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Qin Melodies connected to North and Central Asia
(Includes the Silk Road, but generally for its nomad connections).

"Silk Road" is the name given to a variety of trade routes entering and leaving China from the deserts to its north and west. Along with trade came cultural exchange, but Chinese literati culture has little mention of this.1 Instead, north and central Asia generally evoked loneliness, desolation and fear. Most of the qin melodies connected to this area reflect this attitude.

Also, as with Chu, most melodies associated with this region share certain modal characteristics: use of the tuning 1 3 5 6 1 2 3 (from standard tuning lower the first string and raise the fifth). This mode is usually called Huang Zhong (Yellow Bell), but also Wu Yi and Ying Zhong. Li Ling Si Han doesn't use this tuning, but it has similar modal characteristics and still calls the tuning Huang Zhong; Kongtong Wen Dao uses the same tuning (1 2 3 5 6 1 2). Yangguan Sandie, which does not mention nomads, uses a tuning more associated with the Chu region.

  1. 大胡笳 Da Hujia (1425); Cai Wenji abducted by nomads
        A melodically unrelated version called Hujia Shibapai, published in 1597, is set to the lyrics attributed to Wenji herself.
  2. 小胡笳 Xiao Hujia (1425); same as previous.
  3. 龍朔操 Longshuo Cao (1425, also called Zhaojun Yuan); Wang Zhaojun married off to nomads
  4. 黃雲秋塞 Huangyun Qiusai (1425); later versions also connect this to Wang Zhaojun
  5. 李陵思漢 Li Ling Si Han (1525); Li Ling captured by nomads
  6. 漢節操 Han Jie Cao (1525); Su Wu also captured by nomads
  7. 陽關三疊 Yangguan Sandie: The earliest surviving version mentions places on a trip west from Weicheng (near Chang'an, modern Xi'an) through Yang Guan (near Dunhuang) and on to Anxi: Wu mountains (western Shaanxi) and Shatou (Gansu). Tuning: 2 4 5 6 1 2 3.

  8. 崆峒問道 Kongtong Wen Dao (1525); The Yellow Emperor goes to Kongtong Mountain to ask Guangchengzi about the Dao: The theme of this melody contrasts sharply with the others connected to border areas.2

 
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Buddhist themes and central Asia
The main exception to this is Buddhism, about which there is much literati writing. However, although many Chinese rulers and literati were Buddhists, the religion was often considered foreign and therefore unacceptable. Only one qin melody with a Buddhist theme survives in tablature dating from before 1875: Shitan Zhang and its descendant Pu'an Zhou.
(Return)

2. Kongtong Wen Dao: Connected to the far west?
As discussed under the introduction to Kongtong Wen Dao, Kongtong Mountain is also associated with a place in Henan province.
(Return)

 
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