風宣玄品 Ming Dynasty (1540) Qin Book .
鼓琴訓論 Theory of instruction to the Qin Playing
My attempt translation..
There was a saying: “The qin, (is to) restrain (oneself),” restrain oneself from depraved and back to correctitude, so one’s heart can be calm and peaceful. Therefore ancient sages made rules to cultivate (qin player’s) behavior and temperament, to be harmonized with nature, to suppress excessive and loose in morals and expend extravagantly, to naturalize the way (of the qin). That is why the qin is played.
When playing the qin, one must find a clean and lofty room. Or at the place where It can be at a high leveled floor, or within forest and rocks, or on a top of mountain, or on a bank next to flowing water. In the two clear and comfortable seasons, a night with clear wind and bright moon, burning incense and sit calmly, mind is focused, energy is peaceful, then one can harmonized the body and spirit, and to reach the way (of the qin). If there is no one who understand the music, one does not play the qin. Or rather to play the qin to clear wind and bright moon, to dark green pine trees and unusual rocks, to active monkeys and old cranes, in order to gain self enjoyment.
Playing the qin, one needs to understand the meaning of the music piece he or she is playing, and knowing how to create interesting and beautiful sound. If one does not know the meaning of the music piece, even well familiar with the playing techniques, and can play many pieces like that, that is not helpful. First the player has to have a refined personality, then well trained fingering techniques and good articulation, good virtue and knowledgeable, all that will help the player to be on the right path to the way of qin. (I have to confess that my translation is adjusted a little bit, since the original text was written to men only, not written to women. There is one rule - must grow mustache...)
Playing the qin, one has to dress properly..., then wash hands, sit down next to the qin table, position as one's heart lined up with the 5th hui, so both hands can move easily. Same condition as playing the qin on the knees. The back has to be straight and not leaning to the left or to the right, or bent forward or face upward. Feet touch the ground as the feet position of shooting. (some prefer parallel). Eyes should look at the string and hui positions of the left hand, and do not look at the right hand. Both wrists should keep flat but not raised too high. Left hand has to press or touch at the right hui position, while right hand has to play near the Yue mountain (bridge). Do not grow nails too long, but about the thickness of a rice (it does not say which hand, but should be the right hand, and the left hand nails should keep short). Sound comes out from within the finger tip muscle and nail (of the right hand), so it won't sound dry or lifeless, but clear and smooth.
If playing the "da" technique (or simply means the right hand plucking), play it as you will break the string (means giving some forth). If you are pressing (with the left hand), make it as you want to have your finger entering the wood. You want to make the best effort of all techniques (bo, tuo, muo, tiao, gou, ti, suo, li and vibrato such as yin, nao, zhuang). Do not perform with both hands as flying and dancing. If one wants to have flamboyant hand gesture, one rather push away the qin and stand up to dance. If one wants to create attractive and glamorous sound, one rather give up the qin but play the zheng. As those are the major behavior to avoid while playing the qin.
The rest I will quot Ven Gulik's translation:
The greatest emphasis must be laid on [distinguishing between] the light and heavy, the swift and slow touch, and between the decrescendo and crescendo.
When one's self is naturally aloof and earnest, then one shall correspond to the Mystery of the Way, and one's soul shall melt together with the Way. Therefore it is said that successfully executing music is not caused by the hands, but by the heart, that music is not produced by notes but by the Way. When one does not strive to express music in tones, but lets it come naturally, then one may experience the Harmony of Heaven and Earth, then one may be in communication with the virtue of the Universal Spirit.
Also it is said: The vibrato, the vibrato ritardando, the ascending and the descending attack of the left hand, the light or the heavy, the swift or the slow touch of the right hand, all these things can hardly be explained in words. They can be understood only by a man of learning.