Thursday, June 18, 2020

姜夔 角招 Jué sháo by Jiang Kui

Jue Shao is a flute tone in the Jue Mode (the Chinese Jue is like the western mi or la. Jue mode is that the ending note of major phrases and the final note land on mi or la)

This song was said to be in the mode of Zheng Huang Zhong Gong 正黃鐘宮 , the orthodox Huang Zhong Gong mode, which is similar to the western Lydian mode with one # on the fourth note of the scale.

The original music notation was using the Song dynasty popular notation (俗字譜) which was designed for fingerings for the flute. I have briefly studied three interpretations from Mrs. Rulan Chao Pian 卞趙如蘭, Mr. Laurence Picken and Mr. Yang Yin Liu 楊蔭瀏, and one recording from Mrs. Liu Chu Hua 劉楚華 from Hong Kong, where the pitches are a half step higher than Picken and Yang's interpretations, and one and a half step higher than Pian's interpretation.

To play this piece on the cello, I decided to take Pian's interpretation of the key where the first and last notes land on E.


To see Laurence Picken's interpretation, please visit John Thompson's website (白石道人歌曲角招).

Jiang Kui's (1155 -1221) note about this piece: Translated by Laurence Picken (1909-2007, an ethnomusicologist from England)

In the spring of 1194, I travelled with Yu Shang Qing in leisurely fashion to the West Lake.
We gazed on the plum-blossom in the western hamlet on Gu mountain:
jade-plum and snow illuminating each other,
the wafted fragrance all-pervasive. Shang Qing returned to Wu Xing.
I followed after along.
Across the mountains hung spring mist. Fresh willows swept the water.
The carefree traveller flew through the flowers.
In a mood of depression I composed this and sent it. Shang Qing was a good singer.
His singing was not professional.
It is my practice to play all the songs I compose myself on the vertical Xiao flute.
Shang Qing, singing on the spur of the mountain, joined in.
It really had the feeling of mountain and forest swathed in mist.
Now I know the grief of separation; Shang Qing has gone to be an official.
I fear this pleasure will not come again.

甲寅春,予與俞商卿燕遊西湖.觀梅於孤山之西邨.玉雪照映,吹香薄人.已而商卿歸吳興,予獨來則山横春烟,新柳被水,遊人容與飛花中,悵然有懷,作此寄之.商卿善歌聲,稍以儒雅緣飾.予每自度曲,吟洞簫,商卿輙歌而和之,極有山林縹緲之思.今予離憂,商卿一行作吏,殆無復此樂矣.

Translation of the lyrics: (by Laurence Picken)
Because of the spring I am worn thin.
How can I bear again to go round the West Lake where everywhere are weeping willows?
From gazing at the peak beyond the mist,
I remember being with you on the lake, hand in hand,
You went back not long ago.
A thousand acres of fragrant red have fallen early.
A leaf-like boat crosses wavy mistiness,
Traversing the Thirty-six Imperial Lodges, causing the traveller to turn his head.
Still there are on pleasure-boats those who screen themselves behind sleeves,
Green towers where, with fans athwart, each shines on the other, striving in loveliness.
Bright kingfisher-tail diadems gleam.
With care they apply the Palace Yellow paint. But at the present season,
Wounding spring is like the past.
My unsettled spring-heart is like wine.
Writing for the silk of Wu (means the guqin), I play to myself,
Asking: Who can explain the intention of this song?
The friend with me in the presence of the flowers?

為春瘦。何堪更繞西湖,盡是垂柳。自看煙外岫。記得與君,湖上攜手。君歸未久。早亂落,香紅千畝。一葉凌波縹緲,過三十六離宮,遣遊人回首。
猶有。畫船障袖。青樓倚扇,相映人爭秀。翠翹光欲溜。愛著宮黃,而今時候。傷春似舊。盪一點,春心如酒。寫吳絲自奏。問誰識,曲中心,花前友。

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Song of Red Love-beans

Song of Red Love-beans is from the very famous Chinese classical novel [Dream of the Red Chamber] by Cao Xueqin (1715-1763). This Song was singing by the main character, a young man, Jia Baoyu, and the lyrics uses a series of comparison sentences to express the situation of young people in love who are troubled by love.

In 1943 Mr. Liu Xue-An composed the melody for it.

English translation of the lyrics by David Hawkes:

Still weeping tears of blood about our separation.
Little red love-beans of my desolation.
Still blooming flowers I see outside my window growing.
Still awake in the dark I hear the wind a-blowing.
Still oh still I can’t forget those old hopes and fears.
Still can’t swallow food and drink, ‘cos I’m choked with tears.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me it’s not true.
Do I look so thin and pale, do I look so blue?
Mirror, mirror, this long night how shall I get through?
Oh—oh—oh!
Blue as the mist upon the distant mountains,
Blue as the water in the ever-flowing fountains.

