Friday, August 10, 2007

Kishibe's diffusionism theory on the Iranian Barbat and Chino-Japanese Pi' Pa'

Kishibe's diffusionism theory on the Iranian Barbat and Chino-Japanese Pi' Pa'

Many of the musicological, anthropological and also ethnographic studies up to the 1950s were based on a diffusionistic perspective. With respect to music, the diffusionists assumed that musical instruments were created in central locality, and by the waves of migrations were disseminated around the world. In 1936, Shigeo Kishibe, a Japanese musicologist, suggested that the Chino-Japanese pipa (biwa) originated from the Iranian barbat about two thousand years ago. In the introduction to his Ae Origin of the Pipa he states, "In order to show most convincingly the origin of p'i p'a in the west, I shall first describe the earliest p'i p'a on China on the basis of the archeological and literary sources material, and as I believe the origin of the p'i p'a to be Iran, I shall likewise study the nature of their p'i p'a." (Kishibe 1940: 283). To support this approach, he investigates the philological sources as well.

Later on, in 1953, Kishibe studied the emigration of musicians from Central Asia to China, and diffusion of Western music [Turkestan] in China. Before Kishibe, musicologists such as Carl Engel, Katheleen Schlesinger, Henry Farmer, Curt Sachs, Karl Geiringer, Friedreich Behn and a few others realized that the Chinese pipa was a development of the lute in Western Asia, and that the lute of Central Asia was the transitional type in the development of pipa (ibid: 262). On the Chinese musical instruments, which reached to by the end of Sung Dynasty [960-1279] to 300 different types, Kuttner states, "Quite a few of these were introduced by, and taken over, from foreign music civilizations." (Kuttner 1964: 126). Kuttner believes that a bowed string instrument was first brought to China in the ninth century from Persian or Mongolian sources and became widely used under the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty (1280- 1368) (ibid: 126).

After about 60 years, more evidence emerges to support Kishibe's opinion on the pipa,s origin as an imported instrument from Iran or Central Asia to China and Japan. Pipa as a musical instrument in ancient China, was referred to a group of instruments. The single term has been given to three kinds of instruments, each of which has its own shape. The structure of the modem pipa has a pear-shaped soundbox. Until the Tang dynasty (618-906 AD) a plectrum was used to pluck the strings; thereafter, musicians used their fingernails.

Kishibe's ideas will be presented here; the supporting evidence, including Hornbostel and Abraham's comparative study on the Japanese pipa, along with some notes on the Manichaean migration to Turkestan will also be examined. L. Picken, however, rejects Kishibe's argument, suggesting instead that this instrument was not an imported instrument but genuine Chinese. (quoted in Stock 1979:.92). The following outline is extracted from Kishibe's text on the Iranian barbat, Chinese pipa and Japanese biwa.

In China, in ancient time, the term pipa referred to a group of instruments. The single term was applied to three types of instruments, each of which had its own independent origin and development. Kishibe believes that the fourstringed pipa with the bent neck is the oldest and most orthodox type of pipa in China. The important characteristics of this pipa are: 1) the bent back neck. The other two types do not have the bent neck. 2) the pear-shaped outline of the body without the swelling belly. All the types of Chinese pipa are alike in not having the swelling belly but they differ in shape. 3) The four strings. This four-stringed, broader, and larger, pearshaped pipa with the bent neck was the instrument which in the T'ang Period was referred to under the term pipa, and is almost the same as the modem Chinese pipa and the Japanese biwa used in gagaku (the court music of the old dynasty).

Concerning the origin of the pipa there are two opinions: Shi-ming placed its origin in Hu (foreign countries, west and north of China). Fu Yuan, a poet of the Chin dynasty, and To Yu repeated the same opinion. Shi-ming also repeats that the name was not known. Another poet believed that the origin of the instrument was in China. A poet of Chin dynasty (tu-ch'in) said that when Ch'in built the Great Wall of China, the workers played on a stringed instrument like a tambourine. Kishibe believes this instrument was not the pipa of the four-stringed type, but was a primitive type of another instrument, theYuanhsien.

