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24. Eighteen Scholars Ascend Yingzhou
  - shang mode2 (5 6 1 2 3 5 6 , but played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 )
十八學士登瀛州 1
Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou
18 Cranes represent 18 Scholars 3        
After Li Yuan established the Tang dynasty (see chart) he enfeoffed his son Li Shimin as Prince of Qin and also appointed him Chief Guardian of the Emperor. In this capacity (i.e., before Li Yuan abdicated, allowing his son to become the Tang dynasty Taizong emperor in 626), in order to promote good government after the unrest accompanying the change of dynasty, Li Shimin brought together 18 scholars to advise the government. He appointed Du Ruhui (Wiki) to be first among them.

During the reign of the emperor Tang Xuanzong (r. 713 - 756) this group was formally organized as the Hanlin Academy (Wiki). Joining the academy became known as called "ascending Yingzhou".

Depictions of 18 scholars in an elegant gathering came to be a motif in Chinese painting (sometimes in combination with the Four Arts).5 And because in classical Chinese pronunciation the word for crane (in Mandarin "ho") is pronounced the same as the word for study (xue), in art there is also the motif of 18 cranes, to represent the 18 scholars.6

Zha Fuxi's Guide groups the present melody together with the tablature for three other melodies, as follows:7

  1. Xilutang Qintong (1525)
  2. Faming Qinpu (1530)
  3. Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539)
  4. Wenhuitang Qinpu (1596)

The version played here, dated 1530, is actually the second surviving one8 but it is the only one with the complete title, Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou; the others all simply title it Yingzhou, a fabled island of immortals in the Eastern Sea.9 All the pieces seem stylistically related, with the melodies from 1530 and 1539 being clearly related throughout (in spite of the different lyrics) but those from 1525 and 1596 perhaps related to each other but quite separate from the other two. Three of them (all except 1525) have lyrics, but the three sets of lyrics are all quite different from each other. Only 1525 has any commentary, an afterword that says nothing about the origins of either the lyrics or the melody itself.10

The style and content of this melody is quite strikingly similar to another one from this period, Great Ming United (in 1539).

Original preface


Music and lyrics11
Five sections (should be six?), untitled; the lyrics and music are paired almost one note per syllable
(timings follow my recording 聽錄音, tentative because played too fast to sing the lyrics, and with extraneous sounds):

1.   (00.00)
Heaven protects the glorious Tang dynasty, greatness on our emperor.
He honors scholarly study, searching out superior talent.
With ceremony he takes 18 scholars into the Hanlin academy.

2.   (00.16)
Each one is a literary giant, exceedingly intelligent,
Going to the (White) Goose Pavilion (in Xian) and having their names inscribed (as jinshi)
Sometimes feted at the Red Stone Forest (in Kaifeng), positioned alongside of dukes and nobles.
Their poetry.... (translation incomplete)

2.A.   (00.37)

3.   (01.17)

4.   (01.38; melody begins with same melody as #2)

5.   (02.18)

Harmonic coda   (03.04)

Melody ends   (03.17)

In 1539 the first note of Section 2 is actually the last note of Section 1; likewise, the first note of 1530 Section 4 (should be 5) has become the last note of Section 4. My musical interpretation of this is that each of these two notes should be held long enough that they are naturally heard as transition notes not really belonging to either section.12

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Eighteen Scholars Ascend Yingzhou (十八學士登瀛州 Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou)
None of the dictionary references for this mentions a melody.

2741.192 (1) 十八學士 Shiba Xueshi mentions academic bureau of Tang Taizong (r.627-650);
2741.192 (2) names 18 people honored by Tang emperor Xuanzong (r.713-756)
23180.148 登瀛州 deng Yingzhou (ascending Yingzhou) mentions joining the imperial academy after Tang Taizong
19047.6 瀛州 Yingzhou says it was traditionally considered an island of immortals in the East Sea (
29425.13 翰林 Hanlin (not 漢林 Hanlin) and .21 翰林院 seem not to specify when this became an official term.

Perhaps a word should be of the number 18 itself, if only because of the number of qin melodies that have 18 sections. From the Ming dynasty these include,

Da Hujia
Li Sao
Yu Ge (raised fifth string tuning)
Yu Ge (standard tuning)
Dongtian Chun Xiao and
Mu Ge.

In addition the central section ("main sound") of Guangling San has 18 sections. Also, some pieces had 18 sections in certain forms, such as Xishan Qiu Yue, while others expanded into 18 sections for their modern forms, such as Xiao Xiang Shui Yun.

