Zhao Jiazhen: Masterpieces of the Chinese Qin from the Tang Dynasty to Today
古韵缤纷 亦动亦静 亦真亦幻
"I have said before that playing the qin for others to hear is hardly worth speaking about. Playing it at small gatherings of the like-minded only provides for discussion and conferral, and is likewise not worth speaking about. Playing while I alone listen is almost worth speaking about, but it is not equal to playing without listening."
- Zhang Ziqian 張子謙 (1899-1991)
The Dao of Qin
The Qin exists in a realm beyond time. Its limpid tones echo through the centuries. Even its origins shrouded in a mythical past, claiming both Fuxi, (the progenitor of all living things) and Huang Di, the “Yellow Emperor” as its creators. In truth, the actual origins remain a matter of controversy, though archeologists have found similar instruments in Central Asia what is present- day Mongolia.
Descriptions of the Qin and its performance in China date back as more than 3000 years and examples more than 1500 years old have been found in playable condition. One such instrument, a Tang Dynasty Qin, can be heard on this recording. The oldest musical notation written for a specific musical instrument ever found was the piece "Solitary Orchid" (幽蘭), dating from before 903 AD was composed for the Qin.
The Qin is a type of zither, constructed from two pieces of wood; the bottom piece is flat and the top piece is convex. While modern Qin have considerable variety in shape and form, traditional Qin construction was deeply influenced by mystical and symbolic correspondences. For instance, the instrument’s length (in Chinese measurements) was said to represent the number of days in the year. The original Qin had only five strings (two strings were added at later dates by various Qin masters), representing the Five Chinese Elements: Wood (木) – mu, Fire (火)- huo, Earth (土) – tu, Metal (金)- jin, and Water (水) – shui.
The Qin’s simple construction and intimate tonal qualities were not only a canvas for musical expression but became a medium for spiritual growth, or as Robert van Gulik wrote in his essential study of the cult and culture of the Qin, The Lore of the Chinese Lute “…it is the only instrument the playing of which has been considered from ancient times as a means of reaching enlightenment.”
As early as the Tang Dynasty, playing the Qin had established itself as one of the “Four Gentlemanly Skills” (四藝) – or siyi, and was included along with chess, (or Go), calligraphy, and painting as suitable leisure pursuits for a scholar. The great sage himself, Confucius (551-479 BC) was reputed to be an exceptionally gifted Qin player. From accounts that have come down to us, it appears that Confucius not only saw the Qin as a musical instrument but as a mirror to the soul, a means of attaining spiritual enlightenment and a model of good governance and a harmonious society.
The Qin reached the zenith of its popularity during the Ming Dynasty, as is evidenced by the large number of surviving Qinpu (琴譜) (Qin Handbooks) published. In addition to containing performance instructions and the music tablature, these “handbooks” contained voluminous essays on a wide range of subjects, including speculative philosophy, metaphysics and aesthetics as well as the biographies of the attributed composers and transcriptions of the song’s original lyrics. Interest in the Qin declined as social and political issues increasingly engaged the attention of Chinese intellectuals. By the end of the Qing Dynasty, practice of the Qin was limited to a few masters in southern China. As with many of China’s traditional arts, the 20th century was a turbulent time for the Qin, but beginning in the 1950s, thanks to the efforts of scholars such as Guan Pinghu, the Qin has regained its status as China’s musical “Philosopher-King.”
The Qin provides a key for understanding the aesthetics that lay behind all Chinese art. The poetic and fanciful titles attached to these musical compositions should never be mistaken for mere “program music.” These titles, often inspired by classical poems, song lyrics and paintings, become meaningful guideposts to provide insight to the interior emotional, intellectual and spiritual state to be sought by the performer, as he discovers the “essence” of the music he is performing. For instance, the curiously titled piece Regarding Seagulls Without Ulterior Motives was inspired by a story from the Han dynasty, telling of a young man who went to the seaside every morning where he was greeted by hundreds of birds. When his father heard of this he asked his son to bring catch some and bring them home. However, the next time the boy went to the seashore the birds hovered about but would not come down to him. The object of the music (and the parable…) was to focus the player’s attention on the calm detachment of the young man and his interior emotional state, rather than to become a tone poem with naturalistic passages imitating the cries of the gulls or the lapping of the waves upon the shore.
If the sound of the Qin seems “otherworldly”, its music may one day even claim extraterrestrial devotees – for in 1977, a recording of "Flowing Water" - 流水 - (as performed by Guan Pinghu) was included as one of the musical selections on the Voyager Golden Record, which was sent into outer space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts.