The oldest illustrations known today of the pipa lute are two types found in the Gandharan sculpture of the first second century A.D. However, in Miran on the Southern Road cross Chinese Turkestan, a wall painting shows a instrument similar in shape to the guitar of Europe. A clearer illustration on a later Sassanian silver plate shows an instrument resembling the Gandharan lute. The outline of this lute is exactly the same as that of the pipa. Although it is not possible to see the revers of the lutes in these illustrations, literary sources describe it as "swollen like belly." The Chinese pipa, according to the examples in the Sho-so-in, had a slightly swollen body, which may be considered to be a survival of the swollen belly in the Persian lutes. However, the sides are almost flat, I have no theory to explain the difference between the swollen body of the Persian lute and the slightly swollen body of the Chinese pipa. (Four strings are not clear in the illustration of Gandharan period, but they have a bent in neck). The method of holding the instrument against the breast, diagonally or straight against it, with the left hand at the finger board and the use of plectrum is recognizable.

From a comparison of the characteristics of the Sassanian lute and the Chinese pipa, they are possibly the same as the Gandharan types. When Curt Sachs, Friedreich Behn and Karl Geiringer said that this pear-shaped, four-stringed Sassanian lute and the Chinese four-stringed pipa were directly connected with each other, they were correct.

In Khotan on the Southern Road, terra cotta figures illustrating the pear-shaped and fourstringed lute were discovered, and not far to the north, a Piama, a similar type was found. On the Northern Road at Qizil (old capital of Kutscha) which was the center of the culture that flourished from the fourth to the eighth centuries, many illustrations of the lute were found. According to the studies of Prof A- Frunwedel and E. Waldschmidt, the culture of this section can be divided into two periods. The first covers the fourth to the sixth centuries and its artistic style is largely Gandharan. The second period covers the sixth to the eighth centuries; its artistic style is stiff the Gandharan style, but is strongly colored with the Iranian style.

Schlesinger and Farmer, on the basis of their study of Arabic literature, concluded that the Arabian lut, el'oud, was influenced by the Sassanian lute, and that the Sassanian lute of the sixth and seventh centuries was called barbud or barbad. Curt Sachs, on the other hand, maintained that the origin of the word barbat was in the Sanskrit bharbhu (strongly plucked). It is possible that barbud has its origin either in Sanskrit in a related Indo-Aryan language, appearing in Greece as barbiton about the turn of the century, and in Persia as barbud. Barbud may be an earlier form of barbiton.

Fu Yuan in the Chin period mentioned in the introduction of his poem that the popularly used term pipa was a foreign importation. Bernhard Karlgren in his Analytic Dictionary of Chinese and Sino-Japanese has pointed out that pipa must have been pronounced bji,b'a in ancient times. This is close to barbut. So the coiced consonant (b) became voiceless (p), while the alternating mid central / front {a} {ui} vowels are reserved. It is accepted that the phonetic r disappeared in transliteration. The word berbera, for instance, became in Chinese Pi-pa-Io. The vowel a changed to I-, or e in the process of transliteration, as seen also in berbera. If the pronunciation of the word pipa was the same in the Han period, them it is most probable that the phonetic word pipa came from barbud. It is not certain whether the word that came to China was exactly barbud, but it is possible that a word 3 similar to barbud came with the instrument to China and was changed into pipa in the process of transliteration. Barthold Laufer says that piwan, pi-bain and pi-wain (names of Tibetan lute similar to the pipa), are related to Chinese p'ip'a, Mongolian biba, Japanese biwa and Manchurian fifan. In ancient times the southern part of Tau'an was populated by Tibetans and by Iranians.

1) - Sixty years after the time of Kishibe and other scholars who studied the connection of barbat and pipa, a few points may be added to support their ideas. Some evidence exists to support Kishibe's philological assertion for the transformation of the Persian word of barbut into Chinese pipa. In contemporary Turkic, the Persian letter b changes top. Examples: Persian mezrab (plectrum) cahnges to mezrap, ketab xaneh (library) changes to kutphane, murakab changes to murekkep and subhi changes to suphi. Turkic, a division of the Altaic language, consists of Turkish and related languages disseminated over a wide region, encompassing Tartar and Kirkiz of southern Siberia and Central Asia. Presumably the substitution of the two letters b to p may have happened via the Turkic language of Central Asia before introduced into the Chinese phonology.

