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29. Rhapsody on Listening to the Qin
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
聽琴賦 1
Ting Qin Fu
Boya plays qin on a boat (see full image) 3    
The tablature in Taigu Yiyin divides the melody into five sections, adding running commentary before each one. Taken together these recount one version of the famous meeting between the qin player Yu Boya and the perfect listener, Zhong Ziqi4 (today usually described as a fuel gatherer or woodcutter). According to this rendition, one evening as the scholar Boya was playing the qin on a boat on the Qing River (or a clear river5) near Changzhou,6 Zhong Ziqi happened along. It then elaborates a bit more on the famous story of Boya finally meeting someone who understood his music: whether Boya's qin play described high mountains or flowing streams, Ziqi could see exactly what Boya depicted; when Ziqi died Boya broke his strings and never again played.

The meeting of Boya and Ziqi is also recounted with other qin melodies, most famously High Mountains and Flowing Streams, as well as with the next melody in the present handbook, Boya Diao Ziqi. However, although high mountains and flowings streams are mentioned in passing (as is Moon over Guanshan) the only melodies specifically mentioned by name in the present rendition are Clear River Prelude (Qing Jiang Yin),7 in Section 1; Wind in the Pines (Feng Ru Song),8 said to be the melody of Section 3; and Cranes Piercing the Heavens (He Chong Tian),9 said to be the melody of Section 4.

Both Ting Qin Fu and Boya Diao Ziqi are included in the section of Taigu Yiyin otherwise devoted to melodies connected the Jin dynasty (365-420 CE). Boya is most commonly associated with the much earlier state of Chu, thus living some time between 722 and 484 BCE. Commonly he is said to have spent much of his life living north of Chu, in the state of Jin (same character as Jin dynasty). I do not know the source of this confusion.10

The five sections of the present melody are unnumbered. I have not been able to trace the source of the lyrics, which are not in Yuefu Shiji. The lyrics of the second and third sections are used again, with changes, for the fourth and fifth sections of Jiang Yue Bai (1525). The lyrics of the second section here are almost the same as the lyrics for Section 4 there, while the lyrics of the third section have many differences with the lyrics for Section 5 there. (Compare originals.)

The title Ting Qin Fu survives only here and in Feng Xuan Xuan Pin (1539), which has identical words and music. In four later handbooks there is a piece called Ting Qin Yin, but it is a different melody, set to a poem by Han Yu.11

Original Preface

The Taigu Yiyin commentary is interspersed between the sections of the melody, so the translation here is organized likewise.

Music, Commentary and Lyrics12
Divided into 5 sections, with a largely syllabic setting following the poetic structure (indicated below). The commentary is not set to music.

(1. 中文) It is thought that this fu poem was composed by Boya. Boya's surname was Yu and his given name was Rui (Duan?). He studied qin from Master Cheng Lian, achieving his marvelous skills and so became the world's greatest qin master. Having to take up duties in Changzou (the district now in Jiangsu province?) he went rowing on a clear river one night when the wind was clear and the moon bright. He played on the qin a melody whose lyrics were as follows:

Lyrics               (5+5) x 4
River plum blossoms stuck into a vase;
   heavy musk burns in a lion-shaped ding.
Sadly reading ancient men's books;
   sitting alone by a gloomy window in quiet.
Below the window someone plays a precious qin;
   the melody is
Clear River Prelude.
Playing to (where there is) the sound of fingers stopping;
   the fingers are uneven from the cold.

(2. 中文) The qin stopped. From the shore came the sound of footsteps approaching. Boya then played another piece. The lyrics were as follows:

Lyrics               (8+8) + (9+9) + (7+7) + 8

Bitter thoughts and weary toil weary the spirit;
   More words and more speaking destroy the truth.
Like silkworms making cocoons, binding themselves up;
   Like moths rushing to the lamp, destroying their own bodies.
The Confucian Way: it is not sufficient just to utilize it;
   Confucian teaching: it is not sufficient just to venerate it.
These are not as good as returning from the Si Stream riverbank (where Confucius taught14).

(3. 中文) When the piece was finished the other man said, "Because by chance the wind brought me clear beautiful sounds, I came to listen." When Bo Ya thereupon played one more piece, he politely asked (the guest) what the melody was. The lyrics were as follows.

Lyrics               (8+8) x 3
Yang essence fuses, willows twist gold; (? 陽氣和融兮柳搖金。)
   Peach blossoms are half open, the bright sun is red.
Fragrant grass is luxuriant, spread out in elegant colors;
   Decorated bridges have carts and horses, serving east and west.
Playful butterflies flit around, tiny outside the wall;
   Two wanderers dance, east of a decorated tower.

(4. 中文) The other man said, "That was Wind through the Pines." Startled, Boya said, "(You are) certainly a person who knows music." Then the guest honored him. (Boya) took his hand to help him onto the boat and asked his name. (The guest) said, "Zhong Ziqi." Boya once again played a piece. The lyrics were as follows.

