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28. Doorbar Song
- shang mode: standard tuning 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
- Also called Shang Ge3 (Sad melody, or Shang mode melody)
A re-enactment from Han opera 4
The lyrics of this qin song are said to be those sung by the forgotten wife5 of prime minister Baili Xi6 in order to remind him of the vows they made when they first separated: they were so poor that they had to burn the doorbar in order to cook their parting dinner. In the qin repertoire this melody survives only from Xilutang Qintong (1525). However, stories of a man separated from his wife when he becomes successful are popular in Chinese opera, and in the Ming dynasty chuanqi (miracle tale) repertoire there were at least two operas, called Doorbar Tale,7 that told the story of Baili Xi and his wife. And as the illustration at right shows, the story has also survived into opera repertoires of today.
Baili Xi was a famous prime minister in the state of Qin during the 7th c. BCE. The qin melody section of Yuefu Shi Ji has three one-stanza poems attributed to his wife, all concerning his neglect of her.8 The Yue Fu preface is almost the same as the one here, adding that the source of the story is Fengsu Tong.9 The title is simply Three Qin Songs. The first of the three poems has lyrics almost identical to the lyrics of the present piece, which are:10
In Yanyi Ge these lyrics are repeated six times, comprising the first half of each of the six sections of the melody; the second half of each is purely instrumental. This structure is quite uncommon: the only other example of which I am aware is also in Xilutang Qintong, #94 Moufu Kuang Jun. 11
The biography of Baili Xi's wife in Qin Shi (Qin History), quotes the second poem, which is very similar to the first; the third is slightly longer.12 Here Baili Xi is leaving his wife to find success. They were so poor that in order to cook their parting meal they had to burn the doorpost for fuel. As they did so he promised they would eventually be together again. However, by the time he had become successful he had forgotten her. She was then so impoverished that she travelled to Qin and became a washerwoman. Finding her husband there, she made her way to the court, sang this song, and thus was eventually reconciled with him.
Baili Xi's wife is not mentioned in pre-Han sources or the Shi Ji,13 according to which Baili Xi was born of a poor family in the state of Yu. He traveled around offering his services to many rulers but was unsuccessful, finally returning to serve his home state. However, the Duke of Yu did not follow Baili Xi's advice and Yu was destroyed by Jin. Baili Xi was taken to Jin as a captive, but he escaped and tried to get to Qin. However, he was captured in Chu. Duke Mu of Qin (reigned 659-621)14 offered five ramskins as ransom for Baili Xi, fearing that if he offered more the people of Chu would realize how valuable Baili Xi was. The ruse was successful and Baili Xi brought great success to Qin through his policies as Prime Minister. Nicknamed the Ramskin Grandee,15 he was also known as a man of the people, who did not put on airs, and so was greatly mourned when he died.
Baili Xi had been selected, but the Duke of Yu did not use him, sending him to Qin. Duke Mu of Qin raised him up to be minister. Because of a banquest music was presented. A woman responsible for the wash said she understood music, and called (for permission to) enter the hall, where she took out a qin and sang. The meaning of the lyrics was grievous and pitiful. When asked, she said she was his legal wife, and they returned to being husband and wife. This melody was created later in accordance with the story.
Six sections, untitled. Each begins with the lyrics above (see original); see transcription: timings follow my recording 聽錄音.
01.17 3. (harmonics)
03.30 harmonic coda (no lyrics)
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)
Doorbar Song ( 扊扅歌 Yan Yi Ge
12030.4 yanyi ge says "qin melody" and relates a Fengsu Tong story; 23192.190 百里奚 Baili Xi adds nothing new; 262.218 五羊 wuyang says this is Baili Xi; 262.631 五羖大夫 Wugu Daifu (Five Ramskin Grandee) says this is also a name for Baili Xi (but see below).
Around the time Yan Yi Ge was included here in the qin handbook Xilutang Qintong the story was popularized also in local Chinese opera
(example) as well as in stories such as 歌扊扅百里認妻 獲陳寶穆公證夢, the 26th of the 60 stories recounted by 馮夢龍
Feng Menglong (1574-1645) in his Romance of the Eastern Zhou Kingdoms (東周列國志 Dong Zhou Lie Guo Zhi) .
12030.1 扊扅 (the character yi is not in the normal set of GB5 characters - I got it from the extended ITABC set) says that it can also be written 剡移 (2066.15). The definition of yan yi is 牧所以止扉也 something used by a shepherd to close his door. It also says 門閂 men shuan, a bar for keeping a door closed.
Shang Ge 商歌
3834.149 商歌 says "sad song", but connects it only to a 飯牛歌 Fan Niu Ge by 晉甯戚 Ning Qi of Jin (or Wei?), who was singing sadly by his cart when 齊桓公 Duke Huan of Qi heard then hired him.
Illustration from the Han opera 百里奚認妻 Baili Xi Recognizes his Wife
The scene above, which actually shows the wife playing a guzheng, comes from a page on the website of the Guangdong Han Opera Academy (廣東漢劇院), in 梅州 Meizhou, about 200 km. east of Guangzhou. The website explains that Han Opera, also called Opera from Beyond the River (外江劇 Waijiang Ju), is native to Hubei. After it was imported into Guangdong province the form gradually changed, so now the Han Opera practiced in Guangdong has its own name, Guangdong Han Opera.
Wife of Baili Xi (百里奚妻 Baili Xi Qi
Her biography is Entry 53 (Folio II) in Qin History, a collection of biographies by (Song) Zhu Changwen.
Baili Xi 百里奚
See above and further comment below.
Doorbar Tale (扊扅記 Yanyi Ji)
戲曲辭典 Xiqu Cidian by 王沛 Wang Pei, pp. 458, 519 and 353, discusses 傳奇 chuan ji (operas known as "miracle tales") called Yanyi Ji composed by 端鏊 Duan Ao, active during the Wanli period (1573-1620), and 張鳳冀 Zhang Fengji (1528-1614). Reference is made to the line "自掩柴門上扊扅" in 舍北行飯 Strolling North of my Cottage after Eating, one of several poems of this title by 陸遊 Lu You (1125 - 1210).
"Three Qin Songs" from Yuefu Shiji
The complete entry in the Chinese edition, pp.880-1, is as follows:
Penetrating Popular Ways; attributed to 應劭 Ying Shao, ca. 200 CE.
Original Chinese lyrics
It is also not common to have a melody that repeats verses without an instrumental interlude. One example is the 1511 setting of Yang Guan Qu, which simply sets the famous Wang Wei lyrics to music 13 times.
37 characters as opposed to 22.
See Chapter 5. Translated by W. H. Nienhauser, Vol. I, p.94ff
秦穆公 Qin Mu Gong
Duke Mu of Qin is also mentioned in connection with the melody Fenghuang Taishang Yi Chui Xiao. There is a biography of his wife in Lienü Zhuan.
Ramskin Grandee (五羖大夫 Wugu Daifu)
The Five Ramskin Grandee is commonly said to be Baili Xi. For an argument that this in fact referred 孟明視 Meng Mingshi, see Melvin Thatcher, The Case of the Five Sheepskins Grandee, in Journal of the American Oriental Society, 108 (1988), pp.27-49. Thatcher agrees that Baili may be a place name, but is not convinced by an argument that Xi means "slave".
Original Chinese text
Not yet online.
Return to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.