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The Qin and the Chinese Literati     Qin influence on behavior and nature 中文   目錄
Qin Ideology 琴道

The guqin has arguably the world's oldest surviving written solo instrumental music tradition, with the first surviving tablature dating from the 7th century CE, but "the way (dao) of the qin" has sources much earlier than that.

Traditional attitudes towards the qin are often said to have been more Daoist than Confucian (rarely Buddhist2) but writings about the effects of the qin on people's behavior show a mixture of these philosophies.3 In addition, a study of qin melodies shows Confucian themes to be almost as prevalent as Daoist themes.4 Thus, as Zhu Quan states in his preface to Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425 CE):

As the qin became a physical object, the sages made it in such a way that it could correct purposeful thoughts, provide leadership in worldly affairs, bring accord to the six influences and tune the harmony of the seasons. It is indeed the divine instrument of heaven and earth, and a most ancient spiritual object; thus it became the music used by sages of our Middle Kingdom to control the government, and the object used by princely men to cultivate (themselves); it is only appropriate to stitched sleeves (i.e., scholars) or yellow caps (Daoists).

The best English language source for guqin ideology is R.H. van Gulik, Lore of the Chinese Lute (2nd ed.); Tokyo and Rutland, Tuttle, 1969.

      Do qins need strings? There are none on the qin
in this fan painting by Feng Chaoran dated 1943.
The fan inscription begins, "Wind in the pines and
a babbling brook are nature's melody. A qin was
brought along, but there is no need to play it.  
1   

See also:

 
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Fan painting, by 馮超然 Feng Chaoran (1882-1954; quite well-known)
Music of the qin (specifically with its natural materials epitomized by silk strings) as nature's melody (天然調 tianran diao) is also expressed in poems about so-called "wind-qin" or "wind-se", in which music is created by wind blowing through trees (examples), especially bamboo or pine (松濤 songtao; examples)

The full inscription from above is as follows:

「松風澗水天然調。抱得琴來不用彈。 (A poetic couplet, translated above; see also below)
    陟星(?)小僊筆意。癸未四月。         (The first two characters are unclear; see also below)
    慎得馮超然。(圖寫﹕)超然」 (Feng Chaoran, style name Zhende; the seal says "Chaoran".)

The couplet at the front of the inscription expresses sentiments found in poetry at least as early as Seeking a Recluse by the Zuo Si (3rd C. CE; q.v.). The couplet itself also can be found often (e.g., see at the end of a long poem from a collection called 繪事徽言 in 四庫全書補正 Corrected Siku Quanshu (online, p. 237); there are several variations for the first half, including 「松風澗響天然韻」 and 「高山流水天然調」.

The first two characters after the couplet might be 陟星 zhixing ("ascending the stars"); 小僊 Xiaoxian was also the nickname of the famous painter 吳偉 Wu Wei (1459-1508). The date is then stated as 癸未四月 April 1943.

After this is apparently a nickname 慎得 Zhende, then the painter's proper name, Feng Chaoran (1882-1954); the seal says 超然 Chaoran


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2. Buddhism
Buddhist ideas seem to be important mainly the the ways they may have affected Daoist and Confucian ones. For more on Buddhism see
Buddhism and the qin.
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3. Qin influence on nature and on human behavior
Proper behavior involves various concepts, most of them rather difficult to translate. Such terms include,

Virtue (德 de, also "morality"); see, e.g., Discussion of Qin Virtue and a Cai Yong reference
Righteousness (義 yi, also "morality"); see Dasheng Yueshu reference and qin name
Moral integrity (節操 jiecao); see comment on Qin Cao
Rectify, bring order (正 zheng, as in "正人心 zheng the mind/heart"); see Baihu Tong
Ritual (禮 li); see references in the Book of Rites

Potential benefits of the qin are said to include:

Restore divine nature and restrain low passions (歸神杜淫 gui shen du yin; reference is to Shen Nong in Huainanzi 20)
Body at rest and mind at peace (體精而心閑 ti jing er xin xian; Xi Kang).
Control the universe (天下治 tianxia zhi; i.e., bring the world in line with the way it should naturally be; Fengsu Tong)

The sentiments expressed above by Zhu Quan carry this further. The Chinese original is:

然琴之為物,聖人製之以正心術,導政事,和六氣,調玉燭;實天地之靈器,太古之神物;乃中國聖人治世之音,君子養修之物,獨縫掖黃冠之所宜。
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4. It has sometimes been claimed that when a Chinese literatus succeeded in attaining a government position he followed the structures of Confucianism, but when he lost his position he became a Daoist, achieving all by doing nothing.
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