Qianlong’s Divine Treasures: The Bells in Rhyming-the-Old Hall

Qianlong’s Divine Treasures: The Bells in Rhyming-the-Old Hall

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  121qianlong’s bells yu huichun Qianlong’s Diine Treasures:The Bells in Rhyming-the-Old Hall I ndiidual bronzes in China often inspired romantic theories about their function and srcin. Connoisseurs portrayed ancient bronzesas subjects endowed with free will, oices of their own, een the powerto choose where they went, how they were found, when they were un-earthed, and who was qualified to keep them. But not eery ancient bronze commanded such powers. The less powerful ones remainedburied underground, ignored in the darkest corner of an antique shop’sstorage room, or put to use as a rice bucket in a farmer’s kitchen. Thesemute objects could hardly become enerable cultural relics. Those that did qualify were wreathed in splendid tales: this one was cast to com-memorate a ictory, that one was owned by a famous ruler. In somecases, timing meant eerything.In 1759 a farmer in Beixiang  北鄉 , Xinyu 新喻 , Jiangxi 江西 pro-ince, found eleen ancient bells with beautiful faded colors. They wereof arying sizes but shared a decoratie pattern and similar inscrip-tions in ancient script. Asiha  阿思哈 , the Manchu goernor of Jiangxi,soon got wind of this dramatic find. Seizing the relics, he sent them toBeijing as gifts to the Qianlong emperor 乾隆 (r. 1736 – 1795 ), explain-ing in the accompanying memorial that the bells seemed to be musicalinstruments for an imperial court or a temple and were not suitablefor common folks. 1 Once they arried in the capital, Qianlong hadscholars from the Hanlin Academy scrutinize them. They decoded theinscriptions, tested the tones, and identified them as bozhong    鎛鍾 fromthe Zhou dynasty (ca. 1045 – 256   bc ).  2 The inscriptions, decorations,tones, and the site where they were found all indicated that the bellsconstituted a set — but they were incomplete. 1 Qing shilu: Qianlong chao  清實錄乾隆朝 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1985 ), ol. 15 , p. 670 .  2 The editors of  Xiqing xujian  西清續鑑  indicated that Qianlong himself examined the bellsand identified them as Zhou-era  bozhong  . See Xiqing xujian  (rpt. Shanghai: Shangwu, 1911 ),  jia bian    甲編 ,  j.   17 , p. 2 a. But Qianlong declared clearly in his poem deoted to the bells that court scholars   廷臣 examined and dated them. See “Qianlong er shi ba nian yu zhi ti Yungutang” 乾隆二十八年御制題韻古堂 , in Yu Minzhong  于敏中 et al., eds., Rixia jiuwen kao  日下 舊聞考 (rpt. Beijing: Beijing guji chubanshe, 1983 ; hereafter, Rixia  ) 22 , p. 300 .  122yu huichun In “Yungu tang ji” 韻古堂記 (“An Account of Rhyming-the-OldHall”), an essay written on this occasion, Qianlong explained that thenotes produced by the eleen bells did not correspond to the pitchesof present-day music 聆其聲頗不合於今律 , which he blamed on the de-terioration of the bells oer time 古器經久而移其本音 .  3 While the in-scriptions did not mention pitch-standard names, Qianlong belieedthat a complete set would consist of twele bells, one for each of thetwele pitch-standards in the octae 律應十二 .  4 To complete the set,Qianlong decided to cast the missing bell — the one with the dalü    大呂 pitch. Once it was made, the emperor’s explanation for casting wasinscribed in seal-script on the bell’s outer surface, making it look likean antique to match the eleen unearthed bells (see the woodblock il-lustration and accompanying inscription, figures 1, 2 ).  5 The bells had arried in Beijing around the time that the emperorreceied the news of a significant Qing ictory in Central Asia in 1759 ,and thus Qianlong did not hesitate to associate the antiques with theconquest. In 1755 domestic strife in the Zunghar kingdom gae Qian-long an opening: he seized the offensie and captured Yili 伊犁 , theenemy’s capital. After establishing a number of military colonies in theregion, a string of ictories permitted Qianlong to attack the Muslimpeoples of East Turkestan. By 1759 , the entire area north and south of the Tianshan 天山 range — later called Xinjiang  新疆 , the “new territory”— was under direct Qing control.  6  After the missing  dalü  bell was cast, Qianlong had the completeset displayed at the Yungu tang  韻古堂 , a hall in the southern part of Xi yuan 西苑 (West Park), on the bank of Lake Taiye 太液 , in what istoday Zhongnanhai 中南海 . Preiously called “Pengying zai wang” 蓬瀛在望 , the Yungu tang, literally “Rhyming-the-Old Hall,” was newlychristened to honor the bells, which were displayed continuously there  3 Qianlong, “Yungu Tang ji” 韻古堂記 , in E’ertai and Zhang Tingyu et al., eds., Guochao  gongshi  國朝宮史 (rpt. Beijing: Beijing guji, 2001 ; hereafter, GG  ) 15 , p. 308 .  