紅豆詞  詩詞:曹雪芹
滴不盡相思血淚拋紅豆
開不完春柳春花滿畫樓
睡不穩紗窗風雨黃昏後
忘不了新愁與舊愁
咽不下玉粒金噎滿喉
瞧不見鏡花容瘦
展不開眉頭 捱不明更漏
啊…… 啊……
恰似遮不住的青山隱隱
流不斷的綠水悠悠
作曲 劉雪庵 (1943)

My cello playing or Song of Red Love-beans 

姜夔 暗香


今日讀到, 姜夔的詞呈現明顯的賦化, 即心即物, 即物即心, 著意於物, 也著意於心. 兼詩歌與散文於一體.

Today I read that Jiang Kui's poem are obviously influenced by Fu (poetry) style. That is, the heart (or the mind) is the object; the object is the heart. And the focus is on both the object and the heart, with the style that the poetry and the prose are as one.

〈辛亥之冬,予載雪詣石湖。止既月,授索句,且徵新聲,作此兩曲。石湖把玩不已,使工妓習之,音節諧婉,乃名之暗香、影。〉

An Xian (Secret Fragrance) preface:
"In the winter of 1191, I took ship through the snow to visit Shi-hu and stayed a whole month. He gave me notepaper and asked for my verses. He also asked for new tunes. I made these two songs. Shis-hu's pleasure knew no end. He caused two singing-girls to practice them. As he found the melodies pure and the harmony agreeable, he gave them the title 'Secret Fragrance'and 'Dappled Shadows'." -- Jiang Kui (English translation by Laurence Picken)

舊時月色,算幾番照我,梅邊吹笛
In former times, the moon's countenance
(Probably on  occasions) has shone upon me beside a plum tree, playing the flute.

喚起玊人,不管春寒與攀摘。
I called my beautiful love to rise regardless of the cold; together we picked the blossom.

何遜而今漸老,都忘卻春風詞筆。
Ho Shun now is slowly ageing. He has forgotten the springtime style of his early verse.
(* Ho Hsun was a sixth century poet famous for his verses on plum-blossom. Jiang Kui identifies himslef with him.)

但怪得竹外疏花,暗香冷入瑤席。
Even now, surprisingly, beyond the bamboos, there are scattered flowers. The fragrance coldly enters the banqueting hall.

江國,正寂寂,歎寄與路遙,夜雪初積。
The River Country is lonely indeed. Sighing I send my thoughts over the long road; the evening snow begins to pile up.

翠尊易泣,紅萼無言耿相憶。
Into the kingfisher-blue wine-cup tears freely flowed; Red-calyx did not speak, disturbed by mutual memories.

長記攜手處,千樹壓西湖寒碧。
Long shall I remember the places where I led you by the hand. A myriad trees screen the West Lake's chill jade-green.

又片片吹盡也,幾時見得?
Petal by petal, all is blown away. When shall we be able to see it again?
(English translation by Laurence Picken)

後代評語:
宋 張炎 [辭源] :白石詞...不惟清空, 且又騷雅, 讀之使人神觀飛越
清 先著 程洪 [詞潔輯評]:用意之妙, 總使人不覺, ... 用字高, 煉句密, 泯其來蹤去跡矣

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Guqin 心經 Heart Sutra (three versions)


(silk string)

(Nylon string)
This is a Ming dynasty version which is the most interesting version to me, and it took me a while to accept the melody from the bottom of my heart.
According to the footnote of Se Kong Jue from the Ming dynasty Qin Handbook, Tai Yin Xi Sheng 太音希聲, this piece was composed by Chen Da-bin 陳大斌 who might have lived around the early 17th century. Chen played the guqin for 50 years and published the qin handbook [Tai Yin Xi Sheng] during the Tianqi 天啓 period (1621-1627) under some friends' financial help.
Composer's footnote: The Heart Sutra. Simple words, deep meaning, which can brighten the mind and find one's own true nature. Once the true nature has been found, one can enter the way. If one can actually practice the way, one's character is settled and one's life can be protected. I chant it often and now compose it with the qin. Hoping to convey the lyrics into music, and the soundless meaning into melody, and share this music tablature to a few friends selflessly.



所彈乃根據杜大鵬演奏,善元音演唱之版本 A modern version based on Du Dapeng's playing, Shan Yuanying's singing.



根據陳長林先生打的以六正五之齋琴學秘譜, 清 光緒元年(1875)收錄 Based on Mr. Chen Changlin's dapu of the Yi Liu Zheng Wu Zhi Zhai Qinpu (1875).

Heart Sutra in Chinese and English (two versions of translation)

觀自在菩薩,
RP (Red Pine 2004): The Noble Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.