2) -In their comparative study on the Japanese pipa, Hornbostel and Abraham (1903), concluded that the main intervals of the Japanese pipa correspond to Zalzal's calculation of the instrument ud It seems that Kishibe, and even Curt Sachs, did not pay attention to Hornbostel and Abraham's comparative study of these two instruments. They state: "The Persian scholar, Zazal (d. 800 A. D.) achieved the flattened fifth on his lute in a totally different way. The fretting originally corresponded to the Pythagorean intervals: 0, 204, 294, 408, etc. Later on, the minor third changed by placing the fret exactly in the middle between the first halved the distance between the second and third fret and thus obtained the neutral third (355 cents) in the first octave, the 3/4 tone (355 - 204 =151 cents) and the flattened fifth (15 1 + 498 = 649 cents) in the second octave (cf A Ellis 188 5; 493f ; 1922: 17). Perhaps we can explain the above-mentioned pipa scale in a similar manner." (Abraham and Hornbostel 1975: 25).

3) - The Silk Route bridged the chasm between China and Middle Eastern countries two thousand years ago. The migration of the Iranian Manichaeans to East Turkestan is another one of the main factors that transported Persian art to China. Manichaeisrn,.one of the most widely influential religions of the ancient world was founded in the 3th century A.D. by the Iranian Mani. Born in southern Babylonia about A.D.216. Mani seems to have been of Persian descent and to have been related, at least on his mother's side, to the royal house of Parthia, which was overthrown in 226 by the Sassanid Ardashir I. Upon the death of Ardashir in 24 1, Mani returned to Parthia, where he was welcomed by Ardashir's successor Shapur, for whom he wrote a book, the Shapurakan. When Shapur died thirty years later, Mani also enjoyed the favor of his successor, but when Bahrain came to the throne in 272 the situation changed. Throughout Mani's career the Magian priests had been his most deadly enemies, and they now secured his impeachment and condemnation. He was executed about 276. and his death apparently was followed by persecution of his adherents (Wilson 1972:149). The Manichaeans fleeing from Sassanian persecutions were responsible, in part, for disseminating these Western, and more especially Sassanian elements throughout eastern Turkestan (Rice 1965:186). For more than 80 years Manichaean was the state religion of the Uighorian people of Eastern Turkestan. "During his stay in Lo-yang in 762-763, the Uighur ruler, Mou-yu was converted to Manichaeism. He returned to his country in company of four presumably Soghdian Manichaean priests, and made Manichaeism the state religion of the Uighurs." (Sinor 1969: 1145). In 843, Manichaean property being confis=ed, and Manichaean books and paintings were publicly burned. In the two capital cities, Uighurs were ordered to dress in Chinese fashion." (ibid: 117).

Resources for the study of Manichaeism are limited to the fragments discovered at Turfan and include texts in several Iranian dialects, Turkish, and Chinese, while an Egyptian discovery includes Coptic versions of the Kephalaia, a psalm book, and a collection of homilies. In one of the fragmentary pieces found in Chotsch and Turfan in East Turkestan in 1911, the iconography in the comer reveals a picture of two persons, one of whom holds a pear shape instrument similar to those found in the musicohistorical sources after Islam. (See Von Lokogue cf. Christenson 1993: 292).The width of the fingerboard gradually increases toward the belly. It resembles the contemporary pipa more than the Middle Eastern ud. The ud became the most important musical instrument in the world of Islam and evolved into a slightly different shape. Archeological evidence demonstrates the endurance of the Persian culture in East Turkestan, but also the reveals the ample sources of Manichaean documents. "It can be said that among the Turkic speaking peoples of the eastern periphery of Central Eurasia, seven different scripts were used in the second half of the first millennium Runic, Uighur, Sogdain, Estrangedo, Manichaean, Brahmi, and Tibetan. Of these, the last two are rooted in Indian civilization, the other five come from the Middle East." (Sinor 1969: 28).

