T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
XLTQT   ToC   /   Prelude: Mengji Yin   /   Shrine to Shun   /   Silk Zither Dreams Listen to my recording 聽錄音   /   首頁
54. Cangwu Lament
- Jiao mode:2 standard tuning  5 6 1 2 3 5 6
蒼梧怨 1
Cangwu Yuan
A lady contemplates Cangwu, from Kuian Qinpu 3        
     "Though Emperor Shun said, 'Through non-action one governs,'
       he died in Cangwu
." The Analects 4

Although this melody is ostensibly a lament by two wives over the death of their husband, Shun, it is more generally a lament by a country about their ruler dying as he toiled away for them in remote Cangwu (also known as Jiu Yi or Jiuyi Shan), a southern wilderness area now part of Hunan, near the Guangdong border.5

The title of the prelude, Mengji Yin, seems to allude to a poem from the Book of Songs about an absent lover;6 this title and melody survives only here. Another title, Cangwu Yin,7 means Cangwu Prelude. Surviving in five handbooks from 1596 to 1692, it sounds as though it should be a prelude to Cangwu Yuan; instead, except for the first occurrence, it is an alternate version of Cangwu Yuan.

As for Cangwu Yuan itself, it can be found in at least 16 surviving handbooks. Adding the four related Cangwu Yin makes 20 publications of this melody from 1525 through 1876, with 14 of them published before 1700. A preliminary examination suggests quite a few variations until 1689, after which it had a much more stable form.8

On the other hand, if the Xilutang Qintong afterword (see below) is correct, in 1525 the melody was already very old. The "Old man Zixia" mentioned there must be Yang Zuan, a famous collector of qin melodies and the center of a group of famous qin players in Hangzhou during the 13th century. Yang Zuan is said to have collected old tablature into a handbook called Zixiadong Qinpu (Handbook of the Rosy Haze Grotto).

According to the prefaces, Cangwu Yuan concerns two daughters of Emperor Yao, E Huang and Nü Ying,9 lamenting the death of their husband, Shun (2317?-2208? BCE), after he passed away in Cangwu. Cangwu is an old name for a mountainous region of southern Hunan province, near the border with Guangdong. Here, at a town called Jiuyi, there is a temple commemorating Shun.10

This melody thus relates the same story as does another qin melody, Xiang Fei Yuan.11 The latter, a song more specifically in the voice of Shun's two widows, survives in 13 handbooks and is still played today, but the two pieces are musically unrelated. This story is also the subject of many poems.12

According to Annal 1 of Shi Ji,13 Shun grew up at Guirui in what is today Shanxi province.14 Having heard that through filial actions Shun was able to keep harmony in his family, Yao gave two of his daughters to Shun in marriage, observing how well he treated them. When Shun was 50 years old Emperor Yao made him head of state, naming him his successor. When Shun was 58 Yao died, and three years later Shun became emperor. When he was 100 he traveled south on an inspection tour, dying while in the wilderness of Cangwu. He was buried across the river at Jiuyi.

At Jun Shan island15 near Yueyang, a city in Hunan province on the eastern shore of Dongting lake, there is a temple in honor of E Huang and Nü Ying, including their supposed grave. They are said to have cried so hard at Shun's death that their tears speckled the bamboo near his grave. Speckled bamboo is native only to an area near Yueyang in northern Hunan.16

The distance from Jiuyi to Yueyang is over 500 km. In addition, Yueyang is on the northeast side of Dongting lake, while the Xiang river flows into the southern side. I am not sure how this issue is resolved in the related stories.17

More stories about Yao's two daughters are outlined below. Both the elder, O Huang, and the younger, Nü Ying, are associated with the Xiang River goddesses mentioned in several Chu Ci poems.18 One tradition says that the third of the Nine Songs is addressed to the older, the fourth to the younger.

Original preface19

When Emperor Yu (Shun) made a tour of the south, the two daughters of Yao followed him. When (Shun) died in the wilds of Cangwu he was straightaway buried. The two daughters (of Yao) then leaned against bamboo and cried; the water from their tears made stripes (on the bamboo). Later someone made this melody. Old Man Zixia (Yang Zuan) of the Song dynasty revised and corrected it. It is really a celestial air.

