 or 晨曦文化)
Historical Record Kuchin Pieces of Sun Yu-chin (Taiwan, Chen Hsi Cultural Enterprises, 2004, CT-0401).

Double CD with 17 pieces (new publication but older recordings than on the "Memorial album"; most of these historical recordings are also available in Guo Peng's Jue Xiang.).

CD 1:

1. 憶故人 Yi Guren
2. 梧葉舞秋風 Wuye Wu Qiufeng
3. 醉漁晚唱 Zui Yu Chang Wan
4. 玉樓春曉 Yu Lou Chun Xiao
5. 瀟湘水雲 Xiao Xiang Shui Yun
6. 流水 Liu Shui
7. 梅花三弄 Meihua Sannong
8. 醉漁唱晚 Zui Yu Chang Wan (compare CD1 #3)
9. 烏夜啼 Wu Ye Ti

CD 2

1. 陽關三疊 Yangguan Sandie
2. 玉樓春曉 Yu Lou Chun Xiao (compare CD1 #4)
3. 太古引 Taigu Yin
4. 鳳求凰 Feng Qiu Huang
5. 歸去來辭 Gui Qu Lai Ci
6. 漁樵問答 Yu Qiao Wenda
7. 憶故人 Yi Gu Ren (compare CD1 #1)
8. 梧葉舞秋風 Wuye Wu Qiu Feng (compare CD1 #2)

These 17 tracks include 13 titles. Missing from what I studied with him are Changmen Yuan, Liangxiao Yin, Pingsha Luo Yan, Pu'an Zhou, Xiangjiang Yuan and Xianweng Cao. Added are Feng Qiu Huang and Taigu Yin (but not Ao Ai).

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Appendix II
Table of Contents for
Yan Yi Xi Qin Zhai Qinpu, 1971
Compiled by Sun Yü-ch'in/s teacher Chang Chih-Sun (章志蓀 Zhang Zhisun, 1885-197?)

    Folio 1
  1. 鹿鳴 Lu Ming
  2. 陽關三疊Yangguan Sandie
  3. 歸去來辭 Gui Qu Lai Ci
  4. 梅花三弄 Meihua Sannong
  5. 客窗夜話 Kechuang Yehua (further)
  6. 醉漁晚唱 Zui Yu Wan Chang
  7. 平沙落雁 Ping Sha Luo Yan
  8. 高山 Gao Shan
  9. 流水 Liu Shui
  10. 漢宮秋 Han Gong Qiu

    Folio 2

  11. 太古音 Taigu Yin (see above; "not the same as 太古吟 Taigu Yin"; music and lyrics almost same as the modern 慨古吟 Kaigu Yin)
  12. 陽關三疊 Yangguan Sandie
  13. 伐檀 Fa Tan
  14. 玉樹臨風 Yu Shu Lin Feng
  15. 漁樵問答 Yu Qiao Wenda
  16. 空山憶故人 Kong Shan Yi Guren
  17. 水仙操 Shui Xian Cao
  18. 鷗鷺忘機 Ou Lu Wang Ji
  19. 白雪 Bai Xue
  20. 和陽春 He Yang Chun

    Folio 3

  21. 南風操 Nan Feng Cao
  22. 湘江怨 Xiang Jiang Yuan
  23. 鳳求凰 Feng Qiu Huang
  24. 良宵引 Liang Xiao Yin
  25. 關山月 Guan Shan Yue
  26. 梧葉舞秋風 Wuye Wu Qiufeng
  27. 圯橋進履 Yi Qiao Jin Lü
  28. 滄江夜雨 Cang Jiang Ye Yu
  29. 搔首聞天 Sao Shou Wen Tian
  30. 胡笳十八拍 Hu Jia Shiba Pai

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Appendix III

This article was originally written in Chinese and apparently published in December 1989; as of 2015 this English translation is also available online here, but the address has changed several times so I have copied a version here.

古調雖自愛,今人多不彈 —— 古琴藝師孫毓芹
Though I Adore the Ancient Melodies, No One Plays Them Any More.
  —— The Ku-ch'in Teacher Sun Yü-ch'in
By 蔡文婷 Ventine Tsai; photos (not included) by 黃麗梨 Huang Li-li
Translated by Phil Newell


The cold, bleak seven strings, Silently attending the sounds of wintry winds through the pines;
Though I adore the ancient melodies, No one plays them any more.

