Chapter 2 An Investigation of Juanzi’s Qin Heart

Starting with the Elegant Qin of Guodian, a Discussion of the Qin Scholarship of Laozi’s Disciples 涓子《琴心》考—由郭店雅琴談老 子門人的琴學

In: Harmoniousness: Essays in Chinese Musicology
Jao Tsung-i
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Colin Huehns
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Many important figures and their writings have come down to the modern era from the ancient Chinese world, but what of those who were clearly well-regarded in contemporary sources but whose writings do not survive? Juanzi was just such a thinker, and Jao Tsung-i pieces together the evidence that remains regarding his philosophy and relationship with the qin, the instrument he used to work out his ideas. The journey spans a rich tapestry of excavated artifact and bamboo slip and passes through numerological classification to later citation. At its heart is a search for a definition of that most elusive of concepts ‘harmoniousness’ that underpinned so much of early China’s intellectual landscape.


From the Guodian Chu tomb no. 1 in Hubei written copies of Laozi and Confucianist texts have been excavated that have attracted international attention, and since then many international conferences on these finds have been held. The largest of these happened this year (1999), 15–18 October, in Wuhan University’s Luojia 珞珈 mountain retreat. The present writer had the opportunity to attend as a delegate and engaged with many newly published papers as well as carrying out another detailed investigation of the musical instruments in the Bell Chamber. It was after returning that this paper was drafted.

The Guodian tomb is an earthen pit with a shaft grave in which is a wooden outer coffin. The tomb finds that have received most attention include lacquered cosmetics cases, cups with lacquered ear-shaped handles, two each of bronze swords and ge sabre-spears, a bronze pike, arrow quivers and 132 arrowheads, dragon-shaped jade belt-hooks, and a seven-stringed qin.1 Regarding the identity of the tomb occupant and his social status, the most reasonable deductions include the following:

From his cephalic angle (100°), he belonged to the generalised pattern of a member of a Chu royal family; from the construction and layout of the tomb, he was a shi official of higher rank; and from the excavated Chu bamboo writing slips, he was a scholar; from the instrument excavated from the tomb, he had an elegant love of the finer details of musical modes; from the weaponry in the tomb, at the very least, he had served as a low-ranking military officer; and from the four-character phrase ‘East Palace’s Cup’ inscribed on a cup with ear-shaped handles excavated from the tomb, he had at times interacted with the hereditary crown prince.

從頭向(100°)來看,屬於廣義的楚國公族。從墓制來看,乃士之上者,從墓中出土的竹簡來看,是學者,從墓中的樂器來看,雅好音律;從墓中的兵器來看,至少做過下級軍官,從墓中出土的耳杯所刻「東宮之 」四字來看,曾與太子有交往。2

Of these, only the deduction made from the bronze pike that had he had served as a low-ranking military officer is not entirely reasonable, and the ‘East Palace’ also does not definitively indicate the crown prince’s residence. All the other suppositions remain valid views.

Regarding the four-character inscription ‘East Palace’s Cup’ 東宮之 on the lacquered cup, scholars have come up with two different interpretations: the first reads the character ‘cup’ as (‘za’), that is, a variant of the character (‘shi’; a common character that carried many meanings, including ‘respected teacher’ and ‘official’); the second reads it as (‘bu’), that is a variant of (‘bei’, which meant simply ‘cup’). From the graphic structure of the character, I think that interpreting () as (‘cup’) is the most appropriate. Taking into account the burial custom by which an ordinary shi official was normally only interred inside one outer and one inner coffin, the occupant of the tomb could not possibly have been the shifu 師傅 instructor of the hereditary crown prince, and neither is this arrangement commensurate with the status of a gongshi 工師 senior official. I strongly agree with (modern scholars) Li Ling’s 李零 and Wang Baoxuan’s 王葆玹 arguments,3 and the correct reading should be ‘East Palace’s Cup’.

Regarding the seven-stringed qin unearthed at Guodian, it is 82.1cm in length, and in size and construction somewhat similar to the qin excavated in 1973 from the Han dynasty tomb at Mawangdui 馬王堆, Changsha, Hunan; the Mawangdui qin is 82.4cm in length. Other qin excavated from Hubei and Hunan are:

  1. A ten-stringed qin from the Marquis Yi of Zeng’s tomb in Sui county; lacquered black, in length 67cm, its middle section is hollow and functions as a sound-box, and according to the string holes and bridges on to which the strings were tied at both ends of the instrument, it was originally strung with ten strings.

  2. A nine-stringed qin from a tomb of the Warring States period in Wulipai 五里牌, Changsha, in length 79.5cm.

These two qin are by comparison shorter and smaller models, are wide at the head and narrow at the tail and each furnished with only a ‘goose-foot’ stand on to which the strings were wound, and all the strings were tied to this one foot. The pegs are hidden inside the body of the instrument, and the strings were not, like the seven strings of the modern qin, tied separately on to two individual feet; in addition, the ‘dragon’s pond’ and ‘phoenix pool’ sound-holes of the modern instrument are not present. The construction is thus not as advanced,4 but the Guodian qin does have the requisite seven strings. Some scholars have judged that this means it is somewhat later in date and postulated that it comes from the early period of the reign of (Chu) Qingxiang wang (楚頃襄王, ruler of Chu, 329–263 BCE, r. 298–263 BCE), while others have suggested the period after Bai Qi (白起, 332–257 BCE, a Qin general) conquered the Chu capital Ying ( in 279–278 BCE).5


Among Laozi’s (571–471 BCE) disciples was Huan Yuan 環淵 of the state of Chu, who wrote The Book of the Qin (Qinshu 琴書) that was called by Liu Xie (劉勰, 465–521) ‘Juanzi’s Qin Heart’. 涓子《琴心》.

Han shu 漢書, ‘Yiwen zhi’ 藝文志 (juan 30), (category) ‘Daojia’ 道家:

The book Yuanzi consists of thirteen essays. To this, Ban Gu (32–92 CE) himself notes: ‘(Juanzi’s given) name was Yuan; he was of the state of Chu and a disciple of Laozi.’ (Yan) Shigu (581–645) comments: ‘Yuan is a surname.’

《蜎子》十三篇。班固自注: 名淵,楚人,老子弟子。[顔]師古曰: 蜎,姓也。6

Records of the Grand Historian (Shi ji 史記), ‘Mengzi Xunqing liezhuan’ 孟子荀卿列傳 (juan 74):

Huan Yuan was of the state of Chu. He studied the Yellow Emperor and Laozi’s expositions of the Way and Virtuous Morality, and thus sought to reveal through exegesis their intention and inner meaning. Together with Shen Dao (395–315 BCE), Tian Pian, and Jiezi (both dates uncertain), all members of the circle composed theses. Huan Yuan wrote an essay in two parts.


Also, from Records of the Grand Historian, ‘Tian Jingzhong Wan shijia’ 田敬仲完世家 (juan 46; Tian Jingzhong, also called Tian Wan, b. c.750):

(Qi) Xuanwang (齊宣王, ruler of the state of Qi, 350–301 BCE, r. 320– 301 BCE) liked literary scholars who travelled around proffering advice on governance and other matters, for example, Zou Yan and Huan Yuan and their like, in fact seventy-six men in total, and all were given fine manorial residences and official positions as upper-ranked dafu ministers …


Selections of Refined Literature (Wenxuan 文選; compiled by Xiao Tong 蕭統, 501–531), juan 34, Mei Sheng’s (枚乘, 210–c.138 BCE) Qi fa 七發:  

(I would recommend people) of the cut of Zhuang Zhou, Wei Mou, Yang Zhu, Mo Di, Pian Yuan, and Zhan He, and have them make exposition of all the explanations and subtleties in the world, rationalizing the positive and negative duality of the myriad things.


(Zhuang Zhou: another name for Zhuangzi, c.369–286 BCE; Wei Mou: fl. Warring States period; Yang Zhu: c.395–c.335; Mo Di: another name for Mozi, c.468–376 BCE; Zhan He: fl. Warring States period.)

Li Shan’s (李善 630–689) notes (to this passage) give:

Zhanzi was an ancient who had obtained the Way. Huainanzi gives: ‘Even if one had a hooked needle and fragrantly alluring bait and added to that fishermen of the skill of Zhan He and Yuan Xuan, they could not compete with nets with regard to fishing efficacy.’10 Gao You (fl. second–third centuries, exegete of Huainanzi) writes: ‘Yuan Xuan lived in the time of Bai Gong (fl. second–first centuries BCE, a mid-ranking dafu minister of the state of Zhao).’11 The Collected Works of Song Yu (Song Yu: fl. third century BCE) gives: ‘Song Yu and Dengtuzi (fl. Spring and Autumn period) both received teachings on rod-and-line fishing from Xuan Yuan.’ The Qi lüe (compiled by father and son Liu Xiang, 77–6 BCE, and Liu Xin, c.50 BCE–23 CE; the original text was lost in the Tang dynasty) gives: ‘Yuanzi, given name Yuan, of the state of Chu.’ Although there are discrepancies between the three texts, all indicate the same person. (Taken from an original whose provenance is the Chunxi era [1174–1189] and the scholar-official You Mao [1127–1194], which has been published in facsimile by the Taiwanese Stone Gate Publishers.)