Twelve sections;
20 timings follow my recording 聽錄音
      - played together with Jiao Yi and Mengji Yin

00.00   1. Phoenix carriage pursuit 21
00.51   2. Tearing at one's hair while wailing and weeping 22
01.22   3. Sad gibbering of bereft gibbons 23
01.59   4. A solitary snow-goose is alarmed
02.21   5. Profound separation
03.02   6. Sighs arise whether awake or asleep
03.45   7. Cherishing thoughts of Guirui
04.18   8. In the wild seeing Chonghua (Shun)
04.58   9. Tears cleanse bamboo along the Xiang river
05.22  10. Spirits freeze on the mountaintops of Chu
06.01  11. The mists come together over the Jiuyi mountains (of Hunan)
06.49  12. Deep clouds over the Seven Marshes (i.e., Chu24)
07.28         harmonics
07.42         end

(The levels on the recording are unbalanced to the left and too low.)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Cangwu Yuan 蒼梧怨 (QQJC III/127)
Cangwu literally suggests the dense foliage of wu trees. For more on wu trees see wutong, a wood commonly used for making qin tops. However, dictionaries seem to refer to Cangwu mainly as a geographical term (see Cangwu below). The 1525 preface also clearly uses "Cangwu" as a place name, though see the commentary with the Kuian Qinpu illustration. (Return)

2. Jiao Mode (角調 Jiao Diao)
In jiao mode the primary note is equivalent to the open third string, called jiao. In addition the secondary tonal center is the note jiao (mi, 3). Like Xiang Fei Yuan (shang mode), Cangwu Yuan is one of the few Chu theme melodies to use standard tuning. For more on jiao mode see Shenpin Jiao Yi of 1425; for mode in general see Modality in early Ming qin tablature. Both this modal prelude and #54 Mengji Yin (see below) seem to be directly connected to Cangwu Yuan itself. In fact, these three (#53-55) seem to be a set.

Defining Jiao Mode (角意 Jiao Yi)
#53, Jiao Yi itself, as a modal prelude, does not have its own commentary; its melody is clearly related to that of Shenpin Jiao Yi of 1425 (q.v.).

Music of Jiao Yi
One Section;
timing follows my recording 聽錄音

00.00     Begin
00.40     harmonics
00.58     end

Precedes Mengji Yin

Compare other jiao modal preludes.

3. A lady contemplates Cangwu; illustration for Cangwu Yuan from Kuian Qinpu (QQJC XI/31, by Xu Dan)
The illustration by 徐澹 Xu Dan (or Tan; Bio/xxx; commentary by Wu Zhao mentions his name but gives no further information) shows someone gazing into the distance; a servant stands nearby, holding a qin. Almost invariably in such illustrations the people are a male scholar and his 琴僮 "qin boy". However, here the person in the scholar's position is a woman, perhaps alluding to the story of the wives of Shun. The inscription in the upper right corner (see closeup below), as reprinted in QQJC, is not very clear. It seems to say,

Leaning under the dense foliage of a wu tree, wanting to make enquiries to heaven. The moon is sinking in the west, fewer are the flocks of geese, dew dampens the hibiscuses, causing grief and resentment. Regret that the evening is so long. The breeze returns as before (?). Xu Dan of old Suzhou also added comment (to his illustration)."

The use of cangwu (for more on which see the footnote above) to refer to "the dense foliage of a wu tree", as with the depiction of a single female qin player, perhaps indirectly alludes to the story of Nü Ying and E Huang, but the commentary with the illustration seems to make no direct reference to the story. (Return)

4. "If there was anyone who ever ruled through non-action it was Shun 無為而治者其舜也與"
This quote, from Lun Yu, 15/5, is the source of the quote above, which is from "The 'Final' Valedictory Edict" of the Kangxi emperor as found in Jonathan Spence, Emperor of China; New York, Vintage Books, 1988; p. 171.

5. Cangwu 蒼梧 (and the Shun Memorial there)
32425.112 蒼梧 says Cangwu is: 1. a district in Guangxi; 2. a commandery in Guangxi; 3. a mountain in a. Jiangsu and b. Hunan (also called 九疑 Jiu Yi); 4. a road in Guangxi. Only 3.b. is identified with Shun. (9/507 does not have cangwu.) There are some details here in connection with information about a memorial to Shun recently constructed in these mountains (see also the Shun Temple mentioned below). This seems to be the area closest to Hong Kong with a connection to the title of an old qin melody.