The Tang dynasty poet Liu Chang-ch'ing's poem, looked at today, is a pretty apt depiction of the fate of the ch'in.... (n.b., the poem opening is also written "泠泠七絃".) In fact, although the number of ch'in players in Taiwan is not high, the proportion is more than ten times greater than in the mainland. And more than half of these ch'in players have been the students of Sun Yu-chin, who was selected this year as a Traditional Arts Master.

When you talk about the ch'in, you must mention Sun Yu-ch'in.

Since the Spring and Autumn period this story has been popular among the people: Po Ya could express his profound visions through the ch'in, but only his close friend Chung Tsu-chi could appreciate it.

But those well-versed in music are few, and after Tsu-chi died, Po Ya smashed his ch'in to express his grief, and never played again.

Sun Yu-ch'in hails from Fengtung County in Hopeh.

Though his family was in mining, he had poetry as his companion from infancy, and got his first inkling of the ch'in in the ancient verses. At 17 he began studying art with Tien Shou-nung.

Taking advantage of his home's--indeed, his village's--only radio, he listened to ch'in performances, and became drawn in from there. He gave up other instruments and focused on the ku-ch'in. In his youth Sun was immersed in the sound of the ch'in every day.

"This darned ku-ch'in is hard to study, easily forgotten, and grating on the ears," laughs Sun, repeating his own teacher's description of the ch'in.

Compared with the ku-cheng, which has 13 to 16 strings, each with two tones, the ku-ch'in has seven strings, each with 34 sounds.

Just remembering where all the notes are requires considerable effort. If you don't practice one day, you forget what you've been taught. A hard working student studies for two years before being considered to have elementary knowledge. If you really want to get the spirit of it, that takes ten years!

Besides the large number of note positions, the fingering methods are copious--with no less than 100 types."There was one fingering method, I spent a year before really grasping its subtlety," recalls Sun. And ku-ch'in musical notation is a complete mystery to anyone who's never studied it.

In The Dream of the Red Chamber, the hero Pao-yu visits the heroine Tai-yu. Looking at her books, he can't recognize a single character, saying, "Sister has really progressed--now she can read the Heavenly script."

Tai-yu laughed and retorted, "Someone who studies as well as you, and you've never even seen ch'in music."

In fact, Tai-yu's book can be understood with a little explanation: the characters are composites of other, standard characters which, in combination, indicate which fingers to use where.

But earlier texts are even more incomprehensible, and each school or style had its own system of notation.

Further, the sheet music contains no indication of rhythm or time, so that the student can only follow the teacher note for note. This causes some students to give up halfway--or to not even get halfway.

With a light, low-volume sound suitable for playing in front of just a few aficionados, there are few performance opportunities for the ch'in. The number of students is small, and naturally so is the number of those who truly appreciate it.

Sun's student Chen Wen indicates that compared to the nearly 100,000 people who have taken up the ku-cheng, those who study ku-ch'in must master the ancients' lament: "The singers spare themselves no pain, but are saddened only that those who are truly able to appreciate are so few."

How can one appreciate the ku-ch'in?

The listener must be like the monk who tranquilizes the body, lips, and mind for meditation.

And the player must take into account the weather, the geography, and harmony with other people. With years of experience, Sun believes that the temperature must be moderate.

If it is too hot, it is not only easy to get over-wrought, but the hands sweat and dampen the strings. When it's too cold the fingers are stiff. And rainy weather can obscure the sound of the ch'in. Humidity makes the strings muddy.

Thus it is best to play on clear nights. Geographically someplace dark and removed is foremost.

Classic paintings often portray the hermit, sitting cross-legged deep in the forest, facing a waterfall, fingering the ch'in.

But Sun says with a laugh, "Holding the ch'in on your leg like that is bad enough, but add to that the thunderous sounds of the waterfall, and it's really not fit for playing the ch'in. It's certainly less refined than 'Sitting alone deep in a bamboo grove; plucking the ch'in and singing softly; deep in the forest unknown to others; the moonlight comes to trade reflections.'"

