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Secluded Orchid, in Stone Tablet Mode
A General Introduction
碣石調幽蘭 1
Jieshi Diao You Lan  
- Jieshi mode;2 tuning: 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 Beginning of the original score (compare typed version) 3    

The title You Lan ("Secluded Orchid") conveys the image of a flower of such beauty that it makes its surroundings seem plain by comparison. It thus tends to be lonely, perhaps content in its solitude. Mention of this orchid in poetry might suggest an image the author would like to convey of himself, or of the subject of his poem. It has also made orchids a popular theme for qin melodies.

The theme is often considered to be the same as that of the Shen Qi Mi Pu melody Yi Lan, which is connected to the story of Confucius comparing himself, an upright minister not achieving proper recognition, to a solitary orchid in a field of common plants. However, although the title to Jieshidiao You Lan gives 倚蘭 Yi Lan (Self Reliant Orchid) as an alternate title (see facsimile), the title of 1425 Yi Lan is written 猗蘭 (Flourishing Orchid), and it is melodically unrelated to the ancient version. Furthermore, early references to You Lan do not mention the Confucius story, instead referring to the orchid's natural beauty and its use as a body ornament. In addition, the afterword to the musically unrelated 1525 You Lan also makes no mention of Confucius.

The You Lan discussed here is a lengthy and complex melody, enough so to suggest strongly that it comes out of a long and fully developed musical tradition. However, it is in fact also by far the earliest substantial melody from any culture to have been notated with detail sufficient to give expectation of reasonably accurate reconstruction.4 Furthermore, evidence has been presented that at the time of its being copied it was but one of many such melodies written down. However, none of them seems to have survived. In fact, other substantial guqin melodies only survive beginning from the 15th century, when the first came to be printed.

The You Lan preface suggests that the melody was either created or refined in the mid sixth century CE5 by a man named Qiu Ming (493-590),6 originally from Kuaiji (near Shaoxing?7) but then a recluse in the Jiuyi Mountain Range8 in the south of what is today Hunan province; this was at the southern edge of the Chu region and the implication is that the melody was in a Chu melodic style.9 The preface adds that in the year 589 CE Qiu Ming transmitted the melody to one Chen Shuming,10 Prince of Yidu.11 Chen was a member of the royal family of the Chen dynasty,12 which had its capital in what is today Nanjing. The title at the front of the preface to the surviving scroll copy (see image) is 碣石調幽蘭 Jieshi Diao You Lan (Secluded Orchid, in Stone Tablet Mode). Right after the preface comes the tablature, with the melody now titled only as 幽蘭第五 You Lan, #5. The title Jieshi Diao You Lan then again returns at the end of the scroll, where it is at the top of a list of melody titles (see also the second image at right).

Evidence suggests that this tablature was almost certainly brought from China to Japan during the Tang dynasty. Yang, Tale (p.50) suggests that it quite likely was brought to Japan by one of the many imperial missions sent from Japan to China to collect such materials. (Others have speculated it might have been brought from Jiankang [Nanjing] by a Buddhist traveler). However, it is unknown whether it was brought as part of a set or by itself. Nor is it possible to say how well-known in China this particular melody was at that time, or whether it had already left the active repertoire.

Apparently this manuscript scroll went into an imperial collection soon after it arrived in Japan. Then some time around 1700 the retired Emperor Gomizuno bestowed it, together with another ancient Chinese music document that has come to be known as the Hikone manuscript, on Koma family, a clan of hereditary musicans. These both then remained in private hands until the 20th century, when the You Lan scroll was bequeathed to the Kyoto Museum, which in 1968 sent it to the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno (a district of Tokyo); meanwhile the content of the Hikone Manuscript came to be known through the copies by Ogyu Sorai (as further discussed below), while the original remained in the Hikone Museum. (See Yang for further detail.)
  End of the original score (compare in typed version) 13      
Two very noticeable facets of the tablature should be discussed here.

These issues aside, here the questions become even more complicated because, after the You Lan tablature was first given modern publication in China (in 1884), it turned out that this was a relatively modern edition, probably dating from around 1700.18 For many years this led to doubts that the melody itself was in fact so ancient. How did this happen?

