Why Tradition Must Reform: The Jianzipu’s Challenges (Part 2 of 2)

The author (centre) teaching in Taichong.

The author (centre) teaching in Taichong.

Originally “Relationships Between the Physical Structure and the Score Form of Qin” (古琴的物理結構與譜式改革) by Huang Hong-Wen, PhD Candidate (Dept. of Chinese, National Taiwan Normal University), published in Yinyue Yanjiu Vol.18 (May 2013). Translated by permission of the author. Visit his blog at http://blog.xuite.net/zxy5000kimo/twblog.

This is the second half of the 7-part essay, with its accompanying footnotes converted to endnotes.

Translator’s short review: The debate of jianzipu, or “reduced character tablature,” grew heated since the repopularization of the art since UNESCO heritage recognition in 2003 and standardized examination since 2006. Since the 1990’s Chinese and Taiwanese qin scholars have attempted to “modernize” the tablature system, in use for over a millennia since Cao Rou’s invention in the mid-Tang dynasty (8th c. CE), but all have failed to establish a system as equally effective. This paper reveals some open secrets to the reasons why players prefer the traditional Chinese system rather than the Western-adapting systems, but most importantly identified the largest shortcoming of all contemporary systems to be their obsession with score-pitch correlation (a factor of ‘modernity’ they strive to import) but overlook timbre, or the nature that the qin’s consecutive tuning allows numerous variations to produce the same pitch. This paper provides a gateway for further criticism into narratives of Chinese ‘modernization’ methodology and how obsession with pursuing precision often misses its mark as it falls short in effectiveness in delivering critical contexts specifically required in the trade or attaining holistic command of the craft.


5. Comparing to other instruments

After explaining the guqin’s unique “one note multiple positions” relationship with jianzipu notation, some may still doubt, why do many other instruments abandon their original notation style and change to number or five-line notation, and only the guqin cannot? Actually, for the sake of guqin teaching and promotion, referencing the experience of other musical traditions is indeed a question worth thinking about; even if their experiences cannot be applied on the guqin, it can only show and reaffirm the value in jianzipu. In melodic instruments’ way of producing pitches, they can be generally classified as “one note, one position” and “one note, multiple positions” types. The former applies to the guzheng, xiao, dizi etc,. while the latter goes to guqin, pipa, zhongruan etc.. Taking the dizi and pipa as contrasting examples, let us look at what the guqin has special among these two types.

Taking the dizi example, its sound holes, including half-tones, can produce about ten positions. With a difference in breath tightness, the same sound hole can produce different octaves, so players do not require special memorization to change fingerings. All he has to do is remember the 10 fingering positions, and each position is simply adding or subtracting in order of pitch, so there is no perceivable difficulty in it. [21]

Compared to the dizi, the guqin has seven strings, and its effective length is long, and through the moving of the left hand pressing on the strings, it can produce over 10 pitches. With only melodic information from a pitch-based notation, or even a familiar folk tune, to the guqin player he would lack the positional information needed to play, and would have to first memorize the pitch of each position of every string to address the situation. By then, his is required to memorize at least 5 times the information that of a dizi player [22], and when each open string’s pitch difference is no greater than a major second (a whole note), the similarities in the similar pitches in different positions are all very close together, which gives the guqin learner additional pressure of easily confusing his memory on top of this five times of information. In contrast to the guqin, one note, one position instruments are simple and orderly in its pitch arrangement, hence its notational style easily correlates to pitch-based systems, and needs no further explanation.

Now in contrast to the pipa, note that the instrument has a certain degree of physical likeness to the guqin. The qin has seven strings and thirteen hui, while the pipa has four strings, six xiang and twenty-four pin frets. They both have a certain amount of “one pitch, multiple positions,” and can produce pitch sliding from the sliding of the left hand. Although they are structurally similar, their paths in notational reform are vastly different. Pipa’s notation format switched from jianzipu to gongche, five-line, or numerical notation as its main format, and the new formats do not provide complete positional information. However, the pipa has only seen continual growth and transmission, and its players have not complained about its notational changes, completely different from the guqin’s experience with its own jianzipu reforms. This can stand on as a topic of its own.

