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Guqins in Art and Illustrations
See also Art for qin melodies
Qin and Books1        

The qin was the music instrument most depicted by Chinese literati. It was also commonly depicted in popular art. This page has links to a number of examples, but perhaps the best generally available collection is on a Facebook page compiled and maintained by 伏見无家 Muka Fushimi.

The actual title of the scene at right is Private Conversation by a Pine Tree. It was apparently painted for a friend's anniversary. The scene is quite typical except that the qin is resting on a set of books. "Qin and books"2 is an expression that can stand by itself, signifying finding pleasure in refined pursuits. The way the qin player is using the books here may be effective, but is unusual and perhaps not so good for the books.

Here are links to more examples.

  1. Methods of playing the qin
    The qin can be played either on the lap or at a table
  2. Qin styles
    Annotated illustrations of 38 famous qin shapes
  3. Using the qin when teaching
    Illustrations showing teachers with qins do not necessarily show them teaching qin
  4. Hand Gesture Illustrations
    33 annotated illustrations of finger techniques
  5. Lienü Zhuan and Liexian Quanzhuan
    Illustrated editions of both include depictions of people with qin connections
  6. Emperor Huizong playing the qin
    Perhaps the earliest painting showing the qin played at a table
  7. Feng Qiu Huang (A Male Phoenix Seeks his Mate);
    a famous Chinese love story involving seduction by qin.
  8. Autumn Geese over the Grave of the Immaciated Immortal
    A modern painting from photos at the grave
  9. Boya plays for a friend
    A scene often imitated
  10. Playing a stringless qin
    Echoes an idea expressed Tao Yuanming
  11. Qin and ruan lute
    The qin also sounds good with Western lute.
  12. Korean examples
    Compare with Korean paintings of komungo

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page) Inscription          

1. Private Conversation by a Pine Tree (松樹促膝談 Songshu Cuxi Tan)
"Qin and Books" is an informal title explained in the next footnote. The title as written on the outside of the scroll when rolled up is Private Conversation by a Pine Tree. At right is first the seal magnified, then a closeup of the inscription; the painter is not identified. The right side of the inscription says "甲寅冬月奉 Presented during a winter month of jiayin" (most likely 1914).

2. Qin and Books (琴書 or 琴、書 qin shu) (For another illustration see under Yangguan Sandie)
21570.42 琴書 qin shu says, this refers to "qin and books". It gives as references:

  1. 三國志,魏志,崔琰傳 the biography of Cui Yan (163–216) in the Wei Annals of the Annals of the Three Kingdoms. Here it says that in the 29th year he received instruction from 鄭玄 Zheng Xuan (127-200) then, having left home for four years, returned and "以琴書自娛 took pleasure in qin and books".
  2. 陶淵明 Tao Yuanming, quoting a line from his famous poem Gui Qu Lai Ci that says he was "樂琴書以消憂 happy to have qin and books to dispel melancholy".
  3. 何劭 He Shao ("逍遙綜琴書 at leisure went through his qin and books")
  4. 白居易 Bai Juyi (he and his wife were "鶴與琴書歌共一船 with a crane and his qin and books together on a boat").

In general, expressions such as "he loved qin and books" (樂琴書 le qinshu) were a way of showing someone had culure. (Compare "琴劍 qin and sword".)

Return to the Guqin ToC.