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06: Flowing Streams
- Gong mode, standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 2
流水 1
Liu Shui
Flowing Stream under a Small Bridge 3    
According to Xunzi, Confucius said,

Whenever the gentleman sees a great stream he feels the necessity of contemplating it.4

Such associations certainly enriched literati appreciation of the melody Flowing Streams. However, traditional commentary within guqin literature always connects Flowing Streams with High Mountains, and the melody High Mountains Flowing Streams (Gao Shan Liu Shui5) always tells the same story. According to this story, the famous qin player of antiquity Boya (also commonly Romanized Bo Ya) could evoke nature with his qin play, but only Ziqi (also Zi Qi or Zhong Ziqi) was able to recognize this. From this comes the expression "zhi yin: know sound", meaning friends who know what resounds in each others' hearts. Unfortunately, soon after their first meeting Ziqi dies, after which Boya never plays again. He thinks, in life you are lucky if you find someone who understands you; having found such a person, how could he ever expect to find another?

In Shen Qi Mi Pu this story is related in the preface to Gao Shan. The preface there associates the melody with Mount Tai in Shandong, though it does not say that this is where the melody was played. The Gao Shan page also discusses other geographical associations as well as other versions of this story; that page also has most of the commentary that can be applied to the music of both Gao Shan and Liu Shui.

The biography of Bo Ya mentions other melodies also associated with Bo Ya. Of note here is the ancient mention of Sanxia Liu Quan6 (Flowing Springs in the Three Gorges); it might relate a similar story.

As for the music specifically of Liu Shui, versions survive in 33 handbooks between 1425 and 1946;7 in fact, Liu Shui is the only piece from Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio 1 to have survived actively in a recognizable form into the modern repertoire.8 However, only the versions in two other handbooks (1539 and 1552 - see comments with Gao Shan) follow closely the one in SQMP. The others are rather similar in what are called here the first four sections (particularly the harmonics), but they then become almost completely different. The later versions all seem descended from quite a different original (further comments).

Like Gao Shan, the Liu Shui in SQMP also had no punctuation, so again my reconstruction uses the phrasing from the identical version in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539). And also as with Gao Shan, Liu Shui was not divided into sections.

It should be noted that neither the SQMP version of Liu Shui nor any versions prior to the nineteenth century prominently featured glissandos. In additon, the Shen Qi Mi Pus version is considerably longer than the other surviving early versions that did not copy the Shen Qi Mi Pu version, particularly those from 1589 right up to the 19th century. Because of this length, in my transcription I decided to divide the piece into what seem to me to be 16 natural sections. This sectioning is based in part on the sectioning of the version in Xilutang Qintong (1525): ten of the titles I have used here are the ten Xilutang Qintong (1525) sections, here applied to sections where the implication of the title seems to correspond well with the feeling of the Shen Qi Mi Pu music; two titles are phrases from Zhu Quan's preface to the melody; the other four titles come from the version in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585).

Dozens of recordings of Liu Shui have been made, but besides my own the only other available ones based on the version in SQMP are those by Yao Bingyan and his son, Yao Gongbai.9 Both use metal strings. The one by Yao Bingyan is transcribed by Bell Yung in Celestial Airs of Antiquity.

Modern Liu Shui

The version of Liu Shui commonly played today makes extensive use of harp-like glissandos called "gunfu".10 This version is generally attributed to the 19th century Sichuan school master Zhang Kongshan,11 and it is commonly known as the "72 gunfu Liu Shui",12 with suggestions that these gunfu are particularly appropriate to the lofty mountains of Sichuan, whereas this older versions were perhaps more descriptive of streams in the lower mountains of eastern China.13

Original Preface14
Zhu Quan's preface to #05 Gao Shan serves for both melodies.

