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Guqin
File:ZhongNiShi.jpgFile:ZhongNiZhiback.jpg
Classification
Chinese Silk (絲)
Western Strings (plucked)
Pronunciation
IPA [tɕʰǐn], [kùtɕʰǐn] or [tɕʰíɕiɛ̂ntɕʰǐn]
Plain "chin", "goo-chin" or "chi-shien-chin"
Chinese Name
Chinese , 古琴, 七絃琴
Hanyu Pinyin qín, gǔqín, qīxiànqín
Wade-Giles ch'in2, ku3-ch'in2, ch'i1-hsien2-ch'in2
Ancient names 琴 (yáoqín), 琴 (yùqín)
Ancient variants , , etc
Other names 國樂之父 (guóyuè zhī fù)
聖人之噐 (shèngrén zhī qì)
Japanese Name
Hiragana きん, こきん, しちげんきん
Hepburn kin, kokin, shichigenkin
Korean Name
Hangul (), 고금 (구친), 칠현금
McCune-Reischauer kŭm (ch'in), kogŭm (kuch'in), ch'ilhyŏn'gŭm
Revised Romanization geum (chin), gogeum (guchin), chilhyeon-geum
Variant names 琴 (hwigŭm / hwigeum)
English Name
Usual spellings qin, guqin
Unusual spellings Gu Qin, GuQin, Gu-qin, Gu qin, Gu Qing, etc...
Organologically correct name (Fretless) Seven-stringed Zither
Other (incorrect) variants used Lute, Harp, Table-harp

The guqin (simplified/traditional: 古琴; pinyin: gǔqín; Wades-Giles ku-ch'in; pronounced [kùtɕʰǐn]  ( listen); literally "ancient stringed instrument") is the modern name for a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favored by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as highlighted by the quote "a gentleman does not part with his qin or se without good reason,"[1] as well as being associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as "the father of Chinese music" or "the instrument of the sages".

Traditionally the instrument was called simply qin (Wade-Giles ch'in)[2] but by the twentieth century the term had come to be applied to many other musical instruments as well: the yangqin hammered dulcimer, the huqin family of bowed string instruments, and the Western piano are examples of this usage. The prefix "gu-" (meaning "ancient") was later added for clarification. It can also be called qixianqin (lit. "seven-stringed instrument"). The guqin is not to be confused with the guzheng, another Chinese long zither also without frets, but with moveable bridges under each string. Because Robert Hans van Gulik's famous book about the qin is called The Lore of the Chinese Lute, the guqin is sometimes inaccurately called a lute.[3] Other incorrect classifications, mainly from music compact discs, include "harp" or "table-harp".

The guqin is a very quiet instrument, with a range of about four octaves, and its open strings are tuned in the bass register. Its lowest pitch is about two octaves below middle C, or the lowest note on the cello. Sounds are produced by plucking open strings, stopped strings, and harmonics. The use of glissando—sliding tones—gives it a sound reminiscent of a pizzicato cello, fretless double bass or a slide guitar. The qin is also capable of a lot of harmonics, of which 91 are most commonly used and indicated by the dotted positions. By tradition the qin originally had five strings, but ancient qin-like instruments with 10 or more strings have been found. The modern form has been standardized for about two millennia.

Contents

History

(618–907) qin, the "Jiu Xiao Huan Pei"]]

Legend has it that the qin, the most revered of all Chinese musical instruments, has a history of about 5,000 years. This legend states that the legendary figures of China's pre-history — Fuxi, Shennong and Huang Di, the "Yellow Emperor" — were involved in its creation. Nearly almost all qin books and tablature collections published prior to the twentieth century state this as the factual origins of the qin,[4] although this is now presently viewed as mythology. It is mentioned in Chinese writings dating back nearly 3,000 years, and related instruments have been found in tombs from about 2,500 years ago. The exact origins of the qin is still a very much continuing subject of debate over the past few decades.

In 1977, a recording of "Flowing Water" (Liu Shui, as performed by Guan Pinghu, one of the best qin players of the 20th century) was chosen to be included in the Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated LP recording containing music from around the world, which was sent into outer space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts. It is the longest excerpt included on the disc. The reason to select a work played on this specific instrument is because the tonal structure of the instrument, its musical scale is derived from fundamental physical laws related to vibration and overtones, representing the intellectual capacity of human beings on this subject. In 2003, guqin music was proclaimed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.[5]

Guqin literature

There are a number of ancient sources that discuss qin lore, qin theory and general qin literature. Some of these books are available inserted into certain qinpu (qin tablature collections). The basic contents of qin literature is mainly essays discussing and describing the nature of qin music, the theory behind the notes and tones, the method of correct play, the history of qin music, lists of mentions in literature, etc. The detail can be very concise to extremely detailed and thorough. Some are mostly philosophical or artistic musings, others are scientific and technical.

Schools, societies and players

(1082–1135)]]

As with any other musical tradition, there are differences in ideals and interaction between different people. Therefore, there exists different schools and societies which transmit these different ideas and artistic traditions.

Historical schools

Because of the difference in geography in China, many qin schools known as qin pai developed over the centuries. Such schools generally formed around areas where qin activity was greatest.

Some schools have come and gone, some have off-shoots (such as the off-shot of Zhucheng school, the Mei'an school). Often, the school is originated from a single person, such as the Wu school which is named after the late Wu Zhaoji. The style can vary considerably between schools; some are very similar, yet others are very distinct. The differences are often in interpretation of the music. Northern schools tends to be more vigorous in technique than Southern schools. But in modern terms, the distinction between schools and styles is often blurred because a single player may learn from many different players from different schools and absorb each of their styles. This is especially so for conservatory trained players. People from the same school trained under the same master may have different individual styles (such as Zhang Ziqian and Liu Shaochun of the Guangling school).

Guqin societies

It should be noted that there is a difference between qin schools and qin societies. The former concerns itself with transmission of a style, the latter concerns itself with performance. The qin society will encourage meetings with fellow qin players in order to play music and maybe discuss the nature of the qin. Gatherings like this are called yajis, or "elegant gatherings", which take place once every month or two. Sometimes, societies may go on excursions to places of natural beauty to play qin, or attend conferences. They may also participate in competitions or research. Of course, societies do not have to have a strict structure to adhere to; it could mostly be on a leisurely basis. The main purpose of qin societies is to promote and play qin music. It is often a good opportunity to network and learn to play the instrument, to ask questions and to receive answers.

Players

Many artists down through the ages have played the instrument, and the instrument was a favourite of scholars. Certain melodies are also associated with famous figures, such as Confucius and Qu Yuan. Some emperors of China also had a liking to the qin, including the Song dynasty emperor, Huizong, as clearly seen in his own painting of himself playing the qin in "Ting Qin Tu" [6].[7]

Historical

playing a guqin, found in Shanxi, Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534).]] 

The classical collections such as Qin Shi, Qinshi Bu and Qinshi Xu include biographies of hundreds more players.[21]

Contemporary

Contemporary qin players extend from the early twentieth century to the present. More so than in the past, such players tend to have many different pursuits and occupations other than qin playing. There are only a few players who are paid to exclusively play and research the guqin professionally and nothing else. Qin players can also be well-versed in other cultural pursuits, such as the arts. Or they can do independent research on music subjects. Often, players may play other instruments (not necessary Chinese) and give recitals or talks.

Performance

In the performance and playing of the qin, the player will use a variety of techniques to use the full potential of the instrument. They would read the specialist and unique tablature that was developed over the centuries and amass a repertoire of popular and ancient tunes for the qin.

