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20. Celestial Air Defining Shang Mode
- Shang mode:2 standard tuning played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
神品商意 1
Shenpin Shang Yi 3

Shang modal preludes may have a variety of names. The ones covered here are listed above the chart tracing these preludes. They include a number of melodies intended to introduce characteristics of shang mode or, in some cases, the modal characteristics and melodic style of the pieces following it.4 These range from those almost identical to the one here, to ones with melodies that seem unrelated. There are shang modal preludes in at least 26 handbooks from 1425 to 1670, but after this there are very few.5 The later ones include several repeats from Ming handbooks (usually grouped together rather than placed separately at the beginning of their respective modal sections) and the new Yuyin Chudiao published in 1876. Several of the preludes have lyrics (see below).

Modal characteristics of any particular mode mode can be examined in at least two quite different ways: theorizing about musical or non-musical characteristics that might be attributed to that mode; and observing the actual musical characteristics of the modal preludes and melodies.

Theoretical observations in Chinese sources have to do more with philosophy than direct observations of music. From, for example, the Discussion of strings we can see that the association of shang with autumn can be found in the lyrics of some shang modal preludes, as well as in the themes of some melodies. Musical theorizing might include statements that shang mode melodies are based on the musical note shang. Unfortunately, such observations never seem to include examples based on direct observations and analyses of the actual notes in melodies.6

Shang mode characteristics are discussed further below. For more on modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

In Shen Qi Mi Pu the mode with the largest number of melodies is shang mode. These melodies are as follows:

  1. Shenpin Shang Yi
  2. Shenpin Gu Shang Yi
  3. Kai Gu (Sigh for Antiquity)
  4. Wang Ji (No Ulterior Motives)
  5. Yin De (Hidden Virtue)
  6. Guanghan Qiu (Autumn in a Lunar Palace)
  7. Tianfeng Huanpei (Jade Pendants in a Heavenly Breeze)
  8. Shen You Liuhe (Spirit Roaming the Universe)
  9. Chang Qing (Long Clarity)
  10. Duan Qing (Short Clarity)
  11. Bai Xue (White Snow)
  12. He Ming Jiugao (Cranes Cry in the Nine Marshpools)
  13. Yi Lan (Flourishing Orchid)

In addition, shang mode melodies I have studied from other handbooks include:

  1. Xiangfei Yuan (Lament of the Xiang River Concubines)
  2. Gui Qu Lai Ci (Come Away Home)
  3. Yuan He Shuang Qing (Paired Clarity of Gibbon and Crane)
  4. Fei Dian Yin (Intonation on Lightning Flashes)
  5. Fei Lei (Wind and Thunder)
  6. Chun Jiang (Spring River)
  7. Yanyi Ge (Doorbar Song)
  8. Huai Gu Yin (Cherish Antiquity Intonation)
  9. Xing Tan (Apricot Tree Forum)
  10. Jiang Yue Bai (White Moon over the River)
  11. Xue Chuang Ye Hua (Evening Talk by a Snowy Window)
  12. Qiu Feng (Autumn Wind)
  13. Chunjiang Wan Tiao (Spring River Evening View)
  14. Meishao Yue (Moon Atop a Plum Tree)
  15. Fenglei Yin (Wind and Thunder Prelude)
  16. Gujiao Xing (Engaging with Old Friends)
  17. Kai Gu (Sigh for Antiquity)
  18. Mozi Bei Ge (Mozi Sings with Feeling)

As can be seen from the modal chart, surviving qin melodies up through the middle Ming dynasty seem all to have primary tonal centers and secondary tonal centers, the latter generally a fifth above the former. Gong mode has gong (1) as the primary tonal center and 5 as the secondary center. Zhi mode has zhi (5) primary, 2 as secondary. Yu mode has yu (6) as primary, 3 as secondary. Since the music is largely pentatonic it is not surprising that there seems to be no jiao mode following this pattern, as a fifth up from jiao (3) is 7, a non-pentatonic tone. However, shang mode does not have this problem, and it seems logical that shang mode melodies should have shang (2) as the primary note, with 6 secondary. However, standard tuning shang mode pieces do not have this characteristic. This modal characteristic is found only in qiliang mode pieces and perhaps some ruibin mode pieces. These two modes both use raised fifth string tunings, and most of their melodies seem to be associated with the region of Chu (now Hunan province and perhaps Hubei).

