Translation of Guqin and Health
Mr. Liang thinks that playing guqin is not only a performing art but the main purpose is for health which is same as the western discussion of biological musicology.
Chinese biological musicology includes sound body, sound quality and sound influences, which is a process or the three behaviors from “supra-consciousness,” to “sub-consciousness” to “super-consciousness.”
Back to around 175 BCE, Si Ma-qian proposed the psychological significance of music that it will stimulate blood, making the spirit and energy flow and joining in the positive heart; the Gong sound (Do or F) will touch the spleen and join in the positive sacred. The Shang sound (Re) will touch the lungs and join in the positive humanities; the Jue sound (Mi) will touch the liver and join in the positive benevolence; the Zhi sound (Sol) will touch the heart and join in the positive manner; the Yu sound (La) will touch the kidneys and join in the positive wisdom.
Recently, Mr. Guo Lin, uses this theory, sound vibration influences internal organs, created a qi-kong exercise. If there is the principal of physical sensing, then the specific sound wave will influence specific internal organ’s adjustment.
Zhuang Zi and Ban-gu from East Han, proposed similar idea of keeping heath by restricted emotion and the practicing of tranquil and nothingness in order to hold the real energy and spirit; that is the essential of the musical health cognition of the qin music and also the world music.
The meaning of restricted emotion had more definitions from late Han dynasty, Cai Yong (132-192). He proposed the theory of the well energy (positive energy) and the “against the way” energy (negative energy) that one needs to defense himself from negative energy, in order to cultivate one’s mind and attitude and return to the genuine person. The negative energy created by sensual desires. Confucianism believes that when any sound that arouses human sensuality, the negative energy will create. The negative energy will bring more excessive music. When the sound does not arouses human sensuality but touched one’s mind and heart, that is a positive sound and positive energy will create. When positive energy created, then the harmonic music will create….
Negative energy and positive energy both will touch people. The difference is the positive influences and the negative influences…
Ancient Chinese also proposed that there are the sub-conscious of the 5 sounds relates to the 5 internal organs:
Gong – Spleen – Balanced Mind
Shang – Lungs – Positive Mind
Jue – Liver – Serious Mind
Zhi – Heart – Relaxed Mind
Yu – Kidneys -- Peaceful Mind
Guqin theory in Han dynasty was entering the” restricted emotion” time period. Restricted emotion is one of the musical consciousness functions. Compare to western musical consciousness development: the “sacrificial emotion” of Medieval Renaissance; the proper emotion of the aesthetic Baroque classical music; the enthusiasm romantic music; the sensational modern atonal avant-garde music; and till the 80’s new age music that has returned to the proper emotional music which was influenced by world folk music and post-modern music. Nearly a thousand years of musical consciousness process, only the musical function of “restricted emotion” is missing. However, 2000 years ago, Chinese guqin musical theory had already mentioned it and promoted the function of health preservation.
Guqin tablature does not show rhythm that is for the sack of that the player can interpret it by his or her own subjective awareness. The subjective awareness is guided by the state of mind of the player. The mind of the player is influenced by his or her learning background, style, culture, education, religion, age, gender, life experience etc. … therefore, one melody can have several different version…. Therefore, qin music cannot work with metronon. … Forgetting the mechanical function but following with the natural temperament is a kind of neuropsychology.
Guqin has rich fingering which other musical instruments cannot reach. Such as there are 58 kinds of vibrato (yin and nao). There are more than 4000 kinds of fingering that is combined with both right hand and left hand. The left hand creates a lot of verities of energy movement, and the “Electromagnetic” function.
Guqin fingerings helped the balance of both sides of the brain cortex electromagnetic (qi) function, and enhance the subcortical cooperative action (synergy)…
Roger Sperry, the winner of 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology, once proposed that “subcortical bridge” connects the awareness behavior of the left brain and the right brain. Subcortical enhance the stimulation of synergy and making the awareness of language and time (control by the left brain) and the awareness of emotion and music, and space (control by the right brain) connected as a whole energy. In contrast, ancient Greek used music as the channel leading to the depths of the elegant soul. Chinese Confucianism advocating ritual music as respect for cultural awareness which is also the healthy development of the synergy…
The variety of the combinations of left hand and right hand fingerings of the guqin is also the behavior of synergy… it is absolutely not an illusory sense of metaphysical.