Playing technique

The music of the qin can be categorised as three distinctively different "sounds." The first is san yin音〕, which means "scattered sounds." This is produced by plucking the required string to sound an open note Listen . The second is fan yin音〕, or "floating sounds." These are harmonics, in which the player lightly touches the string with one or more fingers of the left hand at a position indicated by the hui dots, pluck and lift, creating a crisp and clear sound Listen . The third is an yin音 / 音 / 音 / 音〕, or "stopped sounds." This forms the bulk of most qin pieces and requires the player to press on a string with a finger or thumb of the left hand until it connects with the surface board, then pluck. Afterwards, the musician's hand often slides up and down, thereby modifying the pitch. This technique is similar to that of playing a slide guitar across the player's lap, however, the technique of the qin is very varied and utilises the whole hand, whilst a slide guitar only has around 3 or 4 main techniques Listen to Pei Lan .

According to the book, Cunjian Guqin Zhifa Puzi Jilan, there are around 1,070 different finger techniques used for the qin, with or without names. It is therefore, the instrument with the most finger techniques in either Chinese or Western music.[22] Most are obsolete, but around 50 or so are sufficient to know in modern practice.

The above four figures are from an old handbook.[1]

Tablature and notation

Chinese Wikisource has original text related to this article:

Written qin music did not directly tell what notes were played; instead, it was written in a tablature detailing tuning, finger positions, and stroke technique, thus comprising a step by step method and description of how to play a piece. Some tablatures do indicate notes using the gongche system, or indicate rhythm using dots. The earliest example of the modern shorthand tablature survives from around the twelfth century CE. An earlier form of music notation from the Tang era survives in just one manuscript, dated to the seventh century CE, called Jieshi Diao Youlan [2] (Solitary Orchid in Stone Tablet Mode). It is written in a longhand form called wenzi pu譜〕 (literally "written notation"), said to have been created by Yong Menzhou [3] during the Warring States Period, which gives all the details using ordinary written Chinese characters. Later in the Tang dynasty Cao Rou [4] and others simplified the notation, using only the important elements of the characters (like string number, plucking technique, hui number and which finger to stop the string) and combined them into one character notation. This meant that instead of having two lines of written text to describe a few notes, a single character could represent one note, or sometimes as many as nine. This notation form was called jianzi pu字譜〕 (literally "reduced notation") and it was a great leap forward for recording qin pieces. It was so successful that from the Ming dynasty onwards, a great many qinpu 〔琴〕 (qin tablature collections) appeared, the most famous and useful being "Shenqi Mipu" (The Mysterious and Marvellous Tablature) compiled by Zhu Quan, the 17th son of the founder of the Ming dynasty.[5] In the 1960s, Zha Fuxi discovered more than 130 qinpu that contain well over 3360 pieces of written music. Sadly, many qinpu compiled before the Ming dynasty are now lost, and many pieces have remained unplayed for hundreds of years.[6]

Repertoire

notation next to the qin tablature to indicate beats and notes.]]

Qin pieces are usually around three to eight minutes in length, with the longest being "Guangling San" [7], which is 22 minutes long. Other famous pieces include "Liu Shui" [8] (Flowing Water), "Yangguan San Die" [9] (Three Refrains on the Yang Pass Theme), "Meihua San Nong" [10] (Three Variations on the Plum Blossom Theme), "Xiao Xiang Shui Yun" [11] (Mist and Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers), and "Pingsha Luo Yan" [12] (Wild Geese Descending on the Sandbank). The average player will generally have a repertoire of around ten pieces which they will aim to play very well, learning new pieces as and when they feel like it or if the opportunity arises. Players mainly learn popular well transcribed versions, often using a recording as a reference. In addition to learning to play established or ancient pieces very well, highly skilled qin players may also compose or improvise, although the player must be very good and extremely familiar with the instrument to do this successfully. A number of qin melodies are program music depicting the natural world.

Transcription

Dapu 〔打譜〕 is the transcribing of old tablature into a playable form. Since qin tablature does not indicate note value, tempo or rhythm, the player must work it out for him/herself. Normally, qin players will learn the rhythm of a piece through a teacher or master. They sit facing one another, with the student copying the master. The tablature will only be consulted if the teacher is not sure of how to play a certain part. Because of this, traditional qinpu do not indicate them (though near the end of the Qing dynasty, a handful of qinpu had started to employ various rhythm indicating devices, such as dots). If one did not have a teacher, then one had to work out the rhythm by themselves. But it would be a mistake to assume that qin music is devoid of rhythm and melody. By the 20th century, there had been attempts to try to replace the "jianzi pu" notation, but so far, it has been unsuccessful; since the 20th century, qin music is generally printed with staff notation above the qin tablature. Because qin tablature is so useful, logical, easy, and the fastest way (once the performer knows how to read the notation) of learning a piece, it is invaluable to the qin player and cannot totally be replaced (just as staff notation cannot be replaced for Western instruments, because they developed a notation system that suited the instruments well).

There is a saying that goes "a short piece requires three months [of dapu to complete], and a long piece requires three years". In actual practice, it needn't be that long to dapu a piece, but suggests that the player will have not only memorised the piece off by heart, but also have their fingering, rhythm and timing corrected. And afterwards, the emotion must be put into the piece. Therefore, it could be said that it really does require three months or years to finish dapu of a piece in order for them to play it to a very high standard.

Rhythm in qin music

It has already been discussed that qin music has a rhythm, and that it is only vaguely indicated in the tablature.[13] Though there is an amount of guesswork involved, the tablature has clues to indicate rhythm, such as repeating motifs, indication of phrases or how the notation is arranged. Throughout the history of the qinpu, we see many attempts to indicate this rhythm more explicitly, involving devices like dots to make beats. Probably, one of the major projects to regulate the rhythm to a large scale was the compilers of the Qinxue Congshu tablature collection of 1910s to 1930s. The construction of the written tablature was divided into two columns. The first was further divided into about three lines of a grid, each line indicating a varied combination of lyrics, gongche tablature, se tablature, pitch, and/or beats depending on the score used. The second column was devoted to qin tablature.

Western composers have noticed that the rhythm in a piece of qin music can change; once they seem to have got a beat, the beats change. This is due to the fact that qin players may use some free rhythm in their playing. Whatever beat they use will depend on the emotion or the feeling of the player, and how he interprets the piece. However, some melodies have sections of fixed rhythm which is played the same way generally. The main theme of Meihua Sannong, for example, uses this. Some sections of certain melodies require the player to play faster with force to express the emotion of the piece. Examples include the middle sections of Guangling San and Xiaoxiang Shuiyun. Other pieces, such as Jiu Kuang has a fixed rhythm throughout the entire piece.

Organology

Whilst the qin followed a certain grammar of acoustic in its construction, its external form could and did take on a huge amount of variation, whether it be from the embellishments or even the basic structure of the instrument. Qin tablatures from the Song era onwards have catalogued a plethora of qin forms. All, however, obey very basic rules of acoustics and symbolism of form. The qin uses strings of silk or metal-nylon and is tuned in accordance to traditional principles.

Construction

According to tradition, the qin originally had five strings, representing the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Later, in the Zhou dynasty, Zhou Wen Wang added a sixth string to mourn his son, Bo Yihou. His successor, Zhou Wu Wang, added a seventh string to motivate his troops into battle with the Shang. The thirteen hui [14] on the surface represent the 13 months of the year (the extra 13th is the 'leap month' in the lunar calendar). The surface board is round to represent Heaven and the bottom board flat to represent earth. The entire length of the qin (in Chinese measurements) is 3 chi, 6 cun and 5 fen [15]; representing the 365 days of the year (though this is just a standard since qins can be shorter or longer depending on the period's measurement standard or the maker's preference). Each part of the qin has meaning, some more obvious, like "dragon pool" [16] and "phoenix pond" [17].

