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22. Sigh for Antiquity
Shang mode:2 standard tuning: played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
慨古 1
Kai Gu

Only four surviving pre-modern qin handbooks have Kai Gu in the title:4

  1. Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425), discussed here;
  2. the Kai Gu in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539), a completely different melody;
  3. the Kaigu Yin in Taiyin Xupu (1559), like SQMP but with most of the middle missing; and
  4. the Kai Gu in Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian (1670), which copies the SQMP version.

In 1559 Kaigu Yin serves as a prelude Yu Qiao Wenda; it has a separate preface, as does the 1670 version.5

In addition to the above, there is a musically unrelated Kaigu Yin in the modern repertoire (the kai is sometimes written differently).6 Zha Fuxi's Guide includes the lyrics for this modern version, but makes no mention of the tablature. It is said to have been transmitted from the Sichuan school.

Zhu Quan's preface opens with allusions to two passages from the Book of Songs. The "honorable man who beats his pan by a mountain stream" is from #56 (in Waley's translation the man is being praised from across the stream by girls who fancy him); the "ordinary door" is from #138 (?, where Waley translates it as "town gate").

Throughout history the Chinese have looked back fondly on ancient times. An early expression of this thought is by Zhang Heng7 of the Han Dynasty in his poem Dongjing Fu,8 which includes the line, "Sigh long thoughts while cherishing antiquity."9

Zha Fuxi's Guide, in spite of the preface below, and without giving a reference, says this piece is also attributed to Mao Minzhong.10

Original Preface11

The Emaciated Immortal says

it is not known when this piece was written. If it was not by an honorable man who beat his pan by a mountain stream, it must have been by an elevated scholar who enjoyed the Dao (within his) ordinary door (i.e., in society). Its interest lies in tranquilly not seeking fame. To the person who plays it, it seems like going alone away from society and standing by oneself in a countryside where one doesn't realize where one is. The player can utilize the return to old styles in the fingering, (thus) using a present day thing to achieve a quality of the past. While appreciating the music it can cause heightened emotions and feelings of sadness, and there is always more in the music (to be discovered).

Three sections, untitled (timings are from
my recording)

(00.00) 1.
(00.35) 2.
(01.04) 3.
(02.04) -- harmonics
(02.14) -- Melody ends

Return to the Shen Qi Mi Pu ToC or to the Guqin ToC.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Kai Gu references
慨古 11405.xxx ; 11405.0 quotes from Dongjing Fu (see footnote below; see also Sixuan Fu: 思玄賦﹕慨含唏而增愁).

2. Tuning and mode
Standard tuning is usually considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6. For further information on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature. (Return)

4. Tracing Kai Gu (see Appendix below)
Zha's Guide 4/42/63 only indexes the old versions, except that at /63 he has lyrics for the modern Kaigu Yin; no lyrics are known to have been paired with the earlier versions and the Guide does not say where to find tablature for the this modern version.

5. Other Kai Gu prefaces
The preface to Kaigu Yin in Xingzuang Taiyin Xupu (1559), which has an abbreviated version of the melody and serves as a prelude to Yu Qiao Wenda, is as follows:

The Old Man of Apricot Farm says, From ancient times to modern it is not known how many people were called princes, how many were called tyrants; how many flourished, how many failed? The so-called heroes of a generation, where are they now?"

The preface to the 1670 version (XI. p. 478) is an abbreviated version of the 1425 preface.

6. Kaigu Yin, modern version (慨古吟、嘅古吟)
This piece, which today has become a very popular beginners' melody, is unrelated to any of the Ming dynasty versions of this title (see Appendix below). Evidence suggests that it originated at the end of the Qing dynasty, then was passed down for some years as separate tablature before being included in any known published handbooks. Accounts of its tranmission thus differ somewhat.

As for Zha Fuxi himself, although his Guide 4/42/63 does not index tablature or commentary for this modern version of the title, p. 63 of the lyrics section does have lyrics for this newer melody, giving it the title "嘅古吟 Kaigu Yin" (note the 口 mouth radical), identifying them as from 龔光表 Gong Guangbiao (1837 - 1907) and from 俞味蒓 Yu Weichun (1877 - 1913). No mention is made of the actual tablature, in particular of 田曦明 Tian Ximing, a student of Gong who around 1911 was one of Zha's qin teachers. The common modern tablature from the Conservatory Syllabus, where the title is "慨古吟" (i.e., with the忄heart radical), easily available online with number notation by 李祥霆 Li Xiangting but with no lyrics, says only that the piece (thus presumably the music), in the tradition of Gong Guangbiao and Yu Weichun, was transmitted by Zha Fuxi.

