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35. Old Autumn Wind
- Standard tuning:2 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
古秋風 1
Gu Qiu Feng, 1525
The first autumn wind brings a single leaf3  
Many qin melodies have an autumn theme. Their prefaces and/or lyrics often refer to the sad soughing of autumn winds. This is also a common theme in Chinese classical poetry, and Yuefu Shiji includes number of such lyrics.4 Of these, however, only the well-known Autumn Wind Ode attributed to Han Emperor Wu seems to have been set for qin, in 1676 Qiu Feng Ci published in Japan.5

In the Ming dynasty qin melodies on the theme of autumn winds all tended to be in shang mode. The present short melody, and its anonymous lyrics as well, resemble the melody and lyrics of early shang mode preludes; its lyrics in particular are almost the same as those of a shang modal prelude from 1525 (see chart).6 The melodies of these shang modal preludes are all somewhat different from that of Gu Qiu Feng as well as from each other. However, as is common with shang mode preludes that have lyrics, the lyrics here also begin by saying that because autumn has arrived, so have the wild geese. Similar lyrics can be found with similar melodies in at least six later handbooks.7

Qiu Feng Ci8 (Autumn Wind Lyrics) is also the name or alternate name of a third qin melody published later in three different forms and three different tunings, but with nearly identical autumn-related lyrics.

To sum up, there seem to have been three distinctily different melodies on the theme of autumn winds, but at least two of these three occurs with several variations. The three can be outlined as follows:

  1. The Qiu Feng Ci that is an alternate title for the Shang Yi (shang [modal] prelude) published in Xilutang Qintong. The lyrics of this melody are included below together with those of other shang modal preludes having lyrics about autumn winds.
  2. The Qiu Feng Ci that sets for qin a well-known poem attributed to Han emperor Wudi; it is preserved only in handbooks published in Japan. Although the lyrics have a similar theme and feeling as that of the shang modal preludes, the melody is completely different. The lyrics begin with white clouds flying instead of, as here, wild geese flying.9
  3. The versions of Autumn Wind Melody in handbooks dated 1709, 1840 and 1931.10 Each version has Autumn Wind lyrics by Li Bai in the first part, then after this there are anonymous lyrics also used in Xiang Fei Yuan.11 They clearly are all versions of the same melody, but each uses a different tuning, as follows:

    1. Qiu Feng Qu in Yifengyuan Qinpu (1709; standard tuning)
    2. Qiu Feng Ci in Huaiyin Shuwu Qinpu (1840; raised fifth string tuning)
    3. Qiu Feng Ci in Mei'an Qinpu (1931; lowered third string tuning).

    In addition, although the 1931 version is commonly said to have originated in the Mei'an School itself, its melodic connection to 1709 and 1840 is clear in spite of the different tunings.

The melodies and lyrics of these are all unrelated either to the present Gu Qiu Feng or to the full-length instrumental melody called simply Autumn Wind (Qiu Feng), which survives only in Xilutang Qintong, 1525; the only melodic connection between them and the other early autumn wind melodies seems to be that all the melodies are either said to be in shang mode or can be seen as having shang mode characteristics, even the popular "Meian" Qiu Feng Ci.12

Original preface


Gu Qiu Feng Music and lyrics: One section13 (timings follow my 錄音 mp3 [also on ])
- a largely syllabic setting, with lines of the poem irregular in length (5+4+7+9+3+7+5+6)

00.11 (my recording uses the closing harmonics also as a prelude)
秋 風 秋 風 清, 鴻 雁 來 也,
Qiu feng qiu feng qing, hong yan lai ye,
Autumn winds, autumn winds so clear, wild geese arrive,

今 朝 庭 皋 落 一 葉。
Jin chao ting gao luo yi ye.
now the courtyard announces it by the fall of one leaf.

想 人 生 能 有 幾 許 光 陰?
Xiang ren sheng neng you ji xu guang yin?
Think: a human life can have how many years?

誰 料 他, 古 往 今 來 興 亡 事。
Shei liao ta, gu wang jin lai, xing wang shi.
Who expects that? The past recedes, the present arrives,
        and still they flourish and perish, these affairs.

                                00.59 (harmonics begin)
今 已 成 春 夢。(泛起)嘆 人生 能 幾 何?
Jin yi cheng chun meng, tan ren sheng neng ji he?
Now already they have become dreams of spring.
        (Harmonics) One sighs: human life can have how much?