Undivided; here arranged into 16 sections; titles are from
Xilutang Qintong (X), Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (C), and Zhu Quan's preface (ZP); timings follow
my recording 錄音 15

(00.00) 01. The long stream stretches out like a ribbon (X1)
(00.37) 02. A qin resounds by the hidden mountain stream (X2)
(01.09) 03. Directing the pulses (a Daoist exercise) leads to a long life (X3)
(01.40) 04. Floating clouds knock together (X5)
(02.24) 05. The wind causes ripples in the water (X6)
(02.58) 06. Look at the Big Dipper while traveling on an immortal's log (X7)16
(03.35) 07. Spring water gurgles up ("nian" near end; X4) 17
(04.09) 08. Bubbling eastward (C7)
(04.30) 09. Rivers return down to the sea (related to 9; has harmonics ; C5)
(04.57) 10. (The qin evokes) the vastness of the waters (resembles 15; ZP)
(05.17) 11. Rowing hurriedly through the mist (fast; X8)
(06.01) 12. (The river flows) eternally (freely; C6)
(06.39) 13. Mist above a clear river (slower; C4)
(07.24) 14. People of wisdom enjoy the waters (ZP)
(07.53) 15. The cinnabar door is thick (with lacquer? X9) 18
(08.10) 16. The spirit is like deep, dark waters (X10) 19
(08.48) --- Piece ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Liu Shui references
17762.16 流水 gives only geography; 17762.20 流水高山 adds nothing to 46302.32 高山流水 Gaoshan Liushui, discussed elsewhere.
17762.21 流水韻 writes of people using the sound of water to write music, but has nothing beyond the Bo Ya story.

2. For more on gong mode see Shenpin Gong Yi. For modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Pu Hua: Flowing Stream under a Small Bridge 蒲華,小橋流水圖 Pu Hua fan with similar theme              
Pu Hua (1832 - 1911) was a well known painter from 嘉興 Jiaxing in Zhejiang province; further details and paintings can be found from a webpage
in his name; as of 2009 the Wikipedia article was just a stub. Note his mention of "qin" in the middle of the inscription and the qin being carried to the right of the bridge. This painting can be found on numerous websites; the original is apparently 新加坡國立大學李港乾美術館藏 in the Lee Kong Chian Collection at the Museum of the National University of Singapore, though their website does not mention it. One online comment says the composition of the painting shows some Western influence.

The full inscription on the painting is as follows:


The inscription begins with a four-line poem, seven characters per line. The third line mentions playing qin. After the poem there is the following explanation: "1893, summer, in the style of Mei Daoren (吳鎮 Wu Zhen, 1280-1354), by Zuoying, (nickname of) Pu Hua." (Thanks to 孫小青 Sun Xiaoqing for clarifying and explaining the calligraphy and the artist.)

In 2009 the first line (山路荒茫風日晴) and part of the last (仿梅道人蒲華) could be found online on a fan with a similar theme.

4. Xunzi 荀子 on flowing water (see also Confucius on water and mountains)
Xunzi (see also Chapter 7), Chapter 28 宥坐 You Zuo, has the following passage:


Chapter 28 is generally considered to be an apocryphal section added later. Knoblock, 28/5, translates this section as follows (omitting footnotes from the original translation in Vol III, Books 17 - 32, p. 248. Stanford University Press, 1994):

Confucius was once gazing at the water flowing eastward. Zigong 子貢 questioned Confucius about it, saying: "Why is it that whenever a gentleman sees a great stream, he feels the necessity to contemplate?"

Confucius replied: "Ah! Water - it bestows itself everywhere, on all living things, yet there is no assertion: in this it remembers inner power. Its direction of flow is to descend toward the low ground and whether its course is winding or straight, it necessarily follows its natural principles: in this it resembles morality. {Things float on its surface and its depths cannot be fathomed: in this it resembles knowledge.} Its vast rushing waters are neither subdued nor exhausted: in this it resembles the Way. If there should be anything that blocks its course, its response will be to react against it, like a reverberating echo. It will travel through chasms a hundred rods deep fearlessly: in this it seems as though it had courage. Led to an empty place, it is sure to make itself level: in this it resembles the law. It will fill something completely and not require a leveling stick: in this is resembles rectitude. Indulgent and restrained while penetrating into the subtlest matters: in this it resembles scrutiny. As it comes and goes, it accommodates itself [to whatever impurities encounter it], renewing and purifying them: in this it resembles the transforming power of the good. Through myriad turns and twists its course is certain to flow eastward: in this is resembles the mind with a sense of purpose. It is for such reasons that whenever the gentleman sees a great stream he feels the necessity of contemplating it."