The reason for this is unclear. 2741.162 十八 shiba says of "18" only that it is a number or age. It gives two early references. The first says, "詩,小大雅譜:大雅十八篇,小雅十六篇,為正經 Small and Large Elegant Handbook (says), (When) Da Ya has 18 sections and Xiao Ya has 16 sections this is the correct classic." The second is to a poem by Bai Juyi.

From 2741.163-185 there are 23 entries beginning "十八..." but none stands out as helping to explain why it was relatively common for longer qin melodies to have 18 sections. Perhaps for an answer one might try to find out why the emperor is said to have invited precisely 18 scholars.

2. Shang mode (商調 shangdiao)
For further information on this mode see Shenpin Shang Yi

3. Image: 18 Cranes/Scholars
The inage above shows four sides of a ceramic pen or brush holder from Jingdezhen; the title is on the side shown here upper left: 十八學仕 18 Scholars. The ceramic piece shown below is from the same source. In Cantonese (the pronunciation of which is said to be closer to that of early Chinese than modern Chinese is) both "學 study" and "鶴 crane" are pronounced "hok"; in this context cranes can be called 鶴士 Mr. Cranes.

5. Artistic representation of the four arts
For some good commentary on this in English see pp. 43-53 of Scarlett Jang, Representations of Exemplary Scholar-Officials, Past and Present, in Liu and Ching (ed), Arts of the Sung and Yüan; Princeton, The Art Museum, 1999.

6. Cranes as Scholars
In contrast to the 18 Cranes at top and discussed here, the ceramic brush holder at right (also from Jingdezhen) has six cranes (2+4) on its four sides. Here the title is 六公同(套?) Six Worthies Form a Group: here 4 + 2 cranes stand for the 18. The text on the two of the other sides is not yet translated. 18 cranes as scholars is discussed above.

7. Tracing Shiba Xueshi (see Zha Guide 15/157/341)
Some further detail on the four versions of this melody is as follows:

  1. Xilutang Qintong (1525; III/122):

  2. Faming Qinpu (1530; I/393)

  3. Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539; II/117)

  4. Wenhuitang Qinpu (1596; VI/212)

I have not yet examined all four versions in great detail.

8. Second version
Normally I first learn the earliest version of any melody I reconstruct, but when I worked on this piece the general assumption was that Xilutang Qintong has been published in 1549. It was only later that I discovered that it was actually published in 1525.

9. Yingzhou 瀛州
19047.6 瀛州 Yingzhou, after saying it was traditionally considered an island of immortals in the East Sea, says to see further under 岱輿 Daiyu, then quotes 史記,秦始皇紀 the entry on Qin Shihuang in Shi Ji as saying it was one of three such islands, the other two being 蓬萊 Penglai and 方丈 Fangzhang. 8194.27 岱輿 Daiyu says it is 渤海東五仙山之一 one of the five mountains of immortals in the Bohai Sea, putting it just off the northeast coast of Shandong province (presumably around 嘗到 Changdao), but now some people claim that 岱輿 Daiyu actually referred to 釣魚台 Diaoyutai (Wiki: Senkaku Islands), a disputed island chain between Taiwan and Okinawa. Of these islands Penglai in particular is sometimes associated with the Eight Immortals (listed here, where they are distinguished from the Eight Dukes).

10. 1525 commentary
This brief afterword is as follows:

(Translation incomplete, but it seems to suggest that only scholars who like silkworms have cast off the dregs can arrive at this point.)

There is nothing about the origins of the melody or anything that shows its connection (other than the title) with the other versions discussed here.

11. Chinese lyrics (聽錄音-未唱的)
The lyrics in Chinese are as follows. (A gap between commas indicates a repeated musical phrase; there is no indication whether the lyrics of that phrase should also be repeated. // means the whole line is repeated.)

1.   (00.00)

2.   (00.16)

(2.a.)   (00.37)

3.   (01.17)

4.; (01.38)

5.   (02.18)

泛音   (03.04)
曲終   (03.17)

12. Pairing words and music
The word-for-stroke pairing method means that the what is the last word sung in the two sections of the 1530 version become the first word sung in the ensuing sections of the 1539 version. In general, the pairing method and the variety of versions leave it unclear as to whether this piece is using a melody intended actually to be sung, at least as a qin song with these lyrics.

Return to the top, to the Faming Qinpu intro, or to the Guqin ToC