Of particular interest in this regard is the fact that shang mode was connected in the Song dynasty to the famous qin player Guo Chuwang (see in QSCB, Chapter 6a3). Guo was apparently very fond of the Chu region (around Hunan), and melodies related to Chu often use a raised fifth tuning, especially ruibin and qiliang modes. For some of these the mode is called chushang: were these melodies, with their tonal centers on shang, the true shang mode melodies?7

Although some theoretical documents may say shang mode melodies should have shang as the main note, to my knowledge no early Ming handbooks connect such a mode to the raised fifth tunings, their shang mode melodies always being associated with standard tuning. None of these has shang as a tonal center.

The main musical characteristics of shang mode melodies published in the earlier Ming dynasty handbooks are thus as follows:

  1. The main tonal center is gong (1; do), but whereas in gong mode the note gong is played on the open third string (called the jiao string), in shang mode the note gong is played on the open first string (called the gong string). This means in general that the open third string is avoided because it would be fa (4), not part of the standard pentatonic scale. Zhi mode melodies often have a similar characteristic.
  2. Whereas in gong mode the secondary tonal center is only zhi (5, sol) in shang mode there are usually two secondary tonal centers, shang (2; re) as well as zhi.
  3. In many shang mode melodies phrases end with the note shang "resolving" down to gong.
  4. A particularly interesting characteristic of early shang mode melodies is the common tendency of the third above the main tonal center (i.e., 1) often to be flatted (i.e., 3b) instead of being a whole-tones third (here 3♮). This is discussed further in Modality in early Ming qin tablature,8 It may be significant that a flatted third could also be called a sharpened second, i.e., a sharpened shang.9

Dictionaries generally associate the shang mode with sad melodies, but that doesn't seem an apt category for many of the melodies here.

There are no melodies in Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio One or Folio Three said to be in shang mode:10 all are in Folio Two. Here, in addition to the two modal preludes, Shen Qi Mi Pu has 11 melodies in shang mode.

Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio Two has 20 pieces divided into five modes; the 11 shang mode melodies make it the most popular mode not only in Folio Two but in the whole handbook. Song dynasty sources say that the wealthy music connoisseur Yang Zuan of Hangzhou was particularly impressed by the shang mode pieces which his in-house qin teacher Liu Zhifang had learned from the famous qin player Guo Chuwang and then taught to Mao Minzhong, and so Yang also told his other house guest Xu Tianmin to study these pieces.

Perhaps when Yang Zuan compiled his now-lost Song dynasty Zixiadong Pu11 (Handbook of the Grotto in the Rosy Clouds) he included a relatively large number of qin pieces in this mode. If so, this could support the theory that there is a connection between the music in SQMP (especially Folios II and III) and this Hangzhou school of qin play.12

Shang mode melodies with lyrics
Several early shang modal preludes have lyrics. Since there are no shang mode pieces surviving from
Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, the earliest lyrics to examine are those in the Taigu Yiyin melody Gu Qiu Feng.13 Although it is not called a modal prelude, its lyrics can actually also fit or almost fit several shang preludes following the normal pairing method of that time. To put it another way: it would be easy to adapt these lyrics so that they do fit almost any of the shang modal preludes. Such lyrics are included, with further discussion, under Gu Qiu Feng.

No original preface14

One section

(00.53) -- harmonics
(01.03) -- Modal prelude ends

Go to the Shen Qi Mi Pu ToC or to the GuqinToC.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Shang mode (商調 shang diao) references
3834.157 商調 says 樂曲之一 it is (the name of) a music piece. Shang mode was apparently used for sad songs; it is also connected to autumn. See also .145 商頌 Shang song and .149 商歌 Shang ge. (商 Shang ["commerce, converse"] was the name of an ancient state.)

