The Qieyun is a rhyme book written by the scholar Lu Fayan 陆法言 in 601 CE, during the Sui dynasty. In my degree thesis I'm trying to analyse some aspects of this particular work.

Recently, I managed to translate the preface of the Qieyun by myself. Here you can find an online version of it. However, there are some obscure points. For the purpose of my thesis the most serious doubt I'm facing has to do with the following sentence:

[...] 先(苏前反)仙(相然反)、尤(于求反)、侯(胡沟反)俱论是切。

Now, in the page I've just linked there is an explanation in modern Chinese of the contents of Lu Fayan's preface. If I scroll down I read that the previous sentence means:

[...] 还有把先、仙、尤、侯共用一个上字来切的。

The problem is: how should I interpret the phrase 共用一个上字来切的? The world 上字 has a specific meaning, it represents the first character used as an initial speller in a fanqie spelling. Nevertheless, as I've just said, 上字 refers to the initial consonant of a syllable or 声母, not to the rhyme or 韵母. It seems strange to me because in the previous sentences Lu Fayan was talking exactly about rhymes:

秦陇则去声为入,梁益则平声似去。又支(章移反)、脂(旨夷反)、鱼(语居反)、虞(语俱反)共为一韵,[...] (next comes the first sentece I gave you)

Which means

In Qin-Long region (North-West China) the departing tone (去声) becomes the entering tone (入声), while in Liang-Yi region (South-West) the level tone (平声) is pronounced in the same way as the departing tone. Moreover, the rhymes 支, 脂, 鱼 and 虞 are considered identical.

I asked my chinese friend who studied Linguistics and Historical Chinese Phonology. She looked the explanation proposed by Baidu Baike and concluded that 上字 here simply means "the character 上". According to her, the sentence means that the character 上 could be used to write the fanqie spelling of the characters 先, 仙, 尤 and 侯 in some southern dialect of the time. In other words, they all rhyme with 上 (MC dzyangH) which has the final -jangH in Baxter's notation of Middle Chinese. However, I think she deduced it only based upon the explanation of Baidu because in the original text the character 上 is not mentioned.

So, after all the above considerations, it seems to me that the foundamental question lies in the true interpretation of the phrase in the explanation. By only looking at Lu Fayan's original text I'm not able to give a meaningful translation of that sentence.

In your opinion, is my friend's view correct? If not, how should I interpret the sentence? What could an proper translantion be?

Thank you.

  • 1
    Qieyun was written a looooooong time before Simplified characters. Attempting to translate a Classical Chinese text from a Simplified version can only lead to disaster...
    – dda
    Mar 14, 2017 at 2:32
  • @hinen My native language is Italian and I'm translating the preface of the Qieyun (《切韵•序》) specifically in Italian (my University is located in Italy). The preface I'm translating is the one reported in 百度百科 site. I've translated the preface reading the text in 文言, though I occasionally took a look to the interpretation written in modern chinese to help me understanding some critical points. The problem is that the explanation of 百度百科 ended up confusing me even more. What's the correct interpretation of this passage?
    – Tochtli
    Mar 14, 2017 at 9:56

3 Answers 3


There are many errors in the 百度百科's article you gave, so I show my punctuation of the preface first. The content comes from the 水巷孑蠻's answer.

1) 昔,開皇初,有儀同劉臻等八人,同詣法言門宿。
2) 夜永酒闌,論及音韻。
3) 以今聲調,既自有別,諸家取捨,亦復不同。
4) 吳楚,則時傷輕淺;燕趙,則多傷重濁;秦隴,則去聲為入;梁益,則平聲似去。
5) 又,支(章移切)脂(旨夷切)、魚(語居切)虞(遇俱切),共為一韻;先(蘇前切)仙(相然切)、尤(于求切)侯(胡溝切),俱論是切。
6) 欲廣文路,自可清、濁皆通;若賞知音,即須輕、重有異。
7) 呂靜《韻集》、夏侯該《韻略》、陽休之《韻略》、周思言《音韻》、李季節《音譜》、杜臺卿《韻略》等,各有乖互。
8) 江東取韻與河北復殊。
9) 因論南北是非,古今通塞。
10) 欲更捃選精切,除削疏緩,蕭、顏多所決定。

11) 魏著作謂法言曰:「向來論難,疑處悉盡,何不隨口記之?我輩數人定,則定矣!」
12) 法言即燭下握筆,略記綱紀;博問英辯,殆得精華。
13) 於是,更涉餘學,兼從薄宦,十數年間,不遑修集。

14) 今反初服,私訓諸弟子:「凡有文藻,即須明聲韻。」
15) 屏居山野,交游阻絕,疑惑之所,質問無從。
16) 亡者,則生死路殊,空懷可作之歎;存者,則貴賤禮隔,以報絕交之旨。
17) 遂取諸家音韻、古今字書,以前所記者,定之為《切韻》五卷,剖析毫氂,分別黍累。