Thanks to Stephen Walker for pointing out the original Chinese passage and to Christopher Evans for sending me a copy of Knoblock's translation. Note that most rivers in China flow generally eastward. Also, the author, whoever he may have been, wrote not of 流水 Liu Shui (Flowing Water) but 流之水 liu zhi shui (flowing water) and 大水 da shui (a great stream); there is no suggestion there was a melody of this title at the time.

5. Gao Shan Liu Shui 高山流水
Songfengge Qinpu (1677/82) has a melody called Gaoshan Liushui (High Mountains, Flowing Streams). In all other surviving qin handbooks Gao Shan and Liu Shui are separate titles, though usually paired, as here. See further comments under Gao Shan.

6. Flowing Springs in the Three Gorges (三峽流泉 Sanxia Liu Quan)
See comments in footnote to Shishang Liu Quan (On a Rock by a Flowing Spring). General sources don't mention where Bo Ya lived, but one tradition says it was in Sichuan, location of the Three Gorges. Xu Jian, QSCB, p.177 (Chapter 9), says Tang poetic references to Sanxia Liu Quan also indicate it might be have been an early form of Liu Shui.

7. Tracing Liu Shui (see details in the appendix below)
Zha Fuxi's Guide 2/25/17 suggests that in the past Gao Shan (which survives in 42 versions from 1425 through 1946) was more popular than Liu Shui (only 33 versions during this period). Note that Gao Shan is not in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, and the lyrics of the version in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585) don't fit SQMP. The 1585 version seems to be the only one to have had lyrics.

As suggested above, the Liu Shui here was possibly not actively played at that time, so later Ming dynasty versions either copied it or were transmitted by people who gave new interpretations by studying the tablature rather than by learning it from a teacher. Perhaps careful reconstruction of later versions might clarify this, but the versions of 1525 and 1585 are so different that they perhaps should be considered separately. The 1525 version (from Xilutang Qintong), in particular, could have been transmitted from a source prior to the Ming dynasty, or one otherwise separate from the transmission of the present Shen Qi Mi Pu version.

8. Shen Qi Mi Pu melodies that survived into the modern repertoire
One can debate whether Gao Shan survived into the modern repertoire: there are some recordings available but they are rare. Melodies which have clearly survived, in addition to Liu Shui, are Meihua Sannong from Folio II and Xiaoxiang Shuiyun from Folio III. In addition several pieces have survived in very much modified form. From Folio II the most recognizable of these is Yin De (in the form of Qiujiang Yebo); much less commonly played are versions of Bai Xue, Liezi Yufeng, Qiao Ge and Shanju Yin. There are no other melodies surviving from Folio III. To my knowledge, other Shen Qi Mi Pu titles played today are either reconstructions, or are unrelated pieces of the same title.

9. In Yaomen School, Hugo HRP 748-2, track 7 (10.35); Yao Bingyan's timing is 11.59; for mine it is 8.52.

10. Gunfu 滾拂 (袞拂; in tablature 袞弗)
For this technique (sometimes Romanized kunfu or written 袞拂), the ring finger of the right hand runs down across several strings then the index finger returns back up: in Liu Shui it is from the 7th to 1st, then 1st to 7th strings. The 72 gunfu version of Liu Shui, attributed to Zhang Kongshan (see next), depicts water flowing over rocks so evocatively that one need not be a Zi Qi to realize it. Traditional qin music, though commonly programmatic in title, tends to be more subtle (see further).

