Story of The Invention of Guqin.
           Basic Qin Sound Formates and Notation.

Connection between Qin and Taoism

From an Aesthetics and psychological point of view - Taoism likes the idea of returning to nature and forceless action, in other words, subtle and non-artificial. So for qin playing, the player never uses a pick or artificial nails. Qin making will always use very old wood with silk strings and jade or seashells dots, and making it in a natural way. The top rounded board of qin symbolizes heaven (天圓) and the bottom flat board of qin symbolizes earth. (地方). Combine the Heaven and Earth plus human’s playing, it becomes a whole.

People who appreciate Taoist philosophy prefer not to play with metal strings and not to use an amplifier to make the sound louder. Also there are no frets or bridges, and you play with your fingers, not with a bow or stick. For the listener, they like to hear the ringing of each qin sound and they also like to hear the sound out of string (xian wai zhi yin 弦外之音), which means the sound image and the subtle meaning of each qin music piece. For example, the beautiful qin piece, "3 Variations on the Plum Blossom" -- Plum blossom is the purest and clearest flower, and qin has the purest and clearest sound. Using the clearest sound to indicate the purest subject, one can hear the very beautiful tone resembling cool frost...

A saying from the Taoist Master, Laozi: "Da Yin Xi Shen (大音希聲)," the greatest sound has almost no sound. It is the deepest philosophy that only Guqin can represent. The volume of Guqin is not loud at all, but how loud is loud? A very light sound comes from a guqin in a very quiet room, one might feel so touched by its feeling and will never forget it in one's heart. It may be the greatest sound in one's mind. A phrase from 二十四詩品 Twenty-four Grades of Poetry from Tang Dynasty can be a good expanded explanation of Da Yin Xi Shen -- 超以象外 得其環中, 持之非強 來之無窮-- meaning that exceeding phenomenon, obtaining essence, when holding it, you don't feel it is strong but you will feel the power later when you hold it longer and longer.

Now, Guqin playing is seldom seen in an orchestra and rather is played alone or with a small group of people who understand and appreciate its music. One of the reasons is the influence of Taoism -- not to show off but quietly cultivate oneself. After all, you want to enlighten yourself by meditation in your mind instead of aiming at fame or trying to use it to make profit.

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Copyright 2001-2013 Judy (Pei-You) Chang