18) 何煩泣玉,未得縣金。
19) 藏之名山,昔怪馬遷之言大;持以蓋醬,今歎楊雄之口吃。
20) 非是小子專輒,乃述羣賢遺意。
21) 寧敢施行人世?直欲不出戶庭。

22) 于時,歲次辛酉,大隋仁壽元年。

Here, 陸法言 stated the reason that he wrote this book.
1) and 2) were the story why the subject was raised. (The eight guests actually visited 陸法言's father, 陸爽.)
3) to 8) were the phenomenons they found.
9) and 10) were what they did after finding those phenomenons.
11) and 12) were the reason that 陸法言 started to write. (Because he was the youngest one among them, I think.)
13) was the reason that the book was delayed about 18 years.
14) to 16) were the situations 陸法言 faced after he was fired.
17) was the way he wrote the book.
18) and 21) were what he felt after finishing the writing.
22) was the date.

The punctuation of the sentence in question should be as follows.


This sentence has nothing to do with the previous and the next ones. Its meaning is as follows.


There are four groups here, not just two. 俱論是切 is the same as 共為一韻 in this case. They all mean that the rhyme of each pair was mixed up. The author used different expressions to avoid the repetition. This 切 means the 下字 of the 反切, i.e. the 韻母. This sentence states that the rhyme of each pair should be different in their opinions, but it was mixed up in some areas or books. 俱, 論, 是 and 切 are equivalent to 共, 為, 一 and 韻 respectively. 論為 means 被當成, that is to be treated as. 是 here means 此 or 這個, i.e. this. Since it is singular, 是 means 此一 or 這一個, which implies 同一個, the same one.

There are many errors in the 百度百科's interpretation you gave. 北京 首都师范大学 文学院 冯蒸教授 has a much better interpretation, 《切韻˙序》今譯與新注. He is an expert in this field.

Although he is a native Chinese in China, this article was still written in Traditional Chinese. It is a copyrighted article. Open 大江東去, and search 切韻序今譯與新注.

  • You are right that 共為一韻 has the same meaning as 俱論是切. This way of writing is called 共文.
    – Lucius Hu
    Mar 15, 2017 at 6:03
  • Yes, the gist of 共為一韻 is the same as 俱論是切, but still puzzled by the word 是 in 俱論是切, does 是 means 'are'? or perhaps 相 (taking 切 as a verb)? What do you think?
    – wpt
    Mar 18, 2017 at 9:39

first, the text quoted by baidu has several significant, unbearable errors, beware :(



the original preface of 切韻, by 陸法言; is quoted in 鉅宋廣韻 (printed in 1169), that the national archives of japan has a downloadable copy. it's page 3 & 4 of 卷一:


imo, for your thesis, rely on this one :)

about how to interpret:

in the verse "支﹒脂﹒魚﹒虞﹒共為一韻"

"支", "脂", "魚" & "虞" are name of 韻目.

"支", "脂" are in 止攝; while "魚", "虞" are in 遇攝.

then, in the verse of "先﹒仙﹒尤﹒侯﹒俱論是切"

"先", "仙", "尤" & "侯", guess it? they're also name of 韻目.

"先", "仙" are in 山攝; while "尤", "侯" are in 流攝.

so, here's my interpretation: "支﹒脂﹒魚﹒虞﹒共為一韻"

characters "支" & "脂"; "魚" & "虞" share (共為) the same (一) 韻攝


characters "先", "仙", "尤" & "侯", all (俱) is regarded (論) as (是) example of 反切.

have fun:)

btw, may i ask, do you have the full text of 切韻, in which version?

  • Hi 水巷孑蠻. First of all, I would like to thank you tremedously for your help! I didn't know that Qieyun's preface was online in a manuscript form. Infact I do not have any copy of the 切韵, I just read part of the english translation of the preface (by Robert Ramsey) which was quoted in Baxter's manual A Handbook of Old Chinese Phonology. So, I decided to search for the original online, and I found the version in 百度百科.
    – Tochtli
    Mar 14, 2017 at 11:35
  • well, i do not trust bxxdx, maybe anything from that "area". anyway, this version of 鉅宋廣韻 is the oldest one. so i think that the quoted preface of 切韻 is, more "original". Mar 14, 2017 at 12:34

In my opinion, your female friend is totally wrong. 先(苏前反)仙(相然反)、尤(于求反)、侯(胡沟反)俱论是切 simply means, although 先,仙,尤,侯 are different 反, they are actually the same 韵,so you can 切 with them like the same thing.

还有把先、仙、尤、侯共用一个上字来切的。This means, a word that can be used to 切 anyone of these 反,can be used to 切 all of the above (上) because these are same 韵(sound)。

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