01.12: end (unless used as prelude to Knowing Autumn from a Single Leaf)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Gu Qiu Feng references
古秋風 3308.xxx; 25505.323 秋風 qiu feng has nothing apparently relevant. 25505.335 秋風辭 Qiu Feng Ci has lyrics only in the Japanese Qiu Feng Ci. The Zha Guide (14/--/283) lists this title only here.

There are further details under an unrelated melody with a similar theme, Knowing Autumn from a Single Leaf (Yi Ye Zhi Qiu).

2. Tuning and mode: 商調 shang mode?
Standard tuning can be considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 but here the relative tuning seems to be 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 . Taigu Yiyin itself does not specify mode, and this title occurs only here, so calling it a shang mode melody must depend on the music itself as well as the theme. Here, comparison with similar melodies on this theme strongly suggest such a shang mode grouping. For further information about shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi; for modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. The first autumn wind brings a single leaf (see also Yi Ye Zhi Qiu)
In this image a single leaf leaf represents the beginning of 秋風 autumn winds, as in the second line of the present lyrics; the leaf is said to come from the same tree that is used in qin construction: the 桐 tong or 梧桐 wutong (variously described or translated as parasol/pawlonia/sterculia platanifolia). This referral to a leaf in autumn is best known in the expression "A single leave tells of autumn" (一葉知秋 yi ye zhi qiu; 1.2815 says this originated in the Huainanzi passage that says, 見一葉落,而知歲之將暮 By seeing one leaf fall, you can know that the year will soon end (Major 16.133). A leaf in autumn is also mentioned at the beginning of the poem Jiu Bian, atttributed to Song Yu.

The image above, called "#3: Autumn Wind", was copied from an online source that has since then apparently been either taken down or moved: 桐一葉 in a collection called 故国の灯 by 吉田和乎(昭和五十四年十一月) at www1.linkclub.or.jp/~yosihide/)

4. Yuefu Shiji autumn wind lyrics
YFSJ has several such poems, including the one by Han Wudi (see lyrics below) but none has the Gu Qiu Feng lyrics found here. Its index includes the following:

秋風辭 Qiu Feng Ci (1; a Miscellaneous Ballad (p.1180) with lyrics attributed to Han Wudi; used in Japan)
秋風     Qiu Feng (4: one [p. 271] in the Drum and Wind Section and three [pp. 876-7] in the Qin Section)
秋風引 Qiu Feng Yin (1: p. 877, Qin Section)
商引     Shang Yin (2: p. 381; the first mentions autumn, wind and 琴瑟 qin se)
商音     Shang Yin (2: pp. 53 and 72 [both Category 1]; the first mentions autumn and later wind; the second mentions autumn)
商歌     Shang Ge (2; Miscellaneous Ballads [p.1167]; this Shang refers to the kingdom)
商調曲 Shang Diao Qu (4: pp. 212-3 [Folio 15]; longer poems but no autumn references)

5. Autumn Wind Ode (秋風辭 Qiu Feng Ci)
Here 辭ci is translated somewhat arbitrarily as "ode" to distinguish it from 詞 ci, translated equally arbitrarily as "lyrics"; there is little difference in actual meaning between the two "ci>".

6. Tracing various qin melodies on the autumn wind theme
In addition to the information on this shang mode chart, see the following melodies, from Zha Fuxi's Guide:

Gu Qiu Feng: Guide 14/--/283 (only here; see lyrics)
Qiu Feng Ci (辭):     34/260/503 (in Japan [lyrics as in YFSJ Qiu Feng Ci, p.1180] and 1840 [no!])
Qiu Feng Ci (詞):     34/260/503 ("only 1931" [#2], but related version also in 1840)
Qiu Feng:                 18/178/-- (only in 1525; instrumental, but see Zhang Han lyrics)
Shang Yi:                  1/6/7 (lyrics related; see next footnote)
Shang Diao:             1/--/5 (lyrics almost identical to those of the second Shang Yi of 1585)
Shenpin Shang Yi:    4/--/-- (no lyrics; later lyrics, such as <1491, do not fit)

See also next. Regarding the above, Zha Guide 秋風辭 Qiu Feng Ci (p.34) says this is also in 1840, where it is "called 北風詞 Bei Feng Ci", but I can find no such piece. Instead 1840 has a 秋風詞 Qiu Feng Ci with lyrics and music clearly related to the later version (see 1931) of that title, though using a different tuning.