From the beginning of the 1880s a Chinese scholar named Yang Shoujing spent several years in Japan looking for old Chinese books.19 In Kyoto he found a scroll in longhand tablature of a melody called Jieshidiao You Lan that had been in the possession of the famous Japanese Confucianist Ogyu Sorai (1666-1728).20 A tracing copy (by Kojima Hosu, 1797-1847) was quickly published in Japan, Then, based on this, in 1884 this copy was published in a collection of Chinese documents that had been found overseas, the Guyi Congshu. From there it found modern publication in the first volume of the original series of Qinqu Jicheng (1963), as well as in Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu (1971).21

Problems with dating this scroll led to doubts, but eventualy another copy of You Lan was found, also in Kyoto, which proved to be much older. Authentication of this edition revealed that the score found earlier was in fact an early 18th century Japanese reproduction, probably by Ogyu Sorai himself or under his supervision. Furthermore it seems that Sorai had spread the word that the Hikone manuscript was a companion document. This then led to the widespread but erroneous belief that the Hikone document existed mainly to explain how to play the You Lan melody. This, then, is apparently how the Hikone document became transformed into the Wusilan Finger Technique Explanations.

Eventually, however, the original You Lan scroll was discovered. Now authenticated, by carbon dating and other methods, as dating from the 7th century, this is the one that is now in the permanent collection of the Japan National Museum, Ueno. In 1981 this version was printed in Qinqu Jicheng, New Series, Vol. 1, together with a preface by Zha Fuxi that makes it clear why that version now in Tokyo was selected.22

In November 1999 I took part in a You Lan seminar in Tokyo. In honor of this seminar the Japan National Museum had on display the original Tang dynasty document. The total scroll is over four meters long, so they were able to display only a part. There was a lecture by a museum curator in which he said they have examined the ink, paper and writing style, and have concluded that it was copied by hand in the 7th century (with perhaps a few corrections made a century or so later).23

The earliest musical known reconstructions (recordings) of You Lan followed the edition published by Yang Biaozheng in Qinxue Congshu (1910).24 This edition put modern tablature alongside a copy of the longhand tablature. Newer renditions usually simply copy or slightly modify earlier reconstructions. Others focus on strongly differing interpretations of a few of the finger techniques. Often a special effect comes from people taking advantage of the special sonorities allowed by playing the melody on metal strings.25

Regarding the original You Lan fingerings, many of the terms for finger techniques used in the original tablature, though out of use by the Ming dynasty, were explained in handbooks of that period. As a result there is today explanation for almost all of the techniques, though these are not always consistent.26 One of these handbooks is Qinshu Daquan, which includes finger technique explanations written during the Tang dynasty by Zhao Yeli and Chen Zhuo, and during the Song dynasty by Cheng Yujian and Yang Zuyun.27

In addition, there are are the Wusilan Fingerings (烏絲闌指法 Wusilan Zhifa) that were preserved in Japan. These are discovered in some detail on a separate page.

The You Lan manuscript what we know as Jieshidiao You Lan also used the title "You Lan, Number Five." Some have suggested that this means either that this is the fifth section of You Lan, or the fifth melody in a suite. What it most likely means, though, is that it is the fifth melody in what was apparently once a larger collection of melodies. These are listed at the end of the You Lan manuscript, where the tablature is followed by a melody list with 59 titles.

For many years I did not do a detailed reconstruction of You Lan. The main problem was that a number of the finger techniques are not clearly explained, the biggest hurdle perhaps being the very first two notes.28 My usual methods for interpreting these problems had not worked to my satisfaction.

Then in January of 2004 Yuan Jung-Ping, then president of the New York Qin Society, told me that for some months he had been working on You Lan from the original manuscript.29 He gave me his interpretation of a number of the difficult terms, and this both inspired and enabled me finally to do my own version. While doing it I tried not to pay attention to the rhythms worked out by other people.

In fact, many other people have worked on this melody, making both transcriptions and recordings. There is a lot of information online as well.31 On the other hand, many of these versions are based on people modifying earlier reconstructions, rather than on doing their own directly from the tablature.

