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64. Selecting Reality
- "jiao mode" ( ! 2 : standard tuning, but seems to be 1 2 4 5 6 1 2)
採真遊 1
Cai Zhen You    
Confucius and Laozi: the Confucian version 3        
The translation of Cai Zhen You as "Selecting Reality", short for "Selecting Reality while Rambling (through life)", comes from analyzing interpretations of the phrase "cai zhen zhi you" as found in a passage from the book of Zhuangzi, Chapter 14,4 as well as from comparing the use here of the word "zhen" with its use in another early qin melody, Yi Zhen, which might be translated as "Nourishing Reality".5 Although the two melodies do not seem to be melodically or even stylistically related, the concepts in the two melodies are clearly complementary: if one is selecting the path of Reality, then one should be nurturing it.6

The discussion of Reality is said to have taken place when Confucius met Laozi while in Zhou studying the Rites; at the time Zhou, though officially the chief state, was a small and weak kingdom centered around what is today Luoyang in Henan province.7 A passage near the beginning of Confucius' Shi Ji biography (Annal 47) briefly mentions this meeting. According to the passage in Zhuangzi Chapter 14, Confucius had come to ask Laozi about the Dao. There is no mention of the qin (compare the image at right from an illustrated life of Confucius, where Confucius is asking about Rites). The relevant part of Laozi's answer might be translated as follows:8

In antiquity sagely people walked the path of benevolence (ren) as though they were just borrowing it for the occasion, and dwelt in righteousness (yi) as though just doing it on request. Thus, they could ramble in the emptiness of leisurely wandering, dine in fields of careless simplicity, and stand in unrented gardens. Leisurely wandering is the same as freedom from action (wu wei); careless simplicity is the same as easily finding nourishment; unrented is the same as not making an investment. The ancients called this "selecting reality" (cai zhen zhi you).

Here the word "zhen" might be more fully defined as "things not yet shaped by man, referring to basic nature, basic essence, and so forth."9 As for cai zhen, "selecting zhen", this basically means following one's natural instincts, but it also came to refer to nurturing one's Dao in order to find immortality.10 "You" (rambling, wandering) suggests this is done not purposefully, but as one travels through life.

Thus, a literal translation of cai zhen zhi you could be something like, "a rambling to gather basic nature". Published translations vary considerably. James Ware translates it as, "an Excursion to Gather God"; Clae Waltham writes, "the enjoyment that collects the true"; Herbert Giles has "outward visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" (i.e., a sacrament!).11

The brief 1525 afterword, translated below, suggests a similar Daoist inclination.

As a qin melody title Cai Zhen You can be found in at least one earlier qin melody list,12 but as an actual melody it survives only here in Xilutang Qintong,13 where it has seven sections. Although there seems to be no thematic connection or obvious melodic relationship between Cai Zhen You and the melody that precedes it, the somewhat shorter Lie Nü Yin (five sections), there is some evidence suggesting that they came from the same, perhaps Song dynasty,14 source. For one thing, the two melodies share the same harmonic closing and have some stylistic similarities including their use of the mode.15 In addition, both are on earlier lists of melody titles,16 Then there is the simple fact of their having been placed together at the end of the Xilutang handbook's jiao mode melodies (see its ToC), though their modality seems to have more in common with zhi mode.17

There is a recording by Wang Duo of his reconstruction of this melody.18


Jiao Yin (see above). This melody has hardly been transmitted at all to our generation. My examination of what was written in the tablature suggests it conveys the idea of an immortal regarding society with disdain, meanwhile abundantly preserving that (attitude).

Seven sections, untitled (section timings follow
my recording 聽錄音)

00.00   1
01.20   2
02.14   3 (harmonics)
02.59   4
03.50   5 (harmonics)
04.22   6
04.53   7
05.30   harmonic coda
05.50   end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Cai Zhen You (採真遊 ; III/143)
Several other translations of the phrase cai zhen you (and 采真之遊 cai zhen zhi you) are discussed here in the text. The reference is clearly to the mention of cai zhen zhi you in 莊子,天運 the chapter Tian Yun from the book of Zhuangzi. English translations of Zhuangzi consulted here (compare the list in Wiki) include:

  1. James Ware, The Sayings Of Chuang Chou, 1963
  2. Clae Waltham, Chuang Tzu: Genius of the Absurd (arranged from translation by Legge), 1973
  3. Herbert A. Giles (Wiki), Chuang Tzǔ: Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer, 1926 (online?)

Neither 12564. nor 6/689 has an entry for 採真 or 採真遊, but 41010.52 and 10/1307 采真 cai zhen both quote the Zhuangzi passage. It is not clear why the qin melody title uses the character 採 instead of 采: both have the same pronunciation and meaning. Until deciding to draw on the parallel with the melody Yi Zhen I was mainly considering translations such as "Truth-Seeking Excursion" and "Rambling to Collect the True", seeking a balance between something memorable and something accurate.

