Zha Fuxi 查阜西
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Zha Fuxi 1 查阜西 2
Zha Fuxi in the USA (1945) 3    
As also outlined here, Zha Fuxi (1895-1976) was a master qin player and scholar. As a player he was the head of the Yushan School in Suzhou;4 the beauty of his play is clear from the available recordings of his qin performances (see appendix). As a scholar his research and writings on the qin are essential to the study of qin, his 1956 Project largely responsible for the preservation of many invaluable qins, qin tablature collections and other writings, plus documentation through recordings of players then living. Many of his essays were published in Zha Fuxi: Qinxue Wencui.5

Professionally Zha Fuxi was an executive with one of the Chinese civil aviation companies. Tong Kin-Woon, in his compendium Qin Fu (1972), refers to Zha only as Zha Zhaoyu.6 The reason for this, according to Dr. Tong, was that in 1949 Jiang Kai-Shek had ordered all the Chinese commercial airplanes be flown to Hong Kong, to facilate their transfer to Taiwan, but Zha was one of the senior officials who refused to comply. As a result it was not possible at that time to publish Zha's name in Taiwan.7 On the other hand, it seems quite likely that it was this action on his part that allowed him to initiate and carry out his guqin research project in the 1950s, at a time when traditional attitudes towards to qin were not in favor with the government.8

Apparently born in Yongshun (northwestern Hunan province) to a family from Xiushui (northwestern Jiangxi province), Zha Fuxi was exposed to local music while undergoing a literary education at home. He began to study qin in 1908, either in Yongshun or in another town in Hunan: the family seems to have moved around. It has been said that because he had no local teacher, he periodically visited various qin players elsewhere, and then also began to learn melodies directly from tablature (dapu). In 1913 he entered middle school in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province. After graduation in 1917 he lived in various places, including Shanghai and Guangzhou; he was then studying aviation, and this apparently kept him too busy to continue a serious pursuit of his musical interests.

Nevertheless, Zha Fuxi became best friends with another Hunan qin player, Peng Qingshou.9 Then in Shanghai Zha made friends with a number of other qin players, perhaps most notably Shen Caonong, whom he first met in 1922.10 In Shanghai he also began working with the national airline, at the same time becoming more widely involved in qin activities. In 1936 he became a co-founder of the Jinyu Qin Society (今虞琴社 Jinyu Qin She; see Jinyu Qin Kan). However, the Japanese captured Shanghai shortly thereafter, and from 1937 to 1944 Zha and a number of other qin players lived in Chungking (Chongqing, then part of Sichuan province).

Meanwhile Zha Fuxi's career with the airlines continued to advance, and in 1943 he became 副總經理 Deputy Manager at the new 中央航空公司 Central Air Transport Company (C.A.T.C.). In this capacity he spent much of 1945 and 1946 in the United States, at the same time lecturing on qin at several universities, doing research at the Library of Congress,11 and making several recordings there. In 1946 he returned to China, where he resumed his position at the national airline. After 1949 he held a position in China's department of civil aviation. He lived in Beijing and Shanghai until 1953, but his work and the disorders of the time apparently made communication with other qin players difficult.

After 1953 Zha began the groundbreaking guqin research project described in a separate article. In 1962 he became 音樂家協會副總主席 vice-chairman of the national Musicians Association; he was also head of the 中央音樂學院,民族音樂研究所 Ethnomusicology Research Institute at the Central Conservatory, and was president of the Beijing Guqin Society.12

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 查阜西 Zha Fuxi (1895-1976)
The Brief Biography of a Chinese Musician, Zha Fuxi (中國音樂家簡傳查阜西) in 查阜西﹕琴學文萃 Zha Fuxi: Qinxue Wencui says (p.11) Zha was born 7 November 1895 in 湖南永順 Yongshun; this is a town in northwestern Hunan province, about 50 miles west of 張家界 Zhangjiajie, formerly called 大庸 Dayong; 大庸縣 Dayong County may have extended west to include Yongshun, so he is also said to have been born in Dayong.