Two major issues are the modality of You Lan and its intonation.32 As written, the modality is certainly different from what can be heard in modern guqin melodies, and it also seems rather different from the melodies I have studied in early Ming dynasty handbooks, the music of You Lan being even less pentatonic. On the other hand the melody does seem to move through structures similar to those in melodies preserved from the Ming dynasty: there are parallel phrases, repeated motifs, and variations on themes and motifs. Also, as with the later melodies, the best results seem to come from putting the melodic lines into duple meter rhythms, then interpreting these rhythms freely.33

Original Preface34
Preface to You Lan (Secluded Orchid), also called Yi Lan (Self-Reliant Orchid), (a melody in the) Jieshi (Stone Tablet) Mode

Qiu Gong, style name (Qiu) Ming, was a native of Kuai Ji. At the end of the Liang Dynasty (502-557) he became a recluse in the Jiuyi Mountains (at the southern edge of the old state of Chu), and was very good at (melodies in the) Chu mode. As for the melody You Lan, he was exceptionally skilled. He used its subtle sounds for his own lofty goals, but was unwilling to transmit them to others. In the third year of Chenming period (589) of the Chen Dynasty he did transmit it to (Chen) Shuming, prince of Yidu. Then in the 10th year of the Sui dynasty's Kaixing period (590) he died in Danyang35 prefecture. At that time he was 97 years old. He had no disciples to carry on his tradition, but his sounds were consequently transmitted.

Listen to my recording
by itself 聽我的錄音 or
            together with my transcription 聽錄音、看五線譜
Small numbers in the transcription correspond with Chinese numbers in my computer copy of the original manuscript

Four Sections, untitled (the original tablature, copied out here, indicates sections only by calling for a break between each one)36

00.00   1.
01.49   2.
04.23   3.
06.32   4.
08.00   End


This melody is relaxed; there is ebb and flow in playing it.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. You Lan references
Classical references
Before the preface at the beginning of the You Lan scroll (image above) the text says, "碣石調幽蘭序,一名倚蘭 Stone Tablet Mode Secluded Orchid Preface, also called Self-Reliant Orchid".
9411.431 "幽蘭 you lan" says it is "an orchid growing in a secluded valley", "the name of a flower", and "the name of a qin melody". It gives the following references:

屈原,離騷 Qu Yuan's Li Sao; see Hawkes, p.74, line 210 "knotting orchids I waited in indecision," (結幽蘭而延佇) and p.75, lines 271/2: "they wear mugwort and cram their waistbands with it, but the lovely valley orchid they deem unfit to wear." (戶服艾以盈要兮,謂幽蘭其不可佩。) This theme is sometimes associated with the melody Pei Lan.
曹植,落神賦 Cao Zhi's Rhapsody on the Luo River Goddess; see Knechtges, Wen Xuan III, p.359: the Luo River goddess wears one;
宋玉,諷賦 Song Yu's Feng Fu (Rhapsody on Persuasion) and 謝惠連,雪賦 Xie Huilian's Xue Fu (Rhapsody on Snow; see Knechtges, Wen Xuan III, pp.22-23), both of which refer to Song Yu going to the home of a beautiful woman where he plays Bai Xue and You Lan on the qin.

4/446 adds a reference to 白居易,聽幽蘭詩 a poem by Bai Juyi (772-846) called Listening to You Lan, quoting the first two of its four lines. Regarding the opening phrase "琴中古曲 ancient melodies for the qin", there is no information about whether any You Lan tablature existed in China at the time of Bai Juyi, but the title is in several lists such as in one version of the Qin Cao attributed to Cai Yong as well as on such lists as Qin Li and the list included with the present You Lan manuscript.

The apparently standard full version of Bai Juyi's poem is,

琴中古曲是《幽蘭》, You Lan is an ancient qin melody;
為我慇懃更弄看。         it makes me attentive the more it is played within my view. (? for me it is played delicately and attentively?)
欲得身心俱靜好,         I yearn to attain for my body and mind complete harmony,
自彈不及聽人彈。         (But) playing it myself is not as fulfilling as listening to someone else play it.