Mr. Liang believes that the “24 Qin Situations,” which was written by the late Ming dynasty qin master Xu Qing-shan, is not just a guqin playing theory or sound theory but the 24 sonic phenomenology of guqin. It is a sequence of three-levels’ construct –
1, heard by ears / (points) / original construct of single sound / “supra-consciousness
2, heard by heart / (lines) / construct of liaison sound / sub-consciousness
3, heard by energy (qi) / (surface) / construct of a whole music / super-consciousness
(I will omit the translation of the 24 Qin situations here)
Xu Qin-shan did not mention the emotions of happiness, anger, sadness and joy. He deliberately proposed the concepts of the aesthetics of “restricted emotion” of sound and mind, which has its vital history and heritage.
Worth to mention that the history of qin music theory has been experiencing more than 2000 years from Zhang zi to Xu Qin-shan, it proves that there is the consciousness theory of sound patterns which is using the sound to lead the mind and using the mind to lead the energy (qi).
Qin and Qi-gong
1, the function of the acupuncture points on the finger tips
The major physiological health effect of playing Guqin is from the acupuncture points on finger tips (biofeedback). Especially from the left hand vibrato and press down techniques. The acupoint on the right side of the left thumb is called “shao shang” which is belong to the Lung Meridian. Stimulate this point will help the health of one’s throat, chest, and lung. The acupoint on the middle finger tip is called “Zhong Chong” which belongs to the Pericardium Meridian. Stimulate this point will help to release headache for example. The acupoint in the middle of the palm is called “Lao Gong,” If the energy between Lao Gong and Zhong Chong is connected, it will stimulate the nerve of screen effect which is located on the back end of the cerebral cortex. This will help a qin player to convey a qin melody to an image and that is so called synesthesia. Besides, the Loa Gong point is the point to absorb and sense the infrasonic wave.
2, Infrasonic Wave and Silent Hearing
Infrasonic wave, also called “under-tone,” which is a sound wave that is lower than 16 hertz. Normal human ear cannot hear the sound wave that is lower than 20 hertz. Infrasonic wave is the phenomenon of natural sound. Thunder, ocean wave, wind, whale, rain, and bell, all are carrying infrasonic wave. Human internal organs also can transmit infrasonic wave. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that Bai-hui, Ming-meng and Lao-gong acupoints can sense infrasonic wave. This wave represents a kind of energy that will flow inside our body.
Playing guqin, the Lao-gong acupoints from both palms should be facing the surface of the qin to sense the under-tone. But nowadays qin players does not play like this way anymore, instead, their palms tilt a little bit, and their playing are more aiming for pretty and bright sound, but not for absorbing the energy from the music sound.
When playing qin, do not raise the right wrist, otherwise the energy will not flow through to the finger tips, and therefore, sound will not be solid and strong. “Gathering the energy (qi)” is important, but I (Mr. Liang, the writer) did not realized it until I met Master Wu Zhao-ji and he let me know how to “recognize qi.” If a qin player knows how to transmit his or her energy while playing qin, this exercise will help the qin player enrich the absorbing of the infrasonic wave and improve the low frequency infrared radiation from his or her palms. And then improve the energy of brain wave and pause, and the brain synergy. (I am not sure what is that mean and how that work exactly, but it sounds amazing – peiyou says) It is a qi-gong of temperament conditioning.
Cerebral auditory recollection
We know that music is an art of memory time. When music stop, the memory of the sound we heard still exist. Therefore, music is an art that we heard it first then we know it. Any leftover sound will not exist more than 4 seconds. What exist is the memory saved in our central auditory nervous.
Also there is the “silent hearing” which is playing the qin melody in our mind but not playing qin by hands. Same as what ancient Chinese, Lu-ji said “fan ting” (reverse hearing) and Zhuang-zi said “hearing no sound, we called it ming ming (profound), “ and Lao-zi said “ hearing no sound, we called it Xi (rare)” and the Da Yin Xi Sheng -- “the greatest sound is no sound.”
Many qin pieces has parts that the sound created by left hand moving up and down without right hand plucking any string, such as the piece “Misty Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang River” that the movement of the left hand conveys the image of the misty river and clouds . That is also reflects to the “silent hearing.”
