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11. Treading in the Frost
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
履霜操 1
Lü Shuang Cao
Yin Boqi plays qin, making a lament3      
After the mother of Yin Boqi died, his father Yin Jifu, a poet and leading military official in the service of King Xuan of Zhou4 (r. 827-782), remarried. The second wife forced Jifu to send his son away.5 One day as Boqi was wandering in the cold mountains singing about having to tread in the frost the king, out hunting with Yin Jifu, heard him and said that it must be the voice of a filial son. Yin Jifu then wanted to reconcile with his son. Unfortunately the son, having just composed his lyrics, had already jumped into the river and drowned (another version says he had turned into a goatsucker). Because of this Yin Jifu killed his wife.

Taigu Yiyin sets this melody to lyrics by Han Yu (768-824) in the voice of Yin Boqi. Yuefu Shiji, Folio 57, #21 has the Han Yu lyrics, but begins with lyrics attributed to Yin Boqi himself. The Yuefu Shiji entry is as follows.

Qin Cao says,6

Lüshuang Cao was created by Yin Jifu's son Boqi. Boqi was faultless. When his stepmother slandered him he fled, gathering 芰荷 caltrops (?) to use as clothing and collecting 楟花 peartree blossoms for food. In the morning frost he was distressed and looking for a way out, so taking his qin and playing it he created this lament. When the melody ended, he jumped into the river and died.

The lyrics Qin Cao attributes to Yin Boqi are,7


A related story has him play a melody called Zi An zhi Cao

The title Lü Shuang Cao is found in ancient sources, such as Cai Yong's Qin Cao.8 As a qin melody it survives in six handbooks from 1511 to 1802.9 All explanations concern this story, though the details vary.10 All are short settings of the lyrics by Han Yu in Yuefu Shiji, except the version in Xilutang Qintong (1525), which has 10 sections and no lyrics.

Original preface11
(Translation not completed)

According to tradition, Lü Shuang Cao was written by Yin Jifu's son. Jifu's son was called Boqi. He was faultless, but his stepmother slandered him with the result that he was forced to leave. "The frost is bitterly cold; its determination so grievous." This is the person referred to in the stanza which goes, "Boqi complied with the order, and this respectful attitude was reported to the king." Later someone saddened by (Yin Boqi's) wretchedness made it into a poem.

Music and Lyrics: One section12
The setting is largely syllabic, following the structure of the Han Yu lyrics ([4+4] x 10)

父兮兒寒,             母兮兒餓。
Fu xi er han,             mu xi er e.
Father, your son is cold.   Mother, your son is hungry.

兒罪當笞,             逐兒何為? 
Er zui dang chi,         zhu er he wei?
Your son suffers from being beaten,   what can a son who is driven off do?

兒在中野,             以宿以處。
Er zai zhong ye,         yi su yi chu.
Your son resides in the wilderness,   using it for lodging and for dwelling.

四無人聲,             誰與兒語?
Si wu ren sheng,         shei yu er yu?
All around there are no sounds of other people,   who can your son speak to?

兒寒何衣?             兒餓何食?
Er han he yi?         Er e he shi?
When your son is cold, what can he wear?   When your son is hungry, what can he eat?

兒行于野,             履霜以足。
Er xing yu ye,         lu shuang yi zu.
As your son travels in the wilderness,   frost is everywhere.

母生眾兒,             有母憐之。
Mu sheng chong er,     you mulian zhi.
Mothers give birth to all sons,   and mothers feel compassion for them.

獨無母憐,             兒寧不悲。
Du wu mu lian,         er ning bu bei.
Alone without his mother's compassion;   the son would rather not be in misery.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Lü Shuang Cao 履霜操 (QQJC I/265)
7979.104 Yue Fu qin song. Yin Jifu is often cited as an examplar of filial loyalty. Chinese stories and myths of evil stepmothers are beyond the scope of this site; the other song in Taigu Yiyin about filial actions also features a bad step-mother but is a bit less grim: Thinking-of-Parents Melody (Si Qin Cao). There is a more gender neutral invocation of filial piety in Sheng De Song, Verse 4.

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

3. Image
This image was copied from the website http://confucianism.nianw.com. The inscription underneath the image there says,


This couplet is also used elsewhere online (e.g., here) to introduce the Qin Cao Story, calling it Yin Boqi Picks Peartree (Blossoms) and plays the Qin (尹伯奇採楟撫琴 Yin Boqi Cao Ting Fu Qin).

4. 周宣王 King Xuan of Zhou (r. 827 - 781)
A biography of the king's wife, Jiang Hou, is included in Lienü Zhuan.

5. There are other versions of this story.

6. Yuefu Shiji version of the story
The original Qin Cao text as quoted in YFSJ Folio 57, #21 (pp. 833/4) is:


The version in the Pingjin Guan edition of Qin Cao is much longer.

7. First set of lyrics in Qin Cao
Not yet translated. They are followed by the Han Yu lyrics.

8. Ancient listings
The Song dynasty's 僧 居月 Seng Juyue (monk Ju Yue) listed it among the most ancient melodies. 蔡邕琴操 Cai Yong's Qin Cao does not survive directly. The version in 琴苑要彔 Qinyuan Yaolu (Yuan dynasty, Beijing reprint) tells the same story in different words, then adds the poem attributed to Yin Boqi himself. The one in 琴學叢書 Qinxue Congshu (1910; see Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu, pp.742-3) is much longer.

9. Tracing 履霜操 Lü Shuang Cao (tracing chart)
The chart below is based largely on Zha Fuxi's Guide 13/135/242. Of the known surviving versions of Lü Shuang Cao all but one (1525) are short settings of the lyrics by Han Yu in Yuefu Shiji.

10. The Taigu Yiyin explanation is somewhat different from that in Yuefu Shiji.

11. Original preface
Not yet online.

12. Original lyrics
The Chinese lyrics without translation are:


Translation above

Appendix: Chart Tracing 履霜操 Lü Shuang Cao
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 13/135/242.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
10. 謝琳太古遺音
      (1511; I/283 [more])
1; lyrics; music begins and ends with harmonics
12. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/132)
10T; no apparent relation between its music and the others listed here;
14. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/150)
1; same lyrics as 1511 but completely different melody (no harmonics)
22. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #28)
Same as 1585?
24. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/383)
1; same lyrics as 1511; different but similar music;
37. 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/320)
1; same lyrics but different music from the above;
Preface; 5 strings (one of 13 such)
86. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/525)
1; zhiyin; lyrics and music same as 1585

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