An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Ling Lun 伶倫

Jul 12, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Ling Lun 伶倫 was according to Chinese mythology a minister of the Yellow Emperor 黃帝. He was the creator of the pitchpipes ( 律) with the help of which musical instruments could be tempered.

The book Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 says that Ling Lun came from the far west and once lived at the foot of the Kunlun Range 崑崙. When he heard the cries of phoenixes the idea came to him to use these sounds to create a tempered musical system.

The Yellow Emperor ordered him to cast twelve bells (zhong 鍾) with the support of Rong Jiang 榮將. These bells would produce the five tones (wuyin 五音) of the pentatonic scala and realize the music of the type of shao 韶. In the Classic Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs", the office of lingguan 伶官 is mentioned. Later on the word ling adopted the meaning of "actor" in a traditional opera.

Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 204.