詹子,古得道者也。《淮南子》曰:「雖有鉤針芳餌,加以詹何、 蜎蠉之數,猶不能與罔罟爭得也。」高誘曰:「蜎蠉,白公時人。 」《宋玉集》曰:「宋玉與登徒子偕受釣於玄淵。」《七略》曰:「蜎子, 名淵,楚人也。」然三文雖殊,其一人也。(淳熙尤袤本,臺灣石門公司影印。)12

Note: For the Li Shan citation from Huainanzi, see ‘Yuandao xun’ 原道訓 (essay 1); the quotation from The Collected Works of Song Yu comes from his ‘Diaofu’ 釣賦, see Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era (Taiping yulan 太平御覽; an encyclopedia compiled in 977–783), juan 834 (category: ‘Zichan bu’ 資產部, subcategory: ‘Diaolei’ 釣類). The original text given there is as follows:

Song Yu and Dengtuzi both received instruction on rod-and-line fishing from Xuan Yuan. On leaving him, they sought an audience with Xiangwang, the ruler of Chu, who granted their wish. Dengtuzi said: ‘Regarding Xuan Yuan’s fishing skills, he uses a rod three xun in length (about eight metres), a line spun of eight silk threads, maggots and cicadas as bait, and fine needles as hooks, and is able to catch fish three chi feet in length from water several ren fathoms deep.’


Li Shan considers that Huan Yuan 環淵, Xuan Yuan 玄淵, and Yuan Xuan 蜎蠉, who are mentioned by three different texts and whose names are written with different characters, are in fact the same person. Apparently, Song Yu was adept at playing the qin. Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era, ‘Qin, Part Three (of Three),’ (‘Qin xia’ 琴下; juan 579) quotes ‘Song Yu fu’ 宋玉賦: (Spoken by Song Yu addressing his royal master Xiangwang, the ruler of Chu, and describing a romantic assignation) ‘It was an orchid chamber, a secluded room, and your servant (Song Yu) was received there with hospitality; and therein as the centrepiece was someone playing a qin; your servant received the qin and started plucking it, the pieces being “Autumn Bamboo” and “Snowdrifts”.’ (juan 579) 爲蘭房奧室,止臣其中,中有鳴琴焉,臣受琴而鼓之,爲秋竹積雪之曲. (卷五七九)14

Ying Shao 應劭 of the Eastern Han dynasty in Fengsu tongyi 風俗通義, ‘Xingshi pian’ 姓氏篇 gives:

The surname ‘Huan’ originated in the state of Chu where it first denoted ‘an officer of the royal guard’ and then later became a surname in its own right. In Chu, there was once a virtuous person by the name of Huan Yuan, who wrote an essay in two parts. (According to Zhang Shu’s [1781–1847] Editorial Notes on this passage: ‘Huan Yuan 環淵, that is, Yuan Yuan 蜎淵.’)

環氏出楚,環列之尹,後以爲氏。楚有賢者環淵,著書上下篇。(張澍《輯注》: 環淵,即蜎淵也。)15

The character ‘huan can also be given as ‘yuan, and when Yuan Yuan 蜎淵 wrote his texts he was called Yuanzi 蜎子, and his soubriquet given as Juanzi 涓子.

Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龍, ‘Xuzhi pian’ 序志篇 (the fiftieth and last essay in the book; by Liu Xie) gives:

(In former times, books that had the formula ‘… Heart’ ……心」 as their title included) Juanzi’s 涓子 Qin Heart 琴心 and Wang Sun’s Ingenious Heart 巧心.


He (Liu Xie) freely admits that the title of his book Wenxin 文心, by employing the pattern ‘… Heart’ ……心」, is in imitation of the texts Qin Heart (Qin xin) and Ingenious Heart (Qiao xin), and these are the origins of his usage of ‘Heart’ in this context. Qin Heart must then have still been in circulation during the southern Qi and Liang dynasties. Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era (‘Qin, Part Two [of Three]’ 琴中) quotes Da Zhou zhengyue 大周正樂 (completed in 959, now lost):

Juanzi 涓子 played elegant jade-like pieces from the compilation Qin Heart (most likely, the character for ‘elegant jade-like’ is a scribal error for that meaning ‘three’ ). Qin Gao (dates uncertain and not mentioned elsewhere) used the qin to nourish his inner being … and played the qin in the city of Ying (the Chu capital).

Quoted in juan 578


Jixian lu 集仙錄 gives:

Juanzi 涓子, a native of the state of Qi, pursued immortality by taking magic potions (‘Bait Skill’) and wrote Sancai jing.18 The ruler of Huainan, Liu An (179–122 BCE, writer of Huainanzi), obtained copies of this text, but could not understand its meaning. Juanzi 涓子 also wrote The Book of the Qin comprising three essays that is of great clarity and reasonableness.

Cited in Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era, juan 670, ‘Daoism’, juan 12


The ‘Book of the Qin comprising three essays’ is probably the Qin Heart to which Liu Xie refers. Juanzi’s Sancai jing is also called The Book of Mankind, Heaven, and Earth (Tian di ren jing 天地人經); on this issue, Liexian zhuan 列仙傳 by Liu Xiang gives:

Juanzi 涓子 was a native of Qi and enjoyed fishing with rod, line, and bait … He wrote The Book of Heaven, Earth, and Mankind comprising forty-eight essays. Subsequently, he went fishing at Heze … and later received Boyang’s (Boyang: one of Laozi’s soubriquets) teachings on spiritual exercises of the Nine Celestial Beings. The ruler of Huainan, (Liu) An, obtained copies of a few of his writings, but could not understand their meaning. His Qin Heart comprising three essays exhibits both clarity and reasonableness.

Quoted according to Wang Shumin’s (1914–2008) Liexian zhuan jiaojian

涓子者,齊人,好餌術。…… 著《天人經》四十八篇。後釣于菏澤,…… 受伯陽九仙法。淮南王安少得其文,不能解其旨也。其《琴心》三篇有條理焉。(此據王叔岷《列仙傳校箋》本)20

‘Qin fu’ 琴賦 by Ji Kang (嵇康, 224–263 or 223–262) gives:

Juanzi 涓子 had his abode on the south side (of the mountain) where translucent jade-like mead gushed afore.


When Li Shan’s notes (to this line of the poem as found in juan 18 of his exegesis of Selections of Refined Literature [Wenxuan]) quote Liexian zhuan, his wording is somewhat similar and also indicates that Juanzi 涓子 wrote ‘The Book of Heaven, Earth, and Mankind comprising thirty-eight essays’ and ‘his two essays that comprise Qin Heart exhibit clarity and reasonableness’. The book titles and juan numbering may have minor discrepancies, but Liu Xiang also gives that Juanzi’s 涓子 Qin Heart ‘is written with clarity and reasonableness’. Note: the word for ‘clarity and reasonableness’ (tiaoli 條理) is used here especially as a technical term of musical appraisal (but can also be found in other contexts): Mencius said of Confucius’ accumulation of significant successes as firstly grounded in ‘clarity and reasonableness’ and lastly grounded in ‘clarity and reasonableness’; and the term can also be seen in the lost books unearthed at Mawangdui and the essay ‘The Five Elements’ (‘Wuxing’ 五行) found on Guodian bamboo slips.

Liu Xiang’s Qi lüe and Han shu, ‘Yiwen zhi’ cited above inform us that Huan Yuan 環淵, the author of thirteen essays, was a native of the state of Chu and a disciple of Laozi, and as such these statements must be grounded in fact. Later, he came to the state of Qi and the scholarly academy at Jixia 稷下, and then led a hermitical existence fishing at Heze and was thus regarded as a native of Qi. Shuijing zhu 水經注 (by Li Daoyuan 酈道元, 466–527) ‘Jushui zhu’ 雎水注 (juan 24) gives:22 ‘The celestial beings Juanzi 涓子and Zhu Zhu both led a hermitical existence on Dang mountain and obtained the Way.’ 有仙者涓子、主柱,並隱碭山得道.23 Zhu Zhu was the name of a celestial being too, and for more detailed information on him see Liexian zhuan. Juanzi was adept at playing the qin and wrote Qin Heart that had a great influence on later generations. Liexian zhuan, ‘Qin Gao zhuan’ 琴高傳 (Qin Gao: 琴高 means ‘qin high’; fl. fourth–third centuries BCE) gives:24 ‘(Qin Gao) was a native of Zhao and worked as a qin player in the household of Kangwang, ruler of the state of Song (宋康王, d. 286 BCE, r. 328–286 BCE), as a salaried official. His qin technique was that of Juan (-zi) and Peng (Zu), and he wandered freely over the Ji region (much of north China) and Zhuo prefecture.’ 趙人也,以鼓琴爲宋康王舍人。行涓、彭之術,浮游冀州、涿郡之間.25 Here, Juanzi and Peng Zu (an ancient semi-mythical ruler) are collocated together as Juan-Peng. Going back to the passage by Mei Sheng cited earlier, Pian Yuan 便蜎 and Zhan He are also collocated together in a similar manner.

