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20. Song of Chu
- Chushang/Qiliang mode;2 raise the 2nd and 5th strings: 2 4 5 6 1 2 3
 
楚歌1
Chu Ge
Farewell My Concubine 3    
The Song of Chu concerns the final defeat of Xiang Yu (232 - 202). From his beginning as a local headman he had won many battles and almost succeeded in overthrowing the Qin, thereby establishing a new dynasty. But instead he has lost the battle with Liu Bang, and now loses his beloved wife Yu Ji. The melody here begins with him coming to Gaixia, by the Wu River, and proclaiming the famous lines that later tradition attributed to him.

Details of this story can be found with the version of Chu Ge published in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425). That version has no lyrics, though its re-publication in <1491 added them throughout (to compare other versions see the tracing chart). The melody in Taigu Yiyin is very different, though it uses a number of motifs from the earlier version. The lyrics here are almost completely different.4

The lyrics that open the version in Taigu Yiyin can be found in Yuefu Shiji,5 where they are attributed to Xiang Yu himself. However, Yuefu Shiji does not have the rest of the lyrics used here, and I have not yet been able to trace their source.

The original preface here is a shortened version of the one in Shen Qi Mi Pu.

 
Original preface 6

According to (The Book of) History, Xiang Yu came to Gai Xia at an unfortunate time in the war with Han. He was blocked and couldn't get out. The Han soldiers surrounded him in several layers. Han Xin has his army sing a song of the Chu people. Xiang Yu heard this at night and was alarmed. He said, "Has Han already conquered Chu? They have so many Chu people." Then at night he drank in his tent, and sadly sang of his misery, making this into a song of departure from Yu Ji. Yu Ji then killed herself. Xiang Yu broke though the blockade towards the south. His soldiers scattered and his power lost, he came to the Wu river and perished. Later someone was moved by this affair, and created this melody.

 
Music and lyrics:7 Prelude and eleven titled sections
The setting is largely syllabic; unstructured rhyming lyrics after the opening four lines

(Prelude) ([7+7]x2) + [3+3+5])
My strength can move mountains, my power can cover the world,
But times are not fortunate and (my horse) Piebald will not go on.
Piebald will not go on: what can I do?
Yu (Ji), Yu (Ji), what can I do?
Leaving parents, serving the king, 10 years on the frontier.

(1.) Recalling departure east of the river
Leaving parents, serving the king, military garb, military actions.
Leaving parents, serving the king, ordered around, wind and frost.
Actually more than 10 years, once parted a long time without seeing each other.
On the frontier very far, how long is the road!
Lock my farm tools, make war weapons.
Leave my wife and child, cut ties of affection, speak of inner feelings.
Xiang Yu crossed the Wu River, banners covered the sky, the ruler's power spread.
Leaving parents, serving the king, 10 years on the frontier.

(2.) Great efforts on the frontier
Ten years struggling in the border regions,
....(translation incomplete)

(3.) Metal clothing and dirty ground

(4.) Millet in the autumn wind

(5.) Hearing an iron flute at night

(6.) 8,000 soldiers are scattered

(7.) The hero's strength is gone

(8.) Losing the way at Yinling

(9.) Yu Ji cries at parting

(10.) Sound of a sword cast away

(11.) Not crossing the Wu River
Cross the Wu river, (or) don't cross the Wu river,
All controlled, or all disordered, is all planned by Heaven.
I was victorious in over 70 battles, only one battle did I not win.
In vain is my pain; sadness kills oneself, now becoming bitter.
Alas, who can speak for the poor headman?
(harmonics) The world is not the place for me.