7. Lyrics for various shang modal preludes
These are all quite similar to the ones here in the 1511 Gu Qiu Feng (see Chinese, translated above), which are the earliest to have been paired to tablature. By applying similar variations in these lyrics it would be quite easy to use the normal pairing method of that time to pair them with almost any of the shang modal preludes. (In contrast, those of Qiu Feng Ci, though perhaps expressing similar sentiments, are very different and could not easily be so adapted.)

  1. Shang Yi (Meaning of Shang), #25 in Xilutang Qintong (1525), subtitled 秋風辭 Qiufeng Ci (almost identical to here but different from later):


    Translated here.

  2. Shang Yi, #27 in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585)


    A second Shang Yi, #40 in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585) has quite different lyrics, though still mentioning autumn.

  3. Kaizhi Lushang Yi, #11 in Wenhuitang Qinpu (1596).
    See also under Kaizhi; Zha (27/--/--) does not mention the lyrics.


  4. Shang Yi in Luqi Xinsheng (1597; differences in 1611 noted)

    秋風秋風秋風生,鴻雁來。   (鴻雁來 -> 鴻雁來賓)
    誰想往古與來今,將軍鐵馬總成空。   (總成空 -> 總成塵)
    興亡多少英雄也,成感忍。   (成感忍 -> 成可矜)

  5. Shang Yi Kao in Yang Lun Taigu Yiyin (1589)


  6. Gu Shang Yi in Lexian Qinpu (1623)


    Shang Diao (Shang Mode), in Qinxue Zhengsheng has almost identical lyrics to the second Shang Yi of 1585.

8. Autumn Wind Lyrics (秋風辭、詞 Qiu Feng Ci)
As 秋風辭 Zha Guide indexes it 34/260/503, while as 秋風詞 it is 43/--/--. ZWDCD references are:
      25505.235 秋風辭 Qiu Feng Ci: 樂府,雜歌謠辭之名,漢武帝作.
      25505.xxx 秋風詞 Qiu Feng Ci.
See further on this and the melodies of this title in the following footnotes.

9. Autumn Wind Ode by Han Emperor Wu (漢武帝秋風辭 Han Wudi Qiufeng Ci, 1676)
Further commentary with a linked recording have been moved here.

10. Later versions: three tunings, but also shang mode?
More details on these three tunings are as follows:

  1. The 1709 Qiu Feng Qu (first half of a melody called Changchang Ci) uses standard tuning. With the relative tuning 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 the main tonal center is 1, secondarily 5, with many phrases ending on 2 going down to 1.
  2. The 1840 Qiufeng Ci is in raised fifth string tuning, formerly called ruibin. In the Ming dynasty the strings of ruibin melodies were generally considered as tuned to the relative pitches 2 3 5 6 1 2 3, with 2 (re, i.e., shang) as the main tonal center. By this understanding most phrases of the 1840 Qiu Feng Ci end on the note shang, so it, too, is a shang mode melody. However, the handbook itself seems to name the third to seventh open strings as 1 2 3 4 5 (gong shang jue zhi yu): I do not understand that logic. Qiu Feng Ci, the first melody in the handbook and the only one with lyrics, seems also to be the only one which names some of the notes.
  3. The 1931 Qiu Feng Ci uses lowered third tuning, which to my knowledge has never been considered as including shang mode melodies. However, the third string itself is only played once (position 8.5, which could just as easily been 9.0 with standard tuning) and the melody is virtually identical to 1709, with many phrases ending on shang leading down to do.

These three versions are further discussed on a separate page.

11. Xiang Fei Yuan (湘妃怨)
Starting in the lyrics here.

12. Autumn Wind Melody and Autumn Wind Lyrics (秋風曲 Qiu Feng Qu and 秋風詞 Qiu Feng Ci)
(Not 秋風辭). Further commentary and linked recordings are here.

13. Original lyrics
The original 1511 古秋風 Gu Qiu Feng lyrics without translation are as follows:


See translation and compare lyrics of 1525.

Return to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.