Presently, the Qin enjoys a passionate following around the world, with numerous large Qin Societies in America, the UK and Europe and in 2003, Guqin music was proclaimed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Our very special program features performances on actual ancient instruments (including a priceless Tang Dynasty Qin – dating from the 7th century) and draws from a repertoire of more than 1400 years of music from five of China’s Imperial dynasties in addition to a contemporary composition. The subtle difference in tone quality, resonance and timber of each instrument provides an exceptional encounter with one of China’s most ancient, refined and subtle musical traditions as interpreted by one of the instrument’s greatest living masters.
For Further Reading:
John Thompson on the Guqin Silk String Zither
Thompson’s website is an invaluable resource on ALL things Qin-related. Exhaustively annotated, thousands of illustrations and reproductions of ancient art and manuscripts make this a first stop on encountering the Qin.
Stephen C. Walker on the Guqin Zither
If John Thompson’s focuses on the documentary and theoretical aspects of the Qin, Walker’s elegant site reveals the heart of a true devotee; a musician who has encountered and embraced the Qin as a means of spiritual enlightenment.
R.H. van Gulik (髙羅佩): The Lore of the Chinese Lute: An Essay on the Ideology of the Ch'in Originally published 1941 by the Dutch diplomat, sinologist and author of the still-popular “Judge Dee” mysteries, The Lore of the Chinese Lute has yet to be surpassed for its comprehensive history of the Chinese Qin. Currently Out-of-Print, a new edition has been announced by the Orchid Press.
1. Guangling Melody
Guangling Melody is another ancient composition and has appeared in lists of qin melodies as early as the Han dynasty. Traditionally attributed to Ji Kang (223 - 262),
a famous essayist and poet living in the Wei dynasty capital of Loyang, where he was one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, Guangling Melody describes a gruesome tale of revenge against a violent and capricious king. The music conveys the agitated atmosphere with a variety of rhythms, microtonal pitch-bends, harmonics, violent glissandi and scraping on the strings (all of which are clearly notated in the written score).
The history of the piece seems to suggest that it was highly regarded but rarely played, the violent subject matter deemed inappropriate to the nature of the introspective Qin. The piece was largely forgotten by the beginning of the Qing Dynasty and was only revived later by the famous qin player Guan Pinghu in the 1950s.
2. Moon over the Mountain Pass
The name of this piece comes from a poem by Li Bai (Li Po). The music describes the feelings of conscripts going to fight in the border regions in Northern China, many of whom would never return. Although this piece is over 200 years old, it is considered a comparatively new work in the guqin repertory! The opening music does convey the stately moonlit scene, but soon changes to focus on the feelings of homesickness and unease at their perilous position as the melody rises and falls. A version for solo Qin appears in track 13.
3. Beating Clothes
"Beating Clothes" refers to the traditional method of doing laundry in rural areas.
The lyrics of the original song tell of a woman whose husband is a soldier on the frontier. One of the most famous versions of this song was first published during the Ming Dynasty, but other versions discovered later date the tune as far back as the Tang Dynasty. In this lively piece, the Qin is joined by the bright sounding Di (笛) in a lilting rhythm that is at once confident and a little cheeky.
4. Solitary Orchid
This melody is the world's oldest surviving written piece of music. Ancient qinpu suggest that it dates from at least the 6th century. The manuscript copy as preserved in Japan is written on a scroll over 4 meters long with the tablature written out in longhand and has been authenticated as dating from at least the 7th century.
It is no surprise that a work of such antiquity has inspired a number of legendary attributions, including Confucius. The most likely composer/lyricist for "Solitary Orchid" is Bao Zhao (414-466), an outstanding poet during the Northern and Southern dynasties. Throughout his life Bao Zhao suffered at the hands of wealthy, aristocrat families. His works are filled with grievances about unfulfilled dreams and moody thoughts resenting his lot in life and are filled with poetic phrases as, "Not knowing when flowers will stop falling, sitting in empty sadness confronting errors."
A mood of unease and discontent is immediately established from the piece's angular opening and odd intonation. Unusual scale formations, buzzing vibrato and microtonal slides give this ancient monologue a strikingly "avant-garde" sound. An unsettled passage in harmonics gives way to a coda that includes short repeated phrases, chords in close intervals and irregular rhythms.
5. Peaceful Evening Prelude
Peaceful Evening Prelude is another very popular melody, occurring in over 30 qinpu and still in the active repertoire. The piece was said to be composed by He Ruobi (543-607), a Sui Dynasty Qin player and was first published during the Ming Dynasty in 1614. The stately melody appears in octaves between the Xiao and the Qin and is clear, gentle, light and lofty - a perfect evocation of a quiet evening spent in a scholar's garden.
6. Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers
Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers was composed by the famous Song dynasty Qin player Guo Chuwang. The piece describes the composer's journey to this beautiful region and his conflicted feelings while seeing both the natural beauty of the landscape and his anguish at the destruction wrought by invading armies along the way.
Guo Chuwang was reputed to have utilized exquisite finger technique in his compositions, and this piece features a dazzlingly array of techniques and playing styles - glissandi, harmonics, pitch-bending, even knocking on the body of the instrument and rubbing the strings in order to produce a "breathy" rasping sound. Together with the forlorn melody, these "non-musical" sounds create a vivid interplay of sunlight and shadow and profound introspection.
7. Regarding Seagulls without Ulterior Motives
As mentioned in the Introduction, despite this work's curious title, the music's true meaning has little to do with inter-species relationships. The reputed composer of Without Ulterior Motives was Liu Zhifang who was a student of Guo Chuwang. In the current arrangement, the qin is joined by another unusual Chinese musical instrument, the Xun (埙) - or ocarina. The eerie, hallow sound of the Xun perfectly compliments the rich resonance of the Qin, providing a transparent accent to the elegant and complex
finger work required to perform this piece.
8. Deep Night
The melody for "Deep Night" originated in the Kunqu opera "Beating a Drum to Curse Cao." Until recent times, the Qin has never been utilized as an instrument in the traditional opera orchestra, though one might occasionally appear as a stage prop.
In this innovative arrangement, the resonant baritone of Zhou's qin adds poignancy to the tragic moonlit scene. Beginning with an ominous tatoo on the Dagu (Great Drum),
the Qin enters with defiant resolve. The nobility of this curious duet achieves a heroic attitude that is both unique and unexpected from the refined elegance usually associated with the "scholar's lyre."
9. Dialogue between a Fisherman and Woodcutter
Dialogue between a Fisherman and Woodcutter is another classic of the Qin repertoire dating from the Ming Dynasty. The melody has appeared in at least 40 qinpu and possibly originated in great antiquity, undergoing many transformations over the centuries.
Dialogues between fishermen and woodcutters are a recurring theme in Chinese art and poetry and date back as far as the Tang Dynasty. These popular dialogues came to represent the purity of mind that an individual could attaint through living in harmony with nature and the benefits of direct, unaffected speech.
The melody is structured as a series of elegant questions, each sentence ending with a slight, upward bending pitch. The music gradually accelerates and the sense of a dialogue is further suggested by small internal repetitions of musical phrases and motifs. The piece ends with a return to the serene questioning of the opening phrases, bringing the music to a quiet resolution.
10. Three Variations on the Plum Blossom Theme
Three Variations on the Plum Blossom Theme is one of the earliest and most famous pieces of ancient Chinese music and traces its origins as early as the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). The piece first appeared in a version for the Di but was later arranged for the Qin, appearing in during the Ming Dynasty in a version for the Qin.
The title "variations" is a little misleading, for this piece does not exhibit the systematic, patterns of variation found in western music; rather it is composed of a number of different melodies, consisting of various related musical phrases. Contrasting tempos and varieties of tone color create a continuous atmosphere of tension and release, which alternately represent the plum blossom's pure and noble nature and its fearlessness in the face of the waning winter.
In ancient Chinese thought, the plum blossom came to symbolize strength and longevity as well as creative power, fertility and female beauty. Paintings often show the scholar and his Qin near one or more plum trees, or a vase with plum blossoms on his Qin table.
11. Flowing Streams
The music for Flowing Streams is more than 700 years old, and is perhaps the most famous ancient Chinese classical composition. The story behind the piece concerns the scholar Yu Boya and his friend the woodcutter Zhong Ziqi. The music played by Yu Boya on his qin was said to come directly from nature but no one understood his songs. One day while playing his Qin, Boya saw that the woodcutter Zhong Ziqi was listening. Whereas even the literati could not understand Boya's music, the simple woodcutter Ziqi heard all the forces of nature in his friend's music. As a result of this mutual appreciation they became close friends. When Zhong Ziqi died,Yu Boya destroyed his guqin and vowed never to play again, because he felt nobody else could understand his music. This story also was the inspiration for the Chinese expression zhi yin (知音) – "knowing the sound", which means a very close friend or confidant.
Beginning with stately octaves, the melody first appears in a hushed passage in harmonics. The music gradually accelerates, reaching its climax in an exciting passage of gliassandi and rapid strumming on all of the instrument's strings. Following this virtuoso display, the dignified calm of the opening melody returns and the piece as the piece reaches its tender conclusion.
