Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Thanks to my sister sent me the article of master Wu Zhaoji 's (1908-1997) writing of what he thought about Sheng qi mipu. I suddenly had a feeling that the world is changing so fast, that I almost lost in this world. Master Wu's words reminding me the original mind of guqin, that I have forgotten. I have to pick up the "sunny spring" "white snow" again soon.

This picture is about Master Wu believed that studying the guqin, one should focus on few pieces that match his or her personality and keep practicing it years and years until really master it. For example, The Yushan school master Yian Tianchi (1547-1625) studied "Sunny Spring" all his life and he only felt that he had reached the flavor of this piece until he was really old. And Master Wu himself played Misty Clouds over Xiao & Xian River, Sunny Spring, and Fishermen Song for 60 years, but still not dared to claim that he had mastered those pieces.

Let me quote one saying from Master Wu which I agree:


" Literature and art is to emphasize the "one family statement" which means academic works of an independent thought which have formed a school of its own. Only in this way can the author's or artist's (or qin player's) unique style and achievements be fully reflected.

I will spend some time to try to translate the whole article of Master Wu's thought of SQMP. Stay tuned!

目前翻譯了頭三段, 已能了解吳老所要強調的其實很單純, 也很實際, 就是一個"人心"的問題, 朱權在那樣一個環境下, 長期用盡心機生存, 如此如何能將琴藝推到高峰? 而現在世人還是瘋迷一個多樣, 多彩, 振奮, 刺激的感官享受, 對於修身養性是不會有所助益的. 古琴的高深奧妙就更不可能涉足到了.

So far, I have translated the first three paragraphs. I think master Wu’s emphasis is very simple and practical. It is a question of "human's heart". In such an environment, Zhu Quan was thinking of conspiracy all day long to try to survive, so how could he play the qin and cultivate his qin art to a higher level? Nowadays, the world is still crazy, aim for variety, colorful, inspiring, and stimulating sensory enjoyment. It will not help the self-cultivation, and the profound status of Guqin is even less likely to be reached.

Below is my translation of the whole article, and the green color is my extra note. I use the initial letters of Sheng Qi Mi Pu through the whole article except the first time mention. Thanks to my husband's checking and correcting on my English.

"My Opinion of Sheng Qi Mi Pu"  by Wu Zhaoji (1908-1997)

The early Ming dynasty feudal lord, Zhu Quan, 1378-1448, edited [Sheng Qi Mi Pu], which is a guqin handbook that was lost for many years until the 1950's. It was found in Shanghai (this book was kept at someone's home in Shanghai. In 1941,  Zhuang Jiancheng from Chengjiang once hand copied several qin pieces from this handbook).  Zhu Quan, this feudal lord who had political ambitions, was using the studying of literature and art to cover his ambition and was thinking of conspiracy all day long, how could he concentrate on the "outstanding achievement of guqin art?"

For sure, of the 61 qin pieces that are collected in the [SQMP], most of them were collected by the retainers of qin masters (a special social group who lived as dependents under a noble, an officeholder, or a powerful landlord), who managed, corrected, and edited the qin pieces during their teaching of the qin. The ancient saying: "the qin, (is to) restrain (oneself)," from the early time, the most important thing about studying qin is the emphasis on qin virtue. During the feudal kingdom, rebellion was a great threat. Those who had dignity, and cultivated literati, did not dare to live as dependents under a traitor.

Some people said that these qin pieces, "most likely have been group studied, edited and corrected by those qin masters. Most other qin handbooks only emphasized 'one school statement'  (which means academic works of an independent thought which have formed a school of its own) ,"  and claimed that "this (group study) is the great advantage of this qin handbook." I (master Wu) don't agree with this claim. Literature and arts are different from natural science. Natural science can be group discussed, though can also be discovered, developed, and created by individuals as well, but literature and arts are not like that. Obviously, we never hear that there is a great literature developed by a group discussion. The works of Beethoven were created by him alone. Lu Xun's ( a leading figure of modern Chinese literature) writings were written by him. Poetry, literature, calligraphy and painting, none of that is not like this, and there are endless examples. Literature and art emphasize "one school statement."  Only in this way can the author's or artist's unique style and achievements be fully reflected.  The development of guqin schools often start with one generation. They all had their own style during their own period of time, and so become "one school." There is no exception domestic or foreign, now or in ancient times. How can they denigrate it by saying that they are merely "one school statement?"  