Harmonic Scale

The Guqin has a musical scale based on harmonic overtone positions. The dots indicate the string postions : 1/8, 1/6, 1/5, 1/4, 1/3, 2/5, 1/2, 3/5, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, 7/8. [18]

Strings

」, 〖上音牌琴弦〗 Shangyin Shanghai Conservatorie Quality Qin Strings (metal-nylon), 〖虎丘古琴絃〗 Huqiu Silk Strings]] Until the Cultural Revolution, the guqin's strings were always made of various thicknesses of twisted silk, but since then most players use modern nylon-flatwound steel strings. This was partly due to the scarcity of high quality silk strings and partly due to the newer strings' greater durability and louder tone.

Silk strings are made by gathering a prescribed number of strands of silk thread, then twisting them tightly together. The twisted cord of strings is then wrapped around a frame and immersed in a vat of liquid composed of a special mixture of natural glue that binds the strands together. The strings is taken out and left to dry, before being cut into the appropriate length. The top thicker strings (i.e. strings one to four) are further wrapped in a thin silk thread, coiled around the core to make it smoother. According to ancient manuals, there are three distinctive gauges of thickness that one can make the strings. The first is taigu [19] [Great Antiquity] which is the standard gauge, the zhongqing [20] [Middle Clarity] is thinner, whilst the jiazhong [21] [Added Thickness] is thicker. According to the Yugu Zhai Qinpu, zhongqing is the best. The currently used silk string gauge standard was defined by Suzhou silk string maker Pan Guohui (潘國輝).

Although most contemporary players use nylon-wrapped metal strings, some argue that nylon-wrapped metal strings cannot replace silk strings for their refinement of tone. Further, it is the case that nylon-wrapped metal strings can cause damage to the wood of old qins. Many traditionalists feel that the sound of the fingers of the left hand sliding on the strings to be a distinctive feature of qin music. The modern nylon-wrapped metal strings were very smooth in the past, but are now slightly modified in order to capture these sliding sounds.

The North American Guqin Association commissioned a set of new strings made of artifical silk or a composite flatwound with nylon like metal-nylon strings in 2008 [22]. These 'artsilk-nylon' strings are very much like metal-nylon strings in terms of strength and feel but do not have the metallic sound of metal-nylon. [23] Thus, these new strings have a 'best of both worlds' attraction.

Traditionally, the strings were wrapped around the goose feet [24],[25] but there has been a device that has been invented, which is a block of wood attached to the goose feet, with pins similar to those used to tune the guzheng protruding out at the sides, so one can string and tune the qin using a tuning wrench. This is good for those who lack the physical strength to pull and add tension to the strings when wrapping the ends to the goose feet. However, the tuning device looks rather unsightly and thus many qin players prefer the traditional manner of tuning; many also feel that the strings should be firmly wrapped to the goose feet in order that the sound may be "grounded" into the qin and some feel that the device which covers the phoenix pond sound hole has a negative effect on the sound volume and quality. [26]

Tuning

To string a qin, one traditionally had to tie a fly's head knot (yingtou jie [27]) at one end of the string, and slip the string through the twisted cord (rongkou [28]) which goes into holes at the head of the qin and then out the bottom through the tuning pegs (zhen [29]). The string is dragged over the bridge (yueshan 『岳山』), across the surface board, over the nut (longyin [30] dragon gums) to the back of the qin, where the end is wrapped around one of two legs (fengzu [31] "phoenix feet" or yanzu [32] "geese feet"). Afterwards, the strings are fine tuned using the tuning pegs (sometimes, rosin is used on the part of the tuning peg that touches the qin body to stop it from slipping, especially if the qin is tuned to higher pitches). The most common tuning, "zheng diao" 〈正調〉, is pentatonic: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 (which can be also played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2) in the traditional Chinese number system or jianpu [33] (i.e. 1=do, 2=re, etc). Today this is generally interpreted to mean C D F G A c d, but this should be considered sol la do re mi sol la, since historically the qin was not tuned to absolute pitch. Other tunings are achieved by adjusting the tension of the strings using the tuning pegs at the head end. Thus manjiao diao [34] ("slackened third string") gives 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 and ruibin diao [35] ("raised fifth string") gives 1 2 4 5 7 1 2, which is transposed to 2 3 5 6 1 2 3.

Playing context

The guqin is nearly always used a solo instrument, as its quietness of tone means that it cannot compete with the sounds of most other instruments or an ensemble. It can, however, be played together with a xiao (end-blown bamboo flute), with other qin, or played while singing. In old times, the se (a long zither with movable bridges and 25 strings, similar to the Japanese koto) was frequently used in duets with the qin. Sadly, the se has not survived into this century, though duet tablature scores for the instruments are preserved in a few qinpu, and the master qin player Wu Jinglüe was one of only a few in the twentieth century who knew how to play it together with qin in duet. Lately there has been a trend to use other instruments to accompany the qin, such as the xun (ceramic ocarina), pipa (four-stringed pear-shaped lute), dizi (transverse bamboo flute), and others for more experimental purposes.

of a person with a qin.]]

In order for an instrument to accompany the qin, its sound must be mellow and not overwhelm the qin. Thus, the xiao generally used for this purpose is one pitched in the key of F, known as qin xiao 「琴簫」, which is narrower than an ordinary xiao. If one sings to qin songs (which is rare nowadays) then one should not sing in an operatic or folk style as is common in China, but rather in a very low pitched and deep way; and the range in which one should sing should not exceed one and a half octaves. The style of singing is similar to that used to recite Tang poetry. To enjoy qin songs, one must learn to become accustomed to the eccentric style some players may sing their songs to, like in the case of Zha Fuxi.

Traditionally, the qin was played in a quiet studio or room by oneself, or with a few friends; or played outdoors in places of outstanding natural beauty. Nowadays, many qin players perform at concerts in large concert halls, almost always, out of necessity, using electronic pickups or microphones to amplify the sound. Many qin players attend yajis, at which a number of qin players, music lovers, or anyone with an interest in Chinese culture can come along to discuss and play the qin. In fact, the yaji originated as a multi-media gathering involving the four arts: qin, chess, calligraphy, and painting.

Ritual use of the qin

Being an instrument associated with scholars, the guqin was also played in a ritual context, especially in yayue in China, and aak in Korea. The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts continues to perform Munmyo jeryeak (Confucian ritual music), using the last two surviving aak melodies from the importation of yayue from the Song Dynasty emperor Huizong in 1116, including in the ensemble the seul (se) and geum (guqin). In China, the qin was still in use in ritual ceremonies of the imperial court, such can be seen in the court paintings of imperial sacrifices of the Qing court (e.g. The Yongzheng Emperor Offering Sacrifices at the Altar of the God of Agriculture [36], 1723–35).[37] The guqin was also used in the ritual music of Vietnam, where it was called cầm.

