c. 239 bc: Qin
Since music originated in high antiquity, of necessity it would be utterly wrong to discard it.
Music can induce self-limiting or extravagance;
it can rectify or corrupt.
The worthy have flourished on account of it;
The incompetent have failed because of it.
In the past, when the ancient Zhuxiang
clan ruled the world, there was an excess of wind
that caused the Yang ether to gather and accumulate, the myriad things to disperse and scatter, and the fruits and nuts not to ripen. Knight
Da therefore invented a five-string zither with
which to attract the Yin ether and arrange the
survival of the various living things.
In the past, in the music performances of
the Getian clan, three men waved oxtails and
stomped their feet while singing the Eight Stan-
zas, which were named “Supporting the People,”
“The Dusky Bird,” “Cultivating Grasses and
Trees,” “Invigorating the Five Grains,” “Strictly
Observing Heaven’s Norms,” “Discerning the
Accomplishments of the Sovereigns,” “Relying
on Earth’s Power,” and “Summarizing the Ulti-
mate Development of the Myriad Things.”
In the past the Yellow Sovereign com-
manded Ling Lun to create pitch standards.
Ling Lun, having passed through the west-
ern regions of Daxia, then went to the shady
northern slopes of the Kunlun Mountains. He
selected bamboo from the valley of Xiexi that
had hollows and walls of uniform thickness.
Cutting it between two nodes to a length of 3. 9
inches, he blew on it and fixed its sound as the
note gong for the Yellow Bell pitch standard.
The sound it made was styag-rhyag. He then
made the twelve bamboo tubes, one after the
other. Carrying these to the foot of the Kun-
lun Mountains, he heard the calls of the male
and female phoenixes, which he used to divide
the twelve pitch standards; six corresponding to
the calls of male, and six to the female. These he
harmonized with the fundamental note gong of
Yellow Bell. The note gong of Yellow Bell can be
used to generate all the other notes. Hence it is
said that the note gong of Yellow Bell is the root
of the male and the female pitch standards.
Sovereign Ku ordered Xianhei to compose
the “Kang” songs, which included the “Nine
Shao,” “Six Lie,” and “Six Ying.” Chui then
made hand drums, drums, bells, stone chimes,
mouth organs, pipes, ocarinas, and bamboo
flutes. Thereupon Sovereign Ku ordered men
to clap the drums and hand drums, strike the
bells and chimes, blow the mouth organs and
pipes, sound the ocarinas and bamboo flutes,
and hammer the peddler’s drum and the zhong
vessel. On the basis of this, he commanded that
the “Male and Female Phoenixes” and the “Sky
Pheasant” be danced. Sovereign Ku was overjoyed and therewith used these to celebrate the
Power of the Supreme Sovereign.
When Sovereign Yao ascended the throne,
he commanded Kui to create musical performances. Kui thereupon made songs in imitation
of the sounds of the forests and valleys, he covered earthenware tubs with fresh hides and beat
on them, and he slapped stones and hit rocks
to imitate the sounds of the jade chimes of the
Supreme Sovereign, with which he made the
hundred wild beasts dance.
Gusou, the Blind Old Man, took apart
the five-string zither and made a fifteen-string
zither, named “Great Emblem,” which was to be
used in the worship of the Supreme Sovereign.
When Yu ascended the throne, he toiled
and labored on behalf of the world. He rested
neither day nor night, opening up the great
streams, cutting through obstructions and
blockages, boring out the Dragon Gate, and
circulating the flowing waters by guiding them
to the Yellow River. He dredged the Three Rivers and the Five Lakes and made their waters
Music is nothing else but wild sounds civilized
into time and tune.
—Thomas Fuller, c. 1661