An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shenqi mipu 神奇秘譜

Nov 16, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Shenqi mipu 神奇秘譜 "Miraculous secret scores for the zither" is a collection of musical scores for the small zither (qin 琴) compiled during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Zhu Quan 朱權 (1378-1448), style Quxian 臞仙, Hanxuzi 涵虛子 or Danqiu Xiansheng 丹丘先生, the seventeenth son of Emperor Taizu 明太祖 (r. 1368-1398) and Prince of Daning 大寧, later of Nanchang 南昌, and therefore posthumously called Prince Xian of Ning 寧獻王. He had a conflict with the Yongle Emperor 永樂 (r. 1402-1424) about the imperial succession and was therefore not allowed to inherit the princedom of his father. He has also written two introductions into music, Qin ruan qimeng 琴阮啟蒙, and Taihe zhengyin pu 太和正音譜, as well as several theatre plays.

The 3-juan-long Shenqi mipu, finished in 1425, includes music composed by Zhu Quan himself (34 pieces) and by artists patronized by him, like Li Jizhi 李吉之, Jiang Yizhi 蔣怡之, Jiang Kangzhi 蔣康之, He Mianzhi 何勉之 and Xu Muzhi 徐穆之, as well as 16 ancient songs for the zither written during the Tang 唐 (618-907) and Song 宋 (960-1279) periods (Taigu shenpin 太古神品), like Guangling san 廣陵散, Gaoshan 高山, Liushui 流水, Yangchun 陽春, Jiukuang 酒狂 or Xiao hujia 小胡笳. These ancient songs are to be found in the first part of the book. They constitute the oldest surviving scores or tablatures of qin music. The book was finished and printed in 1425. It is very important for the history of Chinese music, but focuses on songs from the region of Zhejiang during the late Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) like Xiaoxiang shuiyun 瀟湘水雲 or Qiaoge 樵歌. All melodies are accompanied by an introduction that explains the history of the tune and the text.

Figures 1. Tunes of the Shenqi mipu 神奇秘譜
Tablature of the tunes Qiaoren zhilu 樵人指路 "The woodcutter shows the way" and Shibi qishan 陟彼箕山 "Ascending Mt. Jishan. The text of the tunes is not recorded, only the notes.

The oldest surviving print dates from the Jiajing reign-period 嘉靖 (1522-1566), and a second one from the Wanli reign-period 萬曆 (1573-1619) that was published in Shanghai. The former version was reproduced in 1963 in the collection Qinqu jicheng 琴曲集成, the second one in the new edition of this collection, and also in a separate edition published by the Yinyue Chubanshe 音樂出版社 in 1955.

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