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49. Celestial Air Defining Biyu Mode
- From standard tuning slacken 3rd string: 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 (in Folio I called manjiao2)
神品碧玉意 1
Shenpin Biyu Yi
A biyu qin3              
The following explanation is added under the name of the mode:

"Slacken 3rd string one degree: open 5th string = 3rd string stopped in 10th position.
Another school says tighten 3rd, 5th and 7th each one degree."
(The latter yields 5 6 2 2 4 5 7 = 1 2 5 5 7 1 3 , but this alternative tuning will not work here.)

There are also other tunings called biyu, but the present discussion concerns only the lowered third string tuning, which is rather basic and, based on this and the names given it, seems as though it should be quite a popular mode. As will be seen, though, it was quite rarely used.

Some modal preludes may have been created specifically for the pieces they precede. Such preludes, according to some definitions, should have been called kaizhi; some of the preludes using lowered third string tuning do seem to be connected specifically to the pieces that follow them, but there are no kaizhi using this tuning.4

There are only about six or seven modal preludes using this lowered third string tuning, but they come under three different mode names.5 Further details on these three names (biyu, manjiao and on one occasion huangzhong) are given above the tracing chart below.

Note that:

As for Shen Qi Mi Pu, it has three pieces in this lowered third string tuning, but they have two differing modal characteristics:

  1. #1, Dunshi Cao, which calls the mode manjiao, has as its main note 1 (gong) and for its secondary note 5 (zhi).
  2. #50, Baji You, and its prelude,
    #49, Shenpin Biyu Yi, also have as their main note 1 but their secondary note is 3 (jiao), with 6 (yu) also being quite important.

Xilutang Qintong (1525) adds ten further melodies in this tuning, grouping them under three headings:

  1. Huangzhong 9 (elsewhere used for 1 3 5 6 1 2 3; see wuyi and yingzhong10)
  2. Taicou 11
  3. Dalü 12

Xilutang Qintong uses the name biyu for a different tuning for three melody set consisting of a biyu modal prelude, a melodic prelude called Autumn Evening Intonation and a main melody, Autumn Night Moon Walk. These use quite an odd tuning: from standard tuning lower strings 1, 4, 6, giving the 3rd an 4th strings the same pitch: 4 6 1 1 3 4 6 ( 6 1 3 3 5 6 1)! As for the actual modal characteristics, for these three they seem to be rather similar to those of Shenpin Biyu Yi and Baji You. Overall their most significant tonal center is gong (1, do), but many phrases end on either yu (6, la) or jue (3, mi).

To further complicate matters, the title of the SQMP melody said to be in biyu mode, Baji You, is later used for a completely different melody in mangong mode (lower 1, 3, 6), and this mangong tuning is also called taicou.

Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539) calls this lowered third string tuning manjiao. So does Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585), though its commentary adds that it is also called biyu and wumei.13

During the Qing dynasty some melodies originally in other tunings were transposed into lowered third string tuning. See, for example two of the three pieces in Folio 11 of Tianwen'ge Qinpu (1876).

The modern repertoire includes a few melodies in this tuning. In particular, the Mei'an school put three melodies into this tuning:14

It calls this tuning linzhong.15

Original preface

One section

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

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

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Shenpin Biyu Yi 神品碧玉意
References include:

I do not know whethere there is any connection between the musical associations of .20 and .22 and the use of biyu as a mode name.

2. Lowered third string: Biyu and Manjiao Mode (note the alternate tuning)
慢角 man jiao literally means "lower jiao"; jiao is the name of the third string. For more information on this mode, and modes in general, see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature and Qin Tunings, some theoretical concepts.

3. Image
From the internet. For biyu see earlier footnote.

4. Intention of the modal preludes
Some of the preludes might be played with several different melodies using that tuning.

5. Differing names for this tuning
Yu Nü melodies might also be played using this tuning; this tuning even more rare.

6. Tracing lowered third string tuning
Further under the tracing chart below.

7. Melodies using lowered third string tuning
Melodies in the modern repertoire are mentioned here. I am not yet aware of other early melodies using it.

8. Lowered third string preludes with lyric
Lyrics for 1585 are given here. The lyrics for 1571 are almost identical (changing several characters):


However, the melodies for the two are completely different.

9. 黃鐘 (Return)

10. 應鐘 (Return)

11. 太簇 (Return)

12. 大呂 (Return)

13. 無媒 (Return)

14. 風雷吟、秋江夜泊、搔首問天 (Return)

15. 林鐘 (Return)

16. Preface
Although SQMP modal preludes have no prefaces, those in Zheyin (which all have identical music) do. In Zheyin the preface to the biyu modal prelude is as follows (translation is tentative):

(Biyu Yi) : The Beyond Sounds Immortal says,
This is yang within yang, suitable for its slowness. It has admirable sounds.

"Yang" is as in 陰陽 yin yang (Wiki).

17. Timing is from my Shen Qi Mi Pu CDs (Return)

Chart Tracing Lowered Third String Modal Preludes

This chart is based mainly on the following entries from Zha Fuxi's Guide:

The chart does not include these other tunings,

Instead this chart only considers modal preludes where the relative pitches of the seven strings are 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 (lowered third string tuning).

    (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/165 [here])
神品碧玉意 Shenpin Biyu Yi; main tonal center 1, secondary 3 and 6;
Starts open 3rd, 1st stopped at 11, repeat.... (3 3, 3 3 5 1 6 6 6, 1 3 5 6 1 3 1 3 1 6 7b....)
    . 浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/---)
Character count for 1585 lyrics fits 1425 pu but phrasing is off (comment)
  2. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/191 [further])
黃鐘意 Huangzhong Yi; specifically for Li Ling Si Han? Main tonal center 1, secondary 3 and 5;
Begins open first then third: 1 3 3 3, repeat, 1 1 1 3 3 3 6 6 6....
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/380)
神品碧玉意 Shenpin Biyu Yi; same as 1425
also followed by Baji You
  4. 龍湖琴譜
      (1571; 琴府/267)
慢角意 Manjiao Yi; lyrics same as 1585 but music seems completely different
Music begins open 3rd then 1st at 11.... (3 3 33 3 3 3, 5 6 6...)
  5. 新刊正文對音
      捷要 (1573; --)
慢角意 Manjiao Yi;
See in ToC: identical to 1585?
  6. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/423)
慢角意 Manjiao Yi; lyrics;
Melody begins open 5th, 3rd at 10, repeat..., (6 6 6 6 4 5 6 1 6 , 4 6 6 2 6, ....)
  7. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/437)
慢角意 Manjiao Yi;
Should be identical to 1589, but missing (see 1602 ToC)
  8. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/424)
神品碧玉意 Shenpin Biyu Yi; same as 1425

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