Qinshu Daquan (see Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. V, p.426) has a slightly different version of the whole poem (see the second and third lines).

琴中古曲是《幽蘭》, You Lan is an ancient qin melody;
為我清琴更弄看。         For me a refined qin sounds best when I see it played (?).
欲得身心歸靜好,         I yearn for my body and mind to return to harmony,
自彈不及聽人彈。         (But) playing it myself is not as fulfilling as listening to someone else play it.

倚闌 Yi Lan (Self-reliant Orchid) references
Both 784.313 and I/1462 have 倚闌 (= 倚欄 lean on railing) but neither has 倚蘭 yi lan (self-reliant orchid). See also
倚蘭操: a mistake? 倚闌 Yi Lan can also be the name of a poem, e.g., one by 陸游 Lu You.

You Lan explanations make no mention of 猗蘭 Yi Lan (Flourishing Orchid; see 20945.22 猗蘭 a type of orchid, and 20945.24 猗蘭操,琴曲名 Yi Lan Qu, qin melody name). There are two related early qin melodies with this title:

Yi Lan (猗蘭) in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425), with no lyrics;
Yi Lan Cao (漪蘭操 this Yi meaning rippling) in Taigu Yiyin (1511), which has a similar introduction and melody to the 1425 version but is set to five poems in Yuefu Shiji (see pp. 839-841), the latter two of which are called You Lan.

Modern references
For modern commentary a good place to begin is in two writings by 楊元錚 Yang Yuanzheng:

Some mention should also be made here of:

David Ming-Yueh Liang, The Chinese Ch'in, Its History and Music

See in particular Chapter V (pp.208292): History and Analysis of "Yu-lan" ("Elegant Orchid"). Regarding the book book in general, Liang refers to it as a "thesis" as it was his M.A. thesis at UCLA. Unfortunately many of Liang's comments are clearly erroneous, but it is difficult to check on these because he has no footnotes and his Romanization is too often so hopelessly inaccurate that verification is difficult (e.g., "ming-chen" for "民間" - it should be "min-chien" or "minjian"). He often does not quote any sources for what are clearly second hand comments from a source or sources.

Liang's chapter on You Lan includes charts showing frequency of pitches, pitch relations, cadences and so forth, as well as a melographic analysis.

2. Stone Tablet Mode (碣石調 Jieshi Diao)
24896 and 7/1081 碣 have nothing about a musical mode. 7/1081 Jieshi means tombstone, as well as being a mountain in Hebei province overlooking the Gulf of Bohai. 24896.2 briefly discusses the Jieshi Diao You Lan published in the 古逸叢書 Guyi Congshu (see footnote below). 24896.4 Jieshi Guan 館 concerns a palace near Beijing, mentioned in Shi Ji 74 (see Nienhauser, VII, p.181). 24896.3 碣石篇 Jieshi Pian (Stone Tablet Essay) was the name of lyrics accompanying four music bureau (yuefu) dances from the Jin dynasty; the preface in Yuefu Shiji 55 (p. 790) says Jieshi was a poem written by the 魏武帝 Wu Emperor (unofficial title of 曹操 Cao Cao, 155-220) of the Wei Dynasty (north China, with its capital at Luoyang). It has four parts, each one having 14 four-character lines arranged into seven couplets. The names are 觀滄海 Looking at the Ocean (from Jieshi Mountain), 冬十月 The Cold Tenth Month, 土不同 The Ground is Different, and 龜雖壽 Although Turtles Have a Long Life. Jieshi Diao You Lan also has four sections, and as a result some people think that You Lan developed from settings of these old poems in the Jieshi mode. However, I have not been able to match the lyrics to any reconstructed version of the melody, and if there is in fact a connection here it is quite likely a very loose one. None of the Jieshi mode melodies makes any mention of orchids; perhaps there are some modal similarities, perhaps some musical materials were maintained, perhaps one of the characteristics of the Jieshi mode was that pieces in that mode were in four parts.

Nothing here suggests a connection to the Chu region so suggestions that Jieshidiao is a Chu mode seems to come from the statement in the preface that Qiu Ming was a recluse in the Chu region.

