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SJTS / Daoist music for qin     /     Quiet Evening Talk on Metaphysics See transcription 看五線譜 / Hear recording 聽錄音
Canon of Purity and Tranquility
- Yize mode: 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 2
清靜經 1
Qingjing Jing  
As inscribed at Hua Shan (fuller version) 3 
This qin melody is found only in Paired Music for Three Religions (Sanjiao Tongsheng, 1592),4 a qin handbook with a melody from each of China's great religions (or ways of thought), Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. Although the texts for these are all well known, scholars have not been able to determine the sources of any of the music. Did the compiler, Zhang Dexin, copy or edit pre-existing tablature? Did he write out tablature based on chants he had heard? Did he compose any of them himself? All that can be said at present is that, whereas the Buddhist entry is clearly a chant, musically different from any other surviving qin melodies,5 the Daoist and Confucian entries are closer to the qin idiom at the time.

The music of this qin setting, which perhaps more suggests a hymn than a chant, also seems to be musically and stylistically unrelated to any of the music commonly used today for chanting the Qingjing Jing.6 Such chanting is said to be particularly common in the Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) school of Daoism.7 Quanzhen, which has a strong monastic tradition, rose to prominence during the northern Song dynasty; this text became an important part of their prayer services at that time.8 As mentioned in the footnote accompanying the image at right, there have also been numerous fine art renderings, ink as well as inscription.

The text of Qingjing Jing, like that of A Quiet Evening Talk on Metaphysics (Jingye Tan Xuan, published in 1625), can be found in the Daoist Canon published in 1445.9 Qing Jing Jing itself was apparently first written down around the 9th century CE.10 It heavily quotes and paraphrases the Dao De Jing (sometimes called the Book of Laozi), which is the great philosophical text of Daoism.11 Other parts of the Qingjing Jing text also have strong Buddhist influence, for example, the emphasis on tranquility of mind and freedom from desire.12 Qingjing Jing might thus be seen as a meeting between so-called philosophical and religious Daoism.13

Directly below the title in the Sanjiao Tongsheng setting the tuning is given, after which is the statement "Six sections".14 The text/lyrics are placed alongside the tablature, paired according to the common method of one character for each right hand stroke (and some left hand strokes). The first and fifth sections begin with the words "Lao jun yue" (Laozi says). Thus, the Qingjing Jing is sometimes attributed to Laozi himself.

It should be noted that the back of the surviving copy of Sanjiao Tongsheng is damaged and the end is missing. As a result the music for two or three phrases (eight characters) near the end of section 5 and for the final four phrases (16 characters) of section 6 are missing or illegible. In my transcription I have supplied tablature (indicated by circles) for those two passages based on the surrounding idiom.15

Original Preface


Music of Qingjing Jing
translation by
Livia Kohn;16 A largely syllabic setting of the text;17
the music and/or text is missing for the phrases in square parentheses

1. (Laozi says)
The Great Tao has no form;
It brings forth and raises heaven and earth.
The Great Tao has no feelings;
It regulates the course of the sun and the moon.

The Great Tao has no name;
It raises and nourishes the myriad beings.
I do not know its name -
So I call it Tao.

The Tao can be pure or turbid, moving or tranquil.
Heaven is pure, earth is turbid;
Heaven is moving, earth is tranquil.
(The male is pure, the female is turbid;)
The male is moving, the female is tranquil.

Descending from the origin,
Flowing toward the end,
The myriad beings are being born.

Purity - the source of turbidity,
Movement - the root of tranquility.

Always be pure and tranquil;
Heaven and earth
Return to the primordial.

The human spirit is fond of purity,
But the mind disturbs it.
The human mind is fond of tranquility,
But desires meddle with it.

Get rid of desires for good,
And the mind will be calm.
Cleanse your mind,
And the spirit will be pure.

Naturally the six desires won't arise,
The three poisons are destroyed.
Whoever cannot do this
Has not yet cleansed his mind,
His desires are not yet driven out.

Those who have abandoned their desire:
Observe your mind by introspection -
And see there is no mind.

Then observe the body,
Look at yourself from without -
And see there is no body.

Then observe others by glancing out afar -
And see there are no beings.

Once you have realized these three,
Your observe emptiness!

Use emptiness to observe emptiness,
And see there is no emptiness.
When even emptiness is no more,
There is no more nonbeing either.

Without even the existence of nonbeing
There is only serenity,
Profound and everlasting.

When serenity dissolves in nothingness -
How could there be desires?
When no desires arise
You have found true tranquility.

In true tranquility, go along with beings;
In true permanence, realize inner nature.
Forever going along, forever tranquil-
This is permanent purity, lasting tranquility.

In Purity and tranquility,
Gradually enter the true Tao.
when the true Tao is entered,
It is realized.

Though we speak of "realized,"
Actually there is nothing to attain.
Rather, we speak of realization
When someone begins to transform the myriad beings.

Only who has properly understood this
Is worthy to transmit the sages' Tao.

