Du Kui

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Du Kui
Traditional Chinese 杜夔
Simplified Chinese 杜夔
(courtesy name)
Chinese 公良

Du Kui (fl. 180-225[1]), courtesy name Gongliang, was a musician and official who served under the warlord Liu Biao in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He served in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period.


Du Kui attempted to stop Liu Biao from performing imperial music in his own court. He was proficient in tuning the bells and other musical instruments expertise, but not in arrangement of dances and singing. With help from other court specialists, he researched old musical practices and texts and gained credit for "starting restoration of the ancient music" (yayue).[2]

While in the service of the warlord Cao Cao, Du Kui got into an argument with Chai Yu (柴玉), a bell-caster. He had forced Chai Yu to recast the bell set several times for the lack of regular pitch.

Cao Cao's successor, Cao Pi, favoured Chai Yu. Under the pretext of Du Kui's discomfort with court music for entertainment (mouth organ and zithers), Cao Pi had him dismissed. Du Kui died soon afterwards.[3]


Liu Xie (465–522) praised Du Kui, along with Fu Xuan (217-278) and Zhang Hua (232–300), for "correcting Caos' mistakes" (wenxin diaolong).[1] A Song dynasty treatise by Zhu Changwen mentioned that Du Kui had a son, Du Meng (杜孟). The information is nowhere corroborated.[3]

Du Kui's apprentice, Chen Qi (陳頎; or Chen Hang 陳頏),[4] was a mentor to Xun Xu (died 289), the leading court musician under Emperor Wu of the Jin dynasty.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Goodman (2006a), p. 61.
  2. ^ Goodman (2006a), pp. 71-72.
  3. ^ a b Goodman (2006a), p. 74.
  4. ^ Goodman (2006b), p. 32.
  5. ^ Goodman (2006b), p. 40.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • Goodman, Howard L. (2006a). "A History of Court Lyrics in China during Wei-Chin Times". Asia Major. Vol. 19: 57–109.
  • Goodman, Howard L. (2006b). "Tintinnabulations of Bells: Scoring-Prosody in Third-Century China and Its Relationship to Yüeh-fu Party Music". Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol. 126 (1): 27–49.
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
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