Qin aesthetics

When the qin is played, a number of aesthetic elements are involved. The first is musicality. In the second section of "Pingsha Luoyan", for example, the initial few bars contain a nao vibrato followed by a phase of sliding up and down the string, even when the sound has already become inaudible Listen carefully to the sliding sounds of Pingsha Luoyan . The average person trained in music may question whether this is really "music". Normally, some players would pluck the string very lightly to create a very quiet sound. For some players, this plucking isn't necessary. Instead of trying to force a sound out of the string one should allow the natural sounds emit from the strings. Some players say that the sliding on the string even when the sound has disappeared is a distinctive feature in qin music. It creates a "space" or "void" in a piece, playing without playing, sound without sound. In fact, when the viewer looks at the player sliding on the string without sounds, the viewer automatically "fills in the notes" with their minds. This creates a connection between player, instrument and listener. This, of course, cannot happen when listening to a recording, as one cannot see the performer. It can also be seen as impractical in recording, as the player would want to convey sound as much as possible towards a third audience. But in fact, there is sound, the sound coming from the fingers sliding on the string. With a really good qin, silk strings, and a perfectly quiet environment, all the tones can be sounded. And since the music is more player oriented than listener oriented, and the player knows the music, he/she can hear it even if the sound is not there. And with silk strings the sliding sound might be called the qi or "life force" of the music. The really empty sounds are the pauses between notes. However, if one cannot create a sound that can be heard when sliding on a string, it is generally acceptable to lightly pluck the string to create a very quiet sound.[38]

Guqin in popular culture

Being a symbol of high culture, the qin has inevitably been used as a prop in much of Chinese popular culture to varying degrees of accuracy. One can find references to the qin in a variety of media, most notably television serials and film. Mostly, the actors may not know how to play the instrument and mime it to a recorded piece by a qin player who may have recorded it specifically for the project. At other times, the music that is mimed to is guzheng music, rather than qin music. We also see the rather stereo-typical hybrids of qin and zheng pseudo-instruments of Kung Fu Hustle, to the more faithful representation of the qin in the Zhang Yimou film Hero. In the latter case, Xu Kuanghua plays an ancient version of the qin in the courtyard scene[39] in which Nameless and Long Sky play the game of go. He in fact mimes it to the music composed which is actually played by Liu Li, formerly a professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.[40] It is suggested that Xu made the qin himself.[41]

The qin was also featured in the 2008 Olympic games opening ceremony in Beijing, played by Chen Leiji (陳雷激).

The qin is also used in many classical Chinese novels, such as Cao Xueqin's Dream of the Red Chamber and various others.

Related instruments

, a 12 string overtone zither, Yuri Landman, 2006]] The Japanese ichigenkin, a monochord zither, is believed to be derived from the qin. The qin handbook Lixing Yuanya (1618 [42]) includes some melodies for a one-string qin, and the Wuzhi Zhai Qinpu contains a picture and description of such an instrument.[43] The modern ichigenkin apparently first appeared in Japan just after that time. However, the honkyoku [44] (standard repertoire) of the ichigenkin today most closely resembles that of the shamisen.

The Korean geomungo may also be related, albeit distantly. Korean literati wanted to play an instrument the way their Chinese counterparts played the qin. For some reason they never took to the qin itself, instead playing the geomungo, a long fretted zither plucked with a thin stick. The repertoire was largely the geomungo parts for melodies played by the court orchestra. It should be noted that another ancient Chinese zither, the zhu, was likely plucked with a stick, so the komungo may also be related to that instrument.

Although different in playing technique, the Moodswinger is an electric third bridge instrument developed in 2006 on which a very similar musical scale appears, following the same consonant positions derived from the harmonic series.

Media

A girl child player, CUI HuiXin from Beijing, 2003, video : Shuengit Chow, Digital Guqin Studio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivdsmv66KcU A boy child player, MAO HuiSheng from Beijing, 2003; video : Shuengit Chow, Digital Guqin Studio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVp9GpliuXM

See also

China portal
Music portal

References

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Chinese books on qin
  • Zha, Fuxi (1958). Cunjian Guqin Qupu Jilan 【存見古琴曲譜輯覽】. Beijing: The People's Music Press. ISBN 7-103-02379-4.
  • Xu, Jian (1982). Qinshi Chubian 【琴史初编】. Beijing: The People's Music Press. ISBN 7-103-02304-2.
  • Gong, Yi (1999). Guqin Yanzoufa 【古琴演奏法】; 2nd ed., rev. inc. 2 CDs. Shanghai: Shanghai Educational Press. ISBN 7-5320-6621-5
  • Li, Mingzhong (2000). Zhongguo Qinxue 【中國琴學】 卷壹. Volume one. Shanxi: Shanxi Society Science Magazine Association.
  • Yin, Wei (2001). Zhongguo Qinshi Yanyi 【中国琴史演义】. Yunnan: People's Press of Yunnan. ISBN 7-222-03206-1/I‧866
  • Zhang, Huaying (2005). Gu Qin 【古琴】. Guizhou: Zhejiang People's Press. ISBN 7-213-02955-X
Part of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity Collection 【人类口头与非物质文化遗产丛书】.
  • Guo, Ping (2006). Guqin Congtan 【古琴丛谈】. Jinan: Shandong Book Press. ISBN 7-80713-209-4
Qinpu
  • Zhu, Quan (1425, 2001). Shenqi Mipu 【神竒秘譜】. Beijing: Cathay Bookshop. ISBN 7-80568-973-3/J‧284
  • Xu, Shangying (1673, 2005). Dahuan Ge Qinpu 【大還閣琴譜】. Beijing: Cathay Bookshop. ISBN 7-80663-288-3/J‧322
  • Zhou, Zi'an (1722, 2000). Wuzhi Zhai Qinpu 【五知齋琴譜】. Beijing: Cathay Bookshop. ISBN 7-80568-864-8/J‧237
  • Chu, Fengjie (1855). Yugu Zhai Qinpu 【與古齋琴譜】. Fujian: Private publication.
  • Zhang, He (1864, 1998). Qinxue Rumen 【琴學入門】. Beijing: Cathay Bookshop. ISBN 7-80568-865-6/J‧236
  • Yang, Zongji (1910–1931, 1996). Qinxue Congshu 【琴學叢書】. Beijing: Cathay Bookshop. ISBN 7-80568-552-5/I‧139
  • Wang, Binglu (1931, 2005). Mei'an Qinpu 【楳盦珡諩】. Beijing: China Bookstore. ISBN 7-80663-297-2/J‧331
  • Wu, Jinglüe and Wenguang (2001). Yushan Wushi Qinpu 【虞山吴氏琴谱】 The Qin Music Repertoire of the Wu Family. Beijing: Eastern Press. ISBN 7-5060-1454-8/I‧78
  • Gu, Meigeng (2004). Qinxue Beiyao (shougao ben) 【琴學備要(手稿本)】. Shanghai: Shanghai Music Press. ISBN 7-80667-453-5
Journals, newsletters and periodicals
  • Zhongguo Huabao 【中國畫報】. July 1986.
  • Beijing Guqin Research Association. Beijing Qin-xun 【北京琴讯】. March 2001 (volume 71).
English books on qin
  • Gulik, Robert Hans van (1940, 1969). The Lore of the Chinese Lute. 2nd ed., rev. Rutland, Vt., and Tokyo: Charles Tuttle and Sophia University; Monumenta Nipponica. ISBN 0-8048-0869-4
  • Gulik, Robert Hans van (1941). Hsi K'ang and his Poetical Essay on the Chinese Lute. Tokyo: Monumenta Nipponica. ISBN 0-8048-0868-6
  • Lieberman, Fredric (1983). A Chinese Zither Tutor: The Mei-an Ch'in-p'u. Trans. and commentary. Washington and Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 0-295-95941-X
  • Binkley, James (2007). Abiding With Antiquity 【與古齋琴譜】. Lulu.com. ISBN 978-1430303466
  • Yung, Bell (2008). The Last of China's Literati: The Music, Poetry and Life of Tsar The-yun. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 978-9622099166
Spanish books on qin
  • Lieberman, Fredric (2008). Un Manual de Cítara China: el Meian qinpu. (J.M. Vigo, Trans.). Barcelona: www.citarachina.org. (1983). Also on Lulu.com. ISBN 978-8461253692
Non-qin books (or books with a section on the qin)
  • Dr. L. Wieger, S. J. (1915, 1927, 1965). Chinese Characters: Their origin, etymology, history, classification and signification. A thorough study from Chinese documents. L. Davrout, S. J. (trans.). New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21321-8
  • Zhang Yushu et al. (1921). Kangxi Zidian 【康熙字典】. Shanghai: Shanghai Old Books Distribution Place.
  • Herdan, Innes (trans.) (1973, 2000). 300 Tang Poems 【英譯唐詩三百首】, Yee Chiang (illus.). Taipei: The Far East Book Co., Ltd. ISBN 957-612-471-9
  • Temple, Robert (1998, 1999, 2002, 2005). The Genius of China: 3000 years of science, discovery and invention. Dr. Needham, Joseph FRS FBA (intro.). London: Prion. ISBN 1-85375-582-6
  • Rawski, E. Evelyn & Rawson, Jessica (ed.) (2005). CHINA: The Three Emperors 1662—1795. London: Royal Academy of Arts. ISBN 1-903973-69-4