Ge Hong (葛洪, 1152–1237) in his Shenxian zhuan (神仙傳), Xu Introduction, gives: ‘Juanzi 涓子 pursued immortality by taking magic potions and wrote a book that is accounted amongst the classics.’ 涓子餌術以著經.26 Yu Jianwu’s (庾肩吾, 487–551) ‘Da Tao Yinju ji shu jian qi’ 答陶隱居賫術煎啓 (Tao Yinju: Tao Hongjing 陶弘景, 456–536) gives: ‘And so I hope to roam the seashores in search of Juanzi’s 涓子 remnant dust.’ 庶得遨游海岸,追涓子之塵.27 These are all examples of pertinent texts explaining the esteem in which Juanzi, as the writer of Qin Heart, was held by subsequent generations.

In respect of medical texts, some scholars have fused Juanzi with Liu Juanzi 劉涓子 (c.370–450), the surgeon who taught the text Gui yi fang 鬼遺方, a fallacy that began with the Tu jing bencao 圖經本草 by Su Song (蘇頌, 1020–1101) and others of the Song dynasty. My student Ma Tai Loi 馬泰來 has written an essay to clarify this issue.28


The character (‘qin’), according to Guwen sisheng yun 古文四聲韻 (by Xia Song 夏竦, 985–1051) is categorised as rhyming with (also ‘qin’), and has the forms given below together with the source in which they are found:

(Hanjian 汗簡; by Guo Zhongshu 郭忠恕, d. 977)

Discussing Writing and Explaining Characters (Shuowen jiezi 說文 解字; by Xu Shen 許慎, 58–147 CE; juan 12)

(Also: Cui Xiyu’s Compilation of Ancient Graphical Forms [Cui Xiyu zuangu 崔希裕纂古; no other information has emerged regarding Cui Xiyu])29

Given its form, the character (‘qin’) should probably be categorized as rhyming with (‘jin’); therefore, Xu Shen indicates: ‘The ancient character (an archaic form of the character ) should be categorised under (“jin”).’ 古文从.30 Duan Yucai (段玉裁, 1735–1815; in Shuowen jiezi zhu 說文解字注, notes to juan 12) gives: ‘After a careful consideration of the two characters (that denote ancient stringed zithers) (‘se’) and (‘qin’), it would appear that the one for “se” was created first, and “qin” followed after and was categorised with it.’ 玩古文琴瑟二字,似是先造瑟而琴從之.31 Shuowen jiezi (juan 12, the entry for the ‘qin’ radical in its archaic form ) gives: ‘“Se: a stringed musical instrument made by Paoxi (another name for Fuxi 伏羲, one of the three ancient mythical emperors). “” is the ancient character for “se.’ 瑟,庖犧所做弦樂也。,古文瑟.32

The essay on Guodian bamboo slips titled ‘Xingzi mingchu’ 性自命出 has the words:

Listening to the sound of the qin and se makes the heart beat as if in deferential terror. Observing the dances described in (the poems from The Book of Songs [Shijing 詩經], ‘Zhou song’ 周頌) ‘Lai’ and ‘Wu’ causes anger to well up and makes one rise in response.

聖(𦔻 = 聽)之聖(聽)則女(如)也斯戁。觀〈賚〉、〈武〉,則齊女(如)也斯(作)。33

(The Emperor Wu: Zhou Wuwang 周武王, 1076–1043, founding emperor of the Zhou dynasty, r. 1046–1043.)

The two characters and should be read as (‘se’) and (‘qin’). The inventory on bamboo slips excavated from tomb no. 2 at Wang mountain include the following:

One fine silken quilt, two se, all with hempen covers. (Bamboo slip 47)


Two se, with their accessories. (Bamboo slip 49)


One se with the strings tied with red hemp cord; one se with the strings tied with fine silk thread. (Bamboo slip 50)


Also, on surviving bamboo slips from Bao mountain:

One se, also with its accessories. (Bamboo slip 260)


These prove the character (‘qin’) is categorized under (‘jin’), which matches the account in Shuowen jiezi; the character (‘se’) has the forms and .38

In total, four lacquered cases were excavated from the Marquis Yi of Zeng’s (曾侯乙 Zenghou Yi, c.475–c.433) tomb, all identical in form, of which on one, images of dragons and tigers are painted on respectively the east and west opposite faces, and on one of these is written the character (‘dou’) that signifies the constellation the Plough 北斗 (‘beidou’); surrounding it are the names of the twenty-eight constellations. On another case on the side of the lid are twenty characters in red divided into six lines of text, of which the last two sentences, according to how I have previously investigated and explained them, read:

That which is supreme is the facility to bring about orderliness, and in this, Scriptural Books and Heaven are eternally in accordance.


Opening on 23 September 1998 in Tokyo, the Hubei Provincial Museum mounted an ‘Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Lacquerware’ (‘Zhongguo gudai qiqi zhan’ 中國古代漆器展) and published A Mysterious World of Ancient Designs: Lacquerware from the Tombs of Hubei, China (Urushi de kakareta shinbi no sekai 漆で描かれた神秘の世界 [Qihui de shenmi shijie 漆繪的神秘世界]) that still adopts my former interpretation of these twenty characters made many years ago.40 Having investigated the matter more recently, the two characters ‘Scriptural Books’ (‘jing’) and ‘Heaven’ (‘tian’) that are depicted so clearly in the photograph of the lid found on page fifty-five are in fact written thus:

The first character can be categorized under (‘jin’) and as is crystal clear. Taking evidence from the Guodian bamboo slip by which is in fact 琴瑟 (‘qinse’), thus, ‘and in this, Scriptural Books and Heaven are eternally in accordance’ should instead be read as ‘just as the qin and se are eternally in harmony’. The coffin of the occupant of the Marquis Yi of Zeng’s tomb is situated in its eastern chamber and the qin was placed there, from which can be deduced the importance ascribed to it. The inscription on the lacquered case reads: ‘Just as the qin and se are eternally in harmony;’ the two-character phrase ‘eternally in harmony’ comes from Laozi. Laozi gives: ‘Sound and voice are two aspects in mutual harmony’ (essay 2); 音聲之相和也;41 ‘He who is suffused with virtuous morality can be compared to a naked babe, who cries all day and does not become hoarse, yet this is harmony in the extreme. Harmony is called eternal, and when wisdom is eternal, that is called enlightenment’ (essay 55); 含德之厚者比於赤子…… 終日號而不嗄,和之至也。和曰常,知常曰明;42 both these passages can be found in the Guodian Laozi, redaction A. The sound of sets of bells and chimes can reach a plane of mutual harmoniousness that is ‘eternal’ and is therefore called ‘eternal harmony’. Qin and se sounding in harmony are most able to express the beauty of the harmoniousness of Heaven.43

Yang Xiong (楊雄, 53 BCE–18 CE) in Qin qing ying 琴清英 gives:

In ancient times, Shennong made the qin with a view to pacifying his spirit, disciplining vagrant eccentricities, eliminating perverted desires, and to return himself to Heaven’s truth.

Quoted in Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era (Taiping yulan, ‘Qin, Part One [of Three]’), juan 577


Ying Shao in Fengsu tongyi, ‘Shengyin pian’ tells:

The instrument known as the (elegant) qin provides music’s unifying leadership. (…) Therefore, the qin, in the utterance of words, means to constrain, whilst elegance, in the utterance of words, means to rectify; in the utterance of words, the gentleman should abide by rectification in order to constrain himself.