12. Three refrains on the Yangguan Pass
Three refrains on the Yangguan Pass dates from the Tang Dynasty. The original poem
describes the sadness experienced by two friends at parting. Yangguan (the Yang Gate), is a mountain pass just southwest of Dunhuang, located on what was in ancient times China's westernmost border, and was often the last stop before entering the "barbarian" lands of Central Asia. The current arrangement includes the melancholy sound of a rare Chinese instrument, the Gongdi (弓笛) or "Bow Flute" - a long, curved wooden flute with a dragon's head carved into the end cap.
13. Moon over the Mountain Pass
In this version for solo Qin, the listener can focus entirely on distinctive sounds of the many different styles of articulation and touch that a master performer is capable of producing.
Li Bai's original poem reads as follows:
A bright moon rising above Tian Shan Mountain,
Lost in a vast ocean of clouds.
The long wind, across thousands upon thousands of miles,
Blows past the Jade-gate Pass.
The army of Han has gone down the Baiteng Road,
As the barbarian hordes probe at Qinghai Bay.
It is known that from the battlefield
Few ever live to return.
Men at Garrison look on the border scene,
Home thoughts deepen sorrow on their faces.
In the towered chambers tonight,
Ceaseless are the women's sighs.
今琴/手鼓 曲：许国华 龚一
14. Spring Breeze
Beginning in the 1950s, the Qin experienced a revival, both as an instrument for scholarly investigation and as the inspiration for new musical compositions. Spring Breeze for qin and percussion was composed by Xu Guohua in 1982 for performance by the Qin master, Gong Yi. Following a short, unmeasured prelude in harmonics, the drum joins in and an exotic dance begins. Rippling glissandi, rapid repeated notes and a middle eastern-sounding melody reveal the Qin at its most extrovert.
Instruments used on this recording
Tang Dynasty Qin------Made ca. 700 AD. “A National Cultural Treasure”
(Shi Kuang style)
From the rare and antique instrument collection of the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing
Song Dynasty Qin
(Zhongni - Confucius' style)
From the rare and antique instrument collection of the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing
Yuan Dynasty Qin
(Zhongni - Confucius' style)
Ming Dynasty Qin
(Zhongni - Confucius' style)
Qing Dynasty Qin
(Copy of Ling Ji-style by Wan Hesong
(Jiaoye - Confucius' style)
Zhao Jiazhen (Qin)
Zhao Jiazhen is professor of Guqin in the Folk Music Department of the Central Conservatory of China. In 1980 she enrolled at the Guqin Folk Music Department of the Central Conservatory of China as a student, graduating in 1984. Following her graduation she has been an instructor there. Ms. Zhao is a member of the Musicians Association of China, Director of the Beijing Guqin Research Association, a member of the Chinese Folk and String Music Society, Director of the Chinese Qin Committee of the Folk and String Music Society and a member of the Guqin Experts Committee of the Folk and String Music Society. She also served as adjudicator of the “National Youth Folk Music Instruments Competition” in 2002.
Zhao has toured the US, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Japan,Hong Kong and has appeared as soloist with many orchestras, including the Chinese Symphony Orchestra, the Movie Orchestra of China, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, the Brussels Symphony Orchestra of Belgium, and the National Orchestra of Taipei City.
In 2001 and 2002 Ms. Zhao performed in the “World Renowned Musicians and Instruments Concert” at Zhongshan Hall in the Forbidden City in Beijing. The concert featured three priceless Tang Dynasty guqins and five Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari violins worth more than $200 million. The concert became legendary in musical circles throughout China.
Zhao Jiazhen is much in demand as a session musician for film and television soundtracks, including the music for the mini-series “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, “Dream of the Red Chamber” and “Fire on Yuanming Yuan ”. Ms. Zhao has recorded or appeared on numerous internationally available CDs, including “Masters Of Traditional Chinese Music” and “Ancient Melody of Poem” .
In October 2009 Ms. Zhao will appear in concert with Pipa virtuoso Wu Man at Carnegie Hall in New York, as part of their Musical Journeys Through China Series.
About the Sound Engineer:
Li Xiaopei, graduated from the recording department of Beijing Movie College, is the chief sound engineer of CCTV. For many times he works as the chief designer of sound effect and sound engineer for the Spring Party of CCTV and other programs of scale, as commentator of several key music events in China and as sound engineer for many movies and TV series. His best-known works include movies such as Steal Happiness (mei shi’er tou zhe le), Not One Less (yi ge dou bu neng shao) etc. He also won Award in Best Recording in Star Awards and Best Recording of China Music TV. Winner of the One Hundred TV Artists, Li has made the largest number of hot records in China. His works are welcomed by numerous music fans, such as Ye Lai Xiang, Xiang Yan, The First Drum of China, Rhythmize Heartstrings , Dream of An Opera and so on. Some were even selected by oversea brands to test hi-fi equipment. Li is the only sound engineer from China who took a position in TAS chart.