Some say that until now, about 3000 qin pieces have been collected. Dividing by same titles or similar melodies, there are about 600 pieces. Currently there are about more than 100 pieces that can be seen, and about 50 something pieces that are often played by qin masters of all schools. This gives one an impression that there are only a small number of qin melodies. Therefore, there is the action of organizing a group of people to do Dapu (reinterpret ancient qin melodies), especially from the long time lost [SQMP], which is the most important work now, to rescue, to excavate, and to manage guqin music art.  

I have my own opinion on this issue. First of all, there should be an analysis of why, from thousands of years of time, did historical qin players favor these few (30 to 50 ) qin melodies? Historically in China, most of the literati could play the qin, especially during the Ming and Qing Dynasties which were the heyday of qin study. Doing "dapu"  was not a difficult job to qin masters. Many played the qin due to personal interest besides their major career, and they treated it as self cultivation. They played qin starting as a hobby. They decided which qin melodies to play based on if the melodies matched their personality, and sentiment. We cannot prove that those qin melodies which have not been played often, have not been touched by predecessors, rather we can assume that they were abandoned. On the contrary, those 30 to 50 pieces that have been played often, actually prove that they are most likely preferred by many people and have beautiful melodies. Of course every one has a different preference, and different skill level. To some pieces, perhaps with higher difficulty, or lack of the understanding of organisation of melody and rhythm, or limited by the time, the age and personality of the qin players, that caused them to stop being played after a few attempts. Many amateur qin players give up playing due to their time being occupied by their major career. A friend of mine has reinterpreted more than 40 pieces but only plays around 10 pieces often. I have studied qin for 70 years and only studied 15 pieces, and still able to play them, I feel lucky, but the flexibility of my finger movement has declined.

The qin pieces collected in [SQMP] are from Ming and before the Ming dynasties. (It is said that "Heming Jiugao, cranes calling on the high marshland" and "Qiu Hong, autumn geese " were composed by Zhu Quan.) The fingerings in those qin pieces have emphasis on the right hand plucking, and use more of the open string sound and harmonics, allowing the melodies and rhythm to be more pleasant to the ears and easier to be touched.  It is very insufficient applied to the left hand fingerings. Things are always moving forward with non-stop development. Since the early Ming dynasty, qin players started to notice the development of the left hand fingerings, such as the application of yin, nao, chuo, zhu, shang xia, dou, and zhuang etc., techniques, which allowed the players to express, and the listeners to hear, deeper feeling and emotion. This is a great progress in the qin history.  Most of those qin handbooks published during the Ming and Qing dynasties have this quality. And that is the great contribution from the careful and mindful study of the two dynasties qin players. Taking the "Hujia" as an example, [Da Hujia, the Great Nomad Reed-pipe] and [Xiao Hujia, the Small Nomad Reed-pipe] both are collected in [SQMP] and both are very pleasant to listen to and easier to be accepted by the public. However if talking about deeper meaning and feeling that can touch people's hearts, the [Hujia Shiba Pai, the 18 beats of Nomad Reed-pipe] from [Wuzhi Zhai Qinpu] is the best.

Some fingering notations in [SQMP] are not following the fingering law. For example, the right hand fingerings that are plucked outward (towards hui dots) like Tiao (index out) and Ti (middle out), and those plucked inward (towards oneself) like Muo (index in), and Goh (middle in), that play in sequence on the 5th and 4th strings become Muo 5th Goh 4th, or Muo 5th Goh 3rd, but that is very unreasonable. Might it be the editor's negligence or the printer's mistake? Some melodies, have uncoordinated phrasing, pauses , and musical law (temperament), that often make interpreters confused and feel uncomfortable to play.

I think there are many outstanding pieces worth study in [SQMP] indeed, but I have to reserve my view on this matter that to organize such a poor number of qin players, about 200,  to focus on the rescue of [SQMP] and to excavate and manage guqin music art.

