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21. Five Melodies of Mr. Cai
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
蔡氏五弄 1
Cai Shi Wunong
Cai Shi Wunong (Five Melodies of Mr. Cai) is the name of a famous set of qin melodies from antiquity, attributed to
Cai Yong (133-192). Originally the five melodies were said to be as follows:4

  1. You Chun (Spring Travel; YFSJ lyrics)
  2. Lu Shui (Green Water; YFSJ lyrics)
  3. You Ju (Retired Life; YFSJ lyrics)
  4. Zuo Chou (Sit in Sadness; YFSJ lyrics) and
  5. Qiu Si (Autumn Thoughts; YFSJ lyrics)

However, there are no surviving musical settings in this form. In fact, there seem to be only three surviving settings for guqin, all called Caishi Wunong and all with identical music.5 Taigu Yiyin uses only the lyrics of the first three poems. The second occurrence, in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539), is identical to 1511. The third, in Xingzhuang Taiyin Xupu (1559) has the same music but no lyrics.

Cai Yong was famous as a scholar whose work on ancient texts saved him several times during political crises at the end of the Han dynasty, as a drinker, and as a musician. He not only composed music but made instruments: one of the famous qin stories concerns the jiao wei (burned tail) qin which he is said to have made from wood that made a musical crackling sound while being used in a cooking stove. His Qin Cao is the earliest surviving list of qin melodies, introducing 50 of them by author and background, and he is also credited with having composed Chang Qing (Long Clarity). The story of his daughter's abduction by Central Asian nomads is told with the melody Da Hujia.

Yuefu Shiji, Folio 59, #2, contains a large number of poems on these titles.6 The prefaces in Yuefu Shiji quote four sources.

  1. Qin Li says, Qin melodies include Caishi Wunong.

  2. Qin Ji says, The Wunong are You Chun, Lu Shui, You Ju, Zuo Chou, and Qiu Si; they are in gong mode.

  3. Qin Shu (or ?) says, (Cai) Yong was by nature calm and serene, with an elegant fondness for the qin. Shortly after 150 CE he went to Qingxi to visit Mr. Guigu's place. The mountains where he lived had five qu7....

  4. Qin Yi says, The emperor Sui Yangdi (r. 605 - 617) took Xi Kang's Four Melodies and Mr. Cai's Five Melodies and circulated them as Nine Melodies.

  5. (Guo Maoqian adds?), Now it seems that recent authors have often used these themes to decree lyrics, and there is no returning to the original meanings. And so forth.

The preface in Taigu Yiyin, like the one in Yuefu Shiji, also mentions only Cai Yong (133-192) in its attributions, and also suggests he composed all five titles. Neither discusses why only three (four in Yuefu Shiji) of the five are included, or the relationship between the lyrics and the music.

Original preface 8

According to Qin Li (Qin History) there is a Cai Shi Wunong written by Cai Yong. The five pieces are You Chun (Spring Travel), Lu Shui (Green Water), You Ju (Retired Life), Zuo Chou (Sit in Sadness) and Qiu Si (Autumn Thoughts). The melodies are in the gong mode. Cai (Yong) elegantly loved the qin. Once when visiting on the historical traces of Guigu(zi).... (translation incomplete; it associates the five pieces with five dells in the mountains where Guiguzi lived).

Music and lyrics: Five titled sections 9
A largely syllabic setting, following the structures of the Yuefu Shiji lyrics (1 to 3 of 5)
(Advance apologies for mistakes in translation; assistance appreciated)

  1. 遊春曲 Spring Travel Tunes ([5+5+5+5] x 2)
    Two poems, both by 王維 Wang Wei

    1. 萬樹江邊杳,         新開一夜風。
      Wan shu jiang bian yao,   xin kai yi ye feng
      Myriad trees darken the river's edge,   newly arisen are the evening breezes.

      滿園深淺色,         照在綠波中。
      Man yuan shen qian se,   zhao zai lü bo zhong.
      Filling the garden with dark and light colors,   while glimmering on the green ripples.

    2. 上苑何窮樹,         花開次第新。
      Shang yuan he qiong shu,   hua kai ci di xin.
      Above the park such a barren tree,   but flowers, continuously renewed.