EC (Edward Conze 1904-1979): Homage to the perfection of wisdom, the lovely, the holy!

行深般若波羅蜜多時,
RP: While practicing the deep, practice of Prajnaparamita.

EC: Avalokita, the holy lord and bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the wisdom which has gone beyond.

照見五蘊皆空,度一切苦厄。
RP: Looked upon the five skandhas, and seeing they were empty of self-existence

EC: He looked down from on high, he beheld but five heaps, and he saw that in their own being they were empty.

舍利子,色不異空,空不異色;色即是空,空即是色。
RP: Said,  Here, Shariputra,  Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness. Whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form.

EC: Here, O Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; what ever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form; 

受、想、行、識,亦復如是。
RP: The same holds for sensation and perception, memory and consciousness. 

EC: the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness.


舍利子,是諸法空相,
RP: Here, Shariputra, all dharmas are defined by emptiness.

EC: Here, O Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness

不生不滅,不垢不淨,不增不減,
RP: Not birth or destruction, purity or defilement, completeness or deficiency.

EC: They are not produced or stopped, not defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete.

是故空中無色,無受、想、行、識;無眼、耳、鼻、舌、身、意;
RP: Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no memory and no consciousness. No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind.

EC: Therefore, O Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness; no eye, ear nose, tongue, body mind;

無色、聲、香、味、觸、法;無眼界,乃至無意識界;
RP: No shape, no sound, no smell, no taste, no feeling and no thought; no element of perception, from eye to conceptual consciousness;

EC: No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind. no sight=organ element, and so forth, until we come to: No mind-consciousness element;

無無明,亦無無明盡;乃至無老死,亦無老死盡。
RP: No causal link, from ignorance to old age and death; and no end of causal link, from ignorance to old age and death.

EC: There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to: there is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death.

無苦、集、滅、道,無智亦無得。
RP: No suffering, no source, no relief, no path. No knowledge, no attainment and no non-attainment.

EC: There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path. There is no cognition, no attainment and no non-attainment.

以無所得故,菩提薩埵,依般若波羅蜜多故,
RP: Therefore, Shariputra, without attainment. Bodhisattvas take refuge in Prajnaparamita.

EC: Therefore, O Sariputra, it is because of his non-attainmentness that a Bodhisattva, through having relied on the perfection of wisdom, dwells without thought-coverings.

心無罣礙,無罣礙故,無有恐怖,遠離顛倒夢想,究竟涅槃。
RP: And live without walls of the mind, without walls of the mind and thus without fears. They see through delusions and finally nirvana.

EC: In the absence of thought-coverings he has not been made to tremble, he has overcome what can upset, and in the end he attains to nirvana.

三世諸佛,依般若波羅蜜多故,得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提。
RP: All buddhas past, present and future, also take refuge in prajnaparamita, and realize unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.

EC: All those who appear as buddhas in the three periods of time fully awake to the utmost, right and perfect enlightenment because they have relied on the perfection of wisdom.

故知般若波羅蜜多,是大神咒,是大明咒,是無上咒,是無等等咒,
RP: You should therefore know the great mantra of prajnaparamita, the mantra of great magic, the unexcelled mantra, the mantra equal to the unequalled.

EC: Therefore one should know the prajnaparamita as the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell,

能除一切苦,真實不虛。
RP:Which heals all suffering and is true, not false.

EC: allayer of all suffering, in truth - for what could go wrong?

故說般若波羅蜜多咒,即說咒曰:“揭諦、揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶。”

RP: The mantra in prajnaparamita spoken thus, 'Gate Gate, Paragate, Parasanagate, Bodhi Svaha'

EC: By the prajnaparamita has this spell been delivered. It runs like this: Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail! This completes the heart of perfect wisdom.

— 玄奘法師译,般若波羅蜜多心經
Xuan Zang's version of Prajna-paramita-hridaya Sutra (649)

Meaning of the title

Prajna-paramita-hridaya Sutra 般若波羅蜜多心經

般若 prajna means "wisdom" "befor" (pra 般) "to know" (jna 若)
波羅蜜多 paramita means "perfection" or "beyond" (para 波羅) "gone" (ita 多/陰性詞) --> "what has gone beyond, " or "what is transcendent, " or "what (or she who) leads us to the other shore" 到達彼岸, 完滿完成
Prajna-paramita means "perfection of wisdom", and the personified Goddess of Wisdom.
Hridaya means the heart, the core, the essence.
Sutra means "wise saying"

Another English translation of Heart Sutra  from Upaya


如來藏 成公亮作曲 葉力嘉演奏

Friday, January 24, 2020

Pu An Zho 普庵咒 (Pu An Mantra)

The Buddhist qin melody, Pu An Mantra is a popular qin piece which has existed for more than 400 years. It has another title, Shi Tan Zhang 釋談章 ( Siddham Stanzas ) which originally was based on the Pu An monk's chanting, and can be played along with singing the Sanskrit syllables. After several generations of interpretation, this piece has now become a pure melodic piece without singing. 