There were a large number of qin handbooks published during the Ming and Qing dynasties, among them, some really outstanding ones. Although some handbooks were only printed with a few qin pieces,  those qin pieces have been carefully and repeatedly studied throughout a long period of the editors' life time. Besides, to study qin music, quantity is not the winner. To study an ancient melody, one might spend several months. However, to fully understand and master the essence, it may take several decades, and still not be fully achievable. The Yushan qin school master Yian Tianchi (1547-1625) once said that he studied "Sunny Spring" all his life and only felt that he had reached the flavor of this piece when he was very old. I myself played Misty Clouds Over Xiao & Xian River, Sunny Spring, and Fishermen Song for over 60 years, still not daring to claim that I have mastered those pieces. Here, at the international event the first time ever in the history of the guqin, qin friends gathered here from all places, and we can discuss and exchange knowledge on several famous qin melodies, which is truly my wish in my life. 

Written in April 4th 1990.

Friday, January 25, 2019


一位琴友問葛漢聰先生的招隱是根據哪一個琴譜? 以下是我的回答:

謝謝你的提問, 讓我也仔細聽了一下葛先生的演奏. 再經過比對神奇秘譜與鳳宣玄品, 重修真傳, 以及琴苑心聲. 我認為葛先生是根據[神奇秘譜]為基礎, 然後加上他自己的創作. 從video 的4:05 以後到 7:05 以前是他的創作, 在那之前與之後則與神奇秘譜沒有不同, 除了他可能彈久了, 用指上不完全同神譜, 但旋律,音高,徽位,基本是一樣的. 

他的彈法很有它自己的風格. 比如綽上與注下都沒有藏頭. 此曲在葛先生的彈奏下, 頗合於招隱前序歌詞中的"振衣踯躅彈冠塵, 莫教雙鬢蕭蕭, 霜雪侵." 那種愾然.

4:05 以前是彈到神奇秘譜的"從召至隱復作"的第二遍, 然後是他自己的創作,到7:05又接回"從召至隱"後的散勾三, 挑五, 一直到曲終.


PS. 如果有琴友知道真實情況, 還請不吝賜教. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Taking the Principles of Practicing Taichi to the qin playing

Playing qin is pretty much related to practicing Taichi (or Taijiquan). Here I attempted to translate the 10 principles of practicing Taichi to English. The Chinese part was taken from Zhengzi Taichiquan.

Many concept are not easy to translate due to my limited English skill. If anyone has better idea, please let me know. I'll be very appreciate it.


1,  Xū líng dǐng jìn : "Xu" means empty, humble, void or abstract, the opposite of solid, or concrete. "Ling" means spirit. "Ding Jin" means that the head is upright, so the spirit goes to the top. However, don't use force. Using force, the neck will become stiff and the blood circulation won't be smooth. Keep the idea of emptiness and nature. If there is no emptiness, then the spirit and energy cannot be raised.


2, Hánxiōng bá bèi : Han Xiong means that the chest is a little bit sunk in, in order to let the energy go down to the Dantian. Make sure that the chest is not elongated and standing out. If the chest is elongated and out, the qi energy will all stay in the chest area, and that will cause a heavier top and lighter bottom, and the heels will become unstable. While the back should be a little bit pulled, in order to enable the force energy to come out from the back to protect the whole body to be invincible.


3,   Sōng yāo, loosen waist:  Our waist dominates the whole body. If one can loosen the waist, then the two legs become stronger, and the lower part of the body becomes stable. All the changes of abstract and concrete are ruled by the action of the waist.  Therefore, the source of energy is at the waist. If there is no effective energy, one must be pursued from the waist and legs.

四、分虛實:太極拳以分虛實為第一義。如全身皆坐在右腿,則右腿為實,左腿為虛。全身坐在左腿,則左腿為實,右腿為虛。虛實能分,而後轉動輕靈,毫不用力。如不能分,則邁步重滯,自立不穩, 而易為人所牽動。

4,   Fēn xūshí,  distinguish the "abstract (emptiness)" and "concrete (solidness)": The most important principle of Taichiquan is the distinguishing of abstract and concrete. If the weight is on the right leg, then the right leg is the concrete one and the left leg is the abstract one, and vice versa.  After distinguishing the abstract and concrete, then the movement will become more easy without using any force. If one cannot distinguish the abstract and concrete, the steps will become heavy and stagnant, and standing will become unstable and easy to be pushed by others.