2. Shang mode (商調 shang diao) characteristics
Standard tuning may also be considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6. See also Qin Tunings, some theoretical concepts and Van Gulik's comments in Lore, pp.86-7. Here Van Gulik says the diaoyi include all the basic playing techniques used in that mode, but I have not found this to be the case.

3. Image
Not yet selected.

4. Intention of the modal preludes
Some modal preludes may have been created specifically for the pieces they precede; such preludes, according to some definitations, should have been called kaizhi.

5. Tracing various Shang modal preludes
See the appendix below. Of the versions available after 1670, those in 1715, 1866 and 1871 seem to copy Ming editions while the Shangyin Chudiao published in 1876 is a new melody.

6. Traditional examination of mode
The comment about modal consistency is a tentative statement based mainly on looking at Ming dynasty handbooks. In the Qing dynasty there is often discussion of 調 diao as well as an 音 yin, or a 均 jun as well as an 音 yin. These presumably concern the two basic aspects of diao, tuning and mode, but my preliminary observations suggest these terms are not used consistently, and as yet I have not played or examined a sufficient number of Qing melodies given these attributes to know precisely how the terms are used.

One possible problem is that over the years the musical characteristics of a piece might change but the old mode name is kept. This does seem to be the case with a number of shang mode melodies.

7. See also the discussion of Xiao Xiang Shui Yun in QSCB, Chapter 6b1-3.

8. In addition to Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature, see also the related Qin Tunings, some theoretical concepts.

9. Sharpened shang (升商 sheng shang: 升2?)
Since few commentators have noted this changed note in their analyses of modes, it is perhaps not surprising that there seems to be no discussion of the possibility that this note was considered a sharpened shang.

10. Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio One melodies are all said to be in gong mode. Note, however, that Gufeng Cao seems more characteristic of melodies in yu mode.

11. Handbook of the Rosy Haze Grotto (紫霞洞譜 Zixiadong Pu)
See further information under Shen Qi Mi Pu: a General Introduction.

12. Hangzhou as a primary source for Shen Qi Mi Pu melodies
This connection is explored in the program Music from the Time of Marco Polo.

13. Lyrics for shang modal preludes
Zha Guide indexes these preludes under various titles (see above). As with the gong modal prelude the lyrics from 1585 do not fit here. In general, however, the lyrics from several of the shang mode preludes that have lyrics can be applied following the normal pairing method of that time to some of the preludes that have none. For example, the lyrics for the Shang Yi of Xilutang Qintong (1525) and the Gu Qiu Feng of Taigu Yiyin, which are almost identical to each other, can almost be paired to the tablature of such purely melodic modal preludes as those in Taiyin Daquanji and Shen Qi Mi Pu.

Where shang modal preludes do have lyrics they are mostly on the theme of autumn winds and begin either "秋風清 Qiu feng qing" or "秋風生 Qiu feng sheng". Lyrics of this type are collected in a footnote under the 1511 Gu Qiu Feng, which has the earliest version actually paired to tablature.

Other than the autumn theme, the lyrics of the modal preludes generally are not related to either the well-known Yuefu Shiji poem 秋風辭 Qiufeng Ci (Autumn Wind Ode; q.v.) or the 秋風詞 Qiufeng Ci (Autumn Wind lyrics; q.v.) of Li Bai, used with the melodies of this name from 1840 and the Mei'an School.

14. Preface
Although SQMP modal preludes have no prefaces, those in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (which all have identical music) do. Those in Zheyin are almost identical to those in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585), and so the latter can be used to reconstruct the former when they are missing. Thus the preface to the shang modal prelude was probably as follows:

考之(商)數有七十二聲,陽中之純陽也。 位於二弦專之,而為商調。有慨嘆之音。
(Shang Mode) Xi Xian says:

Not yet translated.