With moderns surrounded on all sides by urban jungle, the selection of a ch'in studio is best done to avoid facing factories or main streets. Even if the weather and geography are right, the people must be in harmony in their moods.If the artist is consumed by various emotions and desires, even if he or she can reluctantly be made to play, the results will be less than ideal.That is why Confucius did not perform music on the day of a friend's funeral.

Now 75, Sun's health has, for the past three years, not been as good as in the past. Respiratory and heart disease make an oxygen tank a constant companion. He almost never goes out; but students still come to see him. Already a great-grandfather, Sun is alone in Taiwan. At his side are only two thrushes and the oxygen tank.

The best thing for relieving the loneliness is still the ch'in. The longing for his family causes Sun to avoid playing as much as possible those melancholy songs that tell of one thinking of a home far away.

It's best to play those that evoke nature, to induce feelings of peace and contentment.

Since the government has allowed family visits to the mainland, Sun has exchanged letters, but dares not go back, for fear his body could not take the traveling or the emotional duress.

Sun has not changed since being selected as a Traditional Arts Master. On the one hand he sees fame to be "as fleeting as drifting clouds," and on the other hand the passing on of his art is his natural work, which he has never abandoned even for a day.

"I only want that the teaching of the ku-ch'in be more than just technique. If there is no rapport between student and teacher, I am afraid it will be difficult to go deeper than technique."

Sun's only hope is that the Ministry of Education will have different standards than those used to choose students for other traditional arts; instead of the strictest standards he would just have two or three really dedicated students to carry on uninterruptedly the noble and lucid song of the ch'in.

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Appendix IV

This article was originally written in Chinese and apparently published December 1989; as of 2015 this English translation is also available online here, but the address has also changed several times so I have copied a version here. I also added the original Chinese text, as parts of it have not been translated and other parts only summarized.

In Search of the Perfect Ch'in - - (the ch'in maker Lin Li-cheng, who studied with Sun Yü-chi;in)

By 蔡文婷 Ventine Tsai; photos (not included) by 黃麗梨 Huang Li-li
Translated by Phil Newell

And May the Best Builder Win . . .

The making of the ku-ch'in is known in Chinese as "hewing the ch'in." Lin Li-cheng was a student of the renowned ku-ch'in maker Sun Yu-ch'in and is the only specialized hewer of ch'ins in the country.

For many years he has roamed in the high mountains in search of the best ch'in materials. In lifting heavy wood, he injured his spine, but has lost none of his original enthusiasm.

To play the ch'in one must have a fine instrument; to make a fine ch'in requires good wood.

Every step in the process, from selecting the wood, to hewing, to applying the lacquer, to stringing, is complex and refined.

奇木、奇人、奇事 所謂「巧婦難為無米之炊」,琴材的選擇需要眼光和時間。
The selection of materials requires a good eye, and time.

(not translated)

It is said that the Ch'ing dynasty ch'in maker Lei Wei, each time it snowed, donned his palm-bark rain cape and bamboo rain hat, and went deep into Omei Mountain to listen to the whistling of the winds in the pines. When he heard one that was especially lingering, he cut it down and brought it back.

And then there's Ts'ai Yung of the Han dynasty, who selected his wood by the sounds it made being scorched.

As for Lin Li-cheng, Lei's method is too mythical; and Ts'ai's story can be explained scientifically, because the more dense the wood, the more resonant the cracking sound when the resin is dissipated under high temperatures.

Lin Li-cheng uses scientific methods to make ch'ins.

(not translated)

(not translated)

千山萬水尋良材 為了尋得良材,林立正經常隻身入山林。以多年在林場的生活及幾年跑船的經驗,不需指南針,他一樣可以依山勢、天象,甚或是一種直覺找到方向。 山中一去便是一個月,糧食不足便找野菜、游魚裹腹,夜裡便套件睡袋,以大地為床。
In order to find good materials, he often goes alone into the forest, relying only on the lay of the land and his instincts to lead him, living off the land if need be, for up to a month.

The woods are like his home. When he was young he often swore not to return home at all until he found materials.

In 1980, when he was alone in the mountain woods, he was walking up a stream (old wood is relatively well-preserved in flowing water).

傍晚覓得曲流岸邊休息,在溪中捕魚時,看見一紫黑色枯枝,折下一段,空氣中爆出濃郁香氣,並且木質脆密,應是斲琴良材。 潛下水中、高興地發覺水下的木幹正足夠制上一把古琴。
That night, while resting on the bank, he detected a purplish-black branch under thewater, just right for a chrin in length and of excellent quality.