This piece can be played with as many as 10 to 20 sections, but I rearranged it and shortened it to 6 sections. In the 1/25/2020 on line yaji, I started by playing three ancient phrases while singing the beginning of the chant and then entered the pure melodic parts of my interpretation.




The "Pu An Harmony"
On the World Earth Day 2020, qin players around the world joined to record a "Pu An Mantra" as a tribute and support to those who are still fighting the virus and our sympathies to those who have suffered and perished.

The group playing was based on Master Yuan Jung-ping's version.

Friday, January 17, 2020

考槃餘事 琴箋(Qin Jiān)

"Kao Pan Yu Shih, 'Desultory Remarks on Furnishing the Abode of the Retired Scholar'. The title of this book refers to an ode of the Shih Ching (Decade of Wei, 2), which opens with the line: 'He built his hut near the stream in the vale.' (Please also see the photos below from James Legge's interpretation and notes) This book contains very detailed descriptions of all the objects belonging to the traditional outfit of a scholar of refined and cultured taste, e.g. old books and scrolls, incense, utensils for making tea, etc. To each of these objects a 箋 chien, ' memorandum', is devoted; the chin chien琴箋 is to be found at the end of ch.2. The compiler is the well-known Ming scholar Tu Lung 屠隆 (style Chang Ching長卿)." -- quoted from [The Lore of the Chinese Lute] by R.H van Gulik

屠隆(1542年-1605年) was a playwright and essayist who lived during the Ming Dynasty. He was born in Yin county鄞縣 (suburb of Ningbo city, Zhejiang 寧波 浙江).


The meaning of Kao 考 (by James Legge)
The meaning of Pan 槃 (by James Legge)

Translation by James Legge from THE CHINESE CLASSICS
The She King or The Book of Poetry 詩經
Content of KPYS
書箋 Shujian, Calligraphies
帖箋 Tiejian, Model calligraphies
畫箋 Huajian, Paintings
紙箋 Zhijian, Paper
墨箋 Mojian, Inks
筆箋 Bijian, Brushes
研箋 (i.e. 硯) Yanjian, Inkstones
琴箋 Qinjian, Zithers (Qin)
香箋 Xiangjian, Incenses
茶箋 Chajian, Teas
盆玩箋 Penwanjian, Bonsai pots and flowers related environment
魚鶴箋 Yuhejian, appreciating cranes and goldfish
山齋箋 Shanzhaijian, different rooms in the hut
起居器服箋 Qiju qifu jian, Furniture and clothes
文房器具箋 Wenfang qiju jian, Tools for the study room
游具箋 Youjujian, Objects for fishing and outdoor activities
Content of Qin Jian
Talking about the Qin 論琴
Old Qin Color 古琴色
Old Lacquer Cracks 古斷紋
Powder in lacquer 古琴灰
Wood for making the qin 古琴材
Qin Tuning Pegs 琴軫
Qin Hui (dots) 琴徽
Qin Strings 琴弦
Qin Platform (Qin Table) 琴台
Qin Room 琴室
Tang Dynasty Qin 唐琴
Song Dynasty Qin 宋琴
Yuan Dynasty Qin 元琴
Current Dynasty (Ming) Qin 國朝琴
Banana leaf qin 焦葉琴 
Baina Qin 百衲琴
Hanging the qin 掛琴 
Qin hard case 琴匣
Holding the qin 抱琴
In front of Crane 對鶴
Looking at the moon 對月
Looking at flowers 對花
Next to water 臨水
Burning Incense 焚香
Washing hands 盥手
Under dew 露下
Drinking Wine 飲酒
Ten friends of the qin altar 琴壇十友

Talking about the Qin 論琴

Qin is the elegant music in a study room, that we cannot live without hearing for a single day. People like antiquity, but if one doesn't have an antique qin, one must hang a new qin on the wall instead, no matter if one can play it or not. If one cannot play it well, one still needs to have a qin. Tao Yuanming once said: "I have acquired the deeper significance of the Qin; why should I strive after the sound of the strings?" We study the qin not aiming for being able to remember a lot of songs, but to know the deeper meaning of the music and to get the true sound.

Songs such as [Ya Sheng Cao 亞聖操, Song of Honoring Yan Hui] and [Huai Gu Yin 懷古吟, Song of Thinking the Antiquity] are for admiring virtuousness.

[Gu Jiao Xin 古交行, Engaging with Old Friends] and [Ke Chuang Ye Hua 客窗夜話, Evening Talk by a Guest's Window] are for thinking of good friends.