Elsewhere, for example in this Baidu entry for Zha Fuxi, his birthplace is given as 江西修水 the town of Xiushui in northwest Jiangxi province, near the Hunan/Hubei border; see especially this article about him on a Xiushui website. Even sites, such as these on Douyishe or Baike that say he was born in Yongshun, say he was from Xiushui without elaborating on what this means. Normally it would mean that his family was originally from Xiushui but was living in Yongshun when he was born. It seems possible that his father (查步衢 Zha Buqu?) was a government official.

Elsewhere there are accounts saying that as a young child Zha Fuxi had a traditional Confucian education at home, and/or that he studied music at a Changsha lower school. The Brief Biography seems to suggest that Zha was about 13 when he began his qin studies: it says that from 1908 to 1910 he studied qin songs from his family's live-in teacher 夏伯琴 Xia Boqin (he also studied folk singing, Kunqu and flute [簫 xiao and 笛 di] with 舅父榮漱石 his uncle Rong Shushi), then from 1911 to 1912 continued his qin studies in 大庸縣 Dayong County with 田曦明 Tian Ximing, a student of the well-known but recently (1907) deceased 龔光表 Gong Guangbiao. Zha Fuxi's Guide, Section10 (587) 63, has lyrics for a 嘅古吟 Kaigu Yin said to have come from Gong.

Further regarding Zha's training in Kunqu, the compilation Jue Xiang includes a track where he sings an aria from an old opera. It is interesting to try to discern how this training influenced the way he sang qin songs (another example below).

(Elsewhere it is said that at this time Zha studied qin in 湖南津市 Jinshi, an area centered on the town of that name in about 100 miles east of Zhangjiajie [this was the government residence for 澧州 Lizhou, i.e., 澧縣 Lixian?]).

The Brief Biography goes on to say that from 1913, when Zha Fuxi entered middle school in 南昌 Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province, he began studying qin history and theory; then from 1920 to 1924, in such places such as Shanghai and Changsha, he began his more serious study with players such as 沈草農 Shen Caonong (1891-1973), 顧勁秋 Gu Jinqiu (an uncle of 顧梅羹 Gu Meigeng?) and 彭祉卿 Peng Zhiqing (1891-1944).

Biographical details on Zha Fuxi are not always consistent. The reasons for this inconsistency might be related to the fact that after 1949 many people tried to hide or downplay their class backgrounds. Some of the inconsistencies may be reflected on the present page.

2. The name 查阜西 Zha Fuxi (Wade-Giles: Cha Fu-Hsi)
Zha Fuxi's original name was apparently 查鎮湖 Zha Zhenhu ("Chen-hu Cha"); this is the name he used as an editor of Jinyu Qin Kan. He also often used the name 查夷平 Zha Yiping. As mentioned above, Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu refers to him only as 查照雨 Zha Zhaoyu; Zhao Yu (Reflecting Rain) was apparently the name of Zha's studio.

3. Image
Copied here from Zha Fuxi: Qinxue Wencui

4. Head of the Yushan School
See Van Gulik, Lore, p. 83 fn.

5. Zha Fuxi guqin work and publications
Zha's work, mentioned in many places on this site, has been my most important source of information since beginning this project. It seems quite likely that, in addition to his personal dedication, a primary reason he was able to do this work in the 1950s was from the high level support he gained as a result of his actions regarding the airlines. For an example of how this was not always easy, see the account of his efforts to improve the quality of silk strings in the 1950s.

6. 查照雨 Zha Zhaoyu
Regarding this name see above.

7. The "Uprising of the Two Airlines" and its significance for the guqin
A number of Chinese websites have details on the refusal of two of the three main Chinese airlines to have their planes flown to Taiwan in 1949. They call this the 兩航起義 "Uprising of the Two Airlines". The airline that did go to Taiwan was called 民航空運隊 Civil Air Transport (CAT). The two airlines that did not go were 中國航空公司 China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) and 中央航空公司 Central Air Transport Company (CATC). Zha Fuxi was an executive with CATC (in the Chinese documents he is usually called Zha Yiping).