As previously mentioned, the guqin’s pressed positions are insequential and all over the place, with no relationships to speak of mnemonically. This is because the hui on the guqin’s surface is marked based on just intonation harmonics, while pressed notes are based on Pythagorean (sanfen sunyi) intonation. [23] Gu Meigeng noted:

The thirteen hui of a qin are created for harmonics. Harmonics are natural (natural scale), with absolute positions, … as for pressed note positions, as each string is different, … the hui harmonic markers are borrowed, and are divided down into fractions, and regardless of the distance between two hui, they are split into tenths, in order to record the positions that aren’t aligned to a hui. Only by pressed notes can one attain a sound wherever one pleases, and cannot be limited by the thirteen hui, so one must create another system to encapture the harmonious pitches in its position with precision and accuracy. Pressed note positions are completely based on the string length division, subtraction and addition, and can be calculated by sequential derivation or reverse derivation…”[24]

The qin’s hui are based on just intonation, so to the instrument, using harmonics is all but commonplace, and its usage frequency tops all other instruments. [25] As for pressed positions, they must be calculated through repeated Pythagorean processes, and must borrow upon the harmonic hui system to record these Pythagorean pressed pitches, dividing the space between two hui into ten equal parts for further accuracy. Some of these sounds coincide with a hui, while others fall in between. [26] Since the intervals among the seven strings are too close together, in addition to the pressed notes system borrowing the harmonic system to denote its positions, this is the reason why guqin pressed notes are chaotic in nature.

As for pipa, although there are only four strings, it has up to 30 frets. Its complexity should be no less than the guqin’s on first inspection, but that is not actually the case. [27] The interval between strings are further away on the four strings of the pipa [28], there are less pitch redundancies on different strings, and its distancing is a bit further to avoid confusion. The pitches produced on the pipa’s frets are chromatically arranged on an equal temperament scale, and are relatively orderly. So the pipa player could divide the left hand’s movement area into several positions, and the positions are the same for all four strings. The student only needs to remember the first tone in each position, and he can find the desired pitch by searching up or down the frets by the semitone. Therefore, pipa notation only needs to indicate a pitch, and annotate position or string number in certain cases, unlike the guqin’s need to provide such complete positional information, in order to satisfy the sight-reader’s needs.

One can find even clearer distinction from observing the development of notation for these two instruments. The Dunhuang Pipa Scores from the Tang period use twenty tablature symbols to denote pitch, and use symbols such as “口”, “火”, “丁” to denote rhythm, which is also seen in the Japanese Tenpyo Biwa Fu. This style of notation places the positional as the primary with rhythm as supplementary information. After Dunhuang Pipa Scores, later surviving texts such as the Gaohe Jiangdong manuscript from Ming Jiajing 7 (1528) and Hua Wenbin’s Huashi Pipa Pu from Qing Jiaqing 23 (1818), Li Zufen’s Lishi Pipa Xinpu from Qing Guangxu 21 (1895) use fingering tablature annotations beside gongche notation. Although the symbols are getting more and more refined, they have already converted to using the pitch-based gongche as their primary form, with fingering as supplementary format. [29] Originally, Tang pipas only have four strings and four frets. In addition to open strings, that brings to 20 sounds. Due to its simply structure, performers only need to remember twenty characters and their corresponding positions, which was relatively easy. [30] Later, as the number of frets on the pipa increased, the corresponding number of positions have also increased, far exceeding its original 20 characters – this amount far exceeds the normal human recall capacity. [31] But as the setting of the pipa’s frets are ordered chromatically or in equal temperament, players have little difficulty in finding a pitch following the count, so its notation can easily change to a pitch-based system. On the other hand, the guqin has stagnated since the conversion from text-based notation to the simplified text jianzipu, because the guqin’s form has stabilized since Han and Tang times. Pythagorean pitches need to borrow on just intonation markers to denote itself, and causes the scales to be seemingly chaotic and difficult to remember. Only by continuing use of positional notation can one continue the notation system’s function of memorandizing the music for teaching and performance purposes.

