Ersipu ("Two-Four Notation")

Ersipu (literally "two-four notation") is a type of pitched notation exclusive to xian shi yue. Apparently primarily designed for the zheng zither, although also used by the other string instruments of the ensemble, it makes use of the Chinese characters for numbers two to eight to indicate the position of individual strings of the instrument, which is tuned to a pentatonic scale . Its exact period of origin is uncertain due to lack of documentation. But it is believed to date back to the middle Tang dynasty period and to be related to the notation for the 13-stringed zither that was transplanted to Japan from China during that time, and which later developed into the koto zither. The symbols in this Tang dynasty zither notation mostly consisted of Chinese number characters.

Ersipu is normally written and read from top to bottom, from right to left. Rhythmic durations of individual notes are not given, but symbols on the right of the characters indicate where it falls in the measure (i.e. where on an empty, strong or weak beat) and note grouping. Besides pitch and meter, ersipu also expresses extended concepts of mode through the use of the terms qing (``light``) and zhong (``heavy``) in connection with the strings of the zheng zither corresponding to san (6) and liu (3), and the term huo (``alive``) in connection with the string corresponding to wu (2). These terms do not appear on the notation itself but, rather, after the title of the melody, indicating the mode in which the melody is to be played. The names of the four most common modes used in xian shi yue are derived from the use of these terms which describe the action to be executed on the three mentioned strings.

Mercedes DuJunco

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