Lyrics               (7+7) x 10, except 5th and 7th have 3+3 instead of 7
The Chu physique is delicate, their lips (the color of) pomegrates;
Hands grasp the silver zheng zither while half-intoxicated with wine.
As the strings are tightened young orioles fly out from the valley;
As the bridges are moved (also for tuning) soaring geese want to return to the clouds.
As the notes and the modality conform to the music,
Unicorns file by, forming a golden chain.
In what place do they in the morning connect standing screens of white jade?
In whose household do they in the evening role up hanging pearl door-screens?
One sound is elegant, another sound is clear;
Immortal cranes fly up and when they reach the sky they call out.
(From an) ivory bed throw down a coral pillow;
(From a) silk mat fling a broken porcelain vase
One sound cuts off, another sound connects;
Both praise
Lushan's streams cascading down like calico.
An autumn breeze passes comfortably through an hibiscus curtain;
A cool evening moon reveals the tortoise-shell mat.
Just now it is not strange that these deep thoughts (low chanting?) last long;
Such thoughts, among the people, are even harder to find.
Diligently have I made the brief words for this song;
Forever transmitting appreciation for a gentleman. (tentative translation)

(5. 中文) When the piece was finished, Ziqi said, "Cranes Piercing the Heavans. The focus was on high mountains, lofty like Mount Tai; and on flowing streams, swelling like the rivers and streams." Whatever the qin created, the master was marvelously elegant and thoughtfully graceful. Whenever (Boya) lowered his hands (to play), Ziqi never failed to comprehend its beauty. When Ziqi died, Boya broke his strings (and played no more), thinking that the world (now) had no one who understood music.

Final lyrics             (3+7+7+7) x 8, then (7+7) x 5, except the 3rd is 5+5 (last two are harmonics)
The qin sounds are clear, like twice more the wind sending away the light dawn mist.
In the vermillion doorway, in front of the eves, plays a young sparrow;
In the shade of green willows young orioles warble.
The qin sounds are mysterious, like flowers falling in the breeze as small cuckoo's chirp.
Around the watchtower as day breaks many sounds contend;
A fisherman's flute in the evening brings Three Playings (of
Mei Hua).
The qin sounds are remote, like a 10 li long island of reed catkins and geese.
The clamor of crickets comes up across the yellow-orange earth;
The calls of partridges break through an island of duckweed.
The qin sounds are elegant, like having brocade curtains and gauze bedclothes while sleeping in an embroidered bed.
Partially burned candles overflow and drip down the copper pot; with marked incense and trailing smoke roasting a precious duck.
The qin sounds are emotional, like the riverside unrestrained weeping of the Xiang River concubines.
Behind the palace Zhao Jun (see Zhaojun Yuan) leaves her Han lord, in front of the mat Xiang Yu parts from Yu Ji.
The qin sounds are ardent, like the wind pausing everywhere as snow begins to clear.
A solitary crane's cry splits the cloudy skies of Chu; a sad gibbon's call settles down from the Moon over Guanshan.
The qin sounds are delicate, like a lovely lady's returning dream of endless melancholyy.
The wind resounds as it knocks on bamboo and hits against windows; the rain patters as it continuously drips down on the flowers.
The qin sounds are heroic, like the force of thunder and lightning with the roar of a mighty wind.
It whips up fragments as jade dragons fly with colorful phoenixes; it suddenly opens a golden lock allowing scaly dragons to part.

Qin sounds, qin sounds clear the ears and eyes; they control the world and regulate the sounds of earthly melodies.
It is difficult to take the hearts of a thousand old sages, and tranmit this onto three feet of dried wood (
When putting down the fingers to play one is at ease; and yet people who come to listen find it difficult.
The night is calm, the jade qin plays several times; a clear wind moves along as the evening is solitary and cold.

Only someone who understands music would have stopped and listened;
  if he had not been someone who understood music I would not have played for him.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Ting Qin Fu references
聽琴賦 29852.xxx (no 聽琴). The melody and lyrics here were copied in 1539 but are unrelated to those of Ting Qin Yin (1589 and later).

2. Mode
Taigu Yiyin does not arrange melodies by mode. In my reconstruction

3. Image (Original: 61 x 23 cm)
Regarding this image, I originally saw it as Lot #186 on an online auction page (now removed) for an auction in Hong Kong dated 2 March 2002.

4. 俞伯牙 Yu Boya and 鐘子期 Zhong Ziqi
The surname Yu is rarely applied to Boya. It is not mentioned at 538.18 伯牙 or included at 1482.0 俞.

5. Qing Jiang or Qingjiang 清江
18003.91 清江 lists numerous Qingjiang, but says it can also mean simply a river with clear water. See also the next footnote.

6. Changzhou (District?) 常州守
This mention of Changzhou (repeated in the next melody) is particularly puzzling, as stories most commonly associate Boya with the Chu region, in particular the area around Hanyang. Changzhou is a city near the Yangzi River in Jiangsu province, midway between Nanjing and Suzhou. There were numerous 清江 Qingjiang but none mentioned near Changzhou. One (also called 夷水 Yi Shui) was in western Hubei, but qingjiang can also simply mean a clear river.