5, Chén Jiān Zhuì Zhǒu, drop shoulders and elbows: Shoulders should be relaxed and sagging, otherwise the shoulders will be shrugging, and the qi energy will follow the shoulder up, which will cause the whole body not to have efficient energy.  While the elbows are also dropped, so shoulders won't shrug. This way the energy won't be easily broken by outside force.


6, Yòngyì bùyòng lì, using mind but not using force: All the theory that Taijiquan talks about is on the idea of using the mind but not using the force. Practicing Taijiquan, the whole body has to be loose, in order not to let any clumsy energy stay in between blood and vessels, muscles and bones to constrain oneself. Then one can move easily and freely. When there is no energy blockage, then the mind can guide the qi energy to wherever the intention is. After much practicing, blood and qi energy flows through the whole body without blockage, and one can gain the real inner force. As Taijiquan theory often says that after the extreme soft, is the extreme power. When you see a master of Taijiquan, his or her arms are like iron covered with cotton, full of inner force.


7, shàngxià xiāng suí, up and down coordinate with each other: The root is at the feet, developed to the legs, ruled by the waist, formed to the fingers, all that has to achieve as a whole. Hand moves, waist moves, feet moves, and the eyes also follow the movement, then it is said the up and down are coordinated with each other. If there is one part not following the movement, that is scattered.


8, Nèiwài xianghé, inside and outside matched: Taiji practicing is focused on the spirit (or mind), so it is called that the spirit is the master, and the body is driven by the master. The forms are basically no more than "opening" and "combining",  "abstract" and "concrete". "Open" means not only the hands and legs are open, but the mind is open as well. "Combine" means not only the hands and legs are coordinated, the mind is also merged. Inside and outside are as a whole, without any space in between.


9, Xiānglián bùduàn, continuous connection without any break: If the force has any break, the old force cannot connect to the new force, that is the weakest time to let outside force to take advantage. Taijiquan does not use force but mind, from the beginning to the end, continuous, round and round, endless cycle. Just like the endless flow in the Long River. It is also like pulling a silk thread, which all mean the continuous energy.

十、動中求靜動靜合一:外家拳以跳擲為能,用盡氣力,故練習之後,無不氣喘者。太極拳以靜制動,雖動猶靜。故練架子愈慢愈好,慢者呼吸深長。氣沉丹田,自無血脈僨張 之弊。學者細心體會,庶可得其意焉。

10, Dòng zhōng qiú jìng dòngjìng hé yī, While moving, seeking the stillness; the moving and the stillness are as one:  Too much jumping up and down will use too much energy. Taijiquan is using the stillness to control the moving energy. The slower the better for practicing all movements. When it is slow, the breath will be long. The qi energy will sink to the Dantian, therefore there will be no problem caused by sudden excitement. The learner should carefully experience it, then one can understand the essential meaning.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

About Guang Ling San (Song of Guang Ling)

神奇秘譜的廣陵散一開始的介紹說按照[琴史] 所說的, 晉書記載的廣陵散, 是嵇康曾經遊歷會稽, 住宿在華陽亭. "引琴而彈, 夜兮忽有客詣(音意, 至的意思)之. 稱是古人, 與康共談音律. 辭致清辨. 因索琴而彈之. 為廣陵散曲. 聲調絕倫. 遂以授康. 仍誓不傳人"....然後因為政治及個性因素, 小人(鍾會)讒言,司馬懿聽信鍾會, 把康下詔入獄. 康將刑於東市. 顧視日影, 索琴彈之曰: 昔袁孝巳(巳應為尼, 康之甥)嘗從吾學廣陵散. 吾每靳(音近, 吝嗇不肯給予之意)之. 廣陵散如今絕矣... 而袁孝尼曾偷聽偷學, 得三十三拍(前三十三段), 後續成八拍(從"會止息意"到最後的八段). 似乎是說最後八段是袁孝尼自己弄出來的?...

