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Shijing yuepu yuelü zhengsu 詩經樂譜樂律正俗

Oct 7, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Shijing yuepu yuelü zhengsu 詩經樂譜樂律正俗 "Musical scores for the Book of Songs with corrections of vulgar musical temperament", also called (Qinding) Shijing yuepu quanshu (欽定)詩經樂譜全書 "The (Imperially endorsed) Whole book of musical scores for the Book of Songs", is a kind of musical score for the ritual performance of songs from the Confucian Classic Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs". The book of 31 juan length was compiled in 1788 on imperial order of the Qianlong Emperor 乾隆帝 (1736-1796) of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911). The compilation was undertaken under the supervision of an imperial prince and fulfilled by the officials in the Music Ministry (yuebu 樂部).

The musical mode (gongdiao 宮調) of each song was adapted to the meaning of the text, on the base of the evidence of ancient sources, and the Emperor himself added short instructions. The high ritual character of this music was the reason that the Emperor ordered to express one syllable with only one note, which corresponded to the traditional view that "great music" was to be played with "sparing sound" (da yin xi sheng 大音希聲). The score followed the instruction of the book Lülü zhengyi 律呂正義, in which the voices of eight different instruments (acoustic colours) are noted down separately (bayinpu 八音譜) in modulation tables (xuangongbiao 旋宮表).

The sound of each syllable or note was to be different, but the mode remained the same for the whole piece. This method was very different from older examples like in Zhu Zaiyu's 朱載堉 (1536-c. 1610) Yuelü quanshu 樂律全書 from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644), where there are melisma to be found especially in the parts to be played by zithers.

The last fascicle, which includes the chapter Yuelü zhengsu 樂律正俗, is a kind of correction of errata, also written with the intention to produce more pleasant sounds than the compilers had composed.

The whole book includes the scores of 305 songs, with six additional pieces for the mouth-organ (sheng 笙). There are 1,555 systems in total, for flutes (xiao 蕭, di 笛), bells (zhong 鐘) and zithers (qin 琴, sheng 瑟).

The book is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Wuyingdian juzhenban shu 武英殿聚珍版書 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編.

Figure 1. Beginning of the score of the air Guanju 關雎
Score for the first air of the Shijing, Guanju 關雎, in the Shijing yuepu 詩經樂譜, for the vertical bamboo flute (xiao 簫), the traverse flute (di 笛), bells (zhong 鐘), the small zither (qin 琴) and the large zither (se 瑟, from right to left). The text of the air is written in black, the notes and playing techniques in red. The melodies are syllabic, with one single tone for each syllable of the text.
Figure 2. Concordance of signs for musical notes
Explanation of the tones in the scores of various instruments in the Shijing yuepu 詩經樂譜, from top to bottom (in red): the seven tones (qi yin 七音), various types of flutes (xiao 簫, paixiao 排簫, xun 壎, chi 篪), short flutes (di 笛) and mouth organs sheng 笙), bells and soundstones (zhong 鐘, qing 磬), small zither (qin 琴), and large zither (se 瑟). The tone gong 宮 is expressed by various score marks, like 工, 四(五), 黃鐘, , or .
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