[Yi Lan 猗蘭, Rippling Orchids Melody] and [Yang Chun 陽春, Sunny Spring] are for proclaiming harmony and peace.

[Feng Ru Song 風入松, Wind Through the Pines] and [Yu Feng Xing 御風行 Travel of Riding the Wind] are for creating a feeling of cool breezes calming an angry mind.

[Xiao Xiang Shui Yun 瀟湘水雲, Misty Clouds Over the Xiao and Xiang River] and [Yan Guo Heng Yang 雁過衡陽 Wild Geese Traverse Hengyang] are for bringing up one's spirit to be closer to the elevated autumn sky.

[Meihua Sannong 梅花三弄 Three Variations on the Plum Blossom] and [Baixue Cao 白雪操 Melody of White Snow] are for releasing one's spirit and traveling to a mythical fairy garden.

[Qiao Ge 樵歌, Woodcutter's Song] and [Yu Ge, 漁歌, Fisherman Song] are songs for a tranquil mind within water and mountain.

[Gukou Yin 谷口引Gukou Intonation] and [Kojiao Ge 扣角歌 Song of Knocking Ox Horns] are for embracing the elegant and joyful life of living as mist and clouds in the twilight.

Poetry songs like [Gui Qu lai 歸去來, come away home] and [Chibi Fu 赤壁賦, red cliff rhapsody] can be sung to convey one's sentiments.

Playing one or two pieces on a clear night with bright moon light, that is the way to cultivate and meditate, nothing more than that. Thus, how can it be only to please the ears!

Old Qin Color 古琴色

If a qin has survived through long years, its lacquer gloss will disappear. Only those with a dark color like ebony (carbonized wood) are the most remarkable and interesting.

photo taken from : 吳釗 著 絕世清音 Jueshi Qingyin by Wu Zhao


Old Lacquer Cracks 古斷紋

To identify if a qin is old enough, the lacquer cracks can be one evidence. Lacquer cracks occur only if the qin has been through several hundred years. There are different kinds of patterns of lacquer cracks, such as Plum Blossom Cracks where the pattern looks like plum blossoms, and this is the most aged; Cow Hair Cracks, which looks like hundred and thousands of short hairs; Snake-belly Cracks, where the cracks appear long crossing the qin surface, and about 1 or a half inch apart. There are patterns like the dragon scale, which has a big round shape of cracks; a pattern like turtle shell, ice cracks which I (the author, Tu Long) have not seen yet. The reason that other lacquer products don't have cracks like the qin is that the other lacquer products have used fabric when coating with lacquer, while the qin does not use fabric (not sure if that is a correct statement, as many qins do use linen before coating with layers of lacquer). And other lacquer products are quiet, not like the qin which vibrate constantly from plucking the strings.

Plum Blossom Cracks (photo taken from Jueshi Qingyin by Wu Zhao) 

Cow Hair Cracks (photo taken from : 吳釗 著 絕世清音

Snake-belly cracks interspersed with Cow Hair cracks (peiyouqin)

Found this photo on line which says that it's plum blossom cracks. 
I feel it is more like dragon scale cracks.

Ice cracks with snake-belly cracks (photo from : Jueshi Qingyin)

Powder in lacquer 古琴灰

A qin lacquered with powder (qi hui 漆灰, deer horn powder or tile powder mix with other mineral powder) can be identified by seeing if there is no seam (between the top board and bottom board) can be seen, and the cracks appearing cross over the qin shoulder. If there are cracks on the top and bottom boards, but the sides are smooth, it means that this qin has been opened and closed and re-coated after repairing and the material for re-coating is another kind of powdered lacquer (liao hui 料灰, not sure what that is).

Deer horn powder mixing with raw lacquer coating on the qin surface.


Wood for making the qin 古琴材

A good qin is made by using catalpa wood for the bottom board and paulownia wood for the top board. If using only paulownia wood, one can put this wood on water and take the part that is facing up on the water surface to be the top board and take the part that is facing down in the water to be the bottom board. This is (also considered) the yin and yang wood (combination) 陰陽木. If both the top and bottom boards use the parts that face up on the water, that is pure yang wood 純陽木, which has not been used in ancient times, but recently people have started using them to make the qin. Playing this (pure yang) qin on a humid night, the sound won't be "sinking" (dull) but won't reach far, and the tone won't be rich either. Using paulownia for the top and cypress for the bottom are not acceptable. The best paulownia are growing near a temple that has a bell sound. The king of Yi, (the last king of Wuyue, reigning from 974 to 978) obtained two qins which were made by the columns of Tiantai temple and the columns were facing a water fall. They are named Xi Fan (洗凡 cleansing the mundane) and Qing Jue (清絕 purely superb). They are treasures for many generations and the value are more than pure gold and jade.

