T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
TGYY / ToC 首頁
08. Overcoming Shang Melody
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
剋商操 1
Ke Shang Cao
The lyrics here are the same as those under this title in the guqin melody section of the
Yuefu Shiji. They are attributed to Wu Wang (King Wu), but they consist of only nine characters. The qin melody is a syllabic setting with one slide, hence ten notes in all. The title is said to be quite old,4 but the only other handbook to have this title, Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585),5 has the same lyrics with a similar (and similarly short) melody, repeated once.6 If earlier there was once a longer version, it was by then already lost.

Although the commentary here remarks on the brevity of the lyrics, there seems to be no speculation as to whether what we have is the remnants of what was once a longer melody or longer set of lyrics. There also seems to be no attempt anywhere to explain why someone would want to create such a short a melody.

The commentary in Taigu Yiyin largely follows that of Yuefu Shiji, adding a comment about Confucius.

Original preface7

As for this melody, when Wu Wang was about to pacify the disorder of the Yin (i.e., Shang) dynasty, he used these lyrics to openly inform God.

Music Records Old and New8 says, "Wu Wang defeated (the Yin ruler) Zhou and so wrote this song."

Qin Treatise9 says, "As for Ke Shang, at the time Wu Wang was defeating Zhou he wrote this."

Qin Collection10 also says, "As for Ke Shang, Wu Wang defeated Zhou and wrote it himself."

The text, of which we have no more than nine characters, has only some words telling heaven about his punishing (Zhou). Our master (Confucius) said, "Wu's (music) was perfectly beautiful, but not perfectly good." This is what he was talking about.

Music and Lyrics: One section11
-Nine syllables in two phrases: 10 notes in all. The first phrase has five characters with one stopped note for each then a slide on the last; the second has four characters accompanied by four notes played in harmonics.

Shang gao huang tian xi, ke yi xing hu.
Announcing up to high heaven,
        can one begin?

See further comment under the lyrics for Wen Wang Cao.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Ke Shang Cao 剋商操 (I/280)
2035.15 Qin melody in Yuefu Shiji (Chinese ed., p. 831)

2. Tuning and mode
Taigu Yiyin does not group melodies by tuning or mode.

4. Seng Juyue (the monk Ju Yue) listed a 克商操 Keshang Cao among the "Most ancient melodies".

5. Tracing 剋商操 Ke Shang Cao (tracing chart)
Based on Zha Guide 13/133/239.

6. Keshang Cao in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585)
This melody, as copied in Qinqu Jicheng, IV/404, is difficult to read. It seems to be basically the same as the melody described for 1511, but it is difficult to read and maybe for this reason seems to have mistakes. For example, it seems to indicate the opening is in harmonics, but it is actually the same as the 1511 version but played one string higher, still ending with a slide. The second phrase is similarly in harmonics, the first two notes the same as 1511 but the last two played one string higher. The melody is then copied out again. Is this done, instead of simply giving instructions to repeat, to try to make it look longer?

7. Original text of Keshang Cao preface
The original text is,

按此曲乃武王將平殷亂,所以昭告上帝之詞也。古今樂録古今樂録,「武王伐紂而作此歌。」琴論曰,「剋商,武王伐紂時制。」琴集亦曰,「剋商,武王伐紂自作也。」其文僅存九字,不過奉天行討之言。吾父子所謂武盡美矣,未盡善者,豈以是歟? Note multiple mentions of Wu Wang Attacks Zhou (武王伐紂 Wu Wang Fa Zhou). YFSJ says this is an alternate title for this melody.

8. 古今樂錄 Gu Jin Yuelu.

9. 琴論 Qin Lun, by Xie Zhuang.

10. 琴集 Qin Ji.

11. Original lyrics
There is no discussion about whether this is the only surviving part of a longer song or poem.

Return to the top

Appendix: Chart Tracing 剋商操 Ke Shang Cao
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. 謝琳太古遺音
      (1511; I/280)
1; nine note melody fragment; lyrics
2. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #40)
Same as 1585?
3. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/410)
1 x 2; see further
Lyrics same as 1511; related melody fragment, here written out twice

Return to the top or to the Taigu Yiyin ToC