In Selections of Refined Literature [Wenxuan], ‘Changmen fu’ 長門賦 (by Sima Xiangru 司馬相如, 179–118 BCE; in juan 16) is the line: ‘Bring in an elegant qin to change the musical mode.’ 援雅琴以變調兮.46 Li Shan’s notes to this line quote The Qi lüe and his citation is the same as the passage by Ying Shao above.47

Liu Xiang himself also wrote ‘Yaqin fu’ 雅琴賦, remnants of which can be found in Quan Han fu 全漢賦 (edited by Fei Zhengang 費振剛 and others, Beijing, Beijing University Press, 1993, page 153). Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era cites Liu Xiang’s Bie lu 別錄 thus:

‘Elegant qin’ as a linguistic collocation and musical conception originated entirely with Long De’s (fl. Western Han dynasty) Zhuqin zashi. ([Long] De lived in the time of the Han dynasty Emperor Xuan [91–48 BCE, r. 74–48 BCE] and was a native of the state of Liang.) Long De was summoned for an audience in the Temperate Chamber of the palace and required to play the qin.

juan 579 (‘Qin, Part Three [of Three]’)


Ying Shao’s words had their origin in Liu Xiang. Later, from Baihu tong 白虎通 (by Ban Gu), ‘Liyue pian’ 禮樂篇 (the latter part of juan 2) to Xu Shen’s Shuowen jiezi, all interpret the qin as a rectifying force. Xu Shen says of the qin: ‘Made by Shennong, hollowed out and furnished with sound-holes on the underside, and strung with five woven red silk strings.’ 神農所作,洞越,練朱五弦.49 The characters 洞越 (‘dongyue’) signify the sound-holes on the underside of the instrument, (‘lian’) indicates red strings; the (Guodian) Chu bamboo slips write the character (‘woven silk’) as , both of which can be borrowed to represent . When the Mozi quotes from (The Book of Documents [Shangshu 尚書]) ‘Lü xing’ 呂刑 (chapter 55 [orthodox ‘old-text’ version]; The Marquis of Lü: fl. tenth century BCE), (for the phrase that means here) ‘not obey orders’, 弗用靈,50 the eponymous author employs to denote ‘orders’ and not the of the equivalent place in the original text, and this demonstrates the interchangeability of these characters.51

Shuowen jiezi gives the se as ‘a stringed musical instrument made by Paoxi’.52 The se was the first of qin and se to be made. Fu Yi (傅毅, d. 90 CE) of the Eastern Han dynasty in his ‘Qin fu’ 琴賦 gives:53 ‘After consideration of the first instrument that was made by Shennong, (the qin was then made) so as to change its sound to the greatest possible extent into something more subtle and mysterious.’ 揆神農之初制,盡聲變之奧妙.54 From this, a supporting foundation for Xu Shen’s statement is found from a distant source. The qin imparted rectification, and the se imparted ‘thrift, restraint, and in this way checked anger and stifled vagrant desires, and thus rectified a person’s virtuous morality.’ 嗇也,閑也,所以懲忿窒欲,正人之德也.55 (Baihu tong, ‘Essay on Rites and Music’) The two characters (‘qin’) and (‘se’) both derive their meaning from cultivating one’s character, and such was the philosophy of the Han dynasty. When Yang Xiong wrote that the qin could return him to Heaven’s truth, this is Laozi’s ‘simplicity’ (pu ); the se can engender thrift, which also has a relationship with Laozi’s philosophy. Was it not Laozi (juan 59) who said: ‘When governing the people and serving Heaven, nothing is quite like thrift’? 治人事天莫若啬?56 (Guodian Laozi, redaction B) ‘Thrift’ and ‘rectification’ are at the heart of Laozi’s philosophy.

Regarding the Chu bamboo slip that gives: ‘Listening to the sound of the qin and the se makes the heart beat as if in deferential terror ,’ should be read as (‘ji’). Shuowen jiezi (juan 10) gives: ‘ means “heart beating”.’ 悸,心動也.57 The Book of Songs, ‘Wei feng’ 衛風 (the poem ‘Wanlan’ 芄蘭) includes the line: ‘Hanging ribbons, rhythmically swaying;’ 垂帶悸兮;58 The Mao Commentary of the Book of Songs (Mao zhuan 毛傳; by Mao Heng 毛亨, fl. late Warring States period–early Western Han dynasty, and Mao Chang 毛萇, fl. early Western Han dynasty) interprets this line as: ‘Hanging down, like a Gentleman’s belt ribbons, as if swaying rhythmically.’ 垂其紳帶,悸悸然有節度也.59 Dialects (Fangyan 方言; by Yang Xiong; Song dynasty redaction, juan 12) gives: ‘The character (𢜽) means ,’ (𢜽), 悸也, to which Guo Pu’s (郭璞, 276–324) notes give: ‘which means the heart beating in terror.’ 謂悚悸也.60 Regarding the character (from the Guodian bamboo slip), Shuowen jiezi (juan 10, classified under the ‘xin’ radical [‘Xin bu’ 心部]) gives it as meaning: ‘“Respect”; categorized under the “heart” radical (“xin”) and pronounced “nan” according to the character .’ 敬也,从心,難聲.61 Er ya 爾雅, ‘Shi gu’ 釋詁 (the first section of the text) gives: ‘ means “terror”.’ 戁 ,懼也.62 The Book of Songs (‘Shang song’ 商頌), (‘Changfa’ 長發) has the line: ‘Not in terror, not petrified,’ 不戁不竦, which The Mao Commentary of the Book of Songs interprets simply as ‘fear’ 恐也.63 Thus, the Guodian text ‘beat as if in deferential terror’ expresses in meaning an admonishment to abide in a state of extreme caution, terror in fact! This reading is entirely congruent with the advocacy of cautious solitariness in the essay ‘The Five Elements’, which argues: ‘If the Gentleman can successfully assemble his most excellent qualities and achievements, then he is close to being regarded as a Gentleman.’ 君子集大成,能進之爲君子.64 Also, is given:

Firmness: that is where justice is located; softness: that is where benevolence is located. ‘Neither forceful nor impatient, neither overly firm nor soft.’ That is what this phrase means.

剛,義之方;柔,仁之方也。「不強不梂[絿],不剛不柔」,此之 謂也。65

The quotation cited in the passage above comes from The Book of Songs, ‘Shang song’ 商頌, ‘Chang fa’ 長發. Similar to this passage is a section in The Zuo Commentary (Zuo zhuan 左傳; traditionally attributed to Zuo Qiuming 左丘明, fl. late Spring and Autumn period), ‘Duke Zhao’ (‘Zhaogong’ 昭公; chapter 10; Duke Zhao: Lu Zhaogong 魯昭公, ruler of the state of Lu, d. 510 BCE, r. 542–510 BCE), ‘the Twentieth Year of his Reign’ (‘Ershi nian’ 二十年), where Confucius debates the graciousness and ferocity of government and also quotes from The Book of Songs:

(The Book of Songs, ‘Da ya’ 大雅, ‘Min lao’ 民勞 gives) ‘Magnanimity to the distant, succour to the nearby; these qualities will consolidate the stability of our dynastic legitimacy;’66 and thereby create an equilibrium through harmoniousness. (The Book of Songs) also gives: ‘Neither bellicose nor impatient, neither overly firm nor soft…,’ this is the epitome of harmoniousness.

「柔遠能邇,以定我王」,平之以和也。又曰「不兢不絿,不剛 不柔…… 」,和之至也。67

‘Neither forceful nor impatient’ is in fact ‘neither bellicose nor impatient’. In the same section of The Zuo Commentary, Yan Ying (晏嬰, 578–500 BCE) debates that (his political protagonist) Liangqiu Ju (梁丘據, fl. sixth century BCE) is only able to be ‘identical’ and so not able ‘to harmonise’, and he differentiates between the meaning of the two terms thus:

If the ruler were to listen to music of this (harmonious) kind, equilibrium would be created in his heart, and with his heart in equilibrium, his sense of virtuous morality would be harmonious. Thus, The Book of Songs (‘Bin feng’ 豳風, ‘Langba’ 狼跋) says: ‘Morality and musical sound should be flawless.’ At present, Liangqiu Ju is not like this: whatever the ruler says should happen, Liangqiu Ju says should happen; whatever the ruler says should not happen, Liangqiu Ju says should not happen. If water were used to season water, who would be able to drink it down? Likewise, if a qin and se were played together in perfect unison, who would be able to listen to the result? Regarding ‘identicalness’ as impermissible is commensurate with this.


‘Identical’ is not the same as ‘harmonious’. Harmoniousness is like blending the flavours of a thick broth, and they must all be present in due proportion for the result to be palatable. As far as the phrase ‘the qin and se playing together in perfect unison’ is concerned, Records of Rites (Li ji 禮記), ‘Yueji’ 樂記, the supplementary notes by Kong (Yingda 孔穎達, 574–648; in Liji zhengyi 禮記正義, juan 37) give: ‘If there is only one voice sounding, the result is not music.’ 唯有一聲,不得成樂.69 Therefore, ‘playing together in perfect unison’ indicates either a solo qin or se, and so the result is insufficient to cause ‘harmoniousness’. It cannot become ‘harmony’ and remains ‘identical’ and not ‘harmonious’. The qin and se should play together harmoniously; The Book of Songs (‘Xiao ya’ 小雅), ‘Luming’ 鹿鳴 gives: ‘Play the se, play the qin, harmoniously happy, with unalloyed joy.’ 鼓瑟鼓琴,和樂且湛.70 Also, (‘Xiao ya’) ‘Famu’ 伐木: ‘When God hears of this, he bestows harmony and peace.’ 神之聽之,終和且平.71 And so be it.

In fact, Yan Ying’s exposition has its roots in Shi Bo’s (史伯, fl. ninth to eighth centuries BCE) perorations in discussion with Huangong (桓公, d. 771, r. 806–771 BCE), ruler of the state of Zheng, such as had already been recorded in Discourses of the States (Guoyu 國語), ‘Zhengyu’ 鄭語 (juan 16). (In The Zuo Commentary, ‘Duke Zhao’, the twentieth year of his reign, just prior to the passage cited above) Yan Ying’s words are: ‘The founding dynastic ancestor clarified and differentiated the Five Flavours and made harmonious the Five Voices so as to lend peaceful balance to his heart and to achieve successful governance; the Voices are themselves to Flavours alike.’ 先王之濟五味、和五聲也,以平其心,成其政也,聲亦如味.72 From ‘One Ether’ to ‘Nine Songs’ he gives each numeral an appellation, but Shi Bo in conversation with the ruler of Zheng details only ‘Four Branches’, ‘Five Flavours’, and so on until the number ten is reached. A comparison between the two is given below.

