VOLUME 1, No.4 JOURNAL June 2000
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" Music in the Age of Confucius, "
an Exhibit of Ancient Instruments at the Sackler Gallery (cont.)

Ten-stringed qin-zither and replica tuning pegs, from the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng, Leigudun, Suizhou, Hubei Province. Fifth century B.C. Carved lacquered wood. Length 67 cm, width 19 cm, depth 11.4 cm. Hubei Provincial Museum. Photograph by John Tsantes.

View of qin with top and bottom separated and replica tuning pegs in place. Photograph by John Tsantes
Buried among this unique profusion of instruments and their stands and storage boxes lay one small qin. Quite small. Scarcely more than half the length of the modem qin, this instrument is one of three early qin to have been unearthed in modem times. So different are they from the modem qin that they appear at face to be a different instrument, and it has taken some analysis to establish that old and new forms are relatives. The old qin (a ku qin, literally) bears more overt resemblance to a hand-held instrument like a violin or guitar than to a zither, with a short, rectangular body, whose long sides are indented in straight lines like the outline of a geometric figure eight, and a wide, flat neck. Baffling is the bottom, which matches in outline, but is not attached to, the top. Absent from the catalog is much backroom debate as to the position in which this instrument was played and the role of its independent bottom plate, which curator Jenny So and Bo Lawergren outlined during the tour. The instrument has a single anchor pin for the strings under the neck on the left end and tuning pins for ten strings inside the body on the right. These are the earliest extant examples of tuning pins for any instrument, and, unlike today, they were turned with a key.

Bo Lawergren wrote "Strings," the third chapter of the exhibition catalog. Here, he summarizes information on the three types of zither found in the marquis' tomb (se, zhu, and qin) and also provides information on the fourth zither popular in early times, the zheng. The catalog is an excellent summary of the state of knowledge on most of the instruments of early times, an important document among those commonly available on the subject in English.

Map showing major sites, cities, and relative locations ancient states, From Music in the Age of Confucius, page 115
Neolithic Period ca.7000- 2000 B.C.

Bronze Age ca.2000-500B.C.

Shang dynasty ca. 1600-1050 B.C.

Zhou dynasty 1050-221 B.C.

Western Zhou 1050-771 B.C.

Eastern Zhou 771-221 B.C.

Warring States Period 480-221 B.C.

Qin dynasty 221-206 B.C.

Han dynasty 206 B.C.-A.D. 220

Western Jin dynasty A.D. 265-316

Tang dynasty A.D. 618-907

Song dynasty A.D. 960-1279

Northern Song A.D. 960-1127

Five-stringed zhu-zither, with detail, from the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng, Leigudun, Suizhou, Hubei Province. Fifth century B.C. Carved lacquered wood. Length 115 cm, width 7 cm, depth 4 cm, Hubei Provincial Museum. Photograph by Hao Qinjian.

In retrospect, the catalog and exhibit of " Music in the Age of Confucius " constitute a vision of the present state of ancient music. Among the mysteries that always multiply around increased knowledge, they provide us with as clear a view as possible of what we now know, and something of what we do not know, about this remote time; and especially, of what we do not know about the music itself. This is almost certainly lost, forever reduced to the written descriptions of its sounds, instruments, and social roles that still are found in ancient texts, as well as to what we may glean from the mute peculiarities of its antique artifacts. It is clear, however, that music had an importance in the world extreme beyond anything like its place today. Now, music reaches its deepest significance inside the solipsistic world of personal experience, but anciently, up through the Han at least, the numerical relationships within music were thought to embody or reflect the natural essence of the universe, including the world of human experience. Then, music harmonized the world, just as, up to a few centuries ago, the harmony of the spheres regulated the heavens of Europe. Today, what we know of the old music from those who experienced it is found in ancient reports like the Li Chi, or Record of Ritual, which still reminds us of the meaning of music and rites in distant times:

"Thus, music comes from within, and rites act from without. Coming from within, music makes our minds serene; acting from without, ritual makes our gestures elegant. Yet, great music must be easy, and great rites, simple."

Members: Alex Chao, Stephen Dydo, Matthew Flannery, Willow Hai, Shida Kuo, Bo Lawergren, Gopal Sukhu, Yuan Jung-Ping

to page 1. The NYQS Goes to Washington
to page 2. " Music in the Age of Confucius, " an Exhibit of Ancient Instruments at the Sackler Gallery

Copyright © 2002 New York Qin Society. All rights reserved.