Beside the exodus of the Manichaeans in Iran to the Eastern region of Turkestan during the Sassanid era, the migration of Nestorians from Syria to Iran and Central Asia may be responsible for carrying Middle Eastern cultural aspects to Central Asia. Wellesz argues that the Nestorians are liable for the plantation of the ecphonetic notation from Syria to Central Asia and Chinese Turkestan. Ecophonetic notation was used in study of the cantillation of the lessons in Byzantine liturgy. Wellesz states that "The Syrian ecphonetic notation was not confined to text in Syriac, but was also used for texts written in Soghdic, a middle-Persian dialect. This was proved by the discovery of fragments of texts with ecphonetic signs in Central Asia, particularly in Chinese Turkestan. These showed a system of punctuation closely related to the Syrian one attributed to Joseph Huzaja. The ecphonetic notation of the Soghdian texts seems to represent the earliest stage of the signs. It was brought to Central Asia when Nestorianism was accepted as the official Christian Church in Persia and the countries under Persian domination." (196 1: 11).

The ecphonetic notation was based on a system of a combination of dots and a hyphen where the dots remained on the top, beneath, front and end of a hyphen. The position and the numbers of the dots were varied numbering between one and three. Although it is hard to compare the Byzantine- Syrian ecphonetic notation to the Chinese kung-che system, however, there are few points in both systems that may answer some enigmatic questions. "From the time of T'ang dynasty [AD 618-907] onwards music for the pipa has been notated in the kungch'e system, which employs normal Chinese characters to show pitch. A system of cipher notation using Arabic numerals has been devised to representing the kung-che notation and is now in common use. In this system the central octave is shown by plain numbers, the octaves above it and below it have numbers with one dot over or under them respectively, and pitches two octaves above or below the central octave are shown by numbers with two dots over or under them." (Ming-Yueh 1984::272).

Further cautious investigations are required to conclude this comparison. In the course of time, more evidence may divulge the secrets of this - "to be or not to be" - connection between the Iranian barbat and Chino-Japanese pipa/biwa.


Abraham, Otto and Von Hornbostel

1975 "Studies on the Tonsystern and Music of the Japanese," In Hornbostel Opera Omnia, Volume I. English translation by Getrude Kurath (William Mahn,consultant). Edited by Klaus P. Wachsmann, Dieter Christensen -Hans-Peter Reincke. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Cheristenson, Arthur

1993 L' Iran sous les Sassanides, Translated into Persian by Rashid Yasami. Tehran: Dunya-I ketab. Kishibe, Shigeo

1940 The Origin of the P'i P'a, with particular Reference to the Five-Stringed Pi Pa Preserved in the Shosoin. Transactions of the Society of Japan 2nd Serial Vol. = 1940 - pp. 250ff.

Kuttner, Fritz

1964 "The Music of China: A short Historical Synopsis incorporated the Results of Recent Musicological Investigations, Ethnomusicology, May 1964: 121-127. "Prince Chu Tsai-Yu's Life and Work. A reevaluation of his contribution to equal temperament theory," Ethnomusicology, May 1975:163-204.

Ming-Yueh, Liang

1984 "Instruments, China, " In The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Edited by Stanley Sadie. Vol. 2.New York: Macmillan.

Rice, Tamara Talbot

1965 Ancient Arts of Central Asia. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers.

Sinor, Denis

1969 Inner Asia, History - Civilization Languages. Bloomington: Indian University Press.

Stock, Jonathan

1979 "A Historical Account of the Chinese Two-Stringed Fiddle Erhu. In The Galpin Society Journal Vol. =I May 1979. Wellesz, Egon 1961 "Early Christian Music," In New History of Music Volume II. Edited by Dom Anselm Hughes. London: Oxford University Press. Wilson, R. Mcl 1972 "Mani and Manichaeism," The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 5 & 6 Edited by Paul Edwards. New York: Collier MacMillan Publishers.

M. Hajarian
Taken from 'Iranian Music Newsletter', with permission

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