"廣陵散曲, 世有二譜" 臞仙的神奇秘譜內所收的是"隋宮中所收之譜, 隋亡而入於唐, 唐亡流落於民間者有年. 至宋高宗建炎間, 復入於御府. 僅九百三十七年矣. 予以此譜為正. 故取之."

沈草農先生(1892-1972)在他的"漫談廣陵散" 一文中說:
在[太平廣記*, 文士傳]裡邊有一段記載: 嵇康臨死, 顏色不變, 謂其兄曰: "向以琴來否?" 兄曰: "已至" 康取調之, 為[太平引]. 曲成, 嘆息曰: 太平引絕於今日耶?
認為嵇康臨死前彈的並不是廣陵散, 而是太平引. 而太平引現今確實無法看到有哪一的譜本有收錄.


吾查"太平引"在東皋禪師(1639-1696)的和文注音琴譜中有此曲, 然其註說第一段為賀東山所作, 第二段為辛棄疾(1140-1207)所作. 且其辭似乎為情詩, 當是與嵇康臨死前所彈的太平引非同曲.

吾又對"隋宮中所收之譜" 有所聯想, 此曲恐也是court music. 宮廷樂, 因其段落標題, 小序, 正聲, 亂聲, 等, 頗像有設計過的樂章之結構.

以上兩圖出於[存見古琴曲譜輯覽] page 總258, 259

查阜西似乎同意金世宗時期(1161-1189)的中議大夫張崇所說的廣陵散並不是指曹魏的忠臣於廣陵一地散絕, 而是嵇康用民間聶政刺韓王的故事來抒發自己對司馬政權的不滿. 

認為此曲是嵇康所作的說法出於唐朝的大臣韓皋. 嵇康為了避禍才說此曲是神授. (不過我還是對張崇這句:"意其叔夜以廣陵名曲"的名是指流行有名, 還是命名的名, 仍不確定 ). 而耶律楚才認為張崇的說法是似而非. 耶律楚才認為嵇康將第二絃調成同一絃一樣的音高就代表了臣犯君, 指的就是司馬氏父子的以下犯上. 嵇康就是藉此提醒當時的曹魏國君.  看來不管是指毌丘儉還是指聶政刺韓王, 以上這些人都還是認為廣陵散是嵇康作的.

聶政刺韓王這個故事本身就已有兩個版本. 一說是聶政被嚴仲子顧了要殺韓相俠累(見史記), 一說是聶政自己為父報仇(見琴操)









琴史(成書1084年, 宋朱長文所作) 說: 杜夔, 字公良 (三國時代河南人, 杜夔擅長音律,除歌舞外,絲竹八音皆能,其時他集各家之所長,教授講集,製作樂器,對恢復古樂有莫大貢獻。曹魏黃初年間, 220-226,任太樂令,協律都尉) ...妙於廣陵散, 嵇康就其子孟, 求得此聲. <-- 我本人是對此說很有感. 嵇康學廣陵散於杜夔之子杜孟, 杜夔精通於雅樂, 廣陵散於我確實頗有雅樂的感覺, 因此我個人認為此說很有可能.

再附上耶律楚才的[湛然居士集]內他所寫的"彈廣陵散終日而成因賦詩五十韵 并序"

About Guang Ling San (Song of Guang Ling), Who was the composer? 

There are several possibilities. One is that it was composed by Ji Kang (223–262) who was one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. Another is that it was a folk song during the Han to Jin dynasties (around the 1st to 3rd centuries). There is also a rumor that this piece was originally called Nie Zheng Assassinate The King of Han 聶政刺韓王 and was composed by Nie Zheng (see Qin Cao).

What are the relations between Ji Kang and the Song of Guang Ling?