2. Jiao Mode? (角調 Jiao Diao or 角音 Jiao Yin)
Although Cai Zhen You and the melody that precedes it, Lienü Yin, are the last two melodies in the jiao mode section of 1525, their main note is the open 4th string, and the secondary note is the open 2nd string, making them more like zhi mode melodies. (Note that this is also true of the Jiao Diao in Shilin Guangji, which is very similar to the latter part of Lienü Yin.) In addition, Lienü Yin has a number of non-pentatonic or even diatonic notes, giving it a rather antique (or modern) flavor; this aspect of Cai Zhen You is not yet studied. As for its similar modality, the afterword for Cai Zhen You (see below) begins by specifically identifying the mode as 角音 jiao yin; its commentary suggests that it, hence perhaps also Lienü Yin, were copied from old tablature.

3. (Confucius) Discusses the Rites with Laozi 聞禮老聃
The full version of this image is from an illustrated book of the life of Confucius, originally published ca. 1930 but copying old images; the Chinese title of the book in which I found the image is 孔子聖蹟圖,河北美術出版社,1996. The present illustration, entitled Discussing the Rites with Laozi (聞禮老聃 Wen Li Lao Dan), is on page 14. Laozi is playing the qin while Confucius listens. Their conversation is, of course, different from that described here from the book of Zhuangzi (which does not mention the discussion about Rites). The discussion about Rites is described in the Shi Ji biography of Laozi. There are a number of other illustrations: see, e.g., an on-line example (#9: 問禮老聃).

4. Zhuangzi, Chapter 14: Tian Yun ( 天運)
Jame Ware translates this chapter title as Nature's Cycles. Clae Waltham has, The Revolution of Heaven. Herbert Giles does not seem to translate the title, though he does use the phrase "the sky turns round". In my edition of Ware it seems to be section 50, in Waltham section 5.

5. For Yi Zhen my main translation is currently "Nourishing One's Natural Character", but I also have "Nurturing Reality" as an alternate translation. (Return)

6. Footnote temporarily removed.

7. Zhou in the 6th century BCE
The ruins of the Eastern Zhou capital, 成周 Chengzhou, are apparently east of the White Horse Temple in modern Luoyang.

8. The original passage in Zhuangzi, Chapter 14, says,


9. zhen
The definition above is from 2/139: "未經人為的東西。指本原、本性等". For zhen DeFrancis, ABC Dictionary, has "true, real, genuine...<Dao.>... original character of human beings...." Mathews says, "Used by Buddhists and Taoists somewhat as orthodox Confucians use 誠 (cheng). Spiritual, divine - as one's nature; ethereal; immortal."

10. cai zhen 采真
For 采真 cai zhen 41010.52 and 10/1307 both quote the Zhuangzi passage.

11. Outward and visible sign
For sacrament see, e.g., Wiki.

12. Early references to Cai Zhen You
The title 採真遊 Cai Zhen You is #43 in the third section of the Qinyuan Yaolu list; there is no commentary.

13. Tracing Cai Zhen You
See Zha Fuxi's Guide 20/186/-- . At 40/--/-- the Guide lists a 采真 Cai Zhen published in 1820, but the description on p. (189) 147 shows that it was melodically unrelated (徵調 zhi mode, lowered 3rd string tuning, 12 sections, afterword [not included]).

14. Although there is some evidence that Lie Nü Yin may come from a Song dynasty source, it is presumably a coincidence that in the Qinyuan Yaolu list (apparently Yuan dynasty) Cai Zhen You also follows a melody that has a woman in its title, Tian Nü Yuan.

15. See Jiao Mode? above.

16. Cai Zhen You in early melody lists
Early mention of Cai Zhen You is discussed above. As for Lienü Yin, it is #56 in the Most Ancient section of the melody list compiled by the Song dynasty's Seng Juyue. It is also #69 in the first section of the Yuan dynasty Qinyuan Yaolu melody list. Cai Zhen You is #43 in the third section of the same list.

17. The introduction here to Lienü Yin points out a similarity between the music of its final section and that of the modal prelude Jiao Diao in the Song dynasty publication Shilin Guangji, suggesting perhaps that this version of Lienü Yin might also date from the Song dynasty. From the associations mentioned here, perhaps this suggests Cai Zhen You could have a similar date.

18. The recording by 汪鐸 Wang Duo (see details) omits large segments from the original tablature.

19. The original afterword in Xilutang Qintong says,


The writer's mention of "what was written in the tablature" (lit.: "the tablature method") perhaps suggests that he only had found tablature and had never heard anyone simply play it.

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