3. Original You Lan manuscript
The above image begins with title 碣石調幽蘭 Jieshi Diao You Lan. There is then the preface followed by the title written as 幽蘭第五 You Lan #5 (see comment). The tablature itself begins "耶臥中指...." For interpreting the two symbols immediately after those four characters see further. Various websites have copies of the beginning of the original manuscript.

Online version
The complete original You Lan scroll is online at this
Japanese eMuseum website (English page).

The image is clear engouth to allows detailed study.

4. Modern reconstructions
See also Historically Informed Qin Performance. Existing interpretations vary in length from about eight minutes to over 12 minutes.

5. Mid-6th century (梁朝 Liang dynasty, 502–557-587)
The preface refers here to the Liang dynasty, which first had its capital at 建康 Jiankang (502–557 CE; Nanjing) then later at 江陵 Jiangling (555- 587; now part of Jingzhou, a city on the Yangzi River in southern Hubei province, about 500 miles to the west of Nanjing). The founder of the Liang dynasty, Xiao Yan (r.502-549), has an entry in Qin Shi Bu. Under him Jiankang became a major Buddhist center (significant because Buddhists were important travelers between China and Japan). In 557 the Liang were replaced in Nanjing by the Chen (557-589; below).

6. 丘明 Qiu Ming
Also called 丘子明 Qiu Ziming. 40.59 丘明 refers only to someone else, 左丘明 a minister of Lu during the Spring and Autumn period. The dates ascribed to him (493-590) appear to be based on the comments in the present preface. Bio.xxx.

7. 會稽 Kuai Ji, Kuaiji (sometimes Romanized Guiji or Huiji)
14636.156 會稽 mostly refers to the area around Shaoxing, west southwest of Hangzhou. Other possible places are listed under Yu Hui Tushan.

8. 九疑山 Jiuyi Shan
In Hunan near the border with Guangdong. Also connected to the melody Fan Canglang.

9. Chu melodic style?
See Chu Region; there is no evidence to suggest any melodic connection between this ancient You Lan and the Chu-themed melodies surviving rom almost 1,000 years later.

10. 宜都王叔明 (Chen) Shuming, Prince of Yidu
In 589 C.E. there was a 陳叔明 Chen Shuming (564‐616) who was prince of Yidu at the Chen court in Nanjing (see below; Yang, p. 124). Chinese records have someone of this name as a qin player in the lineage of the qin master Liu Kun (271-318), but do not specifically mention the melody You Lan.

Thus, a commentary in Qinshu Daquan, Folio 10 (see QQJC, V/210, top left) traces a melody (or group of melodies) from Chen Yidu back to Liu Kun as follows:

The five melodies of Liu Kun such as Hu Jia (劉琨胡笳等五弄 Hu Jia Deng Wu Nong, which might better be translated as "five melodies of Liu Kun in the Hu Jia [mode]") were transmitted to his son-in-law 陳通 Chen Tong (nfi); Tong transmitted them to 柳進思 Liu Jinsi (nfi); Si transmitted them to 司馬均 Sima Jun (Bio 480: "Eastern Han"!), adding five musical sounds it was transmitted to 普明 Pu Ming (Bio 2347: Yuan monk!). Pu Ming transmitted them to 封襲 Feng Xi (nfi); Xi transmitted them to 陳宜都 Chen Yidu (i.e., Chen Shuming, prince of Yidu). When Yidu died, this all stopped.

The Qin Shi biography of Liu Kun (#90) does not mention any of the above people. It also refers to his 胡笳五弄 Hu Jia Wu Nong rather than 胡笳等五弄 Hu Jia Deng Wu Nong, listing them as:

In other words, none of them had the title Hu Jia (or You Lan) so this might have meant Hu Jia was the name of the musical mode. To this the biography adds that these were transmitted to 超耶利 Chao Yeli (of the Sui dynasty). All five of these titles are in the list of 59 melodies appended at the end of the You Lan manuscript, apparently grouped with the Hujia mode melodies. Wu Wenguang in an essay on You Lan presented at the 1999 You Lan conference in Japan suggests that Pu Ming was in fact Qiu Ming, and that this is evidence that in the 6th century You Lan was already an ancient melody. However, even if Qiu Ming learned the melody as a youth early in the 6th century, it is something of a stretch for there to be only four generations necessary to take it back 200 years to Liu Kun in the early 4th century.

