The she 攝 rhymes were a categorization of Chinese syllable endings (rhymes) according to the alphabet of the Indian Siddhaṃ script (Chinese transcription: Xitan 悉曇). The alphabet of Siddhaṃ consists of syllables and serves to write the language Sanskrit.
With the advent of Buddhism in China and the translation of Sanskrit texts and terms into Chinese, Chinese monks became aware the the Chinese language was missing a similar systematic structuring of the phonetic range of their language. It was at the beginning of the Tang period 唐 (618-907), when a lot of Tantric sutras were translated, in which the exact pronunciation of mantras is very important, that East Asian monks started establishing a similar system for Chinese. This system is called dengyun 等韻 "classified rhymes".
The oldest extant table of rhyme groups is the Yunjing 韻鏡 "Mirror of rhmyes" dating from the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279). It was republished in the Japanese series Rokuji zōji zenpon sōkan, bekkan 六地藏寺善本叢刊, 別卷, 1984, 3. A similar table is included in the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) dictionary Kangxi zidian 康熙字典. The she initials are also listed in the Yuan-period 元 (1279-1368) syllabary Menggu ziyun 蒙古字韻.
The Siddhaṃ alphabet knows 16 vowels (including the consonant finals anusvāra ṃ and visarga ḥ), of which ṛ, ṝ, ḷ and ḹ were neglected by Chinese monks because they are less often used. In combination with the 33 initial consonants, 396 theoretical syllables can be established. Additionally, two semi-consonants (parivarta) can be used as head vowels (y and r), so that three series of syllables can be established.
The Middle Chinese language knew 36 consonant initials and 206 rhymes or finals. The solution to bring these phonetic systems to congruence was to unify several similar Chinese rhyme groups into one Siddhaṃ group. These 16 siddham groups were called she 攝, meaning "summary", or parigraha in Sanskrit. Syllables including an interstitial semi-vowel u are marked with he 合, those without the vowel head u as kai 開.
|通||uŋ, ĭuŋ, uk, ĭuk, uoŋ, uok, ĭωoŋ, ĭωok|
|江||ɔŋ, ωɔŋ, ɔk, ωɔk|
|止||ĭe, ĭωe, i, ωi, ĭə, ĭəi, ĭωəi|
|遇||ĭo, ĭu, u, uo|
|蟹||iei, iωei, ĭɛi, ĭωɛi, ɑi, uɑi, ai, ωai, ɐi, ωɐi, æi, ωæi, uɒi, ɒi, ĭɐi, ĭωɐi|
|瑧||ĭěn, ĭωěn, ĭět, ĭωět, ĭuěn, ĭuět, ĭen, ĭet, ĭuən, ĭuət, ĭən, ĭət, uən, uət, ən|
|山||ĭɐn, ĭωɐn, ĭɐt, ĭωɐt, ɑn, ɑt, uɑn, uɑt, an, ωan, at, ωat, ien, iωen, iet, iωet, ĭɛn, ĭωɛn, ĭɛt, ĭωɛt|
|效||ieu, ĭɛu, au, ɑu|
|果||ɑ, uɑ, ĭɑ, ĭuɑ|
|假||a, ĭa, ωa|
|宕||ĭaŋ, ĭωaŋ, ĭak, ĭωak, ɑŋ, uɑŋ, ɑk, uɑk|
|梗||ɐŋ, ĭɐŋ, ωɐŋ, ĭωɐŋ, ɐk, ĭɐk, ωɐk, ĭωɐk, æŋ, ωæŋ, æk, ωæk, ĭɛŋ, ĭωɛŋ, ĭɛk, ĭωɛk, ieŋ, iωeŋ, iek, iωek|
|曾||ĭəŋ, ĭωəŋ, ĭək, ĭωək, əŋ, uəŋ, ək, uək|
|流||ĭəu, əu, iəu|
|咸||ɒm, ɒp, ɑm, ɑp, ĭɛm, ĭɛp, iem, iep, ɐm, ɐp, am, ap, ĭɐm, ĭɐp, ĭωɐm, ĭωɐp|
The she rhyme tables consist of six rows and 5 columns. The first column includes the labial sounds (chunyin 唇音), the second the lingual sounds (sheyin 舌音), the third the velar sounds (yayin 牙音), the fourth the dentals (chiyin 齒音), the fifth the guttural sounds (houyin 喉音), and the sixth the linguo-dentals (shechiyin 舌齒音), including the "half-linguals" (bansheyin 半舌音) and the half-dentals (banchiyin 半齒音), leading to a total of 36 initial consonants.
The consonant series are arranged according to the "softness", first the voiceless consonants (quanqing 全清, e.g. [p]), the the more voiced aspirated (ciqing 次清, [pʰ]), thirdly the fully voiced (quanzhuo 全濁, [bʰ]), and finally the less voiced consonants (cizhuo 次濁, [m]). Yet with such an approach, there are more than one fully voiced and fully unvoiced consonant in the series, like [ts] and [s], both unvoiced, and [dzʰ] and [z], both fully voiced. Among the palatales, there are no "less voiced" consonants at all.
|representative word||initials||type of sound|
|幫 滂 並 明||p pʰ bʰ m||唇音重 heavy labials|
|非 敷 奉 微||pĭ pʰĭ bʰĭ mĭ||唇音輕 light labials|
|端 透 定 泥||t tʰ dʰ n||舌頭音 linguals|
|見 溪 群 疑||k kʰ gʰ ŋ||牙音 velars|
|影 曉 匣 喻||ʔ x ɣ j||喉音 gutturals|
|知 徹 澄 娘||ţ ţʰ ɖʰ ɳ||舌上音 palatals|
|精 清 從 心 邪(斜)||ts tsʰ dzʰ s z||歯頭音 dentals|
|照 穿 床 審 禪||tɕ tɕʰ dʒʰ ʃ dʐʰ||正歯音 proper dentals|
|來 日||l nʑ||舌歯音 linguo-dentals|
The rows include the tone pitches, with four different rows for each one of the four tone pitches. According to some scholars, the openness of the vowel is expressed in these four grades (deng 等, giving the dengyun system its name). The more open the mouth is in pronouncing a certain vowel, the higher is the position of the sound in the table row.
Whole chart of the rhyme (final) group 效 [-aʊ] from the Song-period table Qieyun zhizhang tu 切韻指掌圖 "Finger-and-palm charts to the Cut Rhymes system" by Sima Guang 司馬光 (1019-1086). The headlines are the initial consonants, the sixteen rows are the words arranged according to tone pitches, with four qualities for each tone pitch. A transcription of the beginning of this table can be found in Quotation 1 below. (pingsheng 平聲 level pitch)
(shangsheng 上聲rising pitch)
(qusheng 去聲 falling pitch)
— (rusheng 入聲 consonant-bearing pitch)
Click to enlarge.
|consonant initial||pingsheng 平聲 level pitch||shangsheng 上聲 rising pitch||qusheng 去聲 falling pitch||rusheng 入聲 consonant-bearing pitch|
|見 k-||高 kɑu˥˩
|溪 kʰ-||尻 kʰɑu˥˩
|疑 ŋ-||敖 ŋɑu˩
Images from the same book. The left page shows how ancient scholars used to memorize the consonant initials, posing one rhyme on each phalanx of the fingers. The picture to the right shows the metaphysical relation of the initials to the five sounds of music, the five agents (wuxing 五行), and five functions of the state. The small finger, for instance, on which the rhymes ʔ 影 x 曉 ɣ 匣, and j 喻 are lying, corresponds to the musical note gong 宮, the agent earth (tu 土), and the sovereign (jun 君). Click to enlarge.