Qin Tuning Pegs 琴軫

Jade tuning pegs are elegant and not too showy. Carving on the surface of jade can be helpful for turning. It also won't get dirty. (Tuning pegs made with) sandalwood and rhino corns are fine as well.

Jade tuning pegs with carving on the surface
Qin Hui (dots) 琴徽

Qin with gold or jade hui are a treasure, but often cause bad fortune for the qin. Hui made with mother of pearl has a nice gloss on a clear night under moon light, which make them even brighter and easy to see at night. They also look elegant. If an old man were playing a qin with gold hui at night, the moon light would make them too dazzling to look at, which would make the eyes uncomfortable. Hui that do not have gloss under sun light is better.

Qin Strings 琴弦

The best quality of silk string is from the middle of Shu (Sichuan province). The next level down is from the middle of Qin (Shanxi 陝西 province) and the lower band of Luo (Henan province). The lowest level is from Shandong 山東 (province) and Jiang Hui 江淮 area (Anhui and Jiangsu provinces), due to the qualities of the local water and earth. Now the best is the white zhè silk 柘絲 (from the silkworm that eats the leaves of mandarin melon berries), the next level down is autumn silkworms. Ice silk string means its pure natural color without dye. Red silk string has a slightly color blocked up which is less clear and lost its pure nature.

Qin Platform (Qin Table) 琴台

There is the Guogong brick made from Zhengzho, Henan province, 5 feet long (about 160 cm), a little more than 1 foot (about 32 cm) wide, carved with "fang sheng" (a pattern of two diamond  shaped squares connected together) or "xiang yan" (a pattern that looks like elephant eyes) and inlaid into a qin table which has the length of one foot longer than the qin. The height is two feet 8 inches, and the width is wide enough to put three qins. It is then coated with hard lacquer. There is also a shorter qin table like the Vimala style (Buddhist style) where the height is one foot 6 inches, and the seat uses a Hu Chuang (a small folding bench), so the arms can move freely.  The tall height  (long distance between the qin table and the low seat) can be tiring and laborious after a short time of playing. 

I (the author, Tu Long from Ming dynasty) once saw a qin table which used sandalwood on the sides and tin as the pond in the middle of the table. It had fish and water algae in it. The table was covered with a crystal plate. Playing qin on it was as if the fish were coming out to listen to the music. How remarkable it was.
Guogong Brick with carved pattern

方勝 Fang Sheng (兩個菱形相接的形狀) Image: Tokyo national museum

A brick looks like a Guogong Brick on a table

The qin table that Emperor Song Huizong was playing on, might has a qin brick inlaid.


胡床 Hu Chuang (a small folding bench)


Qin Room 琴室

A Qin room should not be Xu (empty, hollow), but with floor boards above and below so the sound will stay within. If there is empty space under the room, it will let the sound penetrate. If the room has a tall ceiling, the sound will scatter. If the room is too small, the sound cannot reach out. If a room is without a basement, one can bury a big jar and hang a bronze bell in the jar, then cover it with a piece of board, that will work as well. Recluses or hermits like to play the qin in places near pines and bamboo, in a cave or stone room, where it is clear, empty, clean and quiet. If there is spring water and pebbles, that is even better, so the tone will be more pure. How different it is from the moon palace?   

Tang Dynasty Qin 唐琴

蜀中有雷文 張越 二家制琴得名 其龍池鳳沼間有舷 余處悉洼 令關聲而不散
There were two famous qin makers, Lei Wen and Zhang Yue. Their qins have Xian (sound absorbers) located in the Dragon Pool and Phoenix Pond, and the rest of the area (of the top board) is carved hollow, so the sound will stay and won't be scattered. 

Xian means both sides of a boat. The qin sound absorber is in the shape of a boat.

This image can see where the sound absorbers are

Song Dynasty Qin 宋琴 宋有琴局 制有定式 謂之官琴 余悉野斲有施木舟者 造琴得名 斷紋漸去

At Song dynasty, there was an official qin making bureau which stabilized a certain form of the qin which was called the official qin. I know there was a famous non-official qin maker, Shi Muzho. Lacquer cracks were gradually disappearing. 

Yuan Dynasty Qin 元琴 有朱致遠造琴精絕 今之古琴多屬施朱二氏者

At Yuan dynasty, there was a famous qin maker, Zhu Zhiyuan whose qin making was excellent. Nowadays (Ming dynasty) qin were made from Shi and Zhu two qin makers.

Current Dynasty (Ming) Qin 國朝琴

Famous qin makers, during Chenghua 成化 years (1465-1487), there was Wan Long 萬隆 from Fengcheng 豐城 (in Jiangxi province). During Hongzhi 弘治 years (1488-1505), there were Hui Xiang 惠祥 , Gao Teng 高騰 and Zhu Haihe 祝海鶴 from Qiantang 錢塘 (in Zhejiang province), and they were highly praised by people. In Beijing, the best qins were made from Fan family 樊氏 and Lu family 路氏.

