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01. Cry of the Ospreys
- Zhi mode, standard tuning: 2   1 2 4 5 6 1 2
關雎 1
Guan Ju
An osprey 3          
The title of this melody comes from the title of the first poem in the over 2,500 year-old Book of Songs (Shi Jing), said to have been compiled by Confucius. However, whereas the melody Guan Ju Qu in Taigu Yiyin (1511) sets to music the whole poem (and the next four poems) word for word, here the lyrics are quite different. Here they form not so much the love songs of the original first five poem as they do as a political commentary on the affairs of the Zhou dynasty.4 This includes mention of such people as Shao5, but the focus here is now on such matters as how the marriage of Wen Wang and his queen symbolize the harmony of society under his rule.6

Here only Section Six directly quotes the Guan Ju from the Shi Jing, but it only sets to music two of the five stanzas that comprise the original poem (stanzas 1 and 3; compare 1511, which sets to music the entire first five Shi Jing poems).

The original Shi Jing lyrics included in the present version of Guan Ju are thus only as follows:7

"Guan, guan," trill the ospreys,
On the island in the creek.
Modest is the gentle beauty,
Fine for the gentleman to seek.

He seeks but cannot get her,
he thinks of her day and night.
Twisting and turning in his plight.   (why not "Alas! Alas!"?)
He twists and turns in his plight.

Section Six is in harmonics, making it stand out. However, other than these four-character phrases the lyrics here basically consist of phrases of irregular length.

It was common within the qin tradition to attribute Guan Ju to Zhou Gong, son of Wen Wang and younger brother of Wu Wang, first ruler of the Zhou dynasty (1122-255). However, this title does not seem to appear on early qin melody lists, and it is not at all clear from where the melody came when it started appearing in qin handbooks around 1500.

During the rest of the Ming and throughout the Qing dynasty Guan Ju was one of the most popular of all qin pieces, found in at least 54 handbooks from 1491 to 1894.8 Of these, the 1511 version may actually have been intended for singing. And later ones perhaps added lyrics simply because these two earliest known tablatures had them. Another possibility is that lyrics were included because of an old attitude that said, "if you play then you must sing it".

On the other hand, most surviving Guan Ju tablature is for a purely instrumental piece, with only about 10 (including the first four) having lyrics and only two seeming to have the complete original Shi Jing lyrics. Mostly of the lyrics are variants on the lyrics used here.9 The aim of the lyrics seems intended to edify the player about the significance of the poem as well as the melody.

In my attempt to reconsruct what might have been the original melody I try to pay attention to the way someone would read or recite the lyrics. Actually singing them seems quite awkward but it might be interesting for the player to keep them in mind while playing or for someone else to recite them while listening. That this was at least sometimes done is evidenced by some published later criticism of such a practice. In contrast, versions such as this one from 1722 relate how the music itself can be sufficient to express the significance of the theme.

The last of the traditional handbooks to include a version of Guan Ju was dated 1894. Thus, any version heard today will be one not passed on through lineal descent but through a modern reconstruction from old tablature, such as my own versions from here (on CD) and from 1511.

Zheyin Shizi Qinpu Preface10

The Beyond-Sounds Immortal says,

as for this melody, it began with Zhou Gong; later people often added to it, making the current version. The Royal Ancestor's Handbook does not have this melody. It uses Guan Ju, as the first section of the Shi Jing, (from) the southern kingdoms influenced by the culture of Wen Wang, to allude to the enjoyment of peace in the happy marriage and happy relationship of Wen Wang and his queen, since (marriage is), in fact, the first among human relationships, and is essential to the fundamentals of society.

Ah! His happiness - could anything be so great!

Timings follow the recording on
my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my revised transcription.
Nine titled sections, all with lyrics (中文歌詞; pdf): 11

00.00   1. The prince-like osprey finds a good marriage
01.06   2. Very gentle are (the wives of the royal family of) Zhou and Shao
02.09   3. Using (a birdcall) as a metaphor for (the queen's virtue)
02.40   4. Praise (her) virtue and acclaim (her) conduct
03.26   5. (Like) the wind (, the queen) guides the world
04.00   6. They mutually call out in harmony to each other (harmonics; sing stanzas 1 and 3)
04.19   7. The correct (wedding) ceremony (leads to) a successful marriage
05.19   8. (The king and queen's) virtue (is) as great as heaven and earth
05.59   9.(The king and queen have) eternal worship in the Zhou family temple
06.37     "Sound begins ending" (? Play closing harmonics)
06.54     end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a
separate page)

1. Guan Ju references
42402.191 關雎 Guan Ju begins by saying it is the name of a bird, same as 魚鷹 yuying (fish hawk, etc.). It then mentions the Shi Jing poem; although the poems lyrics have been set to qin melodies such as Guan Ju Qu, the entry does not mention qin or music.

