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He Lin

E-Mail: lin[at] schriftbildlichkeit.de


Ph.D. Project

„Notational Iconicity in the Notations of Guqin – A Comparative Study“



 The Guqin or seven-stringed zither has a history of over 3000 years. In ancient China this instrument belonged, along with Chinese chess, calligraphy and painting, to the „Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar“. Today it remains an instrument for intellectuals. In 2003 The Guqin and its Music was proclaimed as one of Masterpieces of the Oral and intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The oldest known transmitted notation of Guqin was the Wen-Zi-Pu (文字谱: literally "written notation" ),  which consists of full sentences to describe every movement of  hands to generate sound generation in the finest nuance. However, this system was wordy and uneconomical. Therefore in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) a tablature named Jian-Zi-Pu (减字谱: literally “reduced notation”) was invented especially for Guqin, it belonged to the Chinese character notations. Although the notes are based on different component elements of  Chinese characters, these are no longer common characters, but a mixture of components of graphic characters, which instruct the body movements on the instrument. They determine playing fingers and hands, string and stud numbers. The transformation process from graphic symbol to body movements is examined in this thesis. In my view some of Jian-Zi-Pu are not only indexical but also iconic, due to their picturesque shape, which war similar to the movements of the player.

In Jian-Zi-Pu the description of tone pitch and rhythm are not indicated. For this reason in 19th century another character notation Gong-Che-Pu was markes next to Jian-Zi-Pu marked. This was the most used musical notation in the 18th and 19th century and has a long history of development (933-1911).

Both notations contain Chinese number characters, which have completely different funktions from each other. In Jian-Zi-Pu they indicate the number of strings and fingering, in Gong-Che-Pu the pitch. Therefore, I will analyse, whether the numbers support or rather disturb each other. Instead of Gong-Che-Pu, today numbered musical notation or the five-line-system is added, in which previous a large number of musical works were transcribed with Chinese character notations. However, Jian-Zi-Pu was never replaced. The irreplaceability of Jian-Zi-Pu is presumably closely correlated with the refined structure and operativity of  the notation on the instrument Guqin, as well as the perceptibility of Chinese characters. Furthermore, a discussion of these modern notation mixtures from different perspectives is necessary.

Moreover, the issues of cognitive transformation during reading principally different notations (e.g.  reading direction, typeface, pitch space etc.), functions of notation, and the cultural, social and aesthetic  influences on the usage and development are analysed in this dissertation.


Curriculum Vitae

Seit 10/2011

Doctoral fellow of DFG Research Training Group 1458 „Notational Iconicity“, Freie Universität Berlin

10/2007 - 03/2011

Study of Musicology (Master of Arts), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

10/2006 - 03/2007

Study of Musicology (Master of Arts), Freien Universität Berlin

Seit 2005

Artistic Director of Chinese Academic Choir Berlin

09/2003 - 07/2004

Lecturer in répétituer , Xi'an Conservatory of  Music

2000 - 2004

Scholarship at Xi'an Conservatory of Music

09/2000 - 07/2004

Study of Music Education (Bachelor of Arts), Xi'an Conservatory  of  Music

2000 - 2004

Scholarship at Xi'an Conservatory of Music

09/2000 - 07/2004

Study of Music Education (Bachelor of Arts), Xi'an Conservatory  of  Music



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