Thursday, March 14, 2019

文王操 Wen Wang Cao (Praise the King Wen of Zhou)

舟中聽大人彈琴 by Su Shi 蘇軾


Su Shi wrote this poem about listening a gentleman's qin playing on a boat, and asking the player to play Wen Wang Cao. Sushi lamented that people forgot the ancient melody because they all attracted by excited aroused modern music. (Isn't that also happening nowadays !?)

One of my favorite qin Master, Master Cheng Gongliang (1940-2015) playing Wen Wang Cao (Praise the King Wen of Zhou).

The story of Confucius learning the qin piece "Praise the King Wen of Zhou"
came from the book, Family Sayings of Confucius 孔子家語 from the 3rd
century. This story is actually to praise Confucius.

When 10 days after Confucius learned the piece “Praise the King Wen of Zhou”
from Shi Xiang (the court musician of Lu State), Shi Xiang suggested that he
move on to learn a new piece. But Confucius said that he felt that he hadn’t
mastered the playing technique and rhythm yet.  After a period of time, Shi Xiang
said to Confucius that he thought Confucius had achieved the playing techniques
and rhythm that he could move on to a new piece. Confucius then said that he
had not got the meaning of the piece yet. After a period of time, Shi Xiang said to
Confucius that now he had learned the meaning of the piece, he could move on to
a new piece. Confucius said that he still had not been able to picture the spirit of
King Wen from the playing yet. After a period of time, Shi Xiang heard Confucius’
playing of Wen Wang Cao and said to him:
“your playing has qualities of respectful and solemnity with deep thought;
pleasant with lofty prospects.”
Confucius then said: “ I have gained the characters of King Wen who is slender
and tall, dark; broad as looking at the ocean; truly a king of four states. If he is
not the King Wen, who could be qualified?”
Shi Xiang was very impressed and stood up to bow to Confucius, then said:  
“you are really talking about the Wen Wang Cao here."

A wise man playing the qin not only with good skill but also knowing the
meaning behind it. Shi Xiang’s learning of the guqin was only to know the
melody. Confucius was really far more talented than Shi Xiang. The old way of
teaching qin playing was to teach the melody first without teaching the meaning
behind the melody, and to let the learners figure out the meaning themselves.
This way the learner would understand more deeply and be able to achieve

師襄子,蓋魯人,《論語》所謂擊磬襄者是也。夫子學鼓琴師襄子, 十日不進,襄子曰:
“今子於琴已習,可以益矣。”孔子曰:“丘已習其曲矣,未得其數也” 有間,曰:“已習其數,
而黑,頎(音qi2)然而長,曠如望洋,如王四國, 非文王其誰能為此也。”師襄子避席再拜曰:
“師蓋云《文王操》也。” 夫以琴為聖人師,其工妙矣。然師襄之學,徒知其音;聖人之學,

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