2. Zhi mode
Standard tuning is also considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 , but 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 seems to work better here. The music of this version of Guan Ju is more diatonic than pentatonic. The accompanying transcription, by treating the open first string as 1 (C) makes the tonal center here 5 (G), the equivalent of the open fourth string; the secondary tonal center is then 2 (D), the equivalent of the open second string. It is tempting instead to consider the open fourth string as 1 (transposing the tuning to 4 5 7 1 2 4 5). In this case the secondary tonal center would generally be 5 (G). However, 4 (F) would be more prominent than is common in qin melodies. And in this case the scale generally used would then become 1 2 3 4 5 6 7b 1 , with 3 often changed to flatted 3 and flatted 7 sometimes changed to 7. For more information about zhi mode see Shenpin Zhi Yi. For modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Image
See full image with further information

4. Confucian commentary used as lyrics Original tablature for Guan Ju (.pdf)        
A Wikipedia article traces the long history of commentary on this poem. Here the music is set to such commentary, much of it directly quoting or closely paraphrasing the neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi (1130 - 1200; see 詩經:朱熹集傳詩經); one of the new ideas for interpretation introduced by Zhu Xi was to say the autheros were ladies of the court. Memorization of Zhu Xi texts would have been an important part of traditional education (preparing for the civil service exams), and one might speculate as to whether the music here was intended to help in the memorization of such texts. This is part of larger questions such as how the "lyrics" were treated in the past, and how one should treat them at present. While the music is played should, or was it intended that, the lyrics be sung, recited out loud, read quietly or ignored as irrelevant?

The reason for these questions is that, based on my understanding of the music as expressed in my transcription and recording (linked above as well as in the copies of the punctuated text linked below), it is not clear how well the person (or people) who paired the words and music here actually knew and understood both. To examine this keep in mind that, at least until the 20th century, qin music and lyrics were almost always paired following a quite strict traditional formula: one character for each right hand stroke and certain left hand plucks. And to complicate matters even more, the original tablature (see at right) has no punctuation,

With this in mind one should examine three possibilities:

  1. The music and lyrics were created together
  2. The lyrics came first, then music was paired to the lyrics
  3. The music came first, then lyrics were paired to the music

So far, my examination of all this (and this includes the other melodies in the present handbook as well) suggests that the music came first; perhaps in some cases the music was adjusted to fit the lyrics that were being added, but the music was not originally intended for singing. There being no punctuation in the tablature, my understanding of the musical phrasing largely comes from the music itself. And the music, rather than always following the literary phrasing, sometimes does not fit well with the standard punctuation given for the texts in non-musical sources, inluding where the text is quoting Zhu Xi. In addition, in at least some cases the original by Zhu Xi may have been paraphrased to fit the music according to the formula just mentioned. In other cases there may be more than one way of understanding the text, allowing different interpretations of the phrasing.

This needs to be studied further (beginning with a full translation of the text/lyrics). At present, though, an example of where I cannot make the phrasing of the music fit the phrasing of the lyrics can be seen and heard at the end of Section 8 (mm.241-260 of my my transcription. Here, as usual, I chose rhythms based on structures I find in the music, at the same time trying to keep in mind the structures implied by the lyrics. The melody is in zhi mode, with the tonal center on 5 (transcribed here in staff notation as G). There is a fairly common ending to this section: a phrase (mm.251-253) ending on 2 (A) followed by a phrase (mm.254-260) ending on 1 (G). As can be seen, both phrases begin with the same four tablature clusters (comprising 4 notes), but whereas the former directly ends with 7-6-6, the latter goes through an extended elaboration before ending on 6-5-5. This structure requires beginning the phrase at m.251 with the characters "人道", which in Zhu Xi ends a phrase. (For "你那" and other pairing inconsistencies see this and its surrounding footnotes.)