The 嘅古吟 Kai Gu Yin lyrics in Zha Fuxi's Guide are as follows:

  1. 今古悠悠,世事的那浮漚,群雄死盡不回頭。   (all "的" in some versions are "底")
  2. 想不盡,楚火的那秦灰,
  3. 日月如梭,行雲流水如何。
  4. 慨當年,龍爭虎鬥,半生事業有何多。

These lyrics, which are rarely sung, are the same as those published in Taiwan with the 太古音 Taigu Yin in Yanyi Xiqin Zhai Qinpu of 章志蓀 Chang Chih-Sun (1971). The introduction by Chang says it is "not the same as 太古吟 Taigu Yin", and that his teacher 陳壽臣 Chen Shouchen taught this to beginners. His tablature is almost the same as that of other common modern versions.

The tablature and lyrics are also the same in the 慨古吟 Kaigu Yin included in Yinyinshi Qinpu (2000), which has the repertoire of 蔡德允 Cai Deyun in Hong Kong. She apparently learned the melody from 沈草農 Shen Caonong of 蕭山 Xiaoshan (near Shaoxing). She and several of her students have made recordings, but none with singing.

戴曉蓮 Dai Xiaolian has made a metal-string qin recording in which Huang Bai sings these lyrics (Ethnic Auvidis B 6765). She is playing from a manuscript in the Van Gulik collection in Leiden. The tablature and lyrics there are again essentially the same as those from the Taiwan and Hong Kong editions. Dai Xiaolian's commentary says that the tablature came through Zha Fuxi from Yang Xifeng of the Sichuan school. 楊西峰 Yang Xifeng is 楊表正 Yang Biaozheng, compiler of Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585), not of the Sichuan school and clearly an error unless "Xifeng" is another nickname for 楊宗稷 Yang Zongji, best known as 楊時百 Yang Shibai (1863-1931), compiler of Qinxue Congshu. Yang Shibai most certainly had connections with Zha Fuxi as well as Gu Meigeng.

There is again a slightly different account on the notes on the silk string recording of this piece by Ding Chengyun, which says the source of this melody is 龔子輝譜,查阜西訂正 顧梅羹傳授 tablature of Gong Zihui (龔光表 Gong Guangbiao), as arranged by Zha Fuxi and transmitted by Gu Meigeng. Ding also does not sing the associated lyrics.

7. 張衡 Zhang Heng (78 - 139)
Biographical notes are included under Si Si Ge, which sets his poem 四愁詩 Si Chou Shi (Four-Fold Sorrows Poem) as a qin melody.

8. Dongjing Fu (東京賦)
This poem by Zhang Heng (see previous footnote) is in Wen Xuan, Folio 3 (Haixiao ed. pp. 97 - 136).

9. 慨長思而懷古 Sigh long thoughts while cherishing antiquity
See Haixiao edition, p. 126. "Cherishing Antiquity" (懷古 Huai Gu) is the name of a musically unrelated qin tune.

10. "一云毛仲翁";

11. For the original Chinese text see 慨古. (Return)

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Appendix: Chart Tracing 慨古 Kai Gu
Also includes the modern 慨古吟、嘅古吟
Kaigu Yin
Based on Zha Guide 4/42/63 (though see comment)

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1.  神奇秘譜
      (1425; I/136)
3 sections, untitled
  2. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/187)
Same title but a completely different melody
  3. 太音續譜
      (1559; III/440)
like SQMP but with most of the middle missing
Seems to serve as a prelude Yu Qiao Wenda, but has a separate preface
  4. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/486)
Copies the SQMP version.
Seems like 1425 with modifications as other pieces have in 1546 (e.g., no 7s)
  5. 龔光表之琴譜;
      (<1911; unpublished)
The bio of Zha Fuxi suggests that around 1911 he learned a modern 嘅古吟 Kaigu Yin (note the different "Kai") from one of his teachers (details)
  6. 研易習琴齋琴譜
      (1971; II/1)
"太古音 Taigu Yin"; music and lyrics almost same as the modern Kaigu Yin. The introduction by Chang Chih-Sun says his teacher 陳壽臣 Chen Shouchen taught this to beginners (details)
  7. 愔愔室琴譜
      (2000; I/31)
Repertoire of Cai Deyun. Her commentary quotes the preface to the musically unrelated 1425 version but the tablature is as in 1971, though the sections are unnumbered (details)

Return to the top, to the Shen Qi Mi Pu ToC, or to the Guqin ToC.