Our body can also hear the silent sound or hear the qi by feeling the vibration from the qin to the qin table, to the ground to our feet. The older the qin, the feeling of its sound vibration is stronger. If one does not play qin, it is hard to understand this. We are not only hearing the sound of music, but also feeling the sound wave energy.
Hearing the music from amplifier and cd player will not allow us to sense the silent hearing.
3, The wave of alpha, beta and theta ( α，β & θ wave)
Before, we talked about the chemical reaction of restricted emotion and the adjustment of subcortical cooperative action (synergy) in order to reach a calm mind; which is caused by the reducing of the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, and lower the blood lactic levels. The increasing or reducing of blood lactate will affect the balance of the nervous of anxiety. On the contrary, passion and sensationalism can increase the stimulant secretion of adrenaline. Today's "heavy metal" kind of Rock or Pop music is bringing the stimulant secretion of adrenaline, and leads directly into the consequences of indulgence and loss of virtue.
Practicing Qi-gone will help lower the lactic in blood and adjust the secretion of adrenalin and endorphin. Therefore if playing qin properly, it’ll benefit our health as qi-gong does.
When we sense something, our brain will create the waves of α (8-12 Hz/per second)，β(14-30 Hz/per second) & θ(4-7 Hz/per second). When human’s mind is in a peaceful status, α waves occur. When human’s mind is in an exciting status, β waves occur. When θ waves occur, human’s mind is in an illusion status. If θ waves is increasing on a baby’s mind, it is in a joyful status. Therefore, θ waves also called “happy waves” which is similar to what Lao-zi said “special energy causes softness can infant only.”
Guqin player entering a rationality status is the process of lower the Beta waves to Alpha waves or even lower to Theta waves in order to entering to a super-consciousness status or return to the special energy only infant has. After reach the Theta waves, the endorphin will increase and the positive joyful energy will occur. This is the secret of “restricted emotion” and “return to the natural true energy” of guqin playing.
--- attempt translation by Peiyou Chang on Feb 1st 2012
Implications of the De-sensationalized Mental State in Qin Music for Health Preservation through Qi Energy Transmission
In modern studies on qin music, inquiry into the aesthetics of performance has been overly emphasized and the ancient tradition regarding the psychobiological implications of qin music has largely been ignored. The present paper explores the implications of the de-sensationalized or non-emotional state of mind, which was, according to Han qin scholars, essential for realizing the biological as well as psycho-acoustical aspects of qin practice. Historically, the central issue of qin performance has been primarily related to three functional hierarchies, namely: hearing (er-ting耳聽, listening with the ears), sensing (xin-ting心聽, listening with the heart/mind) and transforming (qi-ting氣聽, listening with qi). According to the philosopher Zhuangzi, listening with qi is the highest form of musical practice. Essentially, it is the mystery of “listening with qi ” that motivated me to launch a systematic inquiry into the relationship between qi in musical practice and its neuro-psychological as well as biological implications. It should be emphasized that the goal of qin practice, according to Xi Kang (223-263) in his Qin fu, is mainly the preservation of bodily wellbeing and enrichment of mental and spiritual soundness. Ultimately, the examination of psychobiological factors directed the inquiry to an investigation of the abstruse meanings of the 24 qin musical conditions (qin kuang琴況), which were originally expounded by the Qing dynasty scholar Xu Qingshan in his Xi shan qin kuang (1673). According to Xu, the qin kuang were divided into 24 types of what I would call sonic phenomenology. There are different opposing interpretations of the true meaningsof the 24 qin kuang. But after many years of studying the esoteric meanings ofthe 24 qin kuang, it finally occurred to me that they are actually cognitive contextualizations of the three categories of hearing, sensing and transformingmentioned above. It is rather clear to me that the term qin kuang reaffirms theTaoist ideology of musical cognition.In essence, qin music is not only a performing art, but even more importantly a means for preserving one’s health. In other words, the psychobiological significance of qin practice is the very essence of the qin musical tradition.
* Ming-yue Liang was the former Director of the Graduate Program in Ethnomusicology at the
University of Maryland in Baltimore County, U.S.A.