5. 召 Shao
"Shao" apparently refers to the family of 召公 Shao Gong, the Duke of Shao. He was a brother of 武王 Wu Wang. Shao became "famous for his benevolent stance towards the people in the south he was entrusted to govern....The Duke of Shao was a functionary in the central government of the Zhou. The post was taken over by heirs of Shao Gong Shi, yet only a few names are transmitted." (China Knowledge, which has a list of the known later Dukes of Shao).

6. Significance of the lyrics (the complete lyrics are below)
Most versions with lyrics (listed below) focus on the virtues of Wen Wang and his wife. Likewise all the versions with commentary discuss these virtues. This was typical of classical Chinese commentary on the poems in general; it has only been in modern times that commentary has turned to the original romantic themes of many Shi Jing poems.

7. Shi Jing lyrics in Guan Ju compared to the original lyrics
The original Shi Jing poem has 20 four-character phrases arranged as five verses of four phrases (or two couplets) each each ([{4+4}x2] x 5). Here lines from this original poem can be found only in Section 6, as follows:

關關雎鳩,在河之洲。窈窕淑女,君子好逑。   (= verse 1 complete)
求之不得,寤寐思服。展轉返側,展轉反側。   (would be = verse 3 if the second 展轉返側 were 悠哉悠哉 Alas! Alas!)
The repeated phrase is puzzling.

8. Tracing Guan Ju (tracing chart)
The chart below is based largely on Zha Guide 11/109/179 關雎曲 Guan Ju Qu. In all, at least 54 handbooks from 1491 to 1894 include Guan Ju or a related title.

Of these, nine early handbooks include lyrics:

Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (1491; present version)
Taigu Yiyin (1511), lyrics are Shi Jing poems 1-5
Xilutang Qintong (1525); Section 5 is set to the opening 4x4 verse
Faming Qinpu (1530); different new lyrics, but related to ZYSZQP
Longhu Qinpu (1571); like 1511, but sectioning is different
Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585): lyrics quite similar to those in ZYSZQP
Lixing Yuanya (1618): two versions, #1 like 1585, #2 like 1511 but only poem 1 and only for 5 strings (one of 13)
Lixuezhai Qinpu (1730): again new lyrics but still focused on virtues of Wen Wang's queen
Lüyin Huigai (1835); like 1618, #2

No later versions seem to have lyrics.

9. Differing lyrics
For versions with the complete original Shi Jing lyrics see 1511 and 1618 in the chart below. Those with partial Shi Jing lyrics usually place them in their Section 6. The quite varied similarity of the lyrics of these other versions might be accounted for by the likelihood that they were never actually sung. Someone would learn a version with lyrics but in the process of making it his or her own would change the melody. Changing the melody usually required changing the lyrics because, whether actually sung or not, they had to accord with the standard入 pairing method. This is probably one reason why 1730 has only the partial Shi Jing lyrics in its Section 6: it was revising an earlier melody, not creating a new longer one, and these other versions mostly have a short version of the Shi Jing lyrics in their Section 6.

10. Original preface
The original Chinese preface can be seen under 關雎.

11. Music and lyrics (compare 1511; timings below follow my recording 聽錄音)
The original section titles are:

  1. 王雎善匹
  2. 大鬧周召 (大閒周、召 ?)
  3. 即物興人
  4. 舉德稱行
  5. 風化天下
  6. 相與和鳴
  7. 禮正婚姻
  8. 德侔天地
  9. 配享宗周
    入終聲(泛音);10段:雎鳩和樂?: 看 《禪真逸史》)

The lyrics here begin by using phrases from commentary on the Shi Jing ("江沱汝漢" are the Yangzi, Tuo, Ru and Han rivers, all flowing through the southern part of Zhou territory; "河洲" is a general name for the area. See, e.g., commentary by Zhu Xi at ctext.org, etc.)