5. (Laozi says:)
The highest gentleman does not fight;
The lesser gentleman loves to fight.
Highest Virtue is free from Virtue;
Lesser Virtue clings to Virtue.

All clinging and attachments
Have nothing to do with the Tao or the Virtue.

People fail to realize the Tao
Because they have deviant minds.
Deviance in the mind
Means the spirit is alarmed.

Spirit alarmed,
There is clinging to things.
Clinging to things,
[There is searching and coveting.

Searching and coveting,
There are passions and afflictions.]
Passions, afflictions, deviance, and imaginings
Trouble and pester body and mind.

Then one falls into turbidity and shame,
Ups and downs, life and death.
Forever immersed in the sea of misery,
One is in eternity lost to the true Tao.

[The Tao of true permanence
Will naturally come to those who understand.
Those who understand the realization of the Dao
Will rest forever in the pure and tranquil.]

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. References
18003.683 qingjing quotes many ancient sources but does not mention the Qingjing Jing. Alternate translations include Canon of Purity and Stillness, and Scripture of Clarity and Quiescence. The latter is used by Liva Kohn in her entry on this text in the Encyclopedia of Taoism, pp.800-1, which begins,

The Qingjing Jing, dating from the mid-Tang period, appears variously in the Taoist Canon, both alone (CT 620) and with commentary (CT 755 to CT 760), as well as in a slightly longer - and possibly earlier - version known as the Qingjing xinjing 清靜心經 (Heart Scripture of Clarity and Quiescence; CT 1169). Spoken by Laojun himself and written in verses of four characters, the text combines the thought and phrasing of the Daode jing with the practice of Taoist observation (guan) and the structure of the Buddhist Banruo xinjing 般若心經 (Heart Sutra of Perfect Wisdom). Following the latter's model, the Qingjing jing, as much as the earlier Xiaozai huming miaojing 消災護命妙經 (Wondrous Scripture on Dispelling Disasters and Protecting Life; CT 19), is a collection of essential or "heart" passages that is used less for inspiration and doctrinal teaching than for ritual recitation....

In Chinese another title is apparently 常清靜經 Chang Qingjing Jing (9138.162 has only 常清 chang qing), translated as Daoist Scripture of Constant Purity and Tranquility.

The standard text is that in the 正统道藏洞神部 Dong Shen section of the Daoist Canon.

2. 夷則調 Yize Diao
From standard tuning lower the 1st, 3rd and 6th strings; there is an 夷則意 Yize Modal Prelude in Xilutang Qintong. Tuning is the same as for Man Gong Diao (see Huo Lin) and Nanlü Yi.

3. Fine art renderings of Qingjing Jing
The image above (longer excerpt below) is from a photo I made of an inscription carved into a rock at the 玉泉廟 Yuquan Temple at the base of 華山 Hua Shan.

The Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian has a copy of this text in calligraphy by Zhao Mengfu. There is important commentary with the online image on their site, but the image itself shows a colophon by a prominent Mongol artist with the Chinese name 康里夒夒 Kangli Naonao (d.1354). The image at right is from an amateur photo that was once on the website of the World Art Kiosk; it claims to show the Zhao Mengfu calligraphy of the original text, but it is too small to read.

4. Tablature for Qingjing Jing
三教同聲 Sanjiao Tongsheng was reprinted in Vol.6 of 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; Qingjing Jing begins on page 113.

5. The other Ming dynasty qin melodies that perhaps most closely resemble chants are the versions of the various melodies of homage to Yan Hui.

6. Music for active chants of Qingjing Jing
As yet I have not been able to find out the source of the music for any of the chanted versions of Qingjing Jing that I have heard (other than my own), nor have I yet heard anything that sounds like the 誦經 songjing mentioned below. Here are some examples of what seems to be available.

  1. Renditions available on the internet: as with most modern recordings of any Buddhist or Daoist chant, almost all of these are orchestral synthesizer arrangements that do not seem to have any connection with anything in traditional Chinese culture except the language and a vague pentatonicism. These are often played over loudspeakers at temples, perhaps suggesting one reason the traditional literati so often wrote with disdain of monks and nuns.
  2. Qingjing Jing is said still to be actively sung at Wudang Mountains (Wikipedia; not a Quanzhen temple) in northwestern Hubei province; I have yet to hear this.
  3. At the 八仙庵 Temple of the Eight Immortals in Xi'an I found a CD with chant by the 西安萬壽八仙宮經師班 Xi'an Long Life Eight Immortals Scripture Teaching Group accompanied by the 陝西省歌舞劇院民樂隊 Shaanxi Province Song and Dance Theater Music Ensemble. Qingjing Jing is listed as #6 (of 12) on Side A. The contents of Side A (59.03) are listed as follows:

    1. 澄清韻
    2. 舉天尊
    3. 雙吊挂
    4. 提網
    5. 大、小啟請
    6. 清靜經
    7. 諸真浩章
    8. 中堂贊
    9. 懺悔文
    10. 小贊
    11. 靈官咒
    12. 三皈依

    However, the CD is not subdivided by tracks and I cannot make out the words they are chanting, so cannot confirm Qingjing Jing is actually on it.