According to the CNAC website, CNAC was founded in 1929 by Curtiss-Wright, the leading aeronautical corporation in the United States at the time, in partnership with the Chinese government. "Taken over by Pan American Airways in 1933, CNAC pioneered commercial air service throughout the Middle Kingdom until the airline's demise in 1949." CNAC was perhaps most famous during the war against Japan for bringing supplies to China by flying over the "hump" from Burma to Kunming. However, in 1949 (see CNAC Today), "Many (if not most) of CNAC's Chinese staff pledged support to the Communist government and flew [their planes] to Peking .... so CNAC still technically existed in the mainland." However, CNAC apparently also remained as a legal entity in Hong Kong, to be revived later.

As for the Central Air Transport Company, the fact that Zha Fuxi went to the USA in conjunction with his airline work suggests that his company may have been connected to CNAC. As yet I do not have details on this.

Chinese information seems to suggest that Zhou Enlai himself met with airlines executives and persuaded them not to fly their planes to Taiwan. This may be significant in the subsequent history of the guqin in China, as it suggests that Zha Fuxi may have had a personal relationship with Zhou Enlai.

The guqin was not only an instrument of the scholar class, it was by tradition an instrument one played for oneself, not for the masses. This means that of all the Chinese musical instruments, it should have been the one most out of favor in China after 1949. So the fact that Zha Fuxi was able to carry out his 1956 Guqin Project is perhaps due in no small way to the role he played in the Uprising of the Two Airlines.

8. Post 1949 politics and the guqin (1891-1944)
The qin would have been under attack at the time for a number of reasons, perhaps most importantly the attitude of the literati that the instrument could not be appreciated by what at that time would have been called the masses. One can see efforts to counter this perception by, for example, saying a melody is "民間 from the people" if sources have not attributed it to any particular person.

9. 彭慶壽 Peng Qingshou (1891-1944)
Peng Qingshou (also 彭祉卿,號桐心閣主人 Peng Zhiqing, nickname Master of Tongxin Studio), from Changsha, was an important qin player in the style of Zhang Kongshan (see under Tianwenge Qinpu). He moved to Suzhou in 1933 then worked in Shanghai, and was involved with the Jin Yu Qin She. Its handbook (1937) contains several articles by him as well as the earliest tablature for Yi Gu Ren, apparently following a version he had learned as a child (from Liqinxuan Qinpu?).

Regarding 理琴軒琴譜 Liqinxuan Qinpu, the tablature in this handbook is said to have been the basis for some melodies as played later by 彭慶壽 Peng Qingshou (above and subsequently transmitted to later players via 查阜西 Zha Fuxi (and/or a 栩齋琴譜 Xuzhai Qinpu; no date). In particular it is mentioned on this site with relation to Peng's versions of Shitan Zhang/Pu'an Zhou and Yi Gu Ren.

Zha Fuxi's biography says that in the 1920s he studied qin in Changsha with the Peng family from 廬陵 Luling (presumably part of 廬山 the Lushan mountain district north of Nanchang in Jiangxi province). Peng Qingshou himself was active in the 今虞琴舍 Jinyu Qin Society. I am not aware that a copy of such a handbook with either of these titles still exists.

10. 沈草農 Shen Caonong (1891 - 1972)
Wu Wenguang's dissertation, p. 126. says, "Shen Caonong, an accomplished traditional scholar and calligrapher, was stylistically influenced by Zha Fuxi and Peng Qingshou (see above); he taught Mme. 蔡德允 Cai Deyun (1905 - ), a close relative, and Mme. Cai taught numerous students after she moved to Hong Kong." In China he also taught 章志蓀 Zhang Zhisun, who later taught my teacher Sun Yuqin (for which reason he gave me an introduction to her when I moved to Hong Kong).

