An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Qinshu daquan 琴書大全

Nov 22, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Qinshu daquan 琴書大全 "The complete book on the zither" is a compendium on the small zither (qin 琴) written during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Jiang Keqian 蔣克謙 (fl. 1590), courtesy name Guoguang 國光. He hailed from Xuzhou 徐州, Zhili, and was a distant relative to the imperial house. He was an excellent player of the zither himself, but also mastered calligraphy and painting. The book had been begun by his great-grandfather, the father of Empress Zhengde 正德皇后 (1492-1535), and had been finished in 1521, yet Jiang Keqian's father added new material to this collection about the manufacturing of the zither, tunes, tuning, poems and songs. Jiang Keqian continued this work and finished his book in 1590.

The text consists of 22 juan, the first twenty of which including theoretical discussions on this music instrument, while the last two include 62 tablatures for playing the zither. The greatest merit of the Qinshu daquan is that all quotes texts are critically annotated. The material is very rich and includes a lot of sources not found elsewhere, particularly book on the zither from the Tang period 唐 (618-907) like Chen Zhuo's 陳拙 Qinshu 琴書, Li Mian's 李勉 Qinhui ziyi 琴徽字議 and Wang Dali's 王大力 Qinsheng lütu 琴聲律圖, the Song period 宋 (960-1279) like Tian Zizhi’s 田紫芝 Taigu yiyin 太古遺音, Tang Zuyun's 楊祖雲 Qinyuan xuzhi 琴苑須知, the book Zhengu qinyuan 振古琴苑, the monk Juyue's 居月 Qinzhi 琴制, Miao Zi's 苗滋 Qinde fayuan 琴德發源, Cheng Yujian's 成玉{石+間} Zhizhang 指張, Qinlun 琴論 and Ziyang qinshu 紫陽琴書, the book Qinyi 琴議 by the master Shanyang Yefu 山陽野夫, and the preface to Master Miao's 苗氏 Qinpu 琴譜, or the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) texts Xiawai qinpu xu 霞外琴譜序 by Hu Changru 胡長孺 and Qinlü fawei 琴律發微 by Chen Minzi 陳敏子. The last book is almost quoted full.

Figure 1. Symbols for finger techniques from the Qinshu daquan 琴書大全
Overview table of symbols for the right (youshou zhifa pu 右手指法譜) and left-hand techniques (zuoshou zhifa pu 左手指法譜), and common symbols (tongyong zipu 通用字譜). Click to enlarge.
Figures 2-4. Images from the Qinshu daquan 琴書大全
Position of tones for each string over the fingerboard of a seven-string zither.
Scale notes (hui 徽) inserted into the fingerboard.
Tablature of two songs, Shenpin gongyi 神品宮意, and Yangchun 陽春, played in the key gongdiao 宮調.

The Qinshu daquan is a very rare text. Ming-period prints are to be found in the Music Research Institute of the Chinese National Academy of Arts (Zhongguo Yishu Yanjiuyuan Yinyue Yanjiusuo 中國藝術研究院音樂研究所), the Tianjin Library 天津圖書館 and the Shanghai Library 上海圖書館. These versions has been reproduced by the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局. The book catalogue Qianqingtang shumu 千頃堂書目 lists a text called Yongle qinshu jicheng 永樂琴書集成 that seems to have been identical with Jiang Keqian's book. A copy of this text, found in Taiwan, is a forgery, as the scholar Zha Fuxi 查阜西 (1895-1976) believes.

Table 1. Contents of the Qinshu daquan 琴書大全
1 序琴 Introduction to the zither
2-3 聲律 Music theory
4 琴製 Construction of the zither
5 琴式 Shapes of zithers
6 琴徽 Scale notes of the zither
7 琴絃 The strings of the zither
8 指法 Finger techniques
9 指法手勢圖 Illustrations to finger techniques
10 彈琴 Playing the zither
11-13 曲調 Melodies and tunes
14-15 歷代彈琴聖賢 Historical sages and worthies playing the zither
16 記載 Records on the zither
17 雜錄 Miscellaneous notes
18 琴文 Literary writings on the zither
19-20 Poems on the zither
21-22 琴譜 Tablatures for the zither
Li Mei 李玫 (2003). "Yong xiandai lüxue de fangfa jiedu Jiang Keqian Qinshu daquan suo chuan yi Hui jian Hui wai cunfen lishu 用現代律學的方法解讀蔣克謙《琴書大全》 所傳以徽間徽外寸分釐數", Yinyue yishu (Shanghai Yinyue Xueyuan xuebao) 音樂藝術 -上海音樂學院學報, 2003 (3): 6-15+4.
Lin Youren 林友仁 (1996). "Qinshu daquan 琴書大全", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Yishu 藝術卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 112.
Wu Zhao 吳釗 (1989). "Qinshu daquan 琴書大全", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Yinyue wudao 音樂•舞蹈 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 531.
Xu Jian 許可健 (1989). "Jiang Keqian yu Qinshu daquan 蔣克謙與《琴書大全》", Nanjing Yishu Xueyuan xuebao (Yinyue yu biaoyan) 南京藝術學院學報(音樂與表演), 1989 (4): 54-59.