王叔明 may sometimes be referred to as Wang Shuming, but I have found no further information on any Wang Shuming from this time period. 3223.82 叔明 Shuming is a nickname for many people, but none from this period surnamed either 王 Wang or 陳 Chen.

11. 宜都王 Prince of Yidu (For his name, 叔明 Shuming, see above)
For 宜都 Yidu 7263.76 says it refers to the region also called 宜昌 Yichang, on the Yangzi river in Hubei province.

12. 陳 Chen dynasty (557-589)
Succeeded the Liang dynasty, also with its capital in Jiankang (Nanjing). In 589 Nanjing was captured by Yang Jian, founder of the Sui dynasty.

13. End of the original score (compare in typed version)
Note the added text clearly written across the bottom of the scroll.

14. Longhand tablature (文字譜,看細節; wenzipu, see details)
Longhand tablature writes out in full characters all the details of performance. Shorthand qin tablature (減字譜 jianzipu) conveys the same information by combining abbreviated forms of several characters to make "clusters". One cluster usually defines one note, but there are also a number of multi-note clusters. This shorthand form is thought to have developed during the Tang dynasty. See, for example, Cao Rou.

Longhand tablature required a whole phrase to convey the same information as one of the shorthand clusters (see example). At least one source claims that longhand tablature was invented in the 3rd C. BCE by Yongmeng Zhou. The first surviving mention of written music may be in Ya Qin Zhao Shi (1st C. BCE). The only authentically ancient example of longhand tablature is that for the present melody You Lan. It can also be found in the 1552 publication of an introductory exercise called Caoman Yin, but this may have been a contemporary work written in this form to suggest antiquity.

15. Is it 55 or 59 melodies?
The comment suggesting that this You Lan was part of a set comes from Yang. As for the number of melodies, this depends on whether the four modal names at the front are simply modal names or actually modal preludes. The list at the end of the surviving tablature has 59 titles, but the first four are the names of modes: are these actually modal preludes? Or are they simply titles of modes into which these melodies will fall? If they are simply titles, then You Lan is in fact the fifth melody on the list. If the first four are only mode names, then You Lan is the fifth name on the list. If in fact the first four are modal preludes, then You Lan is the ninth name on the list, though perhaps then the fifth piece in the Chu mode. The problem with that is that its title identifies it as being in Jieshidiao mode.

16. Interlineal writing
This is the music maked off by 【 and 】in the typed version. The three insertions correspond to the following measures of my transcription:

This marginal writing appears in all the early copies. According to Yang (p. 44-47) these were done in a different script (by a Scribe B) to that of most of the document (Scribe A), and he suggests they were done by an active qin adding his own revisions to the original. However, based on my understanding of the music, it seems just as likely that these were characters discovered missing during proof-reading. This brings up the question: is it possible that the Scribe B was a student of Scribe A, who had created (this version of) the piece? After playing through the transcription the teacher then called for some changes. If this was the case, it might account for some of the apparent vacillating in writing noted by Yang.

17. Analysis of the interlineal writing
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18. 古逸叢書 Guyi Congshu (Old Lost Books Collection; 1882-4)
A collection, 26 volumes, compiled by 黎庶昌 Li Shuchang (1837 - 97) and 楊守敬 Yang Shoujing (1839 - 1915)
3308.331: 叢書名,清黎庶昌菟輯我國遺籍之在日本者編輯而成.... Name of a book collection.... The entry suggests Li Shuchang (the Chinese ambassador to Japan) collected them and Yang Shoujing edited them. Li and Yang were two bibliophiles who searched extensively for such works, mostly in Japan. What they found they then reproduced for publication. GYCS is a source for the biographies of Pei Ni and Qiu Ming, and the GYCS publication of You Lan is discussed in QSCM, #29 (as well as here).