Original Chinese text of 1491 Guan Ju. (pdf of following; pdf from Zha's Guide)
The complete original Chinese section titles and lyrics are as follows. The phrasing, which follows my understanding of the music, in places somewhat different from that in Zha's Guide. Here below, two consecutive punctuation marks without text between them mean that the previous phrase should be repeated; it is not clear whether it is intended that the lyrics also be repeated; Thanks to 趙鵬 Zhao Peng for the translation):

  1. 王雎善匹 (00.00)
    Wáng jū shàn pǐ
    The prince-like osprey finds a good marriage

    Jiāng, Tuó, Rǔ, Hàn hé zhōu, chì shā bì cǎo dì piān yōu.
    On islets of the Jiang, Tuo, Ru, and Han rivers; secluded land of ruby sands and emerald grasses.

    Kàn bìng lì wáng jiū, cí xióng shēng yīng yě qì qiú,
    Lo, a pair of ospreys, a couple tweet in harmony.

    關關相友和柔。 。
    Guān guān xiāng yǒu hé róu. .
    "Guan Guan" (they call), amicably and gently, .

    Shuāng sù shí, shuāng bìng yóu, jiū wū xiāng xiá ài zī yōu nà yóu.
    Together they rest and eat; together they swim, affectionate but never inappropriate.

    Shuǐ qín niǎo, nán wéi chóu, fú yī zhuàng lèi, dé bù xiāng móu.
    Waterfowl are hard to pair; for the likes of ducks and gulls, there is no matching virtue.

    Zhì ér nà yǒu bié, guān jū guān yú Máo chuán shǒu,
    Expressing affection while apart, "Guan Ju" is at the pinnacle of poetry passed on by Mao.

    Sī yì yì, Zhōu Wén Wáng hòu fēi yǒu shèng dé, yí xiāng hǎo qiú.
    Always remember this, King Wen's queen had great virtue, making a fine consort.

    (The remaining lyrics are not yet translated)

  2. 大閒周、召 (01.06)
    大閒那周召, ,
    后妃聖德,纓閒貞靜也,有以宜配文王。         (幽閒 is elsewhere 纓閒)

  3. 即物興人 (02.09)
    被之筦絃,房中之樂。         (筦絃 is the same as 管絃)

  4. 興德稱行 (02.40)
    相與和樂, ,

  5. 風化天下 (03.26)
    慎固幽深,太姒也風化天下,         (幽深 is elsewhere 纓深)

  6. 相與和鳴(泛音; 04.00) 
    展轉返側,展轉反側。 (? ➝ 悠哉悠哉,展轉反側。?)

  7. 禮正婚姻 (04.19)
    悠哉悠哉,         (compare 優哉游哉)
    萬福之原,萬福原, , ,

  8. 德侔天地 (05.19)

  9. 配享宗周 (05.59)

    (加泛音亦可 06.37)
    (曲終 06.54)

Not yet translated.