Shen's family was from 浙江蕭山 Xiaoshan in Zhejiang, and his qin training is said to have been in the 中州 Zhongzhou School, but he also studied with 裴鐵俠 Pei Tiexia of the Chuan (Sichuan) School, and in the 1930s was very much involved in establishing the 今虞琴社 Jinyu Qin She in Shanghai. Professionally he was a banker; in 1938 while working as a banker in Hong Kong he taught Cai Deyun, after which the Chuan style became quite popular there.

11. Relevant research materials in the Library of Congress
As the Japanese army approached Beijing, or later Nanjing, apparently a number of materials were sent to the U.S. for safekeeping. How much of this went to the Libary of Congress is not clear, but after the war there was apparently some dispute as to where they should be returned, with some going to Taiwan and/or being copied (for example see here and especially here).

12. Zha Fuxi's positions in music organizations
Xu Jian's Introductory History, p. 189, lists Zha Fuxi's positions in musical organizations after 1953 as:


Quite likely he held other positions as well.

Appendix: Recordings of Zha Fuxi playing qin (查阜西彈琴)

In October 2016 ROI Hong Kong published 查阜西琴學藝術 Qin Study and Art of Zha Fuxi, a 3 CD set with 29 tracks (19 different melodies) recorded from the 1940s to the 1960s. The content is as follows (adapted from here; all are traditional except CD 2 #8):

CD 1
01. 鷗鷺忘機 Ōulù Wàng Jī
02. 普庵咒 Pǔān Zhòu
03. 梅花三弄 Méihuā Sān Nòng
04. 瀟湘水雲 Xiāo Xiāng Shuǐ Yún
05. 漁歌 Yú Gē
06. 梅花三弄 Méihuā Sān Nòng (with xiāo)
07. 憶故人 Yì Gù Rén

CD 2
01. 瀟湘水雲 Xiāo Xiāng Shuǐ Yún
02. 漁歌 Yú Gē
03. 洞庭秋思 Dòngtíng Qiū Sī
04. 醉漁唱晚 Zuì Yú Chàng Wǎn
05. 凱歌
Kǎi Gē
06. 空山憶故人 Kōngshān Yì Gùrén
07. 陽關三疊 Yángguān Sān Dié
08. 大躍進歌聲震山河 Dà Yuèjìn Gē Shēng Zhèn Shān Hé
      (Great Leap Forward Song Sounds Shake the Mountains and Rivers)
09. 平沙落雁 Píng Shā Luò Yàn
10. 梅花三弄 Méihuā Sān Nòng
11. 關山月 Guānshān Yuè

CD 3
01. 陽春 Yáng Chūn
02. 長門怨 Chángmén Yuàn
03. 瀟湘水雲 Xiāo Xiāng Shuǐ Yún
04. 洞庭秋思 Dòngtíng Qiū Sī
05. 關山月 Guānshān Yuè
06. 鷗鷺忘機 Ōulù Wàng Jī
07. 漢節操 Hàn Jié Cāo
08. 陽關三疊 Yángguān Sān Dié
09. 漁樵問答 Yú Qiáo Wèndá
10. 古怨 Gǔ Yuàn
11. 慨古吟 Kǎi Gǔ Yín

With duplications (# in parentheses below) and arranged alphabetically by romanization, these 29 tracks comprise the following 19 different melodies:

  1. 長門怨 Changmen Yuan
  2. 大躍進歌聲震山河 Da Yuejin Ge Sheng Zhen Shan He
  3. 洞庭秋思 Dongting Qiu Si (2)
  4. 古怨 Gu Yuan
  5. 關山月 Guanshan Yue (2)
  6. 漢節操 Han Jie Cao
  7. 凱歌 Kai Ge
  8. 慨古吟 Kai Gu Yin
  9. 空山憶故人 Kongshan Yi Gu Ren
  10. 梅花三弄 Meihua San Nong 3 (1 with xiao)
  11. 鷗鷺忘機 Oulu Wang Ji (2)
  12. 平沙落雁 Ping Sha Luo Yan
  13. 普庵咒 Pu'an Zhou
  14. 瀟湘水雲 Xiao Xiang Shui Yun (3)
  15. 陽春 Yang Chun
  16. 陽關三疊 Yang Guan San Die (2)
    憶故人 Yi Gu Ren (same melody as Kongshan Yi Gu Ren
  17. 漁歌 Yu Ge
  18. 漁樵問答 Ye Qiao Wenda
  19. 醉漁唱晚 Zui Yu Chang Wan