The pipa and guqin are similar in structure only on the surface. Although they both have a certain amount of tone redundancies, and also rely on the left hand’s moving to alter its pitch, but due to the differences in temperament use on their frets or markers, their pedagogical and hence notational methods diverged greatly, and we cannot simply use the one case to judge the other.

6. Shortcomings of jianzipu and methods for reform

Undoubtedly, despite having detailed information on fingering and positions, jianzipu has its shortcomings, in whereas most pro-notation reform scholars have already criticized: its lack of pitch and rhythmic signage. [32] Even for guqin veterans, it is difficult for them to see the melody of a qin piece just from looking at a jianzipu score, let alone those still mastering the instrument. In the past, the guqin was taught using a master-disciple relationship, and jianzipu can satisfy them as a memorandum for that mode of teaching; but situated in modern society, we can no longer limit ourselves to private appreciation of an elite, but to converse with the times in an interactive manner. Hence, our demands for guqin notation will change, especially on the issue of its lack of rhythm markings.

In the discussion on how to solve this deficiency, we must debunk a paradox in the field: Some people interpret this flaw of lacking rhythmic information as a strength of jianzipu, and laud it as a form of artistic expression. Yi Chuanguo said:

(Jianzipu) has no inherent demarcations of speed, strength, or rhythmic information. In this way, guqin scores is its shortcoming and at the same time its strength. This is something other notation systems can only gaze up in awe, as guqin’s yunwei (‘resonant taste’) and yijing (‘levels of spiritual realms’) is from here. This is where you must da [interpret] the pu [score]’s taste. Through dapu and sensing with your heart, you call out the music from the notation’s semiotic stasis, and beckon it with the touch of the fingertips, transforming it to a melody with its own vitality, and display it using the modern and universal “numerical notation” or “five-line notation.”

As different dapu‘ers have different levels of yijing, each transmission and performance will have his own style. This is undoubtedly a rich form of artistic execution and hence a strength. But, from its transmutation to a modern score format, it invisibly strips away this allure of recreativity from the art. [33]

If we follow by Yi’s explanation that the lack of rhythmic signage can create “guqin music’s yunwei and yijing, then wouldn’t the past annotations of adding rhythm dots or banyan, or current matchings with numerical and five-line scores to explicate rhythm a suffocation of that very ‘taste and spirit’? Aside from rhythmic markers, why not then remove all the emotion annotations to leave an even bigger room for qin players to interpret? [34] A more serious question we have to face is, should the people engaged in dapu work to resurrect long unplayed pieces record their works? If we are to record the melodic rhythm, then we would be “invisibly stripping the allure of the art’s recreativity,” but if we don’t record it, then the results of this work would easily be lost to the sands of time, and if subsequent generations are to understand this piece, they would have to do this process all over again, hence creating the tragedy of repetitive work.

Jianzipu is the result of the master-disciple methodology. Once the transmission of a piece is broken, later people would have to go through dapu interpretation of the rhythm-less score to attempt restoration of its original appearance. Dapu is a strenuous process, as qin people may still toil for nought after “three months with a small piece, three years with a large score.” Even if they can play out the whole piece with a surviving score, they may still not be completely re-encapturing the style as it was originally conceived by the ancients. As for those unprocessed pieces, they can only be buried away in old books, forgotten and perhaps forever lost to the world. The peaks of art as achieved by the ancients, intended to be transmitted for posterity may all just vanish. The only reason why jianzipu will bring such calamity and regret is because the score has no clear rhythm record. We must recognize this truth, in order to find an effective solution. Unfortunately, there are still some who are still insinuated in the “all things old must be good” delusion, and believe that jianzipu was the intentional non-doing of the ancients, not that they were incapable of it. Cheng Gongliang stated,