The Tang dynasty minister Han Gao wrote something about Guang Ling San (Song of Guang Ling) that Guanqiu Jian 毌丘儉 (died 16 March 255), a military general of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280),  and some other officers loyal to the sovereign of Cao Wei were killed by Sima Yi (who was also a military general, government official and regent of the state of Weiand his son at the Guang Ling area where is now Yangzho of Jiangsu province.  Ji Kang wrote this song with anger and indignation and named this melody with the name of the place to refer to those loyal officers were becoming extinct in the Guang Ling area. However, In order to avoid trouble, he told people that he was taught how to play the Guang Ling San by a ghost spirit. The Chinese character "San" 散, in here therefore means the extinction of the Cao Wei. But many still believe, such as Mr. 沈草農, that San means "song", as in Chinese 散, 引, 操, 弄, the characters to indicate "melody" or "song" but not the meaning of extinction.

Also, later during the reign of Emperor Shizong of Jin 金世宗 (1161-1189), a civil official Zhang Chong 張崇 wrote a preface to the Song of Guang Ling, saying that judging by the titles of each section, this song is about the story of the assassin Nie Zheng (died in 397 BCE) hired by the minister of Han in The Warring States Period (475–221 BC), Yian Zhongzi 嚴仲子 to kill the prime minister Xia Lei 俠累. So this piece is not related to Guanqiu Jian and others killed by Sima family at Yangzho. Although Ji Kang composed and named this piece Song of Guang Ling, he was using the story of Nie Zheng to hide his true intention towards the terrible behavior of Sima family.

However, Yelü Chucai (1190-1244) did not fully agree with Zhang Chong. Yelu Chucai's ( a statesman of Khitan ethnicity with royal family lineage to the Liao Dynasty) argument was that the second string, which was indicated as minister, was tuned lower to match the pitch of the first string, which was indicated as prince or king, that shows that the minister arrogated the rights. Ji Kang was trying to warn the king of Wei by using the story of Nie Zheng's assassination of the king of Han. 

No matter what, they all seemed to believe that Guang Ling San was composed by Ji Kang.

By the way, there are two versions of the story of the assassin Nie Zheng. One is from 史記 (The Records of the Grand Historian, written in 91 BCthat Nie Zheng was hired by Yian Zhongzi to kill the prime minister Xia Lei. The other one was from East Han [Qin Cao] by Cai Yong (133-192) that Nie Zheng assassinated the king of Han for his own revenge for his father, a sword maker, who was killed by the king of Han because the sword maker couldn't finish making the sword on time for the king. 

Other than the story of the assassin Nie Zheng, the book Qin Shi (History of the qin, published in 1084) by Song dynasty Zhu Chang-wen mentioned that Ji Kang learned the Song of Guang Ling from Du Meng whose father Du Kui was a court musician of Cao Wei. Du Kui was very good at playing the Song of Guang Ling. He also was an expert of Yayue,  (classical music performed at the royal court). I have a strong feeling towards this history, and I do feel that the structure of Guang Ling San from SQMP does give me a feeling that this piece was from court music. There are 開指 (opening fingers), 小序 (small prelude), 大序 (big prelude), 正聲(the main sound, or the main melody), 亂聲 (the finishing sound or the finishing melody) and 後序 (the epilogue).  From what I have studied so far, I believe that Guang Ling San was from Sui and Tang dynasty court music, and this court music was taken from folk music of the Guang Ling area. 

Regarding the story of Ji Kang playing the Guang Ling San before his execution, and claiming that the Guang Ling San was extinct from the moment of his death, I won't put too many words here. Some believed that the qin piece that Ji Kang played before his death was not Guang Ling San, but a piece called Tai Ping Yin 太平引, please see Mr. Sheng Caonong's (1892-1972) article [Free Talk about Guang Ling San 漫談廣陵散]. Mr. Sheng quoted this story from the Song dynasty book [Taipin Guangji] that when Ji Kang was going to be executed, he remained calm and asked his brother if the qin he requested had arrived or not, and his brother said yes. Ji Kang then took the qin and tuned it and played the Tai Ping Yin. After he finished playing, he sighed and claimed that; "this melody Tai Ping Yin is extinct from today." 太平廣記: 嵇康臨死, 顏色不變, 謂其兄曰: "向以琴來否?" 兄曰: "已至" 康取調之, 為[太平引]. 曲成, 嘆息曰: 太平引絕於今日耶

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Please also read my Guang Ling San journal of study