      香車與絲騎,         風靜亦生塵。
      Xiang che yu si ji,   feng jing yi sheng chen.
      Elegant carriages with silken mounts,   breezes calm and entice the senses.

  2. 遊春辭 Spring Travel Lyrics ([7+7+7+7] x 2) + and ([5+5+5+5] x 3)
    Five poems, two by 王維 Wang Wei, then three by 令狐楚 Linghu Chu 10

    1. 曲江絲柳變煙條,             寒骨冰隨暖氣銷。
      Qu jiang si liu bian yan tiao,   han gu bing sui nuan qi xiao
      By Winding Jiang silken willows are bordered by misty strips,   in cold valleys the resulting ice is now warmed by air and melts.

      纔見春光生綺陌,             已聞清樂動雲韶。
      Cai jian chun guang sheng qi mo,   yi wen qing yue dong yun shao.
      So we see the brightness of spring producing lovely pathways,   and hearing clear music evokes (the melody) Clouded Shao.

    2. 經過柳陌與桃蹊,             尋逐風光著處迷。
      Jing guo liu mo yu tao qi,   xun zhu feng guang zhu chu mi.
      Walking on Willow Lane with peach blossoms along the path,   looking for bright openings because everywhere we have lost our way.

      鳥度時時沖絮起,             花繁袞袞壓枝低。
      Niao du shi shi chong xu qi,   hua fan gun gun ya zhi di.
      Birds go by from time to time as they try to rise up,   but petals in such numbers swirl and press down the branches.

    3. 晚遊臨碧殿,         日上望春亭。
      Wan you lin bi dian,   ri shang wang chun ting.
      On an evening stroll approaching a jade palace,   as the sun rises looking at a spring pavilion.

      芳樹羅仙仗,         晴山展翠屏。
      Fang shu luo xian zhang,   qing shan zhan cui ping.
      Flowering trees cover (people wearing) imperial insignia,   clear mountains spread out along jade green cliffs.

    4. 一夜好風吹,         新花一萬枝。
      Yi ye hao feng chui,   xin hua yi wan zhi.
      One evening enjoying breezes blowing   with new flowers in myriad numbers,

      風前調玉管,         花下簇金羈。
      Feng qian diao yu guan,   hua xia cu jin ji.
      Before the breeze playing on a jade reed instrument   flowers fall while bursting forth as golden tufts.

    5. 閶闔春風起,         蓬萊雪水消。
      Chang he chun feng qi,   Peng Lai xue shui xiao.
      By the imperial palace gate a spring wind arises,   on Penglai the snow is melting.

      相將折楊柳,         爭取最長條。
      Xiang jiang zhe yang liu,   zheng qu zui chang tiao.
      Mutually about to Cut Down Willows,   struggling to get the longest twigs.

  3. 綠水曲 Green Water Tunes (5 x 8) + (5+5+5+5) + ([5+5+5+5] x 2) + (5+5+5+5)
    Five poems, by 江奐 Jiang Huan, 吳均 Wu Jun, 江洪 Jiang Hong (2) and 李白 Li Bai

    1. 塘上蒲欲齊,         汀洲杜將歇。
      Tang shang pu yu qi,   ting zhou du jiang xie.
      On a pond water rush is lining up,   a sandbank blocks us and we are about to stop.

      春心既易蕩。         春流豈難越。
      Chun xin ji yi dang,   chun liu qi nan yue.
      Spring fancies are easily vast,   spring actions are ever so much more difficult.

      桂棹及晚風。         菱江映初月。
      Gui ji ji wan feng,   ling jiang ying chu yue.
      Cassia oars accompany evening breezes,   water chestnut in the river shines in the new moon. (sic)

      芳香若可贈。         為君步羅襪。
      Fang xiang ruo ke zeng,   wei jun bu luo wa.
      Fragrances seem ready for bestowal   on gentlemen strolling along in silken stockings.

    2. 香曖金堤滿,         湛淡春塘溢。
      Xiang ai jin ti man,   zhan dan chun tang yi.
      Under twinkling stars the strong dikes run deep,   turgid water in spring makes the ponds full.