Taiyin Daquanji Folio 3 (QQJC I/54) initially has the first technique written 擂 lei (beat, as a drum), or perhaps 播 bo; it then says this is the same as 袞 gun (imperial; later more specifically 滾 rolling; rapid water). As yet I have not yet seen a poetic image of gun and fu together, nor have I seen a description, though 琴鏡續 Qinjing Xu apparently has fugun). According to VG, p.130, gun has been described poetically as "a heron bathing in a whirlpool" (鷺浴盤渦 luyu panwo; he does not give his source)

11. Zhang Kongshan 長空山 (dates unknown)
See his biography under Tianwenge Qinpu (1876). Although it seems that he himself developed the so-called 72 gunfu Liu Shui (see below), no close comparisons seem to have been published comparing the current version with the tablature in Tianwen'ge Qinpu itself; there have been claims that after the publication either he or his students made further modificiations.

12. 72 gunfu Liu Shui (七十二滾拂流水) vs "beginners' melodies"
To my ears the 72 gunfu version (see above) in the hands of the right player can indeed be beautifully evocative of flowing streams -- to the extent that it should not take a "zhi yin" such as Ziqi to recognize its theme. It is thus perhaps somewhat ironic that the explicit nature of this version has contributed to making it a modern model for evoking the traditional qin aesthetic. In contrast, although the complex nature of the fingering has made this Liu Shui into a virtuoso showpiece, my teacher Sun Yuqin liked to say this melody was actually easier to play than were so-called "beginners' melodies" such as Xiang Jiang Yuan; with Liu Shui all you had to do was practice the technique well enough that you could just wave your hands around and everyone would consider you a master, whereas with a "simpler" piece you have to be able to play with real understanding and subtlety.

13. Sichuan vs Eastern China
Reference needed

14. Original preface
None here, but see the Chinese preface under 高山.

15. Chinese for titles used here
The Chinese titles, from 西麓堂琴統西, 重修真傳琴譜 and Zhu Quan's 朱序, are:

(00.00) 01. 長溪舒練 (西 1)
(00.37) 02. 幽澗鳴琴 (西 2)
(01.09) 03. 導脈靈長 (西 3)
(01.40) 04. 雲浮拍拍 (西 5)
(02.24) 05. 風起潾潾 (西 6)
(02.58) 06. 望斗乘槎 (西 7)
(03.35) 07. 延流觱沸 (西 4)
(04.09) 08. 汨汨東流 (重 7)
(04.30) 09. 就下朝宗 (重 5)
(04.57) 10. 洋洋若江海 (朱序)
(05.17) 11. 衝煙搖櫂 (西 8)
(06.01) 12. 古今晝夜 (重 6)
(06.39) 13. 縹緲澄江 (重 4)
(07.24) 14. 智者樂水 (朱序)
(07.53) 15. 丹扃湛若 (西 9)
(08.10) 16. 靈府淵泫 (西 10)
(08.48) --- 終

In some cases the divisions are quite clear to the listener. In cases where it is not, the reason is usually that I have followed the sectioning that divides the same or similar passages in later tablature, even though when I play it does not feel like a section ending.

16. This cha 槎 , a popular art object, is usually a piece of wood carved to show an immortal traveling on a log; cf. e.g., Treasures of China, HK, Commercial Press, 1983.

17. nian
Nian ("pinch") calls for the right hand to pinch a string, lift it and let it fall, making a snapping sound. Elsewhere this sound represents that of a string breaking, and as such comes at the end of at least two laments. Considering the story here, where in the end Boya breaks his strings and never plays again, it would seem appropriate to have this meaning. But here it occurs in the middle of the piece, and so its significance is not as clear. If the snap is not too loud it could have the original significance suggesting a bird picking off a twig. (So far I have found this nian only in one other version, that of 1539. 1562 changes it to open third string, and X4 [see 1525 at III/78], has unrelated music.)

18. 101.87 dan qiong 丹扃 (XLTQT seems to have shang 戶 + ); 18213.14 zhanruo 湛若 has only zihao 字號.

19. 18126.xx yuanxuan 淵泫; Matthews has "a waste of waters"; Zha thinks the characters are yuanjie 淵結 , which he chages to yuanzhi 淵質.