Footnotes

  1. Zhang, He. Qinxue Rumen 【琴學入門】. Volume 1, leaves 39, 40, 43 and 47.
  2. 《碣石調幽蘭》
  3. 雍門周
  4. 曹柔
  5. Zhu, Quan. Shenqi Mipu 【神竒秘譜】.
  6. Zha, Fuxi. Cunjian Guqin Qupu Jilan 【存見古琴曲譜輯覽】. Pages 3-44.
  7. 《廣陵散》
  8. Cite error: Invalid tag; no text was provided for refs named x.E3.80.8A.E6.B5.81.E6.B0.B4.E3.80.8B
  9. 《陽關三疊/阳关三叠》
  10. 《梅花三弄》
  11. 《瀟湘水雲》
  12. 《平沙落雁》
  13. A more detailed analysis can be found here
  14. ff「
  15. /龙池』
  16. /凤沼』
  17. The harmonic scale of guqin described in the essay 3rd Bridge Helix by Yuri Landman on furious.com
  18. 〖太古〗
  19. 〖中清〗
  20. 〖加重〗
  21. John Thompson: 'the so-called "NAGA new silk strings" are not made of silk'
  22. NAGA new silk[-nylon] strings
  23. Gong, Yi. Guqin Yanzhoufa 【古琴演奏法】. Page 11 and 13.
  24. Charlie Huang's Facebook Notes: How not to string...
  25. /蝇头结』
  26. /绒扣』
  27. /轸』
  28. 『龍齦』
  29. 『鳳足』
  30. 『雁足』
  31. 〔簡譜/简谱〕
  32. 〈慢角調〉
  33. 〈蕤賔調/蕤宾调〉
  34. 《雍正祭先農壇圖》
  35. Rawski, E. Evelyn & Rawson, Jessica (ed.). CHINA: The Three Emperors 1662—1795. Pages 117, 126 and 127.
  36. London Youlan Qin Society (2004) Yaji 5th September 2004, 29 July 2006)
  37. china.org.cn (2003) Guqin Master Xu Kuanghua (http://www.china.org.cn/english/NM-e/55853.htm, 10 January 2009)
  38. china.org.cn (2002) Composer Achieves Goal with 'Hero' Score (http://www.china.org.cn/english/NM-e/51029.htm, 29 July 2006)
  39. China Info Travel (2002) Guqin Master Xu Kuanghua (http://www.chinainfotravel.com/Guqin_Master_Xu_Kuanghua_1104.htm, 29 July 2006)
  40. 【理性元雅】
  41. Zhou, Zi'an. Wuzhi Zhai Qinpu 【五知齋琴譜】. Volume 1, folio 2, leaf 10.
  42. 〔本曲〕

External links

Template:Linkfarm

Qin societies
General Qin websites
Sites dealing with qin notation and tablature
  • Qinqu Jicheng The near complete out-of-print PDF version of the Qinqu Jicheng download (vol. 10 missing) (Chinese)
  • Chinese Guqin and Notation Judy (Pei-You) Chang's very detailed and well illustrated site explaining fingering techniques, including sections on structure, forms and various information
  • Jieshi Diao Youlan Manuscript View the original Tang Jieshi Diao Youlan manuscript kept at the National Museum in Japan here (Japanese)/(Chinese)/(Korean)/(English)/(French)

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Wikipedia

Contents

English

An antique guqin in the lianzhu form

Alternative spellings

  • (NB: these variants may be incorrect, but nevertheless may be encountered)
    • gu-qin, gu qin, gu qing, GuQin

Etymology

From Chinese 古琴 (gǔqín), made up of ‘ancient’ and ‘stringed instrument’.

Pronunciation

Noun

Singular
guqin

Plural
guqin

guqin (plural guqin)

  1. (music) A plucked, seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family, favoured by scholars and the literati in ancient times.
    • 1982: The Times, 25 May 1982, p.10 col. C
      Among those who will be making the Otter valley resound to the strains of the guzheng and erhu is Wu Wenguang, who plays a piece of music 1,800 years old on the guqin, an instrument known to have existed 3,000 years ago.
  2. (place) Guqin Tai 《古琴臺》 (Guqin Terrace or Heptachord Terrace, etc), the name of a place in Wuhan, China.

Usage notes

  • In the past, the guqin was referred to only as the qin, but it has the prefix gu- to distinguish it from other instruments which are also called qin. It can be referred to as qin after guqin is used in the first instance.
  • The organology of the qin fits that of a zither, but in the past, it has been incorrectly referred to as a lute or harp.
  • It is sometimes confused with the guzheng (古筝) which is a different stringed instrument.

Synonyms

Derived terms

  • guqin gathering
  • guqin player
  • guqin music
  • guqin notation
  • guqin society
  • guqin yaji

Translations

See also

Commons
Wikimedia Commons has related media at:

References

  • Zhang, Huaying (2005). Guqin 【古琴】. Guizhou: Zhejiang People's Publishing. ISBN 7-213-02955-X
  • The North American Guqin Association (http://www.guqin.org)

Simple English


The  guqin (info • help) (Chinese: 古琴; pinyin: gǔqín; Wade-Giles: ku-ch'in; literally "ancient stringed-instrument") is the modern name for a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favored by educated people as an instrument of great beauty and refinement. It is uncommonly spelt as Gu Qin (and sometimes GuQin or Gu-qin) in English.

Traditionally the instrument was called simply qin 「琴」, but by the 20th century the term had come to be used on many other musical instruments as well (for example, the yangqin 「揚琴」 hammered dulcimer, the huqin 「胡琴」 family of bowed string instruments, and the Western piano (Chinese: 鋼琴; pinyin: gāng qín; literally "steel stringed-instrument")), so the prefix "gu-" 「古」 (meaning "ancient") was added for clarification. It can also be called qixianqin 「七絃琴」 ("seven-stringed instrument"). The guqin is not to be confused with the guzheng, another Chinese long zither also without frets, but with moveable bridges under each string. Because Robert Hans van Gulik's famous book about the qin is called The Lore of the Chinese Lute, the qin is sometimes inaccurately called a lute. Other incorrect classifications (mainly from music CDs) include "harp" or "table-harp".