“As the missing element from making a qin piece complete, that is what qin tradition gave to its players – ‘freedom’ and ‘power,’ as in allowing qin players to work their effect under the hints and limitations of these scores their comprehension and creativity, to express fully the aesthetic fancies and artistic style, and attempt to restore the music from the player’s own ego, reveal its inner spiritual innuendo, and reveal the beauty from its composer… not that we couldn’t think of ideas to change, but a belief that there is no need for so. [35]

The context of dapu work is that the jianzipu score had no rhythmic information, and the primary content of this project is to experiment strenuously and repeatedly to recover it. Rather than saying that traditional guqin music gave players power and freedom, to express the composer’s intended beauty [36], it’s better off to say that this is a puzzle left by the ancients for future generations, forcing qin players to dapu out of a lack of other options, and hence allowing qin players to express his aesthetic and artistic sense. A flaw is a flaw, and in the face of a flaw, we should find a way to solve it, and not whitewash the lack of rhythmic information as a grace towards qin players’ self-expression. We can admit that jianzipu‘s inherent flaw created the diversity of regional schools and individuals, but cannot accept the notion “taking this deficiency as a strength of guqin culture, as a grace from traditional art to the players.” [37]

Then, how do we go about remedying this deficiency in jianzipu? Let us take a look at the changes in guqin scores, and clues within them may have some inspiration towards this problem.

Using surviving jianzipu texts as basis, we can still see that a small portion has denoted a clearer sense of rhythm, such as the early Huiyan Mizhi (1647), which includes the dot as rhythm markers on the right side of the jianzi character. Chengjiantang Qinpu (1718) and Wuzhizhai Qinpu (1742) use thick black lines to require players to play the selected sections hurriedly, and Zhifa Huican Quejie (1821) includes gongche notation, whose practice is carried on to Zhang Jutian Qinpu (1845). Qinxue Rumen (1864), and Qinxue Congshu continues this tradition, and added banyan (‘planks and eyes’) rhythm markers beside gongche notation annotating the jianzi. In modern guqin scores, Guqin Quji,  Qinxue Beiyao, and Qiulaiju Qinhua converted gongche notation to numerical notation, while Yushan Wushi Qinpu used the five-line staff. These styles all maintained the primary status of positional notation, while also making it easier for the qin to communicate with the outside musical world.

In the past, guqin scores used dots or gongche with banyan to cover for the rhythmic deficiency in jianzipu, while modern scores used five-line staff or numerical notation coinciding with the tablature. Lin Youren notes:

But no matter what style of improvement, no form is prevalently accepted in the field. Right now the five-line staff or numerical with jianzi fingerings is the relatively more accepted form. The reasons behind it, asides from it being difficult to change the habits of qin players, is that the new score also involves reform of pedagogies (i.e. qin players must be familiar with the pitches on any string). This is not something most people can handle in a few days, not to mention that once the five-line staff is used to record traditional pieces, it’ll lose some fundamental spirits in the pieces. The jianzipu with numerical or five-line cross-referencing format precisely eludes these shortcomings, hence qin players and other musicians have accepted it. The Guqinqu Huibian and Guqin Quji volumes 1 and 2 have used this method. Using this hybrid system allows each system to complete the other: It has the universality as needed by modern musicians, while not losing the spirit of the ancient music. [38]

Lin’s reflections in some places directly hit on the negative aspects of pitch-based written notation, but some parts need further explanation. The primary shortcoming of using the five-line staff or numerical notation as the guqin’s primary form of notation is in “qin players must be familiar with all pitch positions on any given string,” and this alone is enough to discourage most from learning the instrument, as stated above; but what Lin did not mention, was that the guqin’s physical structure leading to the chaos and confusion, leading to its unique pedagogy. Those who do not understand this would simply relegate qin players’ dependence on jianzipu as simply “unwilling to change.” However, Lin’s suggestion of using hybrid scores concurs with the standpoint of this essay completely. This is exactly what qin players have for centuries done with rhythm “dots”, “underlines,” and gongche notation, in order to fill in the missing information from jianzipu. Using the two scores running parallel can fulfill the qin’s unique style of learning, while allowing intercourse with other musical practices in letting them understand the melody, hence retaining the strengths of the two. This solves even the lack of melodic and pitch information as noted in the preface of this essay. The only shortfall in the hybrid score system is in its work volume; however, as complicated as it sounds, there isn’t much difficulty in this.