Yanzi’s examples are all taken purely from the world of singing and music; thus, he gives: ‘The Voices themselves are to Flavours alike.’ The aesthetic worldview of Indian culture pays great attention to flavour, which is called in Sanskrit lāvana, and in origin this term means ‘salt’ and is borrowed as a metaphor for ‘flavour’, but Yanzi takes music instead to provide a metaphor for ‘blending the flavours of a thick broth’ 和羹之味 in order to clarify the disparity between the implicit meanings of the two terms ‘harmonious’ and ‘identical’.73 On making a careful reading of Shi Bo’s discussion, it is found to be more thorough and illuminating than that of Yanzi. Shi Bo tells of ‘one’ and ‘many’ and their different effects: ‘one’ is simply ‘identicalness’ and an object must interact with (quell) another in order to produce ‘harmoniousness’, an effect incompatible with an object acting causally on the same object; the latter simply produces a ‘singularity’ that is not harmonious. At this juncture, the two theories of the two schools of thought are cited once more for direct comparison below:

Shi Bo

In fact, it is harmoniousness that gives birth to the myriad objects, whilst identicalness cannot engender this multifariousness. When an object interacts with (quells) a different object, that which is produced is called ‘harmonious’, and in this way abundancy and growth can be generated, and the myriad objects born and all subsumed into this. If an object acts causally on the same object, once this operation has been performed, any future purpose is, by definition, abandoned. Therefore, the founding dynastic ancestor compounded all materials from measures of earth, metal, wood, water, and fire, and from these elements formed the myriad objects … which are, for this reason, incontrovertibly harmonious and not identical. Sounds that are identical cannot be listened to; objects that are identical have no decorative pattern; flavours that are identical have no fruitfulness; and in respect of identical objects, there is nothing to be compared or discussed. Yet the Emperor wishes simply to abandon that which is harmonious in kind and commune with ‘singularity’.

Discourses of the States, ‘Discourses of the State of Zheng’ (‘Zhengyu’)

和實生物,同則不繼,以他平他爲之和,故能豐長而物生之。若以同裨同,盡乃棄矣。故先王以土與金、木、水、火以成百物……務和同也。聲一無聽,物一無文,味一無果,物一不講。王將棄是類也,而與「剸」同。(《國語 鄭語》)74


Harmoniousness is like a thick broth … the cook mixes the ingredients in due measure and allows all their flavours to come into their richness; and adds more seasoning to supplement any deficiencies … thus, The Book of Songs (‘Shang song’, ‘Illustrious Ancestor’ [‘Liezu’ 烈祖]) says: ‘And also there is harmoniously well-seasoned thick broth, both excellent and well- balanced’ … The Five Voices themselves are to Flavours alike … if water were used to season water, who would be able to drink it down? Likewise, if a qin and se were played together in perfect unison, who would be able to listen to the result? To regard ‘identicalness’ as impermissible is commensurate with this.

The Zuo Commentary, ‘Duke Zhao’, the Twentieth Year of his Reign

和如羹焉……宰夫和之,齊之以味,濟其不及……故《詩》曰: 「亦有和羹,既戒既平」……聲亦如味……若以水濟水,誰能食之?若琴瑟之專壹,誰能聽之?同之不可也如是。(《左傳 昭二十年》)75

Table 2.1
Table 2.1

Comparison of Shi Bo 史伯 and Yanzi’s 晏子 numerical nomenclature

Yanzi had evidently used Shi Bo as his model and ‘a qin and se were played together in perfect unison’ furnished him with an appropriate metaphor. In this context, the character for (‘zhuan’) used for the phrase ‘in perfect unison’ 專一 in Explanatory Notes on the Zuo Commentary (Zuozhuan shiwen 左傳釋文) by Dong Yu (董遇, fl. third century) is (‘zhuan’).76 The seven Qin dynasty stone steles that Emperor Qin Shihuang (秦始皇, 259–210 BCE, ruler of the state of Qin, 247–221 BCE, and then Emperor, 221–210 BCE) had erected to praise his achievements also use the character (‘zhuan’) in the phrase: ‘In heart and soul united in one aspiration’ 摶心壹志,77 and here 專一 is written as 摶壹 ( and are different scribal forms of the same character). Yang Bojun (楊伯峻, 1909–1992) in his revised Notes on the Zuo Commentary (Zuozhuan zhu 左傳注) does not give a detailed explanation for the phrase ‘a qin and se … played together in perfect unison’, so supplementary material is provided here; for example, according to Discourse of the States, (‘zhuan’) should be written as (‘zhuan’).78 In Shuowen jiezi, ‘The Entry for the “Woman” Radical ’ (‘Nü bu’ 女部; in juan 12) gives: ‘The character means “singularity”’; 嫥,壹也; here the variant is (‘zhuan’).79

Regarding material relevant to the phrase ‘in perfect unison’, it can all be found in Gui Fu’s (桂馥, 1735–1805) Shuowen yizheng 說文義證 which deploys copious quotation to buttress detailed explanation. Xu Shen (juan 4) ties the character (‘tuan’) into the ‘knife’ (‘dao’) radical underneath the character 𩠹 (; ‘duan’) as if (‘tuan’) were its alternative form.80 Duan Yucai (in Shuowen jiezi zhu) quotes as proof the phrase ‘(the sword could) cut open rhinoceros hide’ 剸犀革 from the ‘Biography of Wang Bao’ (‘Wang Bao zhuan’ 王褒傳; in Han shu, juan 64; Wang Bao: 90–51 BCE) that is a paraphrase of ‘(the sword could) decapitate cattle and horses’ 斷牛馬 in ‘The Biography of Su Qin’ (‘Su Qin liezhuan’ 蘇秦列傳; Records of the Grand Historian, juan 69; Su Qin: d. 284 BCE).81 The character zhuan was later borrowed and used in the epithet ‘to act without authority’ 專擅.82

The Gongyang Commentary (Gongyang zhuan 公羊傳; by Gongyang Gao, fl. late Spring and Autumn period–early Warring States period; chapter 6: ‘Duke Wen’ [‘Wengong’ 文公], the twelfth year of his reign; Duke Wen: Lu Wengong 魯文公, ruler of the state of Lu, c.697–628 BCE, r. 636–628 BCE) plagiarizes a phrase from Qin Vows (Qinshi 秦誓; by Mugong 穆公, ruler of the state of Qin, d. 621 BCE, r. 659–621 BCE): ‘(The qualities of an official) should be entirely concentrated on the task of governance. 惟一介斷斷焉.’83 He Xiu’s (何休, 129–182) notes (in Gongyang zhuan jiegu 公羊傳解詁; juan 6) on this sentence are: ‘Concentrated on the task is the same as “in perfect unison”.’ 斷斷,猶專一也.84 Thus, (‘tuan’) is to 𩠹 (‘tuan’) as (‘duan’) is to (‘zhuan’) (in other words, all these characters share the same fundamental meaning). The somewhat convoluted explanation given above outlines the different forms of borrowing the term ‘in perfect unison’ 專壹()across a range of classical texts. Shi Bo plainly indicates that a ‘singularity’ (unison) is unsatisfactory because it is not harmonious and is itself synonymous with the terms (‘tuan’) and (‘duan’). The notion ‘let the identical benefit the identical’ 以同益同 is thus rendered simply untenable, a standpoint that had long been held by ancient philosophy. Zhuangzi, ‘Tianxia pian’ 天下篇 (eponymous text by Zhuangzi; essay 33) through the mouthpieces of Guanyin (關尹, fl. late Spring and Autumn period–early Warring States period) and Lao Dan (老聃, another name for Laozi) gives: ‘Identicalness is in polarity to harmoniousness.’ 同焉者和.85 The Analects, ‘Zilu’ (子路; Zilu: another name for Zhong You 仲由, 542–480 BCE; essay 13): ‘Confucius says: “The Gentleman is harmonious and yet not identical to others, whilst the Mediocrity is identical to others and yet not harmonious.”’ 子曰: 君子和而不同,小人同而不和.86 Here, Confucius takes the advocates of identicalness and associates them with the Mediocrity, and the advocates of harmoniousness and associates them with the Gentleman, and in this he has inherited the opinions of earlier writers and is simply retelling a narrative rather than creating anew. In the field of music, this too is Shi Bo’s central message: ‘Sounds that are identical cannot be listened to,’ and implicit here is that this profundity is well worth seeking out and experiencing.