The qin is a very quiet instrument, with a range of about four octaves, and its open strings are tuned in the bass register (its lowest pitch is about two octaves below middle C, or the lowest note on the cello). Sounds are produced by plucking open strings, stopped strings, and harmonics. Stopped sounds are special for the variety of slides and ornaments used, and the use of glissando (sliding tones) gives it a sound similar to a pizzicato cello or fretless bass guitar. Extended sections in music scores consisting entirely of harmonics are common, this made possible because the 91 indicated harmonic positions allow great flexibility; early tablature shows that even more harmonic positions were used in the past. By tradition the qin originally had five strings, but ancient qin-like instruments with 10 or more strings have been found. The modern form has been standardized from about two thousand years.

Contents

History

Legend has it that the qin, has a history of about 5,000 years; that the legendary people of China's pre-history; Fuxi, Shennong and Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor), was involved in its creation. It is mentioned in Chinese writings dating back nearly 3,000 years, and related instruments have been found in tombs from about 2,500 years ago. Chinese tradition says the qin originally had five strings, but then two were added about 1,000 BCE, making seven.

Based on the detailed description in the poetic essay "Qin Fu" 【琴賦】 by Xi Kang / Ji Kang (223–262), the form of the qin that is recognizable today was most likely set around the late Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). The earliest surviving qin in this modern form, preserved in both Japan and China, have been dated to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Many are still playable, the most famous perhaps being the one named "Jiuxiao Huanpei" 《九霄環佩》, said to have been made by the famous late Tang dynasty qin maker Lei Wei (雷威). It is kept in the Forbidden City Museum in Beijing.

According to Robert Temple, the qin played an important part in the gaining the first understanding of music timbre for the Chinese. He said that "the Chinese understanding of the nature of sound as vibration was much increased by studying the production of timbre on the strings of the ch'in." This understanding of timbre, overtones and higher harmonics eventually led the Chinese to discover equal temperament in music.

In 1977, a recording of "Liu Shui" (Flowing Water, as performed by Guan Pinghu, one of the best qin players of the 20th century) was chosen to be included in the Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated LP recording containing music from around the world, which was sent into outer space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts. It is the longest music track included on the disc. In 2003, guqin music was proclaimed one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Schools, societies and players

Historical schools and societies

Because of the difference in geography in China, many qin schools known as qin pai (琴派) developed over the centuries. Such schools generally formed around areas where qin activity was greatest.

The main schools are:

  • Guangling (廣陵); Yushan (虞山 also known as Qinchuan (琴川) or Shu (熟)) in Changshu 常熟
  • Shu (蜀 or Chuan (川)) in Sichuan 四川
  • Fanchuan (泛川)
  • Songjiang (松江)
  • Jinling (金陵)
  • Zhucheng (諸城)
  • Mei'an (梅庵 / 楳盦)
  • Min (閩) in Fujian 福建
  • Pucheng (浦城)
  • Jiuyi (九嶷)
  • Zhe (浙)
  • Shaoxing (紹興)
  • Wu (吳)
  • Shan'nan (山南)

Most qin schools and groups are based in China. During the 20th century some societies began in other countries. Qin study was initially confined to China in ancient times. Today countries like Japan also have their own qin small traditions. The Tokyo Qin Society was recently founded. Japan has published a qinpu (qin tablature collection) in the past, known as Toukou Kinpu or Donggao Qinpu 【東臯琴譜】.

Players

There have been many players throughout the ages. The instrument was a favourite of the scholars, so many artists played it. Some famous players are also associated with some melodies, like Confucius and Qu Yuan.

Historical:

  • Confucius 孔子: Philosopher, 551–479 BCE, associated with the piece Kongzi Duyi 《孔子讀易》, Weibian Sanjue 《韋編三絕》 and Youlan 《幽蘭》.
  • Bo Ya 伯牙: Qin player of the Spring and Autumn Period, associated with the piece Gao Shan 《高山》 and Liu Shui 《流水》.
  • Zhuangzi 莊子: Daoist philosopher of the Warring States Period, associated with the piece Zhuang Zhou Mengdie 《莊周蒙蝶》 and Shenhua Yin 《神化引》.
  • Qu Yuan 屈原: Poet of the Warring States Period, associated with the piece Li Sao 《離騷》.
  • Cai Yong 蔡邕: Han Dynasty musician, author of Qin Cao 【琴操】.
  • Cai Wenji 蔡文姬: Cai Yong's daughter, associated with the piece Hujia Shiba-pai 《胡笳十八拍》, etc.
  • Sima Xiangru 司馬相如: Han poet, 179-117 BCE.
  • Ji Kang 嵇康: Sage of the Bamboo Grove, musician and poet, writer of Qin Fu 【琴賦】.
  • Li Bai 李白: Tang poet, 701-762.
  • Bai Juyi 白居易: Tang poet, 772-846.
  • Song Huizong 宋徽宗: Song emperor famous for his patronage of the arts, had a Wanqin Tang 『萬琴堂』 ("10,000 Qin Hall") in his palace.
  • Guo Chuwang 郭楚望: Patriot at the end of the Song Dynasty, composer of the piece Xiaoxiang Shuiyun 《瀟湘水雲》.

Classical books such as Qin Shi, Qinshi Bu and Qinshi Xu have biographies of hundreds of more players.

Playing technique

The beauty of qin melodies comes not only from the melodies themselves, but from the variation a player can apply to the individual tones and their combinations. The rich tones of the qin can be categorised as three distinctively different "sounds." The first is san yin 〔散音〕, which means "scattered sounds." This meant simply pluck the required string to sound an open note. The second is fan yin 〔泛音〕, or "floating sounds." These are harmonics, and the player simply lightly touches the string with one or more fingers of the left hand at a position indicated by the white hui dots, pluck and then lift, creating a crisp and clear sound ringing sound. The third is an yin 〔按音 / 案音 / 實音 / 走音〕, or "stopped sounds." This forms the majority of most qin pieces and requires the player to press on a string with a finger or thumb of the left hand until it touches with the surface board, then pluck. Afterwards, the hand can slide up and down, thereby changing the pitch.

When plucking the strings, it is not required to attach fake-nails on one's fingers. One will often leave their fingernails long, and cut them into an rounded shape. The length is subjective and will depend on the player's preference, but it is usually around 3-4mm from the finger tip. If it is too short, then the finger tip will deaden the sound as it touches the string after the nail has plucked it. If it is too long then the fingers can make playing difficult. Generally, the nails of the right hand are kept long, whilst the nails of the left are cut short, so as to be able to press on the strings without difficulty.

There are eight basic right hand finger techniques: pi 〈劈〉 (thumb pluck outwards), tuo 〈托〉 (thumb pluck inwards), mo 〈抹〉 (index in), tiao 〈挑〉 (index out), gou 〈勾〉 (middle in), ti 〈剔〉 (middle out), da 〈打〉 (ring in), and zhai 〈摘〉 (ring out); the little finger is not used. Out of these basic eight, their combinations create many more. Cuo 〈撮〉 is to pluck two strings at the same time, lun 〈輪〉 is to pluck a string with the ring, middle and index finger out in quick succession, the suo 〈鎖〉 technique involves plucking a string several times in a fixed rhythm, bo 〈撥〉 cups the fingers and strums two strings at the same time, and gun fu 〈滾拂〉 is to create a sequence of sounds by running up and down the strings continuously with the index and middle fingers. These are just a few.

Left hand techniques start from the simple pressing down on the string (mostly with the thumb between the flesh and nail, and the ring finger), sliding up or down to the next note (shang 〈上〉 and xia 〈下〉), to vibrati by swaying the hand (yin 〈吟〉 and nao 〈猱〉, there are as many as 15 plus different forms of vibrato), plucking the string with the thumb whilst the ring finger stops the string at the lower position (qiaqi 〈掐起 / 搯起〉), hammering on a string using the thumb (yan 〈掩 / 罨〉), to more difficult techniques such as pressing on several strings at the same time.