Two tracks missing from this list are:

  1. 胡笳十八拍 Hujia Shiba Pai (1699 version; sung, but first two sections only. Included in Sitong Shenpin
  2. 蘇武思君 Su Wu Si Jun (Qin song; Sections 1 and 4 - 8, skipping 2 and 3. More below.

To my knowledge there is no listing of all the different versions of all the melodies Zha Fuxi recorded. No attempt is made to do so here but one further recording worthy of mention now here is the one in Jue Xiang of a version of Ou Lu Wang Ji that is a duet between qin and erhu

The following lists a few other places to hear Zha's recordings:

  1. Recordings of Zha Fuxi at the Library of Congress (美國國會圖書館; listen here, CDs 11 and 12))
    The Library of Congress Catalog Record says six recordings were made in 1945, calling them "Chen-hu Cha recordings of Ch'in music [sound recording]"; for the name Chen-hu Cha (查鎮湖) see above. Prof. Robert Garfias digitized these recordings and for a while they could be heard on links from a page on his website. Although as of 2021 that link does not seem to be working, the five solo recordings can now be heard online from links here (CDs 11 and 12).

    1. 梅花三弄 Meihua Sannong (10.00; listen)
    2. 梅花三弄 Meihua Sannong (as above, but with xiao flute [flautist not identified]; 09.51)
    3. 鸥鹭忘机 Oulu Wang Ji (05.27; listen)
    4. 普庵咒     Pu'an Zhou (10.18; listen)
    5. 瀟湘水雲 Xiao Xiang Shui Yun (14.30; listen)
    6. 漁歌         Yu Ge (Fisherman's Song, standard tuning version, very similar to the CD below; 16.14; listen)

    Also, an 憶故人 Yi Gu Ren recorded by Zha Fuxi (07.11; listen), perhaps from the Library of Congress but I have not been able to confirm that, is also in existence. (Compare the 1951 version listed below.)

    If the Library of Congress catalog lists the names of melodies in their collection I have not found where they do so; as a result I cannot say whether they have others as well. According to Prof. Garfias these recordings were made under the impetus of Charles Seeger (Wiki).

  2. CD recordings
    At least two further CDs include individual recordings. These are:

    1. 長門怨     Changmen Yuan (Guqin Collection #3 and Chine: Musique Classique; listen)
    2. 洞庭秋思 Dongting Qiusi (Guqin Collection #3; listen)
    3. 漁歌         Yu Ge (standard tuning; Guqin Collection #3; listen)

  3. Other recordings in MP3 or similar format
    In addition to those
    here, here are five further MP3 files of his play:

    1. 洞庭秋思 Dongting Qiu Si (different from the above; 03.13; listen)
      Zha combines several versions of this melody; see commentary

    2. 蘇武思君 Su Wu Si Jun (Qin song; Sections 1 and 4 - 8, skipping 2 and 3; 05.20; listen; comment)
      From 1589; the transcription in Zhongguo Gudai Gequ, pp. 121-2, also skips the same two tracks

    3. 瀟湘水雲 Xiao Xiang Shui Yun (14.10; listen)
      This is one of the recordings in the Library of Congress (see above).

    4. 憶故人 Yi Gu Ren (08.55; listen)
      This recording, made in 1951, is sometimes called Kongshan Yi Gu Ren.

    5. 醉漁唱晚 Zui Yu Chang Wan (modern version; 04.14; listen)
      This mp3 is amongst the old recordings Jim Binkley has on his website ("Dzui-yu-chang-wan")

Other material of possible interest
For example,

For further regarding Zha Fuxi's qin songs see also his article.

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