Chuxue ji 初學記 (‘Yuebu shang’ 樂部上; juan 15; compiled by Xu Jian 徐堅, 660–729) quotes Gongsun Nizi (公孫尼子, fl. early Warring States period): ‘In music, the singularity (unison) should be eschewed in order to establish harmoniousness.’ 樂物慎一以定和.87 ‘The singularity’ (unison) is ‘identicalness’, and ‘eschewing identicalness establishes harmoniousness’; these theories already had wide currency in the centuries prior to the founding of the Qin dynasty. Zhuangzi, ‘Tian dao’ 天道 (essay 13) takes the notion of ‘the harmoniousness of Heaven’ (tian he 天和) a step further; ‘Zhi bei you’ 知北游 (essay 22) gives: ‘If you adjust your posture, concentrate your eyesight, the harmoniousness of Heaven will come.’ 若正汝形,一汝視,天和將至.88 The harmoniousness of Heaven is a multi-layered concord of all the Universe, and Zhuangzi in ‘Tian dao’ makes comprehensive discussion of Heaven’s music and takes music and lifts it to a plane commensurate with the entire Universe; in ‘Qiwu lun’ 齊物論 (essay 2), he talks of heavenly murmurings (bamboo flutes), earthly murmurings (bamboo flutes), and mankind’s murmurings (bamboo flutes) as Sancai.89 Whether the contents of Juanzi’s Sancai jing reflected this philosophy is something that cannot now be known, because his book has sadly long since been lost and can no longer offer corroborating proof.

Huan Tan’s (桓譚, 23 BCE–56 CE) Xin lun 新論 (‘The Way of the Qin’ [‘Qindao’ 琴道]; juan 16) gives: ‘Shennong (god of agriculture and second of the three mythical emperors) inherited the rulership of the world from Fuxi (the first of the three mythical emperors). Thereupon, he began to carve tong wood to make a qin and wound silk to make the strings in order to engage directly with the virtuous morality of the enlightenment of the spirits and to unify the harmoniousness of Heaven and mankind.’ 神農氏繼宓羲而王天下。於是始削桐爲琴,縵絲爲弦,以通神明之德,合天人之和焉.90 Thus, it is the qin, as a material object, that causes direct engagement with the enlightenment of the spirits and unifies Heaven and mankind. The Han dynasty Confucianists had already propounded this philosophy.


Regarding Juanzi’s Qin Heart, no examples survive of anyone quoting from it, so its contents cannot be known for certain, and only an approximation surmised from Chu bamboo slips and the propositions of Daoists and Han dynasty scholars. Liu Xiang afforded the book the appellation ‘written with clarity and reasonableness’, and the assessment ‘clarity and reasonableness’ came about perhaps because ‘The Five Elements’ gives voice to the notion of wisdom like ‘a golden voice and vibrating jade’. 金聲玉振.91According to The Records of the Grand Historian, ‘Hereditary Families’ (‘Shijia’ 世家; juan 31–60), Huan Yuan had once been formally summoned to court by Xuanwang, the ruler of Qi, and had taken part in the scholarly work of the academy at Jixia.92 Yuanzi 蜎子 and Juanzi 涓子 must be regarded as the same person, and this person wrote The Book of Heaven, Earth, and Mankind that was also called Sancai jing. The ‘sancai’ was a philosophy that unified Heaven, earth, and mankind, and on the Guodian bamboo slips is mentioned in some form in the following sentences:

There is Heaven and there is mankind; Heaven and mankind are divided from one another; only through investigation of the division between Heaven and earth can knowledge of their elemental nature be gained.

‘Qiongda yi shi’


The sage serves Heaven above and teaches the common people to respect Heaven. He serves the earth below and teaches the common people to observe due intimacy with the earth … Regarding the primal sage and the subsequent sage, examine the subsequent to investigate the primal; teach the people the Way of Supreme Submission.

‘Tang Yu zhi dao’


There is Heaven, and thus there are orders; there is the earth, and thus there is corporeal reality; there are objects and thus there is appearance.

‘Yucong 1’


Of the myriad objects given birth by Heaven, mankind is the most precious, for mankind embodies the Way.

‘Yucong 1’


All these touch on the relationship between Heaven, earth, and mankind, and most worthy of attention, especially in respect of the essay ‘Taiyi shengshui’ 大一生水, is comprehensive discussion of Heaven and earth and the yinyang duality,97 and recourse to the notions of the sage and the Gentleman.

Enlightenment of the spirits is the offspring of Heaven and earth.


Heaven and earth is the offspring of the omnipresent singularity.


Whether in deficiency or abundance, let discipline be the Scripture of the myriad objects. This cannot be killed by Heaven, and neither can the earth control (bury) it, nor can it be generated by the yinyang duality; the Gentleman who has knowledge of this is accounted (wise), and those who do not have knowledge of it are accounted (unwise).


The Way of Heaven privileges weakness…. and underneath is soil, and that is called the earth; and above is ether, and that is called Heaven. ‘The Way’ is its written character. ‘Turquoise Dusk’ is its name.


Those who act by means of the Way must do so in its name, and thus enterprises will be successful and bodily invigoration engendered. The sage acts in this manner and does so in the name of the Way, and thus his works are achieved and his body unhurt.


Whether these theoretical writings that connect Heaven, earth, and mankind have a relationship to Juanzi’s Sancai jing is not known. The two characters ‘Turquoise Dusk’ 青昏 (‘qing hun’) can perhaps also be read as ‘please ask’ 請問 (‘qing wen’); (modern scholar) Zhao Jianwei 趙建偉 reads them as ‘silent dusk’ 靜昏 (‘jing hun’).103 Note: Zhuangzi, ‘Tianyun’ 天運 (chapter 14) includes: ‘Deep dusk, with no sound;’ 幽昏而無聲;104 here, ‘deep dusk’ 幽昏 (‘you hun’) resembles these other meanings. ‘Turquoise Dusk is its name’ indicates that the Way is hidden in anonymity, because that which is ‘Turquoise Dusk’ is, by definition, in an anonymous state.

The (Guodian) essay ‘Mugong, Ruler of the State of Lu, asks Zisi’ (‘Lu Mugong wen Zisi’ 魯穆公問子思; Lu Mugong: d. 377 BCE, r. 410–377 BCE; Zisi: Confucius’ grandson, 483–402 BCE) gives: ‘What could be said to be the qualities required of the loyal minister?’ 何如而可謂忠臣?105 Li ji, ‘Yue ji’ indicates: ‘The sound of silk is plaintive, and plaintiveness is required to establish frugality, and frugality is required to establish aspiration; the Gentleman ruler who listens to the sound of the qin and se will think to employ ministers with aspirations and a strong sense of justice.’ 絲聲哀,哀以立廉,廉以立志,君子聽琴瑟之聲則思志義之臣.106 ‘Xingzi mingchu’ discusses just such a relationship between music and a mind whose aspirations are firm.

At present, research into the Guodian Chu bamboo slips is the scholarly flavour of the moment, especially the essay ‘Taiyi shengshui’ which has become the object of widespread hypothesis. Discussion has focussed on the two important issues of ‘water’ and the ‘omnipresent singularity’. Some argue that these concepts stem from the Heguanzi (鶡冠子; an eponymous text by Heguan, fl. Warring States period), while others quote Record of the Rites (Li ji), ‘Liyun’ 禮運 (chapter 9); in talking of the duality of the moistened and the parched Heguanzi is cited, while examination of water and earth quotes Guanzi (管子; eponymous text by Guanzi, 723–645 BCE); and postulating on the enlightenment of the spirits deploys (the Mawangdui text) Huangdi sijing 黃帝四經. (Modern scholar) Chen Wei 陳偉 regards ‘Taiyi shengshui’ as possibly a biography written by Laozi himself.107 All these views are original and creative, but no one has yet noticed the comprehensive discussion of the tripartite relationship between Heaven, earth, and mankind.

The occupant of the Guodian tomb was a distinguished individual who knew how to play the qin and a scholar familiar with both Confucianism and Daoism. The writing on the Chu bamboo slips in the tomb, according to Chou Feng-wu’s 周鳳五 analysis, has the appearance, to some degree, of calligraphy of the state of Qi, and he has hypothesised that the scribe was perhaps connected to the Jixia academy.108 If we examine the Juanzi 涓子 who wrote Qin Heart, he was also known as Yuanzi 蜎子, and he wrote as many as thirteen essays. Not only was he a disciple of Laozi, but he also came to the state of Qi, and he wrote The Book of Heaven, Earth, and Mankind. The Guodian bamboo slips speak of these issues in many places and share similarities with Juanzi’s philosophy, which opens research questions worth exploring. The reasons I wanted to write a paper on Juanzi’s Qin Heart have, as a matter of course, extended into Chu bamboo slips, and I have put forward a soupçon of an opinion not yet matured, and added detail on Juanzi’s career as well as valuable historical material relevant to the study of Laozi’s disciples and their thoughts on music. The principal purpose was to fill a lacuna in the scholarly study of Chu culture, put forward as material deserving consideration in the hope that relevant experts will carry out due correction where necessary.


See Hubei sheng Jingmen shi bowuguan, ‘Jingmen Guodian yihao Chumu’, 45.


