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12. Floating Wine-Cups
- Gong mode, standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
流觴 1
Liu Shang
Pavilion in the Forbidden City for floating wine-cups 3 
The tablature for Liu Shang, a qin melody title found only in Xilutang Qintong (1525),
4 actually conveys a version of the melody elsewhere entitled Jiu Kuang; related melodies occur in a total of eight handbooks from Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425) to Taiyin Xisheng (1625). The fact that this second occurrence did not appear until 1525 supports the opinion that it was not actively played when published in 1425.5 As usual the 1585 version with lyrics is very different musically. The others seem more closely related, though all have different endings. Those with section titles name their last section "Bend over and exhale",6 but none of these is musically related to the Shen Qi Mi Pu coda, "The sound of the immortal exhaling his wine."

The commentary on this version of the melody connects it with the spring ceremony called a Xiuxi that took place at the Lanting (Orchid Pavilion7) near Shaoxing,8 near the beginning of "muchun": the 3rd xu (10 day period) of 3rd lunar month of that year (April or May of the year 353 C.E), as scholars relaxed along a stream with laden wine-cups floating by, each were each expected to compose an appropriate poem; if anyone failed to do so the "penalty" was that he had to drink a rather large quantity of wine. More details about this are given with the 3rd melody in this handbook, Xiuxi Yin.

This Orchid Pavilion xiuxi was particularly famous, immortalized by the famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi through his calligraphy for his preface to poems written at the gathering (see rubbing; Lin He Xiuxi, a setting of the preface for qin, was published in 1664, but it is not clear that it was ever intended for singing). Xiuxi Yin sounds very appropriate as a prelude to Liu Shang, but no handbook makes this connection. Xilutang Qintong connects Xiuxi Yin with the melody Yang Chun.

The music of Liu Shang is quite evocative; passages where the melody glides up and down, like wine-cups floating in a stream, alternate with interludes where the music seems to swirl around, like wine-cups bobbing in front of an attentive scholar.

The explanation of Jiu Kuang in Shen Qi Mi Pu connects it with Ruan Ji (210-263),9 a famous drinker and one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. With over 15 recordings, today Jiu Kuang is one of the most commonly played qin pieces. Most of them use the triple rhythms devised by Yao Bingyan in his 1950s reconstruction, though perhaps making the tempo irregular, so as to represent the idea of drunkenness. To explain his use of triple rhythms Yao wrote that traditional poetry has them, that the Tang qin master Chen Zhuo describes music that can be played triple rhythm,10 and that this music sounds good in triple rhythm. Yao thus felt that this was a correct interpretation.

However, triple rhythms are not found elsewhere in Chinese music, and it should be noted that it would be difficult to adapt Liu Shang, or any of the other versions of Jiu Kuang, to triple rhythms. The structures are all similar. Liu Shang opens with the same basic melody as Jiu Kuang, but this then alternates with a somewhat different interlude, and it adds two new sections at the end.

Ding Chengyun has done his own reconstruction of Liu Shang; at times it has been available on the internet.11 As for other versions of Jiu Kuang, I am not aware of any others having been published..

Original afterword12

"During the Yonghe period (345-357) all the sages had a xiuxi at the Orchid Pavilion. It was mellow and sophisticated pleasure, a feast such as might occur once in a thousand years. Later people commemorated it with this piece. With the high flavor of the region along the north bank of the (Yangzi) River, one can broadly imagine it."

Music of Liu Shang13
Eight sections (untitled); timings follow my recording 聽錄音

00.00   1.
00.31   2.
00.53   3.
01.20   4.
01.46   5.
02.26   6.
02.56   7.
03.16   8.
03.45       Coda
04.03       end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Liu Shang references
17762.316 流觴 Liu Shang describes the custom associated with the spring ceremoney called a 修禊 Xiuxi, but it has nothing about music. "觴 shang" is also sometimes translated as "goblet", but these floating shang are generally depicted more like cups, not as vessels with stems.

Further references are given in footnotes under Xiuxi Yin and Lin He Xiuxi.

2. Gong mode (宮調 Gong diao)
See Shenpin Gong Yi

3. Photo taken in Beijing, May 2008.

4. Zha Guide gives it a separate entry instead of correctly grouping it with Jiu Kuang.

5. Actively played?
It is possible that versions of this melody existed within the oral tradition between 1425 and 1525, including sung versions such as did not get published until 1585 and 1589. However, the rather archaic nature of the tablature for 1425 suggests these would likely have been, as in 1525, attempts to revive a long-lost old melody or song.

6. Bend over and exhale (低低吐酒 didi tu jiu)
For didi 539.18 says low sound. Tu (吐) is often translated as "retch", but TKW says it is more refined than ou (嘔). In this context tu might thus suggest a Daoist breathing technique for clearing the head.

7. Orchid Pavilion (蘭亭 Lan Ting)
David Knechtges in "Jingu and Lanting: Two (or Three?) Jin Dynasty Gardens," Studies in Chinese Language and Culture: Festschrift in Honor of Christoph Harbsmeier on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday (Oslo: Hermes Academic Publishing, 2006), 399-403, argues that the Lan of "Lanting" was the name of the nearby stream, and the ting was actually a communal building, not necessarily a pavilion.

As for further popular accounts, there is an opera called Lanting Meeting (蘭亭輝 Lanting Hui, see LXS p.187) which tells the story of the famous floating wine-cup episode. As for orchids themselves, see Guqin and Orchids.

8. Shaoxing is about 100 miles southeast of Hangzhou.

9. Ruan Ji
42492.94 Ruan Ji (阮籍): Good at qin and intoning, but especially at drinking.

10. Yao Bingyan on triple rhythms
The article was in Yinyue Yishu, 1981/5). For the Chen Zhuo reference see Qinshu Daquan (1590), Folio 8 (QQJC V/171). Presumably this is the first line on the bottom half of the page, where it writes, "有三聲急作 there three sounds played quickly" and "有三聲慢作 there are three sounds played slowly."

11. Reconstruction of 流觴 Liu Shang by 丁承運 Ding Chengyun
Prof. Ding uses mostly double rhythms. Many of his note values are quite different from mine, but when I first heard him play his version some years ago I was struck by how familiar it sounded. When I mentioned this to Ding he said that he had actually heard mine when I played it at a CHIME conference in Europe a few years earlier. He said it inspired him to do his own (which is what I most like to hear!). In the end he agreed with most of my interpretations of the notes, but disagreed on one note in particular:

Prof. Ding thinks the "F" played on the third string (based on considering the open third string as do = "C") in the repeated last phrase of the first section (also at the end of section 5) should be "A" played on the fifth string (i.e., he thinks the 三 for third string is a mistake: it should be a 五; he also interprets the 雙撞 [written 双立] in a different but equally valid way). My interpretation depends on the mistake being in the following slide: I interpreted "弓上八九" ("G#") as "弓上九" ("G"); his interpretation is certainly just as valid - more valid if you wish to adhere more to the standard Chinese pentatonic scale.

Although many of the rhythms are quite different, the two can instantly be identified as the same piece. I like very much his version and hope he teaches it to his student. (I do not yet know whether at the Xilutang Qintong conference at Huangshan in December 2013 anyone came up with a new interpretation of this piece.)

12. 流觴,西麓堂琴統解題 (English)

13. Music of 流觴 Liu Shang
See further comment about the Ding Chengyun interpretation above.

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