19. 楊守敬 Yang Shoujing (1835-1915) and his time in Japan
See Lore of the Chinese Lute, page 29n. R. H. van Gulik wrote that when the "Chinese scholar and bibliophile" Yang Shoujing was in Japan from 1880 to 1884 he bought a copy of the You Lan manuscript. However, Van Gulik expressed uncertainty about the authenticity of this document, suspecting that perhaps Ogyu Sorai himself had manufactured it.

20. Ogyu Sorai 荻生徂徠 ("Disheng Culai"; 1666-1728)
Ogyu Sorai, also known as 物部茂卿 Mononobe Noke ("Wubu Maoqing") was a Japanese Confucianist. Further details here.

21. Modern published versions of You Lan
See the bibliography. In Tong Kin-Woon's 琴府 Qin Fu it is on pp. 1-9. Its main difference with the original seems to be the addition of marks separating the notes (but note its interpretation of the opening yewo technique as being done at 十上半寸許; compare in image below). Otherwise it was copied line for line: even the characters added between lines and trailing around towards the end are left in that position. (See also next footnote.)

22. Jieshi Diao Youlan in Qinqu Jicheng, Volume 1
New Series, Beijing, 1981, p.1 and 2010, p.3. I have not yet translated the introduction written by Zha Fuxi in Qinqu Jicheng, which begins as follows:


However, it does give several examples that make it clear that the 古逸本 Guyi Congshu version (from the copy by Kojima) and used in the 1963 Qinqu Jicheng was made from Ogyu Sorai's copy, not from the original 神光院本 Jinko Yin volume (already moved from Kyoto to the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno). He adds that as a result the 1981 (copied in 2010) edition used this original scroll instead of the Kojima copy used earlier. On the other hand, Zha makes no reference to the inserted next that in my typed version has been put in brackets (see【 】).

23. It was preserved at a monastery in Kyoto until the 20th century, when it was brought to the museum in Ueno.

24. Qinxue Congshu (1910)
楊表正,琴學叢書 See also Tong Kin-Woon's 琴府 Qin Fu, p. 838ff.

25. Other interpreters make much of their attempts to play the melody according to certain concepts of mode. I have never seen any of these concepts explained very clearly, and so have not found them very convincing. For more on this see You Lan Mode.

26. For some techniques there is more than one explanation. These explanations are not all consistent, so differing interpretations can be legitimately debated.

27. The relevant section of Qinshu Daquan is in Qinqu Jicheng Vol.IV, pp.149-194. Within this it is not always clear to me the attributions of the explanations. Some say Zhao Yeli (565-639) was the person most responsible for adapting the long hand tablature into simplified tablature, so perhaps the others are based on his explanations. The following shows where names are actually mentioned.

p.149, not clear (Zhao Yeli 趙耶利 ?)
p.151, Master Chen 陳居士 (= 陳拙 ?)
p.153, Yang Zuyun 楊祖雲
p.155, Cheng Yujian 成玉澗 (written 石+間)
p.156, Collection 諸家指法拾遺
p.160, Chen Zhuo 陳拙,
p.177, illustrations 指法手勢圖

28. First two notes of You Lan (see my transcription) Opening      
The eCopy of the original manuscript has controls for seeing the beginning close up. Here, as at right, it can easily be seen that (after the title 幽蘭第五) the melody begins with the instructions 耶臥 (yewo or xiewo: put down sideways) the middle finger (of the left hand) at "⼎半寸許" (許 more or less 半寸 half an inch 卞 above or below "⼎"). This is on the 商 second string; it goes on say the index and middle finger (of the right hand then) "pull" the (open) first and (stopped) second string.

Most people (following the 1884 copy) have interpreted the ⼎ (the closest my computer can do to what is actually there) to be 十 with the cross stroke missing (perhaps on the basis that ⼎ looks somewhat like | with the middle missing), and interpreted to be 上 (Yuan Jung-Ping and perhaps others have suggested 下). A normal reading of 十上半寸 yields sol sharp, 十下半寸 sol flat. This is then played together with the open first string, do. Some people have argued that the resulting dissonance is intentional and beautiful. Others have tried to resolve the dissonance by retuning the instrument, suggesting that the modality was different at the time, and/or arguing that the positioning of the fingers was based on observation rather than theory (e.g., a stopped note indicated as being at position 7 must be played a little below 7 to give the same pitch as a harmonic played at 7). However, the retuning solution brings problems elsewhere, and in any case often the position on the second string is simply played as 10, sol.