After confirming the benefits and plausibility of the parallel hybrid score, should we take numerical staff or five-line staff? Wu Wenguang said:

Since the guqin’s range is wide, and the guqin’s interlaced use of open, pressed, and harmonic sounds determined that its pieces would be irregular and highly erratic, which limits to a certain degree gongche notation’s ability to reflect actual pitch. Later, although numerical notation has overtaken gongche notation in terms of popularity and function, its weakness on the qin is essentially the same as its former candidate. The five-line staff and jianzipu together undoubtedly solves most problems regarding descriptions of pitch. [39]

Directly denoting absolute pitch is indeed a forte in five-line staff, but Cheng Gongliang said,

Guqin pieces can interweave open, pressed, and harmonic sounds in even a very short piece of melody, and these different timbred melodies can often be situated in different pitch ranges. When using the five-line staff, a melody can often be placed an octave, sometimes two or even three octaves apart. This brings reading the score considerable difficulties. Meanwhile, numerical notation only requires adding dots above or below a certain note, which makes the melodic line very evident, while making reading much more convenient than the five-line staff. [40]

Since the guqin’s range is broad, if one is to denote absolute pitch, one must expand the ledger space, or use high/low pitch markers, which creates inconvenience. Also, absolute pitch is only used in professional ensemble or orchestral applications, which is unnecessary to most qin players. Cheng also said,

The five-line staff and numerical notation belongs to the same system of written music, and was passed from Europe to China. To modern Chinese people, the jian (simple) in jianpu (simplified score) is only in contrast to the five-line staff, so the contrast between five-line staff and jianzipu, versus numerical staff and jianzipu are no different in the principle of recording music. My choice to use numerical and jianzipu as the standard, aside from personal habits, is also in consideration of the reality that most other qin players do not use the five-line staff. [41]

In contrast to the professionalism in the five-line staff, numerical notation with jianzipu has an advantage coming from the pedagogical, promotional, and proliferation perspective, and this is why most Chinese written music use it. In addition, as many guqin players in dapu interpretation are not institutionally trained, numerical notation is useful in execution and expansion of the enterprise. If we do not wish the guqin to be limited in the institutional contexts in teaching and research, numerical notation with jianzipu is indeed the best format, but this is not an absolute assertion this essay attempts to make. As long as we can take the strengths of recording the melody and the qin tablature and positions, no matter whether five-line staff and jianzipu, or numerical notation and jianzipu, the author wholeheartedly supports it. This essay merely brings out a corner of the issue borrowing from Wu Wenguang and Cheng Gongliang’s views. From here on is up for the reader to decide, and lies beyond the scope of our thesis.

7. Conclusion

The reform camp’s suggestion of “five-line staff guqin tablature” not only set an entry restriction for the typical guqin amateur who do not read music off the five-line staff, but also overlook the unique physical structure of the guqin, forcing them to memorize large amounts of unrelated tonal positions, contradicting human memory-recall patterns, and carelessly merged or omitted certain guqin fingering symbols which weakened expression of guqin as an art, hence is unsuitable as a form of written guqin music. The “five line staff tablature” has already been in use for long, but its use in the qin world is not widespread, and this speaks for its inherent and hidden unreasonable factors.

Since the guqin’s seven strings are close in tonal interval, added to the fact that sanfen sunyi or Pythagorean-generated pressed notes must borrow from just intonation-based visual markers to denote themselves, causes a chaotic phenomenon where “one note has multiple positions.” This causes qin players to depend on jianzipu to provide hui, fen (marker and decimal), string number and other information in order to successfully teach and learn the instrument. The physical structure of the instrument decides its method, which then decides its written score form. The relationship between the guqin and jianzipu evolved from this very principle. When other instruments flocked towards five-line staff or numerical notation reform, guqin players held fast to jianzipu‘s reduced characters, because in actuality this physical structure is unique to the instrument, and hence foil the irreplaceability of jianzipu’s role in its pedagogy and performance. Furthermore, although the pipa is also a “one note, multiple positions” instrument, its use of equal temperament to arrange its pin and xiang frets mean that although it is similar to the guqin on the surface, it differed in actuality, and hence cannot be compared.