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Liu Shui (further comment)
based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide, 2/25/17.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information: (QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
Right aligned commentary is for later versions of Liu Shui; compare Gao Shan chart
  1.  神奇秘譜
      (1425; I/121)
Original has no sectioning (but compare above) or phrasing indicated;
lyrics of 1585 don't fit
  2. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/78)
10T; quite different from other versions: more elaborate in places;
copied from old manuscript?  
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/89)
Same as 1425 but adds phrasing
  4. 太音傳習
      (1552-61; IV/57)
Phrasing but no sectioning; similar to 1425
  5. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/324)
8T; lyrics require quite a different melody;  
there seem to be quite a few tablature mistakes  
  6. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/18)
8; related
  7. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/318)
8; identical to 1589
8.a 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1589; VII/158)
8; compare 1425
8.b 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1609; VII/--)
same as 1589?
  9. 古音正宗
      (1634; IX/282)
8; related
10. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/45)
8; diff. but still related
11. 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; X/---)
not in QQJC edition because same as 1647
12. 臣卉堂琴譜
      (1663; XI/94)
13.a. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/325)
8; no subtitles; related but different from 1425
see next
13.b. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/482)
8; also related but different
see previous
   . 松風閣琴譜
      (1677/82; XII/380)
Gaoshan Liushui: unrelated
14. 澄鑒堂琴譜
      (1689; XIV/212)
7; also related; no Gao Shan
15. 德音堂琴譜
      (1691; XII/503)
8; related
16. 響山堂琴譜
      (<1700?; XIV/97)
7; related
Handcopied partial edition beginning with Liu Shui: Gao Shan was in original?
17. 蓼懷堂琴譜
      (1702; XIII/184)
8; related
18. 一峰園琴譜
      (1709; XIII/524)
4T; related;
19. 琴劍合譜
      (1749; XVIII/306)
20. 穎陽琴譜
      (1751; XVI/72)
9; related
21. 酣古齋琴譜
      (1785; XVIII/427)
"=1709"; only first page
22. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/302)
7; related
23. 指法匯參確解
      (1821; XX/293)
8; "浙派 Zhe school"; related
No Gao Shan
24. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/401)
8; related
25. 悟雪山房琴譜
      (1836; XXII/291)
One version
(had two versions of Gao Shan)
26. 槐蔭書屋琴譜
      (1840; XXIII/352)
27. 一經盧琴學
      (1845; XXII/62)
No Gao Shan 
28. 荻灰館琴譜
      (1853; XXIV/93)
As played by a disciple of Zhang Kongshan
Seems to have more gunfu than 1876 (below)
29. 琴學尊聞
      (1864; XXIV/241)
30. 青箱齋琴譜
      (1866; XXIV/370)
31. 白菡萏香館琴譜
      (1871; XXIV/440)
32. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/166)
Special symbols including for gunfu, but not "72 gunfu" (compare 1853)
only one version (1876 has three versions of Gao Shan)
33. 希韶閣琴譜
      (1878; XXVI/320)
34. 枕經葄史山房雜抄
      (>1881; XXVII/222)
9; afterword mentions Zhang Kongshan
seems to have fewer gunfu but there are some symbols that are not explained
35. 雙琴書屋琴譜集成
      (1884; XXVII/319)
36. 養性堂琴譜
      (>1884; XXVII/365)
8; called 流水曲 Liushui Qu
Also connected to Zhang Kongshan?
37. 枯木禪琴譜
      (1893; XXVIII/41)
   . 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/245)
Only Gaoshan Liushui
15 sections (combines the existing Gao Shan and Liu Shui?)
38. 琴學叢書
      (1910; XXX/133 & XXX/255)
two versions (also 琴府 854 & 1032)
No Gao Shan
39. 雅齋琴譜叢集
      (ND; ?)
40. 沙堰琴編
      (1946; XXIX/321)
Sichuan school handbook:
see its Gao Shan
41. 夏一峰傳譜
#10 has staff notation of a Gaoshan Liushui (see 古琴曲彙編 Guqinqu Huibian, Beijing, 1957:
commentary says it is from 1876; it looks like Zhang Kongshan Liu Shui
42. 研易習琴齋琴譜
7 sections
43. 愔愔室琴譜
44. 虞山吳氏琴譜
      (2001/40 &: 339)
Staff notation

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