A good qin mainly is judged by its good sound quality. If it has a nice sound quality, one should not be limited to (thinking that only) antique qins (are good).

Banana leaf qin 焦葉琴 取蕉葉為琴之式 制自祝海鶴甚佳

Taking its shape which is like a banana leaf as the name of the form, and qin made from Zhu Haihe are very good.

Banana leaf qin made by Zhu Haihe, current collector : Pei Jingbao from Suzho
picture from: 
絕世清音 吳釗 著


祝海鶴 祝望 字公望 號海鶴 明浙江龍游人 弘治時人 絕意仕進 結廬石處山隱居 為造琴名手 工于琴詩 尤善臨池 Zhu Haihe, from Zhejiang province, was active during Ming Hongzhi period, 1488-1505.  He rejected an official job and lived as a recluse. He was famous for his qin making, and qin poetry compositions. He was also talented in calligraphy.  

Baina Qin 百衲琴 (Bai means hundred, and one of the meaning of Na is to sew close stitches )

偶得美材 短不堪用 因而裁成片段 膠漆綴長 非好奇也 今仿制者 以龜紋錦片 錯以玳瑁 象牙 香料 雜木 嵌骨為紋 鋪滿琴體 名曰"寶琴" 與廣中滇南蜔嵌琵琶何異? 更可笑也 近有銅琴 石琴 紫檀 烏木者 皆失琴旨 雖美何取?

When one happened to obtain a piece of beautiful wood but too short to make a whole complete qin board, therefore one cut the wood into many small pieces and used lacquer to glue them together to make it to a longer piece, it was not just attempting to be unusual.

Now people imitate the technique on purpose, and make it with shiny pieces with a turtle shell pattern, mixed with tortoise shell, ivory, spices and different kinds of wood, inlaid animal bones into the wood to make patterns, spread all over the qin body and called it a "treasures qin". How different is that from the shell inlaid pipa of guangdong and yunnan provinces? The more interesting thing is that recently people have made the qin from bronze, stone, sandalwood and ebony, which all lost the principle of the qin. Even if they look beautiful, they are not acceptable.

桐樹下需而上實  而孫枝(樹上新長的嫩枝)又難得大材 故欲避虛就實者 可擇其精華 以小塊優質桐材拚合而斲之 一似百衲僧衣
百衲琴 picture source

The Tang Pipa with mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell inlay,
collection of Shōsō-in (正倉院) in NaraJapan

Gold and Silver Inlaid Qin.
Picture source:Tang dynasty qin in Shoso-in

掛琴 -- 不論寒暑 不可掛近風露日色中 及磚牆泥壁之處 恐惹濕潤 琴不發聲 宜木格布骨紙屏當風透處掛之 加以囊盛 以遠塵垢 或置床上被中 以近人氣為佳 
Hanging the qin 
No matter in cold or hot weather, do not hang the qin near direct wind or sunlight. Do not hang the qin on a brick or cement wall to avoid moisture, which will cause the qin to sound muted. It's better to hang the qin where the air is circulating and use a paper screen room divider to block the wind. Cover the qin with a qin soft bag to avoid dust, or put the qin on a bed under a blanket in order to get closer to human energy.

琴匣(xiá) -- 貴窄小止可容琴, 不使中空搖動 梅月未至 須先以琴人匣中鎮閉 以紙糊口. 不令濕霉著琴
Qin hard case
A good qin hard case is narrow and tight that can only fit one qin without any extra room for the qin to move. Before the rainy season starts, put the qin in a hard case and seal the opening of the case with paper to avoid moisture and mold getting into the qin. 
Song Dynasty Qin Hard Case


抱琴 -- 當語童僕 勿令橫抱 恐觸物致損 需按古今人抱琴二勢 方稱雅觀
Holding the qin
One should tell the qin carrier not to hold the qin horizontally to avoid hitting objects, but follow the ancient and modern two gestures of holding the qin, which is refined. (see picture)

Photo from Taiyin Daquan Ji (published during Ming Zheng Tong 正統 period 1436-1464)

對鶴 -- 彈琴欲鶴舞 鶴未必能舞 觀者鬨然 誠非雅致之事
In front of Crane
Playing qin, one wants to play with crane dancing aside, however cranes might not be able to dance. It's the audience that wants to cause a commotion, which is really not an elegant matter.