6. 蒙棘引 Mengji Yin (Covered Brambles Prelude)
#54, Mengji Yin (32287.xxx; Guide 19/--/-- : only here), as a prelude to Cangwu Yuan, does not have its own commentary and the commentary here on Cangwu Yuan does not mention thornbushes. Thus, the connection made here between Cangwu Yuan and a line from the Book of Songs must be considered as speculation. However, 32287.120 蒙棘 Mengji gives only one brief reference, to the first line of verse 2 (of 4) of 葛生 Ge Sheng (The Cloth-Plant Grew), #124 in the Book of Songs; it is a poem about an absent lover. Since Cangwu Yuan is a lament by two concubines about the absence of their lover, Shun, this seems a logical connection. Note, however, that in verse 1 the cloth-plant covered not 蒙棘 mengji but 蒙楚 mengchu (32287.xxx); this makes the use of mengji more puzzling. (Translation is by Arthur Waley.)

葛生蒙楚, The cloth-plant grew till it covered the thorn-bush;
蘞蔓于野。 The bind-weed spread over the wilds.
予美亡此, My lovely one is here no more.
誰與獨處? With whom? No, I sit alone.

葛生蒙棘, The cloth-plant grew till it covered the brambles;
蘞蔓于城。 The bind-weed spread across the borders of the field.
予美亡此, My lovely one is here no more.
誰與獨息? With whom? No, I lie down alone.

These lyrics cannot be sung with Mengji Yin following the traditional pairing method.

Music of Mengji Yin
Three Sections; comes after
Jiao Yi; timing follows my recording 聽錄音

00.00   1.
00.50   2.
01.18   3.
01.42         harmonics
01.59         end

Precedes Cangwu Yuan

7. 蒼梧引 Cangwu Yin (Cangwu Prelude)
Zha's Guide 28/22/-- lists the title 蒼梧引 Cangwu Yin in five handbooks, dated 1596, 1609, 1634, 1647 and its copy in 1692. From the title, one would expect it to be a prelude to Cangwu Yuan, but it has no musical relationship to the 1525 prelude, Mengji Yin. Instead, all but the first of them (1596) are in fact versions of Cangwu Yuan (see next). As for the first version (see the 1596 ToC), it is an unrelated short melody, apparently the original version of the Liang Xiao Yin otherwise dating from 1614; see the footnote there.

8. Tracing Cangwu Yuan (see also the previous footnote)
Zha's Guide 19/184/-- lists the title 蒼梧怨 Cangwu Yuan in 14 handbooks from 1525 to 1876, but there are several more not included in Zha's Guide; to these should be added the four related Cangwu Yin. These four plus at least 11 of the Cangwu Yuan were published in the 17th century. Thus, only six of 20 versions were published after 1700. The dates of all of these (18 entries plus two not it Zha's Guide) are as follows:

  1. 1525 (12 sections; begins with open notes then harmonics passage, ending mixes harmonic and stopped sounds; III/127)
  2. 1609 (Cangwu Yin; 14 sections; begins with harmonics; only two harmonic notes near end; VII/187)
  3. 1614 (13+1; begins as 1525 but ending is like 1609; VIII/106)
  4. 1620 (15, begins like 1525 but ends like 1609; IX/41)
  5. 1625 (lyrics [古聖人,不先侈富...]; 13+1; opens in harmonics, ending mixes harmonic and stopped sounds; IX/180)
  6. 1634 (Cangwu Yin; 10; very different: opens in harmonics, last note is stopped plus harmonic diad; IX/320)
  7. 1647 (Cangwu Yin; 13; opens like 1525 but ending has fewer harmonics; X/110)
  8. 1660 (13; opens and closes as previous; XI/31)
  9. 1673 (13, opens and closes as previous; X/368)
  10. 1689 (13+1; opens as 1525; harmonics closing ends with stopped plus harmonic diad;
              Section 2 begins earlier and all later versions seem to follow this one; XIV/237)
  11. 1691 (13+1; like 1689; XII/524)
  12. 1692 (Cangwu Yin, same as 1647)
  13. 1692 (13+1; like 1689; XIII/79)
  14. <1700 (13+1; like 1689; XIV/126)
  15. 1722 (13+1; like 1689; XIV/459)
  16. 1722 (13+1; like 1689; XV & facsimile/II)
  17. 1726 (13; ??; XV)
  18. 1802 (13+1; like 1689; XVII/465)
  19. 1876 (13+1; XXV ["from 1802"])
  20. 1876 (14; ??; XXI)

9. E Huang and Nü Ying
The dictionary references to Nü Ying (女英 6170.135) and E Huang (娥皇 6487.7) are mostly from the Lienü Zhuan and other later sources; see also Xiangjun (湘君 18223.30) and Xiangling (湘靈 18223.86). Chu Ci has a poem about the Xiang River goddesses, apparently predating their identification with the wives of Shun. It was during the Ming dynasty that their name was given to a species of speckled bamboo. See also Anne Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p.167.