In northern Hunan is the city of 常德 Changde (9138.xxx), known by this name since the Song dynasty (it has also been known as 朗州 Langzhou, 鼎州 Dingzhou and perhaps 武陵 Wuling). I have not yet seen it referred to as Changzhou.

7. Clear River Prelude (清江引 Qingjiang Yin)
Qing Jiang is mentioned above with reference to the lyrics of Section 1 below. It is also the title of a melody published in 1585. 18003.94 says Qingjiang Yin was an opera or opera song title (曲牌名 qupai ming), but it does not mention the story and this title is not in LXS. Compare Clear Evening Intonation (清夜吟 Qingye Yin) under Jiang Yue Bai.

8. Wind Entering the Pines (風入松 Feng Ru Song)
There is no melodic connection with 1511 #28 Feng Ru Song Ge.

9. Cranes Piercing the Heavens (鶴沖天 He Chong Tian)
48157.42 and 12/1145 鶴沖天 (or 鶴冲天) say he chong tian refers to people who have become immortals in the form of cranes or flying into the heavens on cranes. It is also a 詞牌 cipai, especially one that is 雙調84字 shuangdiao with 84 characters. The present text seems connect it to high mountains and flowing streams, but I have not found this connection elsewhere. It has no apparent connection to the melody He Chong Xiao.

10. Confusion about Jin?
Both Jin are written 晉. See also the comments under the 1525 Boya Diao Ziqi.

11. Tracing 聽琴賦 Ting Qin Fu and 聽琴吟 Ting Qin Yin (tracing chart)
The chart below is largely based on Zha Guide 14/149/254 and 29/226/433 .

12. The original Chinese commentary and lyrics (I/290) are as follows:

(一英文 按此賦,伯牙所制也。伯牙姓俞,名瑞(端?)。學琴於成連先生。得其奧妙,遂為天下絕倡。嘗赴任常州守,舟次清江,當夫風清月白之夕。援琴一曲。詞云﹕


(二英文 琴罷,岸有足音跫然,自遠而近。伯牙再操一曲。詞云﹕


(三英文 曲既終,其人曰,「偶因風送,清麗之音,特來一聽。」伯牙於是再鼓一曲。請問何曲。詞云﹕


(四英文 其人曰,「風入松也。」伯牙愕愕然曰,「誠知音也。」遂賓禮之。攜以登舟,得其姓名,曰鐘子期。伯牙再撫一曲。詞云﹕


(五英文 曲終,子期樂,「鶴沖天也。志在高山,峨峨然若泰山;在流水,洋洋然若江河。」凡琴中所制,與夫清奇幽雅,悲切嬌雄。落指之間,子期無不悉其妙。子期既死,伯牙絕絃,以為世無知音者。


13. "Not sufficient"
The literal meaning of 不足 buzu is "not sufficient", but some dictionaries say it means "not worth" (e.g., deFrancis), and in the example given at 1/414 不足道 buzu dao, from 陶潛,桃花源記, it seems to mean "no need to...." (Return)

14. Si Stream Riverbank (泗水濱 Si Shui Bin)
The Si Stream Riverbank (17681.3 泗上 Sishang: same as 泗水之濱 Sishui zhi bin; 孔子之學也) is so much associated with some stories of Confucius that it came to represent Confucian learning. I have not yet heard of any stories that connect this region to Boya, so this reference in the lyrics must be to Confucius.

As for the stream itself, 17681.4 泗水 Si Shui has several entries, including streams and districts on the north side of Qufu, Confucius' home town in Shandong province, then in 沛縣 Pei district and 宿遷縣 Suqian district near 徐州 Xuzhou, these latter in what is today northern Jiangsu province. These are all near what modern maps show as a river that begins north of Qufu, then flows southwest to a series of lakes going southeast towards Xuzhou; old maps seem to suggest that the Si River once flowed this same entire path.

"Return from" in the last line could also be translated as "return to", but to me this does not make sense within the context of the whole poem. Also the Chinese expression for "return" here evokes Tao Yuanming writing about returning home.

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Chart Tracing 聽琴賦 Ting Qin Fu and 聽琴吟 Ting Qin Yin

Further comment above; based mainly on two entries in Zha Fuxi's Guide:
      聽琴賦 Ting Qin Fu (14/149/254)
      聽琴吟 Ting Qin Yin (29/226/433)

    (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/308)
5 unnumbered sections, with lyrics throughout and a short essay at the front of each story
Also a preface
  2. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/153)
Copy of 1511, sections again unnumbered, but without opening preface
Mode still not indicated
  3. 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1589; VII/77)
3TL; zhi yin; 聽琴吟 Ting Qin Yin; preface attributes Han Yu;
Music is set to his poem Listening to Reclusive Scholar Zhang Play a Qin
  4. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/532)
3L; zhi yin; same lyrics and music as 1589;
(Omits preface and section titles)
  5. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/145)
3; shang yin; "from 1589";
Same section titles and music as 1589 but no lyrics
  6. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/456)
3L; zhi yin; seems to be copy of 1802;
Hard to read

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