7. Quan Zhen School
See in Wikipedia. A Quanzhen website, Introduction to Quanzhen Daoism, makes greater claims for the antiquity of this text. The source text for Jingye Tan Xuan (Quiet Evening Talk on Metaphysics) can also be found on Quanzhen websites, but not the specific arrangement used in the qin melody.

8. Modern usage of Qingjing Jing
Qingjing Jing is apparently the first of the Daoist morning canons (see Kim). The account in Wikipedia says that modern Quanzhen Daoists consider the Qingjing jing a central scripture and regularly chant it in songjing 誦經 "reciting scriptural passages; ritual recitation". Regarding the music for this chant, see my comments above.

9. Daoist Canon (道藏 Dao Zang) (www.chinaknowledge.de)
The existant Daoist Canon is based on the Ming Zhengtong Emperor's Daoist Canon (正統道藏 Zhengtong Daozang, 1445), with an imperial Wanli supplement dated 1607. Some of the included works may date from as early as the Warring States period. A few more works of this type but not included in the Ming publications have been found in modern times. For the other Canon text set to qin see Jingye Tan Xuan.

English language sources for detailed information on the Canon are mostly quite recent. They include:

In Chinese the entire Canon is online on various sites; some of these are mentioned here and, e.g., wenxian.fanren8.com has the present text here.

10. Origin of the text of 清靜經 Qingjing Jing
Historical origins are discussed in some detail in the Wikipedia entry, as well as in the article by Livia Kohn quoted above. A more traditional account of the source is related together with the online image mentioned above at The Freer Gallery. Here it says Laozi originally

"dictated this teaching to the goddess Queen Mother of the West (西王母). His words were then transmitted orally through generations of Daoist adepts until the text was written down by a believer named Ge Xuan (葛玄 164–244 C.E.) and later became part of the official Daoist canon."

The Queen Mother of the West [Xiwang Mu] is said to have had a daughter who played a one-string qin.

11. Daoism and the Dao De Jing
At the time of Confucius there were numerous contending schools of thought. That of Confucius emphasized bringing order to society by following certain moral principles; another school, suggesting any true principles could not be put into words, emphasized what might be called detachment and non-action. The Dao De Jing seems to be a collection of sayings of this latter school. Much of it was written in verse.

Tradition attributes the Dao De Jing to Laozi ("Old Master"), a contemporary of Confucius. There is a story that as Laozi was leaving the world (by entering the mountains southwest of what is today Xi'an) he met Yin Xi, Keeper of the Pass, who persuaded him to write it down. D. C. Lau, Tao Te Ching, A Bilingual Translation, The Chinese University Press, 2001, p. ix, says the original title of the book was "Laozi", while the title "Dao De Jing" dates only from the 2nd C. CE. However, there being no historical records for someone named "Laozi", it has been suggested that Daoism grew out of the philosophy of 楊朱 Yang Zhu, which emphasized extreme individualism. See D.C. Lau (trans.), Tao Te Ching, HK, Chinese University Press, 1982, p.xiv.

12. See the account in Wikipedia.

13. Daoism: Philosophical vs. Religious?
Although this is a distinction commonly made, and the influence from Buddhism on Daoism is generally connected with what is referred to as religious Daoism, this distinction is not universally accepted, in particular the related argument that philosophical Daoism came first and religious Daoism came later, popularizing it: the religious aspects of Daoism can be traced earlier than the classic texts.

14. In most printed versions the text of Qingjing Jing is not divided into sections.

15. Individual errors and omissions throughout the text are also circled.

16. The translation, included here with permission, is published in Livia Kohn, The Taoist Experience: An Anthology. Albany, State University of New York Press, 1993, pp.24-29.

17. Original text of Qing Jing Jing (compare Jingye Tan Xuan)
The complete Chinese text is also published (with some minor differences) in 太上全貞早談功德經 Taishang Quanzhen zao tan gongde jing, Beijing, Zhongguo Dajiao Xiehui, 1983, pp.24-27. According to François Picard the text there is prefaced by 太上老君說「常清靜經」 Taishang Laojun shuo, "Chang Qingjing Jing" (The great master Laozi spoke, the permanent canon of purity and tranquility]), intended to be sung in declamatory style before the text is recited. Music for this title can be found in Wudang Shan Daojiao Yinyue (武當山道教音樂; Daoist Music of Mount Wudang, a mountain in northwest Hubei province with many Daoist monasteries and fame as a martial arts center). That music is unrelated to the music here.

The original text as found here in Sanjiao Tongsheng is as follows:

老君曰 ﹕
夫道者 ﹕






Here is the beginning of the text, as found in the 玉泉院 Yuquan Temple, dedicated to Chen Tuan at 華山 Hua Shan (comment).

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