An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Wenmiao dingji pu 文廟丁祭譜

Feb 19, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Ming-Qing ji Kong wupu 明清祭孔舞譜 is a collection of illustrations (dongzuotu 動作圖 "movement charts") and musical scores (wenzipu 文字譜) serving as guidance for the performance of ritual dances and music before the shrine of Confucius. The collection includes some Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) writings, as well as the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) books Wenwu wupu 文舞舞譜, Queli xinpu 闕里新譜, and Wenmiao dingji pu 文廟丁祭譜.

The oldest performance of such ceremonial dances is attested for the year 424 under Emperor Wen 宋文帝 (r. 424-453) of the Liu-Song dynasty 劉宋 (420-479). The dancers performed according to the "rites of the superior dukes" (shanggong zhi li 上公之禮), the 36 dancers were divided into six groups or rows (yi 佾) and were accompanied by a xuanxuan 軒懸 music troupe standing in U-shape on three sides of the dancefloor. This arrangement allegedly dated from the Western Zhou period 西周 (11th cent.-770 BCE) and was reserved for the regional rulers.

In 1393, Emperor Taizu 明太祖 (r. 1368-1398) of the Ming dynasty ordered to make use of the ritual music and ceremonial dances (dachengyue 大成樂) in all prefectural schools throughout the empire. The contemporary book Yuejing lüli tongjie 樂經律呂通解 explains that the musical scores known at that time were used for five types of enterings and withdrawings (guina chuli 歸納出立), two types of dances ( 舞容), three types of head movements (shourong 首容), five types of body movements (shenrong 身容), five of the hands (shourong 手容), two patterns of steps (burong 步容), seven movements of the feet (zurong 足容), and nine ritual movements (lirong 禮容).

An interesting observation is that horizontal or lateral movements were rare, while most dance movements were carried out from a standing position. The music theoretician Zhu Zaiyu 朱載堉 (1536-1610) remarked that this was necessary because most dances took place inside of halls. This impeded also turns and twists and restricted all types of dances to guarded movements of the limbs.

The Qing-period book Wenwu wupu includes the text Shengmen yuezhi 聖門樂志 and the notes of the Queli xinpu. Three of the movements were advancements, three in standing positions, three of the body, three of the head, four of the face, eight of the arms, nine of the legs, and two of the feet. There were furthermore 37 miscellaneous descriptions of the "energy of feathers and bamboo tubes" (yuedi zhi shi 籥翟之勢, held and moved by the dancers), and ten of the "energy of body and head" (shen-shou zhi shi 身首之勢).

The term dingsi 丁祭 "offerings of the day with the cyclical sign ding" (see calendar) is derived from the custom to deliver four sacrifices to Confucius per year, twice in the name of the state (guoji 國祭, first ding day of the 2nd and 8th lunar month), and twice in the name of the imperial family (jiaji 家祭, first ding day of the 5th and the 11th month).

Figures 1-3. Illustrations from the Wenmiao dingji pu 文廟丁祭譜
The upper two images show the movements of the dancers and the score the musicans have to play to the hymn Zi huai ming de, yu zhen jin sheng 子懷明德,玉振金聲. The text on the images describes the movements. The score has rows for different musical instruments, each of which uses different types of musical notes. From top: Text of the hymn - bells, drums, and panflutes - flutes and ocarinas - di short flute - qin zithers - se zithers. Some instruments play only one tone per syllable, others two. The dancers also make just one movement per syllable of the hymn. Click to enlarge.
This illustration (Yuexuan lici 樂懸立次) of the positions of each musician and dancer is turned around to read the characters. Red is the field of dancers, blue are various flutes, pipes, and the ocarinas, green the zithers, and yellow the bells (left) and sound stones (right). The brown areas signify drums and percussion instruments. The red circle marks a standard bearer (mao 麾). Far to the left and right are mouth organs and standing before them, bearers of rank tablets (hu 笏)

The state sacrifices were supervised by an official of rank 2 who was the principle sacrificer (zhuji 主祭). The offerings begat at midnight with three stroke of the large "lizard drum" (tuogu 鼉鼓) and the lighting of candles. The whole sacrificial ceremony consisted of six parts, namely the invitation or welcome of Confucius' spirit (yingshen 迎神), the first presentation of offerings (chuxian 初獻), the "next" presentation (yaxian 亞獻), the final presentation (zhongxian 終獻), and the "withdrawal delicacies" (chezhuansongshen 送神). The three presentations were accompanied by dances, the farewell by a song.

The orchestra consisted of the following musicians (yuegong 樂工): 6 singers, 6 qin zither 琴 players, 2 se zither 瑟 players, 3 mouth organists (sheng 笙), 3 flutists for a long flute (dongxiao 洞簫, 6 holes) and short flute (di 笛) each, one ocarina (xun 壎) player, 2 players of the traverse flute (chi 篪), and one playing a panpipe (paixiao 排簫). The drummers played the drum types yinggu 應鼓, bofutuogu 鼉鼓, zugu 足鼓, taogu 鼗鼓, pounder and scraper (zhuyu 柷敔), sound stones (teqing 特磬), large round bells (yongzhong 鏞鐘), as well as serial bells (bianzhong 編鐘) and serial sound stones (bianqing 編磬). There were furthermore two standard bearers (simao 司麾, sijing 司旌) participating.

The Wenmiao dingji pu was first printed in 1845 by the Zunjing Hall 尊經閣, in 4 juan, and reprinted in 1868. There is an abbreviated 1-juan version from 1868.

Table 1. Contents of the Wenmiao dingji pu 文廟丁祭譜
1 典禮考 Dianli kao Standard rites
2 源流考 Yuanliu kao Origins and history
3 禮器圖考 Liqi tu kao Illustrations of ritual implements and objects
樂器圖考 Yueqi tu kao Illustrations of musical instruments
4 學宮事宜 Xuegong shiyi Rules of the Study Hall
祭器全數 Jiqi quanshu Complete number of sacrificial tools
犧牲全數 Xisheng quanshu Complete number of sacrificial animals
樂器全數 Yueqi quanshu Complete number of musical instruments
釋奠儀注 Shidianyi zhu Comments to the ceremonies of arranging the offerings
合樂節奏 Heyue jiezou Tutti and accompagnati
釋奠陳設圖 Shidian chenshe tu Diagram of the arrangement of offerings
樂舞佾懸圖 Yue-wu yixuan tu Diagram of orchestra and dancers
樂舞進退班圖 Yue-wu jintui bantu Figures and scores of the advance and withdraw music
中和韶樂樂聲譜 Zhonghe shaoyue yuesheng pu Scores of the Shao Music in the Zhonghe Hall
中和韶樂舞容譜 Zhonghe shaoyue wurong pu Figures of dance movements of the Shao Music in the Zhonghe Hall
Peng Song 彭松 (1992). "Ming-Qing ji Kong wupu 明清祭孔舞譜", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Yinyue wudao 音樂•舞蹈 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 459.