Fall from Grace? Looking at Opinions Towards Contemporary Qin Culture

To be Elegant, or not to be Elegant?

A modern public qin studio lounge, adorned with qins and other instruments used in opera, with a station for ceremoniously preparing tea.

The primary trait in filtering Chinese culture to its elite essence is the element of Ya (雅), commonly translated as “elegance”. What does this Ya entail? Let us compare it with its antonym, Su (俗). Where Su is widely accepted and loved by almost everyone, Ya is appreciated by a select few (usually of recluses and the educated); where Su strives to please the senses, Ya has a totally different aim — to “rectify” the senses by transmission of ‘sagely teachings and spirit’ to develop an elevated state of conscious realization of the human condition, coupled with a desire to remove oneself from the delusions of human social deceit. Where Su is artificial and man-made to refinement, Ya is considering the unadorned natural being as refinement and prefection unto itself.

This year, a widely circulated saying that claimed the following:

“The New Four Major Vulgarities [Su] of Capitol City [ie. Beijing]” (京城新四大俗):

学琴学古琴,// Learning qin [ie. musical instrument] equals to learning guqin,
开店开会馆,// Opening a shop, a clubhouse is of choice.
学佛修密宗,// Practicing Buddhism, Vajrayana [Tibetan] is the Way,
喝茶喝普洱。// And Pu’er is the drink of all teas.

Old is new, elegant is the new vulgar?

Another version goes:

弹琴弹古琴. // Learning qin [ie. musical instrument] equals to learning guqin,
喝茶喝普洱. // Pu’er is the drink of all teas.
手机用苹果. // With a cellphone bearing the Apple mark,
画室当会所. // The art studio is the clubhouse.

Numerous netizens have replied and reposted some version of the above statement with commentary on how this is true in not only Beijing, but across all urban centres in China and even beyond. These venues and objects were by and large restrictive and exclusive practices by the wealthy, prestigious, or the educated elite, but with the state and international recognition, commercialization and speculation followed. What was once the greatest expressions of Ya, is now “infested” with the hordes of “vulgar merchants and commoners”, all to willing to open their spending accounts or personal piggy banks for a taste of what was for previous generations something almost mythical in nature.

It is little wonder why the qin became such a popular instrument among the Chinese nouveau-riches and bourgeoisie today, and why many “old guard” traditionalists with historical lineages tend to look down on these newcomers, whom they consider as “poor of everything but money”. More

Yesa and Tieli for Dummies: Compiling all Hanfu-making techniques into one robe

The embroidered Tieli is most famously known as the outfit of the "Dongchuang secret agents" of the Ming government. However, the design itself is worn by men of all trades.

The Yesa (read Yeh-sah, written 曳撒) is a distinctive Hanfu design which stood out particular as Ming-era fashion. As a Sinicized version of the Mongolian Jisun (banquet) robe, the function of this robe changed greatly as it changed hands to the Han. Rather than formal wear, yesa are worn by Imperial eunuchs, servants and street-running pages, as well as martial and military parade regalia. The large pleated skirt in front greatly enhances the hip and thigh profile, and with the robe sometimes worn short enough to expose the entire boot, it exemplifies the masculine prowess of the wearer.

The distinctive feature of the yesa is the construction of the outfit itself – while looking from the front it consists of a cross-collared top sewn together to a pleated skirt, the back is a straight long robe. The skirt is not sewn shut to the back piece, but rather use two large outward-extending “flaps” or “ears” to cover the side slits. While not as “protective” as a daopao’s flap design which ties to the insides of the back panel, it creates a unique side and back profile that allows unrestrained leg movement and access to the inner layer of clothing, making it convenient, for example, reaching to trouser pockets.

The Tieli (read [ti-eh]-lee, written 貼里) is a variant design of the yesa, but instead of its unique bottom design, it is a pleated skirt attached to the top and worn in a classic manner similar to any long robe or shenyi. Both the yesa and tieli serve similar functions and offer similar freedom of movement, and hence are loved by commoners and elite alike. Moreover, tieli are often seen as the outer clothing of young boys and servants of pre-adolescent age, making the unclumsy design suitable for all ages. More

More Guqin=/=Guzheng from China

Another instance of Chinese students more correct and knowledgeable than their teachers.

For those interested in the original please see Baidu Guqin Tieba located http://tieba.baidu.com/p/1205771597.

P.S.: Congrats to TorGuqin website for over 70,000 hits in 2 years!


September 2011
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