4 The twele pitches are huangzhong  黃鍾 , dalü  大呂 , taicu  太簇  ,  jiazhong  夾鍾 ,  guxian  姑洗 , zhonglü  仲呂 , ruibin  蕤賓 , linzhong  林鍾 ,  yize  夷則 , nanlü  南呂 , wuyi  無射 , and  yingzhong  應鍾 . On the ancient deelopment of the twele pitch-standards, see Robert Bagley, “The Pre-history of Chinese Music Theory,” Proceedings of the British Academy  131 ( 2005 ), pp. 41 – 90 ;and Lothar on Falkenhausen, “On the Early Deelopment of Chinese Musical Theory: TheRise of Pitch-Standards,”  JAOS  112 . 3 ( 1992 ), pp. 433 – 39 .  5 Xiqing xujian,    jia bian  ,  j  . 17 , p. 5 . Today’s specialists usually call this set of Zhou bells“Zhejian zhong  者減鐘 ,” a reference to a certain Zhejian mentioned in the bell inscription. Hewas supposed to be a ruler of the Wu 吳 state and the bells’ first owner.  6 See James A. Millward, “‘Coming onto the Map’: ‘Western Regions,’ Geography and Car-tographic Nomenclature in the Making of Chinese Empire in Xinjiang,” Late Imperial China    20 ( 1999 ), pp. 61 – 98 .  123qianlong’s bells until 1900 , when they apparently were looted during the chaos of theBoxer Uprising.  7 Today only four of the bells are known to exist: twoare in the National Palace Museum, Taipei; one is in the Palace Mu-seum, Beijing; the last is in the Shanghai Museum.  8 In addition to his essay, Qianlong wrote at least eighteen poemsabout his new bronzes.  9 A great collector of paintings, calligraphy, jades, and ceramics, he loed to write poems and personal commentar-ies on the rarest items; he also appeared to delight in touching theseworks of art. But he treated bronzes differently. He seldom wrote po-ems or commentaries about them and rarely left inscriptions on theirsurfaces — the last would hae been unusual, since ritual bronzes were  7 The Forbidden City, Xi yuan, and Yuanming yuan were all looted in 1900 . See Di Bao-xian 葆狄賢  , Pingdeng ge biji  平等閣筆記 (rpt. Shanghai: Youzheng, 1922 ) 1 , pp. 1 – 6 . For a map of West Park, including Lake Taiye and numerous buildings around it, see in this issueof  Asia Major  the study of the eolution of West Park during Ming times as a Daoist centerfor imperial practices; Maggie C. K. Wan, “Building an Immortal Land: The Ming Jiajing Em-peror’s West Park.”  8 Liu Yu 劉雨 , Qianlong sijian zongli biao  乾隆四鑑縱理表 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1989 ), pp. 2 – 4 .  9 All the poems were recorded in Guochao gongshi xubian    國朝宮史續編 (rpt. Beijing: Bei- jing guji, 1994 ; hereafter, GGXB  ) 63 , pp. 546 – 50 . Figure  1 . Illustration of New  dalü Bell Cast in  1761  After  Xiqing xujian , jia bian,  j . 17  , p. 4 .Figure  2 . Inscription Accompanying Illustration of   dalü Bell After  Xiqing xujian , jia bian,  j . 17  , p. 4 .  124yu huichun generally inscribed only by their first owners to commemorate personalachieements. 10 Qianlong was fully aware of the difference betweenbeing a collector and being a patron: if he wanted to express himself through bronze, he did so by casting new pieces.Soon after the complete set of Zhou bells went on display, Qian-long decided that they would be used as models in casting new bozhong  bells. The new bells, to be made in the imperial workshops,   would beused for the performance of the Centered Harmony ( zhonghe shaoyue  中和韶樂 ), that is, the Qing ceremonial music that accompanied ritualofferings to Heaen, Earth, the God of Soil, the God of Grain, the FieMountains, Confucius, and the royal ancestors. The bells would alsobe used on other ceremonial occasions, such as the court assemblieson New Year’s Day, the winter solstice, and the emperor’s birthday. 11  The replicas, officially issued in 1761 , were used until the end of theQing dynasty.China’s rulers had long relied on newly unearthed bronzes to cre-ate a political discourse of auspiciousness. The most illustrious exam-ple is the legendary nine cauldrons ( ding     鼎 ) cast by the ruler Yu 禹 of the relatiely prehistoric Xia  夏 period. Because these massie objectscould foresee the rise and fall of a dynasty, and because only sage kingswere qualified to own them, they became the preeminent symbols of political legitimacy. We find the earliest record of the myth of the ninecauldrons in the fourth-century bc   Zuo zhuan  左傳 . 