Techniques executed by both hands together are more difficult to achieve, for example, qia cuo san sheng 〈掐撮三聲〉 (a combination of hammering on and off then plucking two strings, then repeating), to more exciting forms, like pressing of all seven strings with the left, then strumming all the strings with the right, then the left hand quickly moves up the qin, creating a rolling sound like a bucket of water being thrown in a deep pool of water (this technique is used in the Shu style of Liu Shui to copy the sound of water).

In order to master the qin, there are in excess of 50 different techniques that must be mastered. Even the most commonly used (such as tiao) are difficult to get right without proper instruction from a teacher.

Tablature and notation

Written qin music did not directly tell what notes were played like many outer musical instruments; instead, it was written in a tablature detailing tuning, finger positions, and plucking technique, thus made up of a step by step method and description of how to play a piece. Some tablatures do indicate notes using the gongche notation system, or indicate rhythm using dots.

The earliest example of the modern shorthand tablature survives from around the 12th century CE. An earlier form of music notation from the Tang era survives in just one manuscript, dated to the 7th century CE, called Jieshi Diao: You Lan 《碣石調幽蘭》 (Solitary Orchid, in Stone Tablet Mode). It is written in a longhand form called wenzi pu 〔文字譜〕 (literally "written notation"), which gives all the details using ordinary written Chinese characters. Later in the Tang dynasty, Cao Rou (曹柔) and others simplified the notation, using only the important elements of the characters (like string number, plucking technique, hui number and which finger to stop the string) and combined them into one character notation. This meant that instead of having two lines of written text to describe a few notes, a single character could represent one note, or sometimes as many as nine. This notation form was called jianzi pu 〔減字譜〕 (literally "reduced notation") and it was a great step forward for recording qin scores. It was so successful that from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) onwards, a lot of qinpu 〔琴譜〕 (qin tablature collections) appeared, the most famous and useful being "Shenqi Mipu" (The Mysterious and Marvellous Tablature) compiled by Zhu Quan (朱勸), the 17th son of the founder of the Ming dynasty. In the 1960s, Zha Fuxi discovered more than 130 qinpu that contain well over 3360 pieces of written music. Many qinpu compiled before the Ming dynasty are now lost, and many pieces have remained unplayed for hundreds of years.

Existing qinpu generally come from private collections or in public libraries throughout China, etc. Those that are available for public purchase are photographic copies printed and bound in the traditional Chinese bookbinding process. More modern qinpu tend to be bound in the normal Western way on modern paper. The format uses qin notation with staff notation and/or jianpu notation.

Repertoire

Qin pieces are usually around three to eight minutes in length, with the longest being "Guangling San" 《廣陵散》, which is 22 minutes long. Other famous pieces include "Liu Shui" 《流水》 (Flowing Water), "Yangguan San Die" 《陽關三疊》 (Three Refrains on the Yang Pass Theme), "Meihua San Nong" 《梅花三弄》 (Three Variations on the Plum Blossom Theme), "Xiao Xiang Shui Yun" 《瀟湘水雲》 (Mist and Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers), and "Pingsha Luo Yan" 《平沙落雁》 (Wild Geese Descending on the Sandbank). The average player can generally play around ten pieces from memory which they will aim to play very well, learning new pieces as and when they feel like it. Players mainly learn popular well studied versions, often using a recording as a reference. In addition to learning to play established or ancient pieces very well, highly skilled qin players may also compose or improvise, although the player must be very good and extremely familiar with the instrument to be successful at it.

Dapu 〔打譜〕 is the conversion of old tablature into a playable form. This can be used to create new music as well as to reconstruct the ancient melodies. Since qin tablature does not indicate note value, tempo or rhythm, the player must work it out for him/herself. Normally, qin players will learn the rhythm of a piece through a teacher. They sit facing one another, with the student copying the master. The tablature will only be looked at if the teacher is not sure of how to play a certain part. Because of this, traditional qinpu do not indicate them. If one did not have a teacher, then one had to work out the rhythm by themselves. But it would be a mistake to say that qin music has no rhythm or melody. By the 20th century, there had been attempts to try to replace the shorthand notation, but so far, it has been unsuccessful; since the 20th century, qin music is generally printed with staff notation above the qin tablature. Because qin tablature is so useful, logical, easy, and the fastest way (once the performer knows how to read the notation) of learning a piece, it is invaluable to the qin player and cannot totally be replaced. There are two views of how to best use dapu: one is to use it to create new music, and the other is to use it to reconstruct the way the original music was played.

Construction

According to tradition, the qin originally had five strings, representing the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Later, in the Zhou dynasty, Zhou Wen Wang 周文王 added a sixth string to mourn his son, Bo Yihou 伯邑考. His successor, Zhou Wu Wang 周武王, added a seventh string to motivate his troops into battle with the Shang. The thirteen hui 『徽』 on the surface represent the 13 months of the year (the extra 13th is the 'leap month' in the lunar calendar). The surface board is round to represent Heaven and the bottom board flat to represent earth. The entire length of the qin (in Chinese measurements) is 3 feet, 6.5 inches, representing the 365 days of the year (though this is just a standard since qins can be shorter or longer depending on the period's measurement standard or the maker's preference). Each part of the qin has meaning, some more obvious, like "dragon pool" 『龍池』 and "phoenix pond" 『鳳沼』.

The sound chamber of the qin is constructed with two boards of wood, typically of differing wood types. The slightly rounded top board (soundboard) is usually made of tong wood 『桐』, the Chinese parasol tree, or Chinese paulownia. The bottom board is made of zi mu 『梓木』 catalpa (Catalpa ovata) or, more recently, nan mu 『楠木』 camphor wood (Machilus nanmu). The wood must be well aged, that is, the sap and moisture must be removed (of the top board wood). If sap remains then the sound will not be clear and, as the moisture evaporates, the wood will warp and crack. Some makers use old or ancient wood to construct qins because most of the sap and moisture has been removed naturally by time (old shan mu 『杉木』, Chinese Cunninghamia or Japanese Cryptomeria, is often used for creating modern qins). Some go to lengths to obtain extremely ancient wood, such as that from Han dynasty tomb structures or coffins. Although such wood is very dry, it is not necessarily the best since it may be infected with wood worm or be of a bad quality or type. Many modern qins made out of new tong wood (such as those made by Zeng Chengwei) can be better than the quality of antique qins.

There are two sound holes in the bottom board, as the playing techniques of the qin employ the entire surface of the top board which is curved / humped. The inside of the top board is hollowed out to a degree. Inside the qin, there are 'nayin' 『納音』 sound absorbers, and a 'tian chu' 『天柱』 and 'di chu' 『地柱』 soundposts that connect the bottom board to the top. The boards are joined using bamboo nails. Lacquer 『漆』 from the Chinese lacquer tree (Rhus vernicifera) is then applied to the surfaces of the qin, mixed with various types of powder, the most common being "lujiao shuang" 『鹿角霜』, the remains of deer antler after the glue has been eremoved. Often, ceramic powder is used instead of deer antler powder, but the quality is not as good. After the lacquer has dried (a qin will need several layers), the surface will be polished using oil stones. At the head end of the instrument is the "yue shan" 『岳山』 or bridge, and at the other end is the "long yin" 『龍齦』 (dragon's gums) or nut. There are 13 circular mother-of-pearl inlays which mark the harmonic positions, as well as a reference point to note position, called hui 『徽』 ("insignia").