      已送行臺花,         復倒高樓日。
      Yi song xing tai hua,   fu dao gao lou ri.
      I have already sent the Branch Department flowers,   returning to the high pavilion by day. (?)

    3. 塵容不忍飾,         臨池客未歸。
      Chen rong bu ren shi,   lin chi ke wei gui.
      The commonplace does not endure ornament,   by the pool guests have not yet returned.

      誰能別淥水,         全取浣羅衣。
      Shei neng bie lü shui,   quan qu liu luo yi.
      Who can leave the green waters   and completely cleanse their gossamer silk clothing?

    4. 潺湲複皎潔,         輕鮮自可悅。
      Chan yuan fu jiao jie,   qing xian zi ke yue.
      Water/tears flowing returns to bright spotless white,   light and fresh one can enjoy. (I have no idea what this or the following is intended to convey.)

      橫使有情禽,         照影遂孤絕。
      Heng shi you qing qin,   zhao ying sui gu jue.
      Perverse messengers have fondness for birds,   reflections follow solitary cutoff. (???)

    5. 淥水明秋月,         南湖采白蘋。
      Lü shui ming qiu yue,   nan hu tan bai pin.
      Green waters are bright in the autumn moon,   on a southern lake I look for white duckweed.

      荷花嬌欲語,         愁殺蕩舟人。
      He hua jiao yu yu,   chou sha dang zhou ren.
      Lotus flowers have a beauty I wish to declaim,   sadness kills the wandering boatmen. (?)

  4. 綠水辭 Green Water Lyrics (5 x 8)
    One poem, by 李賀 Li He (791-817); translated by Frodsham in "The Poems of Li Ho", p.215, as follows:

    今宵好風月,         阿侯在何處。
    Jin xiao hao feng yue,   A Hou zai he chu?
    Tonight a pleasant wind and moon,   But where is poor Hou?

    為有傾城色,         翻成足愁苦。
    Wei you qing cheng se,   fan cheng zu chou ku.
    Because her beauty breaks men's hearts   She has her share of pain and sadness.

    東湖採蓮葉,         南湖拔蒲根。
    Dong hu tan lian ye,   nanhu ba pu gen.
    Is she gathering lotus by East Lake?   Or plucking cattails by South Lake?

    未持寄小姑,         且持感愁魂。
    Wei chi ji xiao gu,   qie chi gan chou hun.
    She has no little sister-in-law in mind,   They're but the tokens of her sorrow.

  5. 幽居弄 Retired Life Ditty ([7 x 4] x 2; last couplet is in harmonics)
    One poem, by 顧況 Gu Kuang (c.725-c.819)

    苔衣生花(花)露滴,         月入西林蕩東壁。
    Tai yi sheng hua (hua) lu di,   yue ru xi lin dang dong bi.
    Moss and lichen grow, flowers have dew dripping,   The moon enters the western forest, and the vast east cliffs.

    扣商占角兩三聲,               洞戶溪窗一冥寂。
    Kou shang zhan jiao liang san sheng,   dong hu xi chuang yi ming ji.
    Hit "shang" and scratch out "jiao" - just two or three sounds.   (My) cave door and valley window are completely dark and silent.

    獨去滄洲無四鄰,               身嬰世網此何身。
    Du qu Cang Zhou wu zi lin,   shen ying shi wang ci he shen?
    Alone (I have) gone to Cangzhou, on no sides are there neighbors,   Body tassels and the net of society: these are for whose body?

    關情命曲寄惆悵,               久別江南山裏人。
    Guan qing ming qu ji chou chang,   jiu bie Jiang Nan shan li ren.
    Relationships and twists of fate deliver disappointment,   And (I have) long been parted from people in the hills of Jiangnan.

The above translations are in places tentative, incomplete and/or clearly erroneous; assistance appreciated.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Cai Shi Wunong 蔡氏五弄
32581.xx; information about 蔡邕 Cai Yong at 32581.126.

2. Mode
The preface, quoting ancient sources, says the melodies are in gong mode, which in the Ming dynasty seems to have the 3rd string as do, but the melody here seems to use the first string as do.

