25/26.08.2018, London [The First London International Guqin Festival]

Some Remarks about the Past, Present and Future of a Special Notation System for Guqin

In my paper, I will first summarize some basic elements of the now commonly used tablature of abbreviated characters (jianzi pu 減字譜) for noting the finger techniques of guqin 古琴 music. Then follows a short historical flashback, starting with the so-called wenzi pu 文字譜, a notation method which used whole sentences to indicate each movement of the right and the technique of the left hand to produce sounds, as it has been transmitted for the piece "Orchid in Jieshi mode" (Jieshi diao Youlan 碣石調•幽蘭). Secondly, I will show that the jianzi pu which has probably first been developed by a certain Cao Rou 曹柔 in the 8th Century was but one possible approach among others towards a notation method based on abbreviated Chinese characters.

Thirdly, I will discuss the mnemotechnical aspect of the traditional qin notation, i.e, that it will be easily recognized and for a long time be remembered by a qin player.

Finally, I will discuss the problem how students of guqin who neither speak Chinese nor are able to read Chinese characters might more effectively learn guqin by using a notation system which differs from the traditional jianzi pu, without giving up the mnemotechnical aspects of the old finger techniques.