 
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a
separate page)

1. Song of Chu (楚歌 Chu Ge
15473.146 楚歌: the song heard by Xiang Yu's forces when surrounded by Han (cf. Shi Ji). Part of this story is also retold in the opera 霸王別姬 Bawang Bie Ji (The Great King Leaves Yu Ji, often translated as Farewell My Concubine).
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2. Tuning and Mode
Taigu Yiyin groups melodies according to traditional chronology, not mode, but the tuning is defined at front: "tighten the second and fifth (strings) each one position."
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3. Image
The same illustration is used with the Chu Ge in Shen Qi Mi Pu.
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4. In <1491 the lyrics begin, "寒風颯颯兮九月霜天,家鄉憶別兮十有餘年...."
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5. YFSJ, Folio 58, Li Ba Shan Cao (p. 849). A comment says 《詩紀》卷二作〈垓下歌〉 Poetry Collection, Folio 2, calls it "Song at Gaixia". This is followed by a poem called 項王歌 Xiang Wang Ge, said to be an anonymous poem on the same subject. Its lyrics (無復拔山力,誰論蓋世才。欲知漢騎滿,但聽楚歌哀。悲看騅馬去,泣望艤舟來。) are not used here.
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6. Original preface
Chinese original not yet online.
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7. Original lyrics (translation above)
The lyrics in Chinese are as follows:

(序引)
力拔山兮氣蓋世。
世不利兮錐不逝。
錐不逝兮可奈何?
虞兮虞兮奈若何?
辭父母,事君王,十年在疆場。

(一)憶別江東
辭父母,事君王,戎衣戎行。
辭父母,事君王,號令風霜。
奈何十年餘,一為離別永相忘。
關塞既窮,道路何長?
鎖我農器,作干戈戚揚。
別我妻子,斷恩義,訴衷腸。
項羽渡烏江,旌旗蔽空霸業張。
辭父母,事君王,十年在疆場。

(二)長驅關塞
十年關塞總驅馳,也艱危。
半紙功名不到頭,空丈夫,
百夫御,不顧身軀,而今存萬死有餘。
魚雁絕音書,怕執役別驅,而飾戎車。
思羈旅,犯寒暑,務的是旌旄。
金鼓連城隅,誰數傾城貌,誰願指望侯封三萬戶。
虛徇身,徒征虜,辭父母,奔走歷盡艱危,
霸業予何有,面誇身軀孤負。

(三)鐵衣塵土
辭親兮,事君王,十年在疆場,
辭父母,事君王,旅越歷風霜。
鐵衣塵土是輝光,父母誰奉養,
妻子別而誰將。時勢無常,武勇猖狂。
驅龍蛇,逐犬羊,干戈戚揚。
威武威武,為守天一方。

(四)禾黍秋風
關河空有,祖龍飛去,而阿房變丘墟,
況秋風禾黍。秦無道,秦振長策馭宇,
將天下虎視。一世二世至千萬世,兒戲耳。
棄禮樂,焚詩書,萬里長城居。空碌碌,今日總成墟。

(五)夜聞鐵笛
辭父母,事君王,辛苦忙忙。
鐵笛弄宮商,寒夜五更長,
念父母在何方,聽鐵笛驚夢想。
辭父母,事君王,十年在他鄉,我心彷徨。

(六)八千兵散
辭父母,事君王,大事也渺茫。
剛強死,不義亡,八千兵散也消長。
歌一曲,對紅妝而掩泣,戰袍淚濕。
撫幼愛以噫嗚,置身何所。
萬人敵,奸雄輩而今暴露。今王功不可圓,
霸業也空無。范增去,決勝負,誰能輔。

(七)英雄氣消
薰天氣,貽地隳,不讀書,無仁義。
對人而言語徒嘔,當封印敞忍弗予。

(八)陰陵失道
三軍散盡旌旗倒,霸業消,佳人老。
天下橫行,屠城殺十方,舉烽火,害秦子嬰。
天報也,在期不用造意,肆毒也,田父言數聲。

(九)虞姬泣別
妾非金錯刀,不斬將軍帽。
中軍帳,連籌決策,
奈大亭長去矣如風掃。
辭父母,事君王,徒心長劍苦茫茫。

(十)拔劍聲
三尺橫剛絕,四海聲光滅。
不能輔仁義王,陸地空流血。
玉帳紅妝,徒照青史一行。

(十一)烏江不渡
烏江渡, 烏江不渡。
一治一亂,皆由天數。
身勝七十餘戰,惟一戰不勝,
徒勞辛苦。慨自刎,今成苦,
嘆可憐亭長雖有言,
(泛音)天下非吾土。
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