Remembering the Spirits: Old Refugees, Past Struggles (Part 1)

Source: 转:杨典博文:《从裴铁侠之死到溥雪斋失踪》 (Yang Dian: From the Death of Pei Tiexia to the Disappearance of Pu Xuezhai)
Translated by: Juni L. Yeung

Translator’s foreword: On the 23rd anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tian’anmen Massacre, here is the first part of a remembrance towards those whose talent was drowned away in the torrent of Chinese modernity.

The 20th century was an era of constant turmoil and revolution. Never in any previous period of Chinese history seen war, regime change, revolution and reform, and inquisitions in such an intense timeframe. “Scar literature” is a particular type of literature produced in form of fiction and non-fictional accounts from people retelling the tales of those times, particularly on hardship, death and persecution from the Communist revolutions. Here we have true accounts of how such scars have left its mark on the qin world.

From the Death of Pei Tiexia to the Dissapearance of Pu Xuezhai

Lvhe Qin Society in Sichuan along with Zha Fuxi and Hu Yingtang from Shanghai Jinyu Qin Society in Year Dingchou (ROC 26, 1937). Pei Tiexia is 2nd from right in the front row.

Ever since I started learning the qin as a teenager, I’ve heard of Sichuan school master Pei Tiexia’s fame, but never of his playing’s recordings, let alone his published manuscripts during the Republican era. Pei Tiexia is a Chengdu resident during the late Qing and Republican era, born to a family of landowner bourgeois reactionary classes, and is a Fanchuan (Pan-Sichuan) school player. Many Sichuan-school players then also had roots in Yushan-school style (from Changshu, near Shanghai). Pei Tiexia was the prime example of such a player. His lineage was from Cheng Fu, the disciple of Zhang Ruishan. Why is it that we seldom see information about him? I only learned later on that during the 1950’s, he committed suicide after an abhorration. Why did he commit suicide? How did he do it? With the rumours urging for silence, I only knew after checking the records that he perished during the land-reform era.

In Autumn 2007, Sichuan qin maker He Mingwei visited Beijing, and I invited him for dinner. Mr. He talked about many things and anecdotes in the past about Pei Tiexia. Later, I received in the mail from Mr. He’s disciple Tang Qiao the facimile of Pei’s works Shayan Qinbian 《沙堰琴编》 manuscript and Qin Yu 《琴余》, dated 1946. I was read these works excited through the night, sight-reading through these once-forgotten scores, and reminiscing of the sounds of Shuanglei, the “Twin Lei qin owner”, with bittersweet thoughts.

The Pei household is on Tongren Road in Shaocheng District of Chengdu, and is a secluded compound in the city. Pei intended to be a qin teach all his life, hence a sign read outside the door: “This studio teaches the elegant music of the seven-strings.” Pei’s compound had two zhennan trees in the courtyard, hence his studio is called Shuang-nan Tang, or “Twin Zhennan Hall”. Also because Pei Tiexia and his wife Ms. Shen each had a Tang dynasty qin, one large and one small, made by the famous Lei clan, his home was also called Shuang-lei Zhai, or “Twin Lei Studio”. It was also because of the famed Twin-Lei story that led to one of the largest incidents in modern qin history. More


June 2012
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