As for the shortcomings of jianzipu of lacking rhythmic markers, its best solution is to adopt five-line staff or numerical notation running synonymously to the jianzipu tablature as a hybrid score. This not only protects the function of jianzipu as a powerful teaching tool, but also helps guqin scores solidify its music, and satisfy modern demands of communicating with the outside world of musical creation.


Endnotes (Converted from footnotes):

[21] Utilizing the tightness of breath, one can also produce harmonics, but as it is rarely used in performance, I did not include it in my count.

[22] The first and sixth, and second and seventh strings of the qin are octaval relationships, hence their pressed positions are the same. Minus the redundancy on these two, there are five separate strings with positions to remember.

[23] In the din of guqin tablature reform, only Wang Hongmei noted the phenomenon of the qin’s pitch arrangement as a chaotic one. He said, “Compared to other instruments the guqin’s pitch is not singular, but rather “one pitch many positions.” Taking the same position for pressed and harmonics, it is again “one position many pitches.” Also, as there is no clear order in its arrangement, hence it cannot be listed as 1234567 on numerical notation, nor be cleanly presented in lines and spaces similar to a five-line staff, as it must clearly notate hui and string positions, in addition to technique, in order to obtain a substantial melodic sound.” See Wang Hongmei, “Guqin weishenme yao yong jianzipu [Why the guqin must use jianzipu],” Jiaoxiang – Xi’an Conservatory of Music Journal No.2 (1999). p.23. Actually, the deeper reason as to why guqin is unsuited to numerical or five-line notation is in that the guqin’s insequential ordering makes it hard for people to memorize, and this is caused by the hui markers measured from just intonation. Otherwise, why would instruments like the ruan and pipa that also share the one pitch, multiple positions phenomenon be able to re-express themselves in numerical or five-line notation but not the guqin? Wang has only described the symptoms but not the cause, and this easily attracts the rebuttal of pro-reformists.

[24] Gu Meigeng. Qinxue Beiyao. Shanghai: Shanghai Yinyue Chubanshe, 2004. Vol. 2, p.803, 812.

[25] Gong Yi states, “The guqin has up to 119 harmonics, and is often in use, and is the penultimate of all instruments.” See Gong Yi. Guqin Yanzoufa. Shanghai: Shanghai Education Press, 1999. p.12.

[26] The qin already has harmonic markers, and cannot add pressed note markers, otherwise the whole instrument would be littered with them and otherwise be rendered useless. Therefore one can only use harmonic markers to denote pressed note positions. This is a feature of the guqin’s form.

[27] Although only the pipa discussed here, all plucked string instruments with similar fret structures, such as the ruan, guitar, ukelele and others, all fit in the same theory.

[28] The interval from qian (IV) string to lao (III) string is a perfect fourth.

[29] For the above pipa score information, see Xue Zongming. Zhongguo Yinyueshi Yuepu Bian. Taipei: Taiwan Commercial Press, 1999. pp.165-181. This essay has made abridgements.

[30] If the guqin is to record like such, it would require at least 49 unique characters according to the above statistics, which is beyond the typical recollection abilities of most people.

[31] “According to existing data, before Tang Qianning 4 (898) at the latest, the bent-neck pipa was already starting to use pin frets, aside from having four zhu (string posts). The use of pin allowed the instrument to greatly expand in range.” “Song pipas already had more pin, and its range was rather wide.” See Wu Zhao, Liu Dongsheng eds., Zhongguo Yinyueshi Lue. Beijing: People’s Music Publishing House, 1997. p.118, 184. Also, Xue Zongming has a further detailed account: “The pipa’s pin number increased along with the times. Nanguan pipas had 4 xiang and 9 pin, Qing pipas 4 xiang and 10 or 12 pin, early Republican pipas 4 xiang and 12 or 13 pin, which evolved to 6 xiang and 18 pin in ROC 26 [1937], and later 6 xiang and 18 pin, 5 xiang and 25 pin, 6 xiang and 28 pin varieties. Half-tones were arranged in equal temperament, and can perform pieces with high technical requirements and various harmonic chords.” See Xue Zongming. Zhongguo Yinyueshi Qi Bian. Taipei: Taiwan Commercial Press, 1983. Vol. 2, pp.746-747.