15. Music
Timings follow my recording.

Chart Tracing 商 Shang Modal Preludes

(With links to staff notation for first 10 melodies (
combined .pdf; [updated 8 March 2012])

This chart covers the following entries from Zha Fuxi's Guide:

Shang Yi (1/6/7)
Shang Diao (1/--/5)
Shenpin Shang Yi (4/--/--))
Shenpin Gu Shang Yi (4/--/--)
Qipin Shang Yi (17/--/--)
Kaizhi Lu Shangyi (27/--/([yes])
Qiu Feng Ci (34/260/503
Gu Qiu Feng (43/--/--)
Shangyin Chudiao (1876; 42/274/--)

Alternate titles are listed as:

Shang Yi Kao
Qiu Feng Ci (the Mei'an Qiu Feng Ci is quite different)

Some of these have lyrics; these are discussed in a footnote to Gu Qiu Feng.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1.  事林廣記   (staff; music)
      (Song/Yuan; I/18)
商調 Shang Diao; longer, no harmonic coda; 2 5 2 2~ 2, 5 2 2 2 5 3b 5 5....
Quite different from all other shang preludes, but typical modal characteristics
  2.  太音大全集   (staff; music)
      (Song/Yuan; I/102)
商意 Shang Yi; several later preludes are related quite closely. Melody begins 2 2 2 2 2, 5 5 5 3b 6...; tonal centers mainly on 2, 5 and 1; numerous 3bs as well as 3♮s; body and harmonic coda end on 1
  3.  神奇秘譜   (staff; music)
      (1425; I/136)
神品商意 Shenpin Shang Yi; seems to be modified version of #1 above;
Begins 2 2 22 2 2 2, 5 5 5 3 3b, 2 1 6 1 1 1 1 1....; typical modal characteristics
  3a.  神奇秘譜   (staff; music)
      (1425; I/136)
神品古商意 Shenpin Gu Shang Yi; melody quite different from previous ones;
Same modal characteristics; begins 2 2 22 2 2 2, 5 7b 3 6 5, 5 7 2....(also has one 5#)
    .  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/--)
Shang mode is either missing or was never a part of this handbook (see argument: lyrics of 1585 do not fit either 1425 melody using the normal pairing method; closest fit seems to be those of 1525 #2 to 1425 #1)
  4. 太古遺音   (staff; music)
      (1511; I/318)
古秋風 Gu Qiu Feng; stands alone at end of Song dynasty section, with no mention of being a modal prelude, but lyrics are virtally identical to 1525 Shang Yi #2, and can almost be applied to 1425 #1, to which its melody is closely related; begins 2 2 2 2 2, 2 1 5 5 6.... (has 4, 7 and 7b but no 3b)
  5. 西麓堂琴統   (staff; music)
      (1525; III/82)
商意 Shang Yi; "taigu (most ancient)"; most closely related to 1425 Shenpin Gu Shang Yi;
Begins 2 2 22 2 2 2, 5 1 2 3 5....; similar modal characteristics but no 3b; no punctuation
  5a. 西麓堂琴統   (staff)
      (1525; III/92)
商意 Shang Yi; its "Autumn Wind lyrics" are almost identical to those of 1511 Gu Qiu Feng;
Music begins 2 2 22 2 2 2, 5 5 5 2 3 6 6.... (similarly related to 1425 #1; again no 3b)
  6. 風宣玄品   (staff)
      (1539; II/104)
神品商意 Shenpin Shang Yi; another variant of 1425 Shenpin Shang Yi;
2 2 22 2 2 2, 5 5 5 2 3 2 1 1 1 1 1 1.... (similar tonal centers, but no 3bs; twice 7, once 4)
  7. 梧岡琴譜   (staff)
      (1546; I/408)
神品古商意 Shenpin Gu Shang Yi; similar to 1425 Gu Shang Yi (same modal characteristics);
Begins 2 2 22 2 2 2, 5 2 5 7b(mistake?).... ; only one 3b (near end)
  7a. 梧岡琴譜   (staff)
      (1546; I/408)
奇品商意 Qipin Shang Yi; begins 2 2 22 2 2 2, 5 5 5 3 , 21 1 1 111....;
Quite similar to 1425 Shenpin Shang Yi: same tonal centers; no 3b but two 5#s