Every day for the next twenty days he dove underwater with his saw to chop the branch away--no mean feat submerged, especially when the sawdust sticks to the sawblade.

(not translated)

(not translated)

The wood eventually became the ch'in that Lin is most satisfied with.

科學辨木法 從六十二年向孫毓芹學斲琴起,林立正一直是全心投入,除了老師的經驗,他更下苦心到師大上顯微技術、木材化學,到台大學硬木切片。
Starting from his time studying with Sun Yu-ch'in in 1973, Lin Li-cheng has always committed himself completely. Besides learning his teacher's experience, he took himself to leading universities to study microscope technology, wood chemistry, and hardwood.

For Lin, who had never been to high school, this was not easy. But he was able, through hard work, to get out of it what he wanted.

(not translated)

Old wood requires no special handling for hewing the ch'in. But because original materials are limited, most ch'in makers use new wood.

But it's necessary to get the liquid out of the new wood by sub mersing the embryonically carved wood in lime water to soak for a month or two.

But then, the calcium carbonate in the lime gets into the cells, and there's no way to completely get rid of it.

為此,林立正投下大量時間,研究用一種專吃木液的細菌侵入木料,蝕去木液,便不會傷害木質。 不過還在試驗之中。
Lin has spent a lot of time researching a way to put liquid consuming microbes into the wood, but this is still in an experimental stage.

Wood which has been in water for a long time must be dark dried. Lin feels that in Taiwan, even if the wood is dried naturally, there will be cracks. So it should be dried in the most moderate possible environment.

These kinds of things cannot be discovered in books, but only through trial and study.

細細推敲好琴音 製作一把好琴,工藝技巧是其次,最重要的是聲音,這便和琴腹空間、琴面和琴底搭配合宜有關。
In making a ch'in, the handcrafting is secondary to the tone. This is closely connected to the middle space and the matching of the face and underside of the ch'in.

When he first began studying, Lin would take a finished ch'in to his teacher Sun to try out.

If the sound wasn't right, it would be taken apart and repaired repeatedly, sometimes more than 20 times. Now Lin can get it right in two or three tries. Different kinds of wood may show different types of shape changes which must be carefully considered so that a ch'in will not lose its tone after a year or two.

Many defective ku-ch'in are sent to Lin for "emergency treatment," including those by the famous Hong Kong hewer Tsoi Fok-geh and mainland ch'in which have good materials but poor workmanship.

Most ch'in on the market go for about NT$20,000. Lin's cheapest is NT$50,000.

(not translated)

But those who come to buy don't think it's expensive.

為古琴立命 製一把琴,林立正平均得花上兩年時間,除了前面說過的步驟,還得打底、上漆、定徽、上弦。
To make a ch'in takes Lin two years. Besides the steps already discussed, there's also sanding, lacquering, and stringing.

He uses deer horn powder as sanding material, and crude lacquer on the outside. The depth of the lacquer and its ingredients affect the sound, and cannot be taken lightly.

因此林立正的鹿角灰是自己以石磨磨出,篩得極細,日後琴面才會平滑。 而生漆惟恐購得的漆成份不純,林立正都是在七、八月時,親自到埔里一帶向漆農包漆樹林,並隨漆農入林割漆。
Lin grinds his own deer horn powder and goes to get crude lacquer from a forest near Puli every seven or eight months.

This May, Lin injured his spine lifting heavy wood.

(not translated)

林立正只用螺蚌,他的理由是,「金、玉太昂貴,若是古琴傳到不愛護的人手上,一定會動念挖取金、玉所製的徽,那豈不反害了琴。 」對琴,林立正可真是用盡心思。 今年五月林立正的脊椎因扛大木頭而折斷一截,目前復健狀況不錯,不過工作量卻不免大量減少。
He is recovering well, but inevitably his workload has been reduced.

Fortunately, his oldest son is graduating from middle school this year, and will, after studying intensively for a year, help his father in his work.

(not translated)

We've all heard of people who are "lovecrazy." But few have seen anyone who is "ch'in-crazy." Lin Li-cheng is the most representative example.

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