[32] Wu Wenguang said, “Although jianzipu has its inherently important structural meaning in the field of qin studies, or retain the semi-openness of the dapu process as a medium to qin music, but its ability to describe actual details of each style and transmission is very weak, almost to the extent of not being able to affix individual performance in a temporal sense.” See Wu Jinglue and Wu Wenguang. “Zixu (self-preface),” Yushan Wushi Qinpu. Beijing: Dongfang Chubanshe. 2001. pp.3-4. Regarding qin score reform, Wu approves using five-line staff running synonymously to jianzipu, unlike Gong Yi’s method. However, we can see that he clearly noted jianzipu‘s lack of rhythmic markings, and hence can still be classified as a pro-reform opinion.

[33] Yi Chuanguo. Zhongguo Guqin Yishu. Beijing: People’s Music Publishing House, 2003. pp.148-149.

[34] Taking “whether jianzipu displays rhythm or not” and “personal performing style” into one discussion may be premature. First, there are many factors influencing personal style. On the surface, aside from different tempos, timbre, volume, to the variations of vibratos and other technique all affect the piece’s style. On a deeper level, this is based on the performer’s aesthetic taste and cultural refinement. Second, the rhythmic information in the score helps the player understand the style or emotion of the piece, but it does not mean it constricts the player’s performance. The player has no need to completely follow performance as recorded on paper, and can still have his own space for interpretation. Hence, by saying the flaw of jianzipu having no rhythmic markings as a strength by empowering performers with an individual space for expression, not only overlooks the inherent function of guqin notation, but also treats the matter of personal style too lightly.

[35] See Cheng Gongliang. Qiulaiju Qinhua. Beijing: Sanlian Shudian, 2009. p.73.

[36] Since jianzipu does not record rhythm, when several dapu interpreters play from the same score, it tends to be each having his own say. As for whose work is closer to the original, or to what extent it can and should be congruous to it is untestifyable, let alone Cheng’s claim “can express the composer’s intended sense of beauty.”

[37] Whether jianzipu‘s lack of rhythm should be perceived as positive or negative is hotly discussed by scholars. Qin Xu has a holistic conclusion and criticism, see Qin Xu. “Qin yue ‘huofa’ ji pushi youshi zhi wojian,” Zhongguo Yinyuexue No.4 (1995) p.59. Qin believes, “Qin scores’ lack of rhythm is not a taboo subject. It is often an insurmountable blockade when we attempt to restore the music through the dapu process. If this anomaly is a strength, then even if we are to believe this bias, it is still a one-sided belief.” Qin’s statement has already been published for over a decade, but still many qin players hole up and refuse to face this deficiency, and even praise its exploits. This essay completely abides by Qin Xu’s standpoint, and continuing from such, suggest for an effective solution.

[38] Lin Youren. “Ershi shiji dongxifang wenhua chongtu yu jiaorong zhong de Zhongguo guqin yishu (The Art of Chinese guqin in 20th century East-West cultural conflict and intercourse),” Qinxue Liushinian Lunwenji. Beijing: Wenhua Yishu Chubanshe, 2011. Vol.1, p.347.

[39] Wu Jinglue and Wu Wenguang. “Zixu (Self Preface)” Yushan Wushi Qinpu. Beijing: Dongfang Chubanshe, 2001. p.4.

[40] Cheng Gongliang. Qiulaiju Qinhua. Beijing: Sanlian Shudian, 2009. p.120.

[41] Ibid., p.119.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. killerwishjin
    Aug 29, 2014 @ 23:19:39



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May 2014
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