12 That account ex-plained that Yu had used the copper tribute from subordinated triballeaders to cast the nine cauldrons. Tang  湯 , the founder of the Shang  商  dynasty, inherited them when he took oer the kingship from the Xia.Then Wuwang  武王 took possession of the cauldrons when the Zhou 周 dynasty conquered the Shang. According to the famous account in Shiji    史記 , the first emperor of the Qin dynasty 秦始皇 set out to retrieethe cauldrons from the Si Rier 泗水 , where they had been hidden af-ter the fall of the Zhou. But an aquatic dragon chewed through the net  10 In addition to the poems praising the Zhou bells, Qianlong also wrote sixteen poemsabout the bronzes in his collection that had come from frontier areas (these are in Xiqing xu-  jian  西清續鑑  ) and nine more about other bronzes (in his collected works of poetry). Of allthe bronzes that moed him to write, only three were inscribed with his poems: a mirror as-cribed to the Yellow Emperor and two foreign bronzes excaated in Xinjiang. Compared withthe thousands of poems and colophons the emperor deoted to his collection of paintings andcalligraphy, this figure is extremely small. 11 Da Qing huidian shili  大清會典事例 (rpt. Beijing: Zhonghua, 1989 ) 11 , pp. 644 – 45 ; E-elyn S. Rawski “The Creation of an Emperor in Eighteenth-Century China,” in Rawski   et al.eds., Harmony and Counterpoint  (Stanford: Stanford U.P.), pp. 166 – 67 . 12 Zuo zhuan zhushu  左傳注疏 (SKQS edn.; Taipei: Shangwu, 1983 ) 4 , p. 22 .  125qianlong’s bells that soldiers were using to raise the precious essels, and the cauldronswere lost. The failure implied that the first emperor had not receiedHeaen’s mandate. 13 After the interention of that politically cannydragon, the symbols of dynastic legitimacy were neer found, thoughmany subsequent emperors dreamed of obtaining them. 14  When ancient bronzes were unearthed, the scent of China’s goldenage often wafted from them. In 116   bc , for instance, when the Han em-peror Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141 – 88   bc ) changed his reign title from Yuanshou 元狩 , or “Original Winter Hunt,” to Yuanding  元鼎 , or “Original Caul-dron,” he did so to commemorate the recoery of an ancient bronzecauldron from the Fen Rier 汾水 . 15 Twele centuries later, in 1104 , six ancient Zhou bells were un-earthed in Shangqiu 商邱 , Henan 河南 . Their inscriptions identified theduke of Song  宋公 of the Zhou dynasty as their srcinal owner. Huizong  徽宗 , emperor of the Song at the time of the bells’ discoery, quicklyembraced the bells as proof that he possessed the mandate of Heaen. Just as the bells had belonged to the duke of Song, so the ruler of theSong dynasty could be sure that he would repel the aggressie adanceof the Liao 遼 and Jin 金 states. As would Qianlong  757 years later,Huizong used them as models for casting twele sets of new bells toplay ceremonial music composed by the staff of the Dacheng Yuefu 大晟樂府 , the Imperial Music Department of the Song dynasty. 16 To-day, at least twenty-fie of those dacheng  bells surie in museums inChina and abroad. 17 In fact, Qianlong’s bronze catalogues mentionedfour of the dacheng  bells, but the cataloguers mistakenly dated themto the Zhou. 18 Qianlong and his Hanlin scholars did not realize thesebells were in fact imitations of ancient bells made for Song Huizong,but they certainly knew the story of the dacheng  bells and may haebeen inspired by it to glorify the newly unearthed Zhou bells in a erysimilar manner. 13 Sima Qian 司馬遷 , Shiji  史記 (SKQS edn.) 6 , p. 4 . 14 Tu Cheng-sheng  杜正勝 , “Yu hua wu ji: ding de lishi yu shenhua”  與華無極,    鼎的歷史與神話 , Gugong wenwu yuekan    故宮文物月刊   8 . 2 ( 1990 ), pp. 6 – 19 . 15 Ban Gu 班固 , Qian Han shu  前漢書 (SKQS edn.) 25 , p. 10 . 16 Lothar on Falkenhausen, “The Zeng Hou Yi Finds in the History of Chinese Music,”in Jenny F. So,   ed., Music in the Age of Confucius  (Washington D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art andArthur M. Sackler Gallery, 2000 ), pp. 101 – 13 . 17 Li Youping  李幼平 , “Jiancun Dacheng zhong de kaoguxue yanjiu” 見存大晟鐘的考古學 研究 , Zhongguo yinyuexue  中國音樂學   1 ( 2001 ), pp. 32 – 52 . 18 Liu, Qianlong sijian  , p. 1 . The four dacheng  bells were recorded in Xiqing gujian    西清古鑑  (SKQS edn.) 36 , pp. 1 – 3 , and Xiqing xujian,    yi bian  乙編 ,  j  . 17 , pp. 17 – 18 .
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