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Kunkunshi for the first verse of the Okinawan folk song
? (Tinsagu nu Hana)

Kunkunshi (  (Okinawan) pronounced [ku?kunshi:]) is the traditional notation system by which music is recorded in the Ryukyu Islands. The term kunkunshi originally referred to the first three notes of a widely known Chinese melody, although today it is used almost exclusively in reference to the sheet music.[1]

Kunkunshi is believed to have been first developed by Mongaku Terukina or by his student Choki Yakabi [ja] in the early to mid-1700s. However, it was not until the end of the 19th century that the form became standardized for writing sanshin music.[2] Yakabi is attributed to having written the earliest known, surviving collection of kunkunshi. The Yakabi Kunkunshi consists of 117 compositions written in the kaki nagashi style. In this form, the sanshin finger positions are written in a flowing style with no indication of rhythm. [3]

Okinawan Sanshin

Scale and Reading of the Sanshin with the Relative Tonic sol-fa Reading[4]
Open String Index Finger Middle Finger Little Finger
Male String
? (ai) ? (otsu) ? (r?) (shitar?)
Do Re Mi Fa
Middle String
? (shi) ? (j?) ? (ch?) ? (shaku) (shaku sharp) (shita shaku)
Fa So La Ti? Ti Do
Female String
? (k?) ? (go) ? (roku) ? (shichi) ? (hachi) ? (ky?)
Do Re Mi Fa So La
Characters only Appearing in Vocal Pitch Transcription
? (sai) ? (bon) ? (shaku)
So La Ti


  1. ^ Garfias 1993, p. 117.
  2. ^ Thompson 2008, p. 317.
  3. ^ Thompson 2008, p. 317; Garfias 1993, p. 117.
  4. ^ 2003.


  • Garfias, Robert (1993). "The Okinawan Kunkunshi Notation System and Its Role in the Dissemination of the Shuri Court Music Tradition". Asian Music. 25 (1/2): 115-144. doi:10.2307/834193. JSTOR 834193.
  • Thompson, Robin (2008). "The music of Ryukyu". In Tokita, Alison; Hughes, David W. The Ashgate research companion to Japanese music. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited. ISBN 9780754656999.
  • , , ed. (July 14, 2003). . . ISBN 9784810833720.

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