音乐制作人, 美国格莱美协会会员 , 创立中国声誉卓著的音乐品牌“瑞鸣音乐”，并任制作人，中国金唱片奖最佳音乐人特别奖获得者。从事音乐创作、制作多年，获海内外重要音乐媒体高度评价，部分作品被海外唱片公司收录出版，所制作的音乐作品在高端音乐市场得到较大认同，并远销海外，销售成绩斐然。担任制作人的唱片及音乐作品曾多次获“美国独立音乐大奖”“中国金唱片奖”“中华优秀出版奖”“华语音乐传媒大奖”等百余个奖项，在中国城市广播联盟评选“中国十大发烧唱片”中数次入选，作品多次入选“CD圣经”等海内外专业评比。因多年与国际音乐制作及出版行业的密切合作经历，音乐创作理念及制作手段具有国际化的开阔视角。
About the Producer:
Ye Yunchuan，Producer, composer, arranger, graphic designer, Grammy member, and the founder of one of China’s most prestigious audiophile recording labels, Rhymoi Music, Ye Yunchuan is further distinguished as the first Full Voting Member of the American Grammy Awards (The National Academy for Recording Arts and Science – NARAS) representing the Chinese music industry. He is, without any question, one of the rising stars in China’s growing music industry. Prior to his current activities, Ye established an international reputation, as a composer and producer, being awarded several American Independent Music Awards, Chinese Golden Album Awards, numerous rave reviews in CD Bible (China) in addition to being included on China City Radio Association’s “Ten Hottest Albums” roundup. Years of cooperation with international music production and publication circles has provided him with a truly global perspective. As founder of his own recording label, Rhymoi Music, he is committed to establishing new standards of excellence for recorded music in China.
Rhymoi Music recordings are immediately identifiable - with their innovative approaches to programming, world-class musical and artistic standards, beauty of presentation and packaging, cultural relevance, and their conscious desire to introduce the treasures of Chinese music to an international audience - Rhymoi Music is without peer. With his deep commitment to the traditions and national music of his homeland, Ye Yunchuan is committed to building new and ever more creative and beautiful bridges between the musical heritage of China and the musical traditions of the world. Ye Yunchuan continues to realize his vision with each new recording.
Qin: Zhao Jiazhen
Di/Xiao/Xun :Du Cong
Percussion: Li Congnong
英文文案： Joshua Cheek
Producer: Ye Yunchuan
Executive Producer: Ye Yunchuan
Recording Engineer: Li Xiaopei
Assistant Recording Engineers: Wang Heng Lu Nannan
Chinese Copywriter: Yang Qian
English Copywriter: Joshua Cheek
Graphic Design: Total Viewfinder
Recording Venue: The 480 square Meter Recording Studio of CCTV
Mastering: Pauler Acoustics (Germany)
Produced by: Rhymoi Music. Co., Ltd www.rhymoi.com
Copyright Statement: The music and arrangements appearing on this album have been licensed in accordance with the copyright laws of China. If there are any errors, please contact us.
宋琴/尺八 (Song Dynasty Qin, Chiba/Shakuhachi)
2．关山月Moon over the Mountain Pass
宋琴/箫 (Song Dynasty Qin, Xiao)
元琴/笛 (Yuan Dynasty Qin, Di)
唐琴 (Tang Dynasty Qin)
5．良霄引Peaceful Evening Prelude
清琴/箫 (Qing Dynasty Qin, Xiao)
6．潇湘水云Clouds Over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers
宋琴 (Song Dynasty Qin)
7．欧鹭忘机Regarding Seagulls Without Ulterior Motives
宋琴/埙 (Song Dynasty Qin, Xun/Ocarina)
今琴/中国大鼓 (Modern Qin, Dagu)
9．渔樵问答Dialogue between a Fisherman and Woodcutter
明琴 (Ming Dynasty Qin)
10．梅花三弄Three Variations on the Plum Blossom Theme
宋琴/箫 (Song Dynasty Qin, Xiao)
宋琴 (Song Dynasty Qin)
12．阳关三叠Three refrains on the Yangguan Pass
宋琴/弓笛 (Song Dynasty Qin, Gongdi/Bow Flute)
13．关山月Moon over the Mountain Pass
唐琴（特别呈现）(Tang Dynasty Qin)
今琴/手鼓 (Modern Qin, Shougu/Hand Drum)