10. 舜廟 Shun Temple in 九嶷 Jiu Yi (also 九疑 Jiuyi)
There is a 九疑 Jiuyi (25° 21' N by 112° 05' E) on modern maps in the 寧遠縣 Ningyuan district of Hunan province; some of these maps show a Shun Temple here. Nearby are the 九嶷山 Jiuyi Mountains (which also have a Shun Memorial). The source of the 瀟水 Xiao river is also near here.

11. 湘妃怨 Xiang Fei Yuan
This melody, also called 湘江怨 Xiang Jiang Yuan and 二妃怨 Er Fei Yuan, is still played today. 18223.27 Xiang Fei says that this refers to the two wives of Shun. The earliest extant version of this melody dates from 1511. As with Cangwu Yuan it is one of the few Chu theme melodies to use standard tuning: it is generally grouped under shang mode. No version of Cangwu Yuan has lyrics, but Xiang Fei Yuan always has them (" 落花落葉落紛紛 ....").

12. Poems on the theme of the Wives of Shun
There are lyrics for all of the Xiang Fei Yuan qin melodies (they usually begin "落花落葉落紛紛 ....") as well as for the Cangwu Preface (蒼梧引 Cangwu Yin), a melody published in 1625 (see under Tracing). None of these is related to any of the lyrics in Yuefu Shiji Folio 57 (pp.825-8), detailed elsewhere, and Cangwu Yuan never has lyrics.

In addition, 劉長卿 Liu Zhangqing, whose poem Xiang Fei is in Yuefu Shiji, also wrote a poem that mentions Cangwu:

Speckled Bamboo (斑竹 Ban Zhu)

Not yet translated.

13. 史記 translation in GSR I, pp. 8 - 16.

14. Guirui 媯汭
"Guirui" (6888.4) is sometimes translated Bend in the Gui River; sometimes Gui and Rui are considered two rivers. They (or it) flowed from 歷山 Mount Li, where Shun farmed, into the Yellow River in southwest Shanxi province. (Mount Li is featured in such qin melodies as Si Qin Cao, Li Shan Yin and Geng Lishan.)

15. 君山 Junshan
17777.56 says an alternate name for Jun Shan is 洞庭 Dongting. David Hawkes (see below) translates 君山 as Goddess Island and 湘君 Xiang Jun as Goddess of the Xiang.

16. Speckled Bamboo of Junshan
There is an image of speckled bamboo under Xiang Fei Yuan, as well as a link to a related site. These images are also appropriate for the present melody, see in particular the title of Section 9.

Junshan is also noted for a special type of green tea called Junshan silver needle (君山銀針 Junshan Yinzhen).

17. Birrell, op.cit., quotes a source saying E Huang and Nü Ying lived at Dongting mountain, "a further 120 leagues southeast" from Dongting lake.

18. See David Hawkes, trans., The Songs of the South, p.104f, etc.

19. 蒼梧怨 (English)

20. The original Chinese section titles are:

  1. 鳳駕追從
  2. 攀髯號泣
  3. 斷猿淒語
  4. 孤鵠驚魂
  5. 幽冥相隔
  6. 寤寐興嘆
  7. 有懷媯汭
  8. 恍覿重華
  9. 淚浣湘筠
  10. 神凝楚岫
  11. 九疑煙合
  12. 七澤雲深

21. Phoenix carriage: 鳳駕 47631.199: chariot for an emperor or an immortal.

22. 攀髯 pan ran 13204.28 "喻悲悼人 suggests wailing for someone", then quotes Shi Ji #28, Feng and Shan sacrifices (RGH II/37). 髯 ran (whiskers) seems to refer to men; compare 鬢 bin, which could be a woman's sidelocks.

23. 斷猿 Bereft Gibbons: 13929.139 says this is a qin melody mentioned in Pipa Ji.

24. 4.453 七澤 (Qize) says 在湖北省竟內 within the borders of Hubei; it then refers to 雲夢七澤 (43170.576 a marsh in 安陸 Anlu district, northeast of Wuhan). It quotes 子虛賦 Rhapsody of Sir Vacuous by Sima Xiangru (see Knechtges translation of Wen Xuan, II/55: "I have heard that Chu has seven marshes, but I have seen only one of them....). The quote seems to suggest that Qize evokes the old Chu region.

Appendix: Closeup of Kuian Qinpu inscription
Here is a closeup of the inscription to the right of the illustration

Return to the top or to the Guqin ToC.