4. Original listing of the Five Melodies of Mr. Cai (based on Seng Juyue):

  1. You Chun (遊春)
  2. Lu Shui (淥水)
  3. You Ju (幽居)
  4. Zuo Chou (坐愁)
  5. Qiu Si (秋思)
However, early lists are not uniform. See, for example, the names at the beginning of the third section of the Melody List from Qin Shu in Qinyuan Yaolu.

The Melody List by Seng Juyue also has a lengthy introduction:


5. Tracing 蔡氏五弄 Cai Shi Wunong (tracing chart)
The chart below is based on Zha Guide 13/142/249

6. Yuefu Shiji lyrics for Caishi Wunong
The following is a translation of the complete list of the poems under this title in Folio 59, #2 of Yuefu Shiji (pp. 855 - 860). As can be seen, it skips Zuo Chou, #4 in the standard listing. As for here in Taigu Yiyin, its Caishi Wunong skips both Zuo Chou and Qiu Si, taking as texts for its five melodies only 1.a., 1.b., 2.a., 2.b. and 3. Note that none of the lyrics are attributed to Cai Yong himself.

1. a. You Chun Qu (Spring Travel Tunes) Two five-character quatrains by Wang Wei (701-761)

1. b. You Chun Ci (Spring Travel Lyrics)

Two seven-character quatrains by Wang Wei (701-761)
Three five-character quatrains by Linghu Chu (766-837)

2. a. Lushui Qu (Green Water Tunes)
18106.2 淥水 says "green water", qin melody, and the name of two different streams in Jiangxi going into the 湘水 Xiang River, one from the north, the other from the south. Included in You Lan
list and mentioned in a poem by Bai Juyi

one poem (eight five-character lines) by Jiang Huan of Qi (5th c.)
one five-character quatrain by Wu Jun of Liang (469-520)
two five-character quatrains by Jiang Hong (6th c.)
one five-character quatrain by Li Bai (701-762)

2. b. Lushui Ci (Green Water Lyrics)

one poem (eight five-character lines) by Li He (791-817)
Translated by Frodsham in "The Poems of Li Ho", p.215
The poem mentions 阿侯 A Hou ("Poor Hou"): 42518.298 says she was a child of a beautiful singing girl of that time, 莫愁 Mo Chou ("Never Sorrow"; 31777.110).

3. You Ju Nong (Retired Life Ditty)

One poem (eight seven-character lines [first is 3+3?]) by Gu Kuang (c.725-c.819)

4. Zuo Chou (Sit in Sadness)


5. Qiu Si (Autumn Thoughts)

two poems (both 8 x 5) by Li Bai (701-762)
three poems (each 14 x 5) by Bao Rong (fl. 820)
one poem (8 x 5) by 司空曙 Sikong Shu (720 - c.790)
one poem (8 x 5) by 司空圖 Sikong Tu (837 - 908)
two poems (each 4 x 7) by Wang Wei (701 - 761)

7. Mr. Guigu and his five qu
鬼谷 46757.41 鬼谷子 and .42 鬼谷先生 refer to 王詡 Wang Xu, a 4th century BCE Daoist philosopher best known as Guiguzi (Wiki); Cai Yong following in his footsteps sounds like a sort of Daoist pilgrimage. Guigu is also the name of several places as well as a star name.

As for 五曲, 262.256 says these could be either five melodies or five "winding places".

8. Original preface
The original Chinese text begins,


Not yet translated.

9. Original lyrics
The Chinese lyrics without the above translation are,

萬樹江邊杳,新開一夜風。 (杳 yao elsewhere is 杏 xing)



經過柳陌與桃蹊,尋逐風光著處迷。 (For 經 the text here is 紅)




桂棹及晚風。菱江映初月。  (棹樂府作楫)







10. References in Spring Travel Lyrics

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Appendix: Chart Tracing 蔡氏五弄 Cai Shi Wunong
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 13/142/249

    (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/295)
5; preface; lyrics
  2. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/96)
5; included with gong mode pieces; same music and lyrics as 1511
  3. 太音續譜
      (1559; III/449)
5; same music as 1511 and 1539 but no lyrics
The preface is somewhat different.

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