Zhang Zhengming, ‘Some Insights furnished by the Guodian Chu Bamboo Writing Slips’ (‘Guodian Chujian de jidian qishi’), 357–60.


Li Ling, ‘Two Problems regarding Research into Guodian Chu Bamboo Writing Slips’ (‘Guodian Chujian yanjiu zhong de liangge wenti’) and the citation therein of (modern scholar) Peng Hao’s 彭浩 theory; 267–269. Wang Baoxuan, ‘The Epoch of Chu Bamboo Writing Slips and its Relationship to Zisi’s Scholarly School’ (‘Guodian Chujian de shidai ji qi yu Zisi xuepai de guanxi’), 137–41.


See: Shen Xingshun, Guqin huizhen 古琴薈珍 that contains ‘The Origins of the Qin’ (‘Qin zhi qiyuan’ 琴之起源) in ‘Overview of the Qin through the Dynasties’ (‘Lidai qinqi gaishuo’ 歷代琴器概說), 10.


Zhang Zhengming’s theory.


Han shu, 30.1730, 1732.


Shi ji, 74.2347.

Although the overall gist is the same, the prevalent version of this passage is different from the redaction quoted here and is as follows: ‘Huan Yuan was of the state of Chu. All (those previously mentioned) studied the Yellow Emperor and Laozi’s expositions of the Way and Virtuous Morality, and thus sought to reveal through exegesis their intention and inner meaning. Therefore, Shen Dao wrote twelve theses, Huan Yuan an essay in two parts, and Tian Pian and Jiezi also put forth theses.’ 環淵,楚人。皆學黃老道德之術,因發明序其指意。故慎到著十二論,環淵著上下篇,而田駢、接子皆有所論焉.


Shi ji, 46.1895.

The most widely circulated redaction of this passage is: ‘(Qi) Xuanwang liked literary scholars who travelled around proffering advice on governance and other matters, for example, Zou Yan, Chunyu Kun (c.386–310), Tian Pian, Jieyu, Shen Dao, Huan Yuan, and their like, in fact, seventy-six men in total, and all were given fine manorial residences and official positions as upper-ranked dafu ministers …’ 宣王喜文學游說之士,自如鄒衍、淳于髡、田駢、接予、慎到、環淵之徒七十六人,皆賜列第,爲上大夫……Although the version Jao Tsung-i quotes is not radically different and simply omits a list of names, it does serve to bring Huan Yuan, a relative nonentity, into prominence beside the celebrated Zou Yan. Zou Yan’s dates are usually given as c.305–240 BCE or thereabouts, so his presence in this list also undermines the veracity of Jao’s source.


Wenxuan, 34.1572–73.


The prevailing modern redaction of this passage from the Huainanzi, the first essay ‘Yuandao xun’ 原道訓, reads: ‘Even if one had a hooked needle furnished with barbs, fine, strong silk twine and fragrant bait, and added to that fishermen of the skill of Zhan He and Yuan Xuan, they could not compete with nets with regard to fishing efficacy.’ 雖有鉤箴芒距,微綸芳餌,加之以詹何、娟嬛之数,猶不能与網罟爭得也. Huainanzi, 1.26.


Gao You’s note on Yuan Xuan is cited in most sources as: ‘Zhan He and Juan Xuan are the names of ancients who were good at fishing.’ 詹何娟嬛古善釣人名. Huainanzi, 1.26. There is no mention of Bai Gong; note the variants of the characters used: 娟嬛.


Wenxuan, 34.1572–73.


Taiping yulan, 834.6b (3723).

This quote is the entirety of the citation in Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era, but only the opening of Song Yu’s poem, which is different and reads: ‘Song Yu and Dengtuzi both received instruction on rod-and-line fishing from Xuan Yuan. When this was over, they sought an audience with Xiangwang, the ruler of Chu, who granted their wish. Dengtuzi said: “Xuan Yuan is the best fisherman in the entire world. Your Majesty should go and observe him.” Xiangwang replied: “What makes his skills so special?” Dengtuzi answered: “Regarding Xuan Yuan’s fishing, he uses a rod three xun in length, a line spun of eight silk threads, maggots and worms as bait, and hooks like fine needles, and is able to catch fish three chi feet in length from water several ren fathoms deep.”’ 宋玉與登徒子偕受釣於玄洲[淵],止而並見於楚襄王。登徒子曰:「 夫玄洲[淵],天下之善釣者也,願王觀焉。」王曰:「其善柰[奈]何?」登徒子對曰:「夫玄洲 [淵]釣也,以三尋之竿,八絲之線,餌若蛆寅[蚓],鉤如細針,以出三赤[尺]之魚於數仞之水中」.


Taiping yulan, 579.3b (2614).

Jao Tsung-i quotes the latter half of the citation in Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era. In its entirety as it appears elsewhere, the poem is called ‘Feng fu’ 諷賦 and this passage is slightly different: ‘… so we moved into the Orchid Chamber, where your servant (Song Yu) was received with hospitality; and therein as the centrepiece was someone playing a qin; your servant took the qin and started plucking it, the pieces being “Darkened Orchid” and “Snowdrifts”.’ 乃更於蘭房之室,止臣其中。中有鳴琴焉,臣援而鼓之,爲 〈幽蘭〉、〈白雪〉之曲.


Ying Shao, Fengsu tong xingshi pian, A.23.


Wenxin diaolong, 10.725.


Taiping yulan, 578.3a (2609).


Jao Tsung-i omits the character ‘zi that occurs in front of 餌術 (‘er shu’, literally ‘Bait Skill’) in most sources. If is a scribal error for (also pronounced ‘zi’), then 餌術 would be Juanzi’s soubriquet, which is entirely congruent with the various anecdotes Jao Tsung-i cites.


Taiping yulan, 670.6b (2989).

Jixian lu is a hagiography of female celestial beings by Du Guangting (杜光庭, 850–933), though is compiled from earlier sources; the citation of it in Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era that Jao Tsung-i quotes here could not be found in its original text.


Liexian zhuan jiaojian, A.24.


Wenxuan, 18.838.


Shuijing 水經 itself is by Sang Qin 桑欽 (fl. Eastern Han dynasty).


Shuijing zhushu, 24.2019.


Like Juanzi, Zhu Zhu is also mentioned in Liexian zhuan, and both are afforded a whole paragraph each with their name as its title. Liexian zhuan consists of two juan: Juanzi’s biography is in juan 1, Zhu Zhu’s in juan 2. Qin Gao also has a similar biography (in juan 1), of which Jao Tsung-i’s citation is the opening part.


Liexian zhuan jiaojian, A.60.


Ge Hong, Shenxian zhuan jiaoshi, 1.


Quan Liang wen 全梁文, 66.3b (3342).

This letter is found in juan 66 of Quan Liang wen, compiled by Yan Kejun (嚴可均, 1762–1843); Juan 66 is an anthology of the works of Yu Jianwu 庾肩吾 and Ruan Xiaoxu (阮孝緒, 479–536).


Ma Tai Loi, ‘Nanfang caomu zhuang bianwei’, 103–125.


Hanjian Guwen sisheng yun, 2.26a (93).


Xu Shen , Shuowen jiezi, 12B.18b (267).


Shuowen jiezi zhu, 12B.45a (634).


Xu Shen, Shuowen jiezi, 12B.18b (267).


Guodian chumu zhujian, 180.


Wangshan chujian, 112.


Wangshan chujian, 112.


Wangshan chujian, 112.


Baoshan chujian, 37.


See: Liu Guosheng, ‘Research into Writings on Lacquered Cases of the Marquis Yi of Zeng’s Tomb and Investigation of the Se’ (‘Zenghou Yi mu qixiang shu wenzi yanjiu: fu se kao’), the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Third Conference on Paleography (15–17 October 1997), Collected Conference Papers (Xianggang Zhongwen Daxue disan jie guwenzixue yantaohui lunwenji).


Jao Tsung-i, Zeng Xiantong, Suixian Zenghou Yi mu zhongqing mingci yanjiu, 56.


Tokyo National Museum, Hubei sheng bowuguan, Toyota Zaidan, Urushi de kakareta shinbi no sekai: Chūgoku kodai shikkiten 漆で描かれた神秘の世界: 中囯古代漆器展 A Mysterious World of Ancient Designs: Lacquerware from the Tombs of Hubei, China.


Boshu Laozi jiaozhu, 229.


Laozi daodejing zhu jiaoshi, 55.145.


The first part of this sentence ‘qin and se sounding in harmony’ 琴瑟和鳴 shares the same last two characters as line 10 of the poem ‘Yougu’ 有瞽 of The Book of Songs, ‘Zhou song’, which is: ‘Solemn and magnificent, a richly concordant voice.’ 肅雝和鳴.


Taiping yulan, 577.9a (2607).


Ying Shao, Fengsu tongyi jiaoshi, 6.235.


Wenxuan, 16.715.