Return to top

Appendix: Chart Tracing Guan Ju
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/203 [here])
8+1L; lyrics throughout paired in standard way
Section 5 (I/205): "關關雎鳩,在河之州。 窈窕淑女,君子好逑。求之不得...."
  2. 謝琳太古遺音
      (1511; I/277)
Guan Ju Qu; 10L, but marked by circles rather than numbered; music very different but still related;
different lyrics: first five poems of 詩經 Shi Jing, repeated
    . 黃士達太古遺音
      (1515; ___)
Same as 1511
  3. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/152)
8 (5L); music like 1491 but with lyrics only in Section 5 (III/153)
Compare lyrics to 1491: only first four lines: 關關雎鳩,在河之州。 窈窕淑女,君子好逑。
  4. 發明琴譜
      (1530; I/366)
8L; similar music, again different lyrics
  5. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/261)
10; related mostly to 1491 but no lyrics
  6. 梧岡琴譜
      (1546; I/430)
8; related to 1491 but no lyrics
Copied in 1561#2
  7. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; III/285)
9; related
  8. 太音傳習
      (1552; IV/134)
10; related
  9. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/376)
8; related
10a. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/494)
7; "yu mode"; related but quite different (compare next)
10b. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/503)
8; same as 1546
11. 龍湖琴譜
      (1571; 琴府/255)
9TL; lyrics = 1491 but music seems simpler
    . 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #53)
Same as 1585?
12. 五音琴譜
      (1579; IV/231)
13. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/438)
10L; related melody; lyrics of S1-S9 are like 1491;
14. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/56)
    . 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1589; VII/205)
10+1; not in 1589 edition
15 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1609; VII/205)
10+1; many differences but still related
16. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/504)
14+1; quite different but still related
17. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/237)
18. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/397)
Same as 1589?
19. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/401)
20. 松絃館琴譜
      (1614; VIII/134)
21. 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/246)
10L; lyrics like 1585 but different section titles
    . 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/309)
3; only standard qin setting using only the complete lyrics of Shi Jing #1? (compare 1739, 1745 and 1835)
New melody using only five strings
22. 樂仙琴譜
      (1623; VIII/382)
Guanju Qu; 10; related
23. 古音正宗
      (1634; IX/340)
24. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; IX/432)
10 (#1 is missing)
25. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/145)
    . 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; fac/)
Same as 1647?
26. 友聲社琴譜
      (early Qing; XI/184)
嚴譜; afterword
27. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/376)
10; compare previous
28. 大還閣琴譜
      (1673; X/397)
29. 澄鑒堂琴譜
      (1689; XIV/259)
30. 蓼懷堂琴譜
      (1702; XIII/249)
10; zhi yin
31. 誠一堂琴譜
      (1705; XIII/384)
32. 五知齋琴譜
      (1722; XIV/480)
10+1; contains numerous interlineal comments on how to play expressively, as well as ending comments on how the music itself reflects what was being expressed by the original poem  
33. 存古堂琴譜
      (1726; XV/255)
34. 光裕堂琴譜
      (~1726; XV/334)
35. 立雪齋琴譜
      (1730; XVIII/28)
?L; 關雎傳 Guanju Zhuan; "古譜新詞 old music new words" (music is related, "lyrics" are actually commentary ["傳"] by Zhu Xi);
Lyrics, which follow standard pairing, begin, 美哉,關雎之詩,其言文王后妃之德乎詩....
36. 琴學練要
      (1739; XVIII/138)
(治心齋琴譜); 3; gong yin; "元白伯新譜"
another new melody; lyrics = Shi Jing #1 but it is not a standard pairing: many more notes than words
37. 春草堂琴譜
      (1744; XVIII/252)
中呂均商音 ("4th string is shang"); 10; the afterword by 晴峯先生 adds the comment, "如俗以讀書聲撫之,失之遠矣 if you play in a common way using the sound of reciting the text you lose the profunditiy."
    . 大樂元音
      (1745; XVI/370)
Guan Ju Zhang; 3; Shi Jing lyrics;
Note names, no tablature
38. 琴香堂琴譜
      (1760; XVII/87)
39. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/373)
10; shang yin
40. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/266)
10; "from 1722"
41. 響雪山房琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/390)
42. 琴譜諧聲
      (1820; XX/154)
10; "角商 jiao shang"; "S9 = S4 but change its ending";
Afterword: "from 將雲章l; also mentions 1614 and 1673
43. 峰抱樓琴譜
      (1825; XX/331)
44. 鄰鶴齋琴譜
      (1830; XXI/52)
10; #9 from #4; no mode indication but related
    . 律音彙攷
      (1835; XXII/192)
Seven settings in all: 173, 177, 180, 186 (qin), 192 (qin), 198 (se), 204 (聲字譜)  
173, 177, 180, 204 have Shi Jing lyrics and note names only (details)  
45. 悟雪山房琴譜
      (1836; XXII/327)
10; 中呂均商音
46. 張鞠田琴譜
      (1844; XXIII/332)
10; tablature + note names in popular notation
47. 稚雲琴譜
      (1849; XXIII/453)
10; includes phrase count
48. 蕉庵琴譜
      (1868; XXVI/55)
10; shangyin
49a. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/221)
10; shangyin yu diao; " = 1744"
49b. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/224)
10; shangyin; " = "1702"
50. 天籟閣琴譜
      (1876; XXI/160)
51. 響雪齋琴譜
      (1876; ???)
 originally part of 1807?
10; zhi yin (not in QQJC: info from Zha Guide)
52. 綠綺清韻
      (1884; XXVII/393)
10, but QQJC edition cuts off in middle of 7
53. 枯木禪琴譜
      (1893; XXVIII/90)
54a. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/276)
10; huangzhong jun shang yin
Long afterword
54b. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/340)
10; 關雎,復古譜 Guan Ju Fugu Pu ; "黃太調宮音 Huangtaidiao gongyin";
Standard tuning; long afterword speaks of "fu gu returning to old" by omitting lyrics

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