  8. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/452)
神品古商意 Shenpin Gu Shang Yi;
Identical to 1546
  8a. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/452)
奇品商意 Qipin Shang Yi;
Identical to 1546
  9. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; III/--)
古商意 Gu Shang Yi; #6 in Folio I of facsimile edition;
a variant on the earlier versions of Gushang Yi  
10. 太音傳習
      (1552-61; IV/61)
商意 Shang Yi; related to 1425 #1;
Similar modal characteristics but no 3b
11. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/328)
商意 Shang Yi (but ToC has 商意考 Shang Yi Kao)
Very similar to 1546 Qipin Shang Yi
12. 龍湖琴譜
      (1571; 琴府/231)
神品商意 Shenpin Shang Yi;
lyrics like 1585 Shang Yi #2
13. 五音琴譜
      (1579; IV/206)
神品商意 Shenpin Shang Yi;
Seems to include 3b
14. 新刊正文對音
      捷要 (1573; --)
See in ToC: as 1585 #1?
(Does not have 1585 #2)
14a. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/357)
商意 Shang Yi; lyrics; quite different; no 3b;
Begins 2 2 2 2 2, 5 5 6 2 2, 2 1 1 1 1 1 1....
14b. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/383)
商意 Shang Yi; lyrics; quite different again; no 3b;
Begins 2 2 2 2 2 , 5 2 3 2 2, 2 2 4....
15. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/22)
神品商意 Shenpin Shang Yi;
Begins 2 2 22 2 2 2, 5 5 5 4 2.... (has 7b but no 3b)
16. 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1589; VII/67)
商意考 Shang Yi Kao; lyrics like 1585 but with some insertions
No 3b
17. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/478)
神品商意 Shenpin Shang Yi;
Compare 1589; no 3b
18. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/200)
開指魯商意 Kaizhi Lushang Yi;
No 3b
18. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/200)
商意 Shang Yi;
No 3b but has other non-pentatonic notes
19. 綠綺新聲
      (1597; VII/12)
商意 Shang Yi;
Lyrics begin like 1585, but are quite a bit longer; music seems like new composition; no 3b.
20. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/322)
神品商意 Shenpin Shang Yi;
No 3b; identical to 1589
21. 三才圖會續集
      (1607; VI/474)
商意 Shang Yi;
Lyrics same as 1585: music also seems same
22. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/379)
商意 Shang Yi
Very similar to 1546
23. 琴適
      (1611; VIII/19)
商意 Shang Yi  lyrics almost identical to 1597;
music also same; no 3b  
24. 樂仙琴譜
      (1623; VIII/368)
古商意 Gu Shang Yi; ToC (VIII/346) has 商意考 Shang Yi Kao;
lyrics; no 3b  
25. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; see IX/415)
商意 Shang Yi; seems to be missing
26. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/326)
神品商意 Shenpin Shang Yi
Almost like 1425; perhaps one 3b
26a. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/334)
神品古商意 Shenpin Gu Shang Yi
Almost like 1425, including 3b
27. 琴學正聲
      (1715; XIV/54)
Lyrics same as 1585 #2 (changes one 斗 to 女); I cannot find musical connection to earlier versions;
Music begins 2 2 22 2 2 2 , 5 4 1 2 3 5.... (seems to have mistakes)
28. 青箱齋琴譜
      (~1866; XXIV/387)
Shang Yi; lyrics same as 1611
Music also from 1597/1611
29. 白菡萏香館琴譜;
      (1871; XXIV/430)
Shang Yi
Seems to be from 1611 Shang Yi
30. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/245)
商音初調 Shangyin Chudiao (see comment)
New unrelated melody  

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