對月 – 春秋二候 天氣澄和 人亦中夜多醒 萬籟成寂 月色當空 橫琴膝上 時作小調 亦可暢懷
Looking at the moon
In the spring and autumn seasons, the weather is clear and peaceful. Some people wake up at midnight and seeing the moon with a quiet surrounding, they put qin on their laps and play some short melodies to pleasantly convey their sentiments.

對花-- 宜共岩桂 (岩桂即桂花) 江梅(較原始梅品種) 茉莉 簷葡(山梔) 建蘭夜合玉蘭等花 清香而色不豔者為雅
Looking at flowers
It is nice to play the qin accompanying osmanthus, river plum blossom, jasmine, gardenia, orchids, and magnolia, that they have a nice light fragrant and the colors are not glamorous.

臨水 –鼓琴偏宜於松風澗响之間 三者皆自然之聲 正合類聚 或對軒窗池沼 荷香撲人 或水邊林下 清漪芳芷 微風灑然 游魚出聽 此樂何極
Next to water
Playing the qin within pines and spring water is a good combination, as these three are natural sounds. Or playing the qin under the window where it is facing a pond with fragrant lotus . Or playing the qin near water under trees with clear ripples and elegant iris, when gentle wind blows, fish coming out to listen to the music, nothing can be more happy than that.

焚香 – 香清烟細 如水沉 生香之類 則清馥韻雅 最忌龍涎(Xián)及兒女態香
Burning Incense
Playing qin with incense which has a light fragrance and fine smoke, such as (sinking in water of) agarwood incense, and raw agarwood incense, that the fragrance is pure and elegant. Avoid using ambergris and the incense that has an unnatural (or seductive) fragrance.

盥手 – 彈琴須先盥手 則弦不受污 夏月惟宜早晚 午則不可 非惟汗溽 恐太燥脆弦
Washing hands
Wash hands before playing the qin so that the strings won't get dirty. In the summer, playing the qin in early morning or late night, not at noon, as the sweat and heat will make the (silk) strings fragile.

露下 – 乘露彈琴 不可久坐 不惟潤弦 抑且傷人 且陽材鼓之有聲 陰材無聲矣
Under dew
While playing the qin under dew, don't sit too long, as the moisture is not good for the strings and our body as well. Qin made with yang wood will have sound, but yin wood will sound muted.

飲酒 – 彈琴之人 風致清楚 但宜啜茗 間或用酒發興 不過微有醺意而已 若堆醴酪(甜酒和奶酪) 羅葷膻(有辛味的菜與牛羊肉) 蕩琴狂飲 致成醉者之狀以事琴 此大丑 最宜戒也
Drinking Wine
Qin players have a clean and elegant appearance, better to drink tea. Occasionally drink wine to convey one's sentiments, but only to get a little feeling of drunkenness. If one drinks a lot of yogurt like sweet wine, eating spicy meat, playing qin and drinking wildly to become drunk that is the ugliest, one should totally avoid it.


琴壇十友 冰弦 玉軫 軫函 玉足 绒(lóu) 琴薦 錦囊 琴床 琴匣 替指 以鹤翎造火烙為之 此臞仙制也
Ten friends of the qin altar:
Ice string (pure white colored silk strings) 
Jade tuning pegs 
Tuning peg box 
Jade goose feet 
Rong lou silk thread
Qin pillows 
Qin soft bag
Qin bed (a platform to put qin, could be a qin table) 
Qin hard case 
Finger Substitute (made with bird's feathers and heated with fire. Not sure what that is, could be a pick. Tai Yin Da Quan Ji says only beginner use it, and playing longer, one does not need to use it. )



替指:
以鹤翎為之,
無則鹅翎亦可。
初學琴者用之,
久則不用(太音大全集, 風宣玄品)
以鹤翎造, 火烙為之 (考槃餘事)

琴壇 Lute Altar (The Lore of the Chinese Lute says it means the table with the lute on it.)

參考書目/網站: BIBLIOGRAPHY 
考槃餘事- 中國古代物質文明史 (明)屠隆/著 趙菁/編 北京金城出版社 2011
絕世清音- 吳釗/著 蘇州古吳軒出版社 2005
The Lore of the Chinese Lute - R.H. van Gulik, Publisher: Orchid Press, 3rd edition 2011
太音大全集 - 琴曲集成第一冊 中華書局出版 2010
古琴斲製百工錄 (The Chiseling Method of Guqin) - 江蘇鳳凰美術出版社2016
王世襄集 (自珍集) 2013
Chinese Literature Kaopan Yushi考槃餘事 Aug 29. 2013
The Chinese Classics The She King 詩經  or The Book of Poetry, by James Legge - SMC Publishing INC. 台灣南天書局有限公司 2000
考槃餘事 線上圖書館

圖片來源網站: PICTURE RESOURCES
正倉院
何為百衲琴
以斷紋鑑別古琴的年代
漢字舷的基本解釋
胡床
琴桌