Li Shan’s notes: ‘The Qi lüe give: “Regarding the elegant qin, the qin, in the utterance of words, means to constrain, whilst elegance, in the utterance of words, means to rectify; the gentleman should abide by rectification in order to constrain himself.”’ 《七略》曰:雅琴,琴之言禁也,雅之言正也,君子守正以自禁. Wenxuan, 16.715.


Taiping yulan, 579.1b (2613).


Xu Shen, Shuowen jiezi, 12B.18b (267).


Mozi jiangu, 12.84. Shangshu Zhengyi, 19.630.


This citation comes from Mozi, juan 3, essay no. 12 of the whole Mozi that is called: ‘Shangtong zhong’ 尚同中; the relevant quote in full is: ‘“Lü xing” speaks thus: “The Miao people do not obey the system of orders from the government, so they should be punished, and instead all they do is implement capital punishment in five different ways, and this they call the Law.”’ 〈呂刑〉之道曰:「苗民否用練,折則刑,唯作五殺之刑,曰法。」 The equivalent quote from The Book of Documents, ‘Lü xing’ is: ‘The Miao people do not obey orders, so they should be punished; they only implement five cruel methods of execution as punishment, and thus kill and impale innocent people.’ 苗民弗用靈,制以刑,惟作五虐之刑,殺戮無辜.


Xu Shen, Shuowen jiezi, 12B.18b (267).


Fu Yi’s ‘Qin fu’ appears in juan 21 of Gu wen yuan 古文苑 (undated).


Quan Hou Han wen 全後漢文, 43.3b (706).


Ban Gu, Baihu tong shuzheng, 3.124–25.

Jao Tsung-i has truncated this quote from Baihu tong, ‘Essay on Rites and Music’ and in full it reads: ‘The se engenders thrift, restraint, and in this way checks anger and causes the gong, shang, and jiao notes to be suitably arranged. If the ruler behaves with frugality, the official will be imbued with justice, and the Four Seasons come to pass in harmonious order, and if the Four Seasons come to pass in harmonious order, then the myriad things will come into being, and this is therefore said to be the embodiment of the se. The qin instils constraint, and constrains and halts lustful perversions and rectifies the human heart.’ 瑟者,嗇也,閒也,所以懲忽(忿)宮商角則宜。君父有節,臣子有義,然後四時和,四時和然後萬物生,故謂之瑟也。琴者,禁也,所以禁止淫邪、正人心也.


Laozi daodejing zhu jiaoshi, 59.155.


Xu Shen, Shuowen jiezi, 10B.18a (221).


Maoshi Zhengyi, 3.280.


Maoshi Zhengyi, 3.280.


Fangyan jiaojian, 12.76.


Xu Shen, Shuowen jiezi, 10B.11a (217).


Er ya zhushu, 2.33.

In Er ya, is one of eight characters all in a column given the same character (‘ju’) as their definition; this character means ‘in terror’.


Maoshi Zhengyi, 20.1715.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 151.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 151.


Jao Tsung-i includes only a fraction of the entire quotation that Confucius deploys: Confucius cites the entire first stanza of ten lines of ‘Min lao’ of which Jao Tsung-i selects only the last two.


Zuo Qiuming, Chunqiu zuozhuan Zhengyi, 49.1622.


Zuo Qiuming, Chunqiu zuozhuan Zhengyi, 49. 1619–20.


Liji Zhengyi, 37.1252.


Maoshi Zhengyi, 9.654.


Maoshi Zhengyi, 9.674.


Guoyu jijie, 16.470. Zuo Qiuming, Chunqiu zuozhuan Zhengyi, 49.1614.


Yanzi Chunqiu jishi, 7.443.


Guoyu jijie, 16.470, 472, 473.


Zuo Qiuming, Chunqiu zuozhuan Zhengyi, 49.1613.


Lu Deming, Jingdian shiwen huijiao, 19.21a (587).


The stele on which the phrase ‘in heart and soul united in one aspiration’ 摶心壹志 is found was erected in Langya 琅琊 in 219 BCE. Prevailing sources give the phrase as 摶心揖志, whose meaning is arguably identical.


Guoyu jijie, 16.473.


Xu Shen, Shuowen jiezi, 12B.8b (262).


Shuowen jiezi yizheng, 39.32b–33a (1091–92).

The character has two different pinyin romanisations: when it means ‘singularity’ as in the collocation 專一 (‘zhuanyi’), its pinyin romanisation is ‘zhuan’; when it means ‘break’ (‘duan’) its pinyin romanisation is ‘tuan’.

The reference to (‘tuan’) in Shuowen jiezi (juan 4) is:

劖:𩠹[斷]也。从刀毚聲。一曰剽也,釗也。 Shuowen jiezi, 4.92.

刓:剸也。从刀元聲。一曰齊也。 Shuowen jiezi, 4.92.

This translates as:

The character (‘chan’) means the same as the character 𩠹 (; ‘duan’). It is classified under the ‘dao’ radical and takes as its phonetic component the character (‘chan’); alternatives are (‘piao’) and (‘zhao’).

The character (‘wan’) means the same as the character (‘tuan’). It is classified under the ‘dao’ radical and takes as its phonetic component the character (‘yuan’).


Shuowen jiezi zhu, 9A.17a (423). Han shu, 64B.2823.

The previous phrase in Han shu backs up Jao Tsung-i’s argument further: ‘(The sword could) in the waters decapitate a jiao water-dragon and on land cut open rhinoceros hide.’ 水斷蛟龍,陸剸犀革. Han shu, 64B.2823.

The phrase from ‘Su Qin liezhuan’ is: ‘On land decapitate cattle and horses.’ 陸斷牛馬. Shi ji, 69.2251.


Shi ji, 69.2251.


Chunqiu Gongyang zhuan zhushu, 14.348.

A fuller version of the Qin Vows text is found in The Greater Learning (Daxue 大學) of the post-Confucius period–early Han dynasty: ‘If there were a steadfast and righteous official who spoke his mind in a straightforward and honest way, even if he had no other skills but had a kind and generous heart, I would bring him into my service.’ 若有一介臣,斷斷兮,無他技,其心休休焉,其如有容. Liji Zhengyi, 60.1870.


Chunqiu Gongyang zhuan zhushu, 14.348.

He Xiu’s note in its completeness is: ‘The collocation 一介 means “entirely”; concentrated on the task is the same as “in perfect unison”.’ 一介猶一概;斷斷猶專一. Chunqiu Gongyang zhuan zhushu, 14.348.


Zhuangzi jishi, 10B.1094.


Lunyu zhushu, 13.203.


Chuxue ji, 15.367.

This quote from Chuxue ji occurs twice in juan 15. Each short passage of the text is furnished with a title that only applies to that passage:

First occurrence: (Title) ‘Establishing Harmoniousness’. 定和. (Text) ‘Xunzi gives: “Concerning that which is music, create detail from a singularity (unison) to establish harmoniousness; follow the singularity (unison) to establish reason (musical form).”’ 《孫卿子》曰:夫樂者,審一以定和,率一以定理. This passage is a paraphrase of prevailing redactions of Xunzi’s ‘Yuelun pian’ 樂論篇 (essay 20, found in juan 14).

Second occurrence: (Title) ‘Shijie’ 飾節 (Text) ‘Gongsun Nizi lun gives: “With regard to that which is music, create detail from a singularity (unison) to establish harmoniousness; pay attention to the different attributes of musical instruments in order to embellish rhythm.”’ 《公孫尼子論》曰:樂者,審一以定和,比物以飾節.


Zhuangzi jishi, 7B.737.


Zhuangzi jishi, 1B.45.


Huan Tan, Xin ji ben Huan Tan xin lun, 16.64.

The full quotation from Xin lun is: ‘Long ago, Shennong inherited the rulership of the world from Fuxi, who, upwards, looked for the laws of Heaven, and, downwards, obtained the laws from the earth. Nearby, he obtained them from his body; afar, he obtained them from other objects; and thereupon he began to carve wood to make a qin and wound silk to make the strings in order to engage directly with the virtuous morality of the enlightenment of the spirits and to unify the harmoniousness of Heaven and mankind.’ 昔神農氏繼宓羲而王天下,上觀法於天,下取法於地,近取諸身,遠取諸物,於是始削桐爲琴,練絲爲絃,以通神明之德,合天地之和焉.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 151.


Shi ji, 74.2346.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 145.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 157.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 193.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 194.


In this context, the character (‘da’) is often used interchangeably with (‘tai’). Although Jao Tsung-i uses the former, the latter is the more normal version, and the pinyin reflects this.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 125.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 125.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 125.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 125.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 125.


Zhao Jianwei, ‘Guodian chumu zhujian “Taiyi shengshui” shuzheng’, 390.


Zhuangzi jishi, 5B.507.


Guodian chumu zhujian, 141.


Liji Zhengyi, 39.1314.


Chen Wei, ‘“Taiyi shengshui” jiaodu bing lun yu Laozi de guanxi’, 230.


Chou Feng-wu, ‘Characteristics of the Forms of Guodian Bamboo Slips and their Types and Significance’ (‘Guodian zhujian de xingshi tezheng ji qi fenlei yiyi’), 238–356.

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