Personally, although I do find some appeal in the dissonance that results from playing a sol sharp together with do (or a sol flat together with do if is interpreted as 下), I have also found musical appeal in two other possible interpretations.

  1. Although in this transcription I write out the interpretation of "above 10" as G#, in my recording I play it as a slightly sharpened G, enough so that it actually should still be considered as a sol; again notice that the position was actually qualified as "許 more or less". (As for a "flatted sol", on many of my instruments the precise fifth interval is reached by playing slightly below position 10)
  2. I also sometimes play according to quite a different interpretation, one that draws on the fact that the two strokes of the Chinese number 8 (8 (八) are at least as similar to ⼎ as they are to | , the vertical stroke of the number 10 (十); this interpretation suggests that the damage was not from just a simple tear in the page but perhaps (also) a piece of the page twisted around. The position 八上半寸 on the second string yields do (this also occurs later in the manuscript), so interpreting the ⼎ not as 10 but as 8 makes the opening two notes form an octave on C. This solution requires the least amount of change (if there is an error) or theoretical speculation (if the modality is to be considered to conform to some known logic).

Further regarding attempts to resolve the obvious damage to the original manuscript right in this place, available copies (see again the eCopy) suggest that all theories still seems to require there to have been a copying error, but perhaps a close examination of the Ueno Museum original would yield further justification for the twisted paper theory.

29. 袁中平 Yuan Jung-Ping has produced quite a few materials in connection with his reconstruction. However, this does not include a transcription into staff notation: he prefers to work from the simplified notation he made from the original longhand notation

31. This includes a paper 吳文光 Wu Wenguang presented at the Japanese You Lan conference mentioned below; this paper was quite useful in writing the present introduction.

32. Intonation in You Lan
A guqin is tuned so that its harmonics mostly follow pythagorian intonation. However, strings can be stopped anywhere, and it is not certain whether past qin masters tried to follow that intonation for stopped notes. Over time there have been variations in the ways of indicating stopped positions, but fundamental to my interpretation is the belief that the variations in indication of finger position (e.g. "down one inch" vs. down half inch"; see tuning a qin) are not attempts to indicate special intonations, but rather inconsistencies resulting from my belief that the manuscript was copied by more than one person, quite possibly during different generations. My experience with Ming tablature is that when an actively played melody is re-copied for a new handbook, much of the new tablature is a direct copy of the old. However, in parts where the melody has changed somewhat a different system may be used to indicated finger position (e.g., "above 8" instead of "between 7 and 8".

33. Fixed rhythms interpreted freely
This is discussed further elsewhere.

34. 碣石調幽蘭序一名倚蘭


35. You Lan, 4 sections
The sections are not numbered. The endings of Sections 1 and 2 are each indicated by the statement 拍之,大息 (Melody finalizes, Long rest); Sections 3 and 4 each end with 拍之 (Melody finalizes). As yet I have not seen instructions like this in any other qin tablature. The melody begins and ends with the statement 幽蘭第五 You Lan, the Fifth. This could mean either The Fifth Section of You Lan, or that You Lan was the fifth in a series of melodies.

Walter Kaufmann, in his Musical Notations of the Orient, p.462 (1967 edition), says the four sections concern the following:

  1. Mentions the emperor's travels eastward to Jieshi and the vastness of the ocean from which the sun and moon rose and into which sun and moon set;
  2. Mentions how, after work in the fields was accomplished, the merchants became active;
  3. Explains how the shape and climate of a region influence its inhabitants
  4. In praise of the brave man.

Of the source for this information Kaufmann rather audaciously writes only that it comes from a "copy in possession of this writer". I have not yet found this explanation of the four sections elsewhere.

36. 101.179 Danyang mentions a number of places, including a Chu city in Hubei.

37. Afterword

Return to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.