Strings

Until the Cultural Revolution, the guqin's strings were always made of various thicknesses of twisted silk 『絲』, but since then most players use modern nylon-flatwound steel strings 『鋼絲』. This was partly due to the scarcity of high quality silk strings and partly due to the newer strings' greater durability and louder tone.

Silk strings are made by gathering a prescribed number of strands of silk thread, then twisting them tightly together. The twisted cord of strings is then wrapped around a frame and immersed in a vat of liquid of natural glue that binds the strands together. The strings are taken out and left to dry, before being cut into the appropriate length. The top thicker strings (i.e. strings one to four) are further wrapped in a thin silk thread, coiled around the core to make it smoother.

Recently in China, production of very good quality silk strings has resumed and more players are beginning to use them. Although most contemporary players use nylon-wrapped metal strings, some argue that nylon-wrapped metal strings cannot replace silk strings for their refinement of tone. Furthermore, it is the case that nylon-wrapped metal strings can cause damage to the wood of old qins. Many traditionalists feel that the sound of the fingers of the left hand sliding on the strings to be a distinctive feature of qin music. The modern nylon-wrapped metal strings were very smooth in the past, but are now slightly modified in order to capture these sliding sounds.

Tuning

To string a qin, one traditionally had to tie a butterfly knot (shengtou jie 『蠅頭結』) at one end of the string, and slip the string through the twisted cord (rongkou 『絨剅』) which goes into holes at the head of the qin and then out the bottom through the tuning pegs (zhen 『軫』). The string is dragged over the bridge (yueshan 『岳山』), across the surface board, over the nut (longyin 『龍齦』 dragon gums) to the back of the qin, where the end is wrapped around two legs (fengzu 『鳳足』 "phoenix feet" or yanzu 『雁足』 "geese feet"). Afterwards, the strings are fine tuned using the tuning pegs. The most common tuning, "zheng diao" 〈正調〉, is pentatonic: 1245612 in the traditional Chinese number system or jianpu 〔簡譜〕. Today this is generally interpreted to mean C D F G A c d , but this should be considered do re fa so la do re, since historically the qin was not tuned to absolute pitch. In fact the same tuning can also be considered as 5612356 when the third string is played as do. Thus, except when accompanied by other instruments, only the pitch relations between the seven strings needs to be accurate. Other tunings are achieved by adjusting the tension of the strings using the tuning pegs at the head end. Thus manjiao diao 〈慢角調〉 (slackened third string) gives 1235612 and ruibin diao 〈蕤賔調〉 (raised fifth string) gives 1245712, which is transposed to 2356123.

Playing context

The guqin is nearly always used a solo single instrument, as its quietness of tone means that it cannot be heard over the sounds of most other instruments or an ensemble. It can, however, be played together with a xiao (end-blown bamboo flute), with other qin, or played while singing. In old times, the se (a long zither with movable bridges and 25 strings, similar to the Japanese koto) was frequently used in duets with the qin.

In order for an instrument to accompany the qin, its sound must be mellow and not overwhelm the qin. Thus, the xiao generally used for this purpose is one pitched in the key of F, known as qin xiao, which is narrower than an ordinary xiao. If one sings to qin songs (which is rare nowadays) then one should not sing in an operatic or folk style as is common in China, but rather in a very low pitched and deep way; and the range in which one should sing should not exceed one and a half octaves. The style of singing is similar to that used to recite Tang poetry. To enjoy qin songs, one must learn to become accustomed to the strange style some players may sing their songs to.

Traditionally, the qin was played in a quiet studio or room by oneself, or with a few friends; or played outdoors in places of outstanding natural beauty. Nowadays, many qin players perform at concerts in large concert halls, almost always, out of necessity, using electronic pickups or microphones to amplify the sound. Many qin players attend yaji (『雅集』 literally "elegant gatherings"), at which a number of qin players, music lovers, or anyone with an interest in Chinese culture can come along to discuss and play the qin.

References

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Chinese books on qin:

  • Zhou, Ningyun (1915). Qinshu Cunmu.
  • Zha, Fuxi (1958). Cunjian Guqin Qupu Jilan. Beijing: The People's Music Publishers. ISBN 7-103-02379-4.
  • Xu, Jian (1982). Qinshi Chubian. Beijing: The People's Music Publishers. ISBN 7-103-02304-2.
  • Li, Xiangting (1992). Tangdai Guqin Yanzou Meixue ji Yinyue Sixiang Yanjiu. Taipei.
  • Gong, Yi (1999). Guqin Yanzhoufa; 2nd ed., rev. inc. 2 CDs. Shanghai: Shanghai Educational Publishers. ISBN 7-5320-6621-5
  • Li, Mingzhong (2000). Zhongguo Qinxue. Volume one. Shanxi: Shanxi Society Science Magazine Association.
  • Yin, Wei (2001). Zhongguo Qinshi Yanyi. Yunnan: People's Publishers of Yunnan. ISBN 7-222-03206-1/I‧866
  • Li, Xiangting (2004). Guqin Shiyong Jiaocheng. Shanghai: Shanghai Music Publishers. ISBN 7-80667-439-X
  • Yao, Bingyan and Huang, Shuzhi (2005). Tangdai Chen Zhuo Lun Guqin Zhifa: Yao Bingyan Qinxue Zhu Shu zhi Yi. Beijing: Shu zhi Zhai Wenhua Co. Ltd. ISBN 988-98739-1-5.
  • Wu, Zhao (2005). Jueshi Qingyin; inc. 1 CD. Suzhou: Ancient Inn of Wu Publishings. ISBN 7-80574-908-6/G‧259

English books on qin:

  • Gulik, Robert Hans van (1940, 1969). The Lore of the Chinese Lute. 2nd ed., rev. Rutland, Vt., and Tokyo: Charles Tuttle and Sophia University; Monumenta Nipponica. ISBN 0-804-80869-4
  • Gulik, Robert Hans van (1941). Hsi K'ang and his Poetical Essay on the Chinese Lute. Tokyo: Monumenta Nipponica. ISBN 0-804-80868-6
  • Lieberman, Fredric (1983). A Chinese Zither Tutor: The Mei-an Ch'in-p'u. Trans. and commentary. Washington and Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 0-295-95941-X

Other websites

Qin society sites

  • North American Guqin Association Wang Fei's US based qin society, with a link to a store that sells good quality qins, CDs and books as well as other Chinese instruments, updates often and a library of qin music samples and other useful material
  • London Youlan Qin Society Cheng Yu's UK based qin society with information about each yaji and regular updates on upcoming events
  • New York Qin Society New York based qin society, with information of their previous yaji, now updated with new material.

General Qin sites

  • John Thompson's Silk-stringed Qin A host of information on the qin and silk strings for qins in English, including extensive study of Shenqi Mipu and analysis of playing style, plus useful section on qin sources
  • Christopher Evan's Chinese Guqin Christopher Evan's site explains Chinese music theory, notation and technique as well as note position diagrams
  • Julian Joseph's Guqin Site A site mainly about Julian's dapu of the Shiyixian Guan Qinpu [Qin Tablature of the House of Eleven-strings] plus several unabridged lists of commercial qin recordings
  • Yugu Zhai Qinpu Jim Binkley's translation of the qin construction manual with links to other sources. Includes a qin FAQ section and pictures of his 'blue qin' made by himself
  • Friends of Guqin : Amics del Guqin 古琴之友 A site by Qin players in Spain (English)/(Spanish)/(Catalan)

Other specialist Qin sites

Sites with music samples








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