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02. Song of Southern Breezes
- Zhi mode, standard tuning: 2 1 2 4 5 6 (1 2)
南熏歌 1
Nan Xun Ge  
  Emperor Shun statue in Cangwu 3        
This piece, attributed to the famous filial Emperor Shun (or Yu Shun, said to have lived 2317-2208 BC), uses only strings one to five. This follows on the ancient story, as found in the Records of the Grand Historian and quoted in the preface below, that Emperor Shun played a five string qin.4 According to this tradition, the sixth and seventh strings were added by Wen Wang and Wu Wang.

Many early handbooks have one or two such five-string melodies,5 and at least 19 up to 1840 had one titled either Nan Xun Ge (as here), Nan Feng Ge (Song of Southern Winds) or Nanfeng Chang (Rhapsody of Southern Winds).6 All three titles relate to the same story, but there are several different melodies used.

As for the present melody, for example, it seems to survive in print only here and in 1571, when Longhu Qinpu published it as Nan Xun; the two have almost identical lyrics and closely related melodies.7

Comforting southern breezes are by tradition contrasted with those of the north, which are killing and those of the west, which bring war; those of the east are nourishing. Many poems mention this, including one by the famous Tang poet Wang Wei. The lyrics here quote from some of these.8

Zheyin Shizi Qinpu preface9

The Beyond-Sounds Immortal says

as for this melody, it originated with Yu Shun and later people added to it. The Royal Ancestor's Handbook doesn't have this melody. According to what the Records of the Grand Historian says,

"Shun Played a five-string qin, sang a poem of the Southern Breezes, and all under heaven was regulated. "

A poem (Nanfeng Ge in Kongzi Jiayu),10 says,

"Winds from the south are temperate breezes,
They can be used to resolve my people's irritations.
Winds from the south are timely,
They can be used to make abundant my people's wealth."

Ah! This was a great society!

10 titled sections, lyrics throuhout

00.00   1. The southern (breezes) arrive in accord with the natural seasonal rhythm
00.00   2. Refreshing (breezes) come to the palace halls
01.34   3. (Everything on) heaven and earth (enjoys) virtue and grace
02.00   4. The common people can carry on their natural life cycles
02.24   5. Great prosperity resolves indignancies
02.46   6. (Shun) copies the old (style of Yao), making it current in his own day
03.17     Closing harmonics
03.41     End

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Southern Breeze references (南熏 Nan Xun and 南風 Nan Feng)
2798.750 南熏 says Nan Xun is a 詩歌名 poetic song name and gives several poetic references. 2798.340 南風 gives a long introduction to nan feng and quotes numerous sources including 爾雅 Er Ya, 後漢書 Hou Han Shu, 梁簡文帝 Emperor Jianwen of Liang, 孫逖 Sun Ti (8th c.), 禮記,樂記 Annals of Music in the Book of Rites, 尸子,綽子 Shizi: Chuozi (by 尸佼 Shi Jiao of the Warring States period), 孔子家語 Kongzi Jiayu, 樂府詩集 Yuefu Shi and 琴操 Qin Cao. Further details are also given in the introduction to Nanfeng Ge, which quotes lyrics published in 樂府詩集 Yuefu Shiji.

2. Tuning and mode
Only the first five strings are used. Standard tuning is also considered as 5 6 1 2 3 (5 6). For information about zhi mode see Shenpin Zhi Yi. For modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Emperor Shun statue in Cangwu
See scenery and closeup.

4. Nan Feng Ge in Shi Ji
The full original passage connected to Nan Feng Ge, from Chapter 24 (樂書 Music Annals) of the Shi Ji (史記 Records of the Grand Historian), is quoted below. (See also 262.783; neither quote is precisely as here.) Nan Feng Ge in Taigu Yiyin does not have this passage, though an extract is quoted in the Yuefu Shiji introduction to its Nan Feng Ge lyrics. The attitude conveyed by the Shi Ji is that during orderly times people are happy and music is appropriate to them.

Whatever musical sounds originate in the human mind have their corresponding sounds connected to man in the cosmos; (the relationship is) like that of a shadow to its solid form, or an echo to the original sound. Thus in happy times heaven rewards people with wealth, while during bad times heaven gives them calamity. This is natural.

Thus, when Shun played the five string qin and sang the lyrics of Southern Breezes, the world was orderly....(Translation not completed. The rest of this passage constrasts the music of Shun with that of the corrupt 紂辛 Zhou Xin.)



The Shi Ji passage then illustrates this with a story involving Shi Kuang.

5. Qin melodies using only five strings
There is a list of these here.

6. Melodies on a southern breeze or wind
The Zha Guide entries are:

These are analyzed in a footnote to Nan Feng Ge. Note that the Chinese does not indicate singular or plural.

7. Tracing Nanxun Ge (tracing chart)
The Zha Guide 11/113/189 lists four entries entitled 南熏歌 Nan Xun Ge; to this must be added the version from Longhu Qinpu (1571), not included in the Guide. Of these five only <1491 and 1571 are versions of the present melody; the others are all related to the Nan Feng Ge of 1511.

Although the preface in 龍湖琴譜 Longhu Qinpu is shorter, its six titled sections are the same as 1491, its lyrics almost identical and its tablature very close. It was thus most likely either edited from the earlier handbook or the two were taken from a similar source. Longhu Qinpu itself was preserved in Taiwan and so not available to Zha Fuxi when he did his Guide. In order to publish it in his 琴府 Qin Fu Tong Kin-Woon handcopied it from a library there.

8. Lyrics
See below. I have not yet traced the source of many of these Zheyin Shizi Qinpu lyrics.

9. Original preface
For the original Chinese text of the preface see 南熏歌.

10. 孔子家語 Kongzi Jiayu
This is a post-Han collection of stories. The four lines (two doubled lines) of the poem are very similar to the last four lines of the Yuefu Shiji lyrics as found at the end of Nan Feng Ge.

11. Original section titles and lyrics
The Chinese section titles and lyrics begin as follows,

1. 應候南來

2. 涼生殿閣

3. 天地仁恩

4. 黎民化育

5. 阜財解慍

6. 準古歸今

The rest of the lyrics are not yet online, but see this .pdf file. It was copied from Zha Guide [713] 189. The comments there at the bottom mention three other handbooks with this title but with different lyrics, theirs being the same as those of the (melodically unrelated) Nanfeng Ge of 1511.

Appendix: Chart Tracing 南薰歌 Nan Xun Ge
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 11/113/189 and 12/125/235.

    (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/206 [further])
6; 徵 zhi mode; standard tuning but only five strings; preface; section titles; lyrics
  2. 龍湖琴譜
      (1571; 琴府/280)
6; 徵 zhi mode; 5 strings; 南薰 Nan Xun. Preface shorter but its six section titles same as in 1491; lyrics almost identical and tablature very close.

For other melodies on this theme see under Nan Feng Ge


Return to the Zheyin Shizi Qinpu index or to the Guqin ToC.