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68. Song of Auspicious Clouds
zhi mode:2 standard tuning played as 4 5 6 1 2 4 5
Qing Yun Ge 1
Calligraphy of lyrics once used for a National Anthem3    
The commentary with this piece connects it to a song the lyrics of which survive from a third century BCE text named the Shang Shu Da Zhuan.5 That text, like the commentary here, claims that the song was actually sung around the year 2200 BCE by Emperor Shun when he announced that his successor would be not his own son but the man who had solved the problem of the country's flooding, Yu the Great.6 According to tradition, Yu then became the founder of China's first dynasty, the Xia.7 As for the surviving melody, Zha's guide lists this title in only one handbook, Xilutang Qintong (1525).8

Two events have made the lyrics for Song of Auspicious Clouds notable in modern times. First, in 1905 the words "fu" and "dan" from this song were selected as the name of the school which became Shanghai's famous Fudan University. Here "dan fu dan" by itself means "day after day" (or "dawn after dawn"), with it being understood that, as in the poem, "fudan" refers to continuing the brilliant light of good governance, which is the subject of the whole poem.9

Then, because these lyrics celebrate someone who willingly passed government control to the person thought to be best qualified, from 1913 to 1915, and again but with another melody from 1921 to 1928, the lyrics of the first section of this piece were used for the national anthem of the Republic of China.10 Neither version had music related to that of the melody published in the Ming dynasty. The music of the 1920s version can be heard in several places online; the following translation is given with one such recording:11

How bright is the auspicious cloud,
How broad is the brilliancy
The light is spectacular with sun or moon
How it revives dawn after dawn.
(Repeat last two lines.)

My tentative translation of these lyrics plus those with the other four sections is given below.12

This qin piece has five untitled sections; each section begins with lyrics that indirectly praise the value of good government then continues with the qin playing solo.13 This seems to suggest that the original text suggested either five distinct songs or one song in five distinct sections. However, from the sources themselves it is not clear that this was the actual intention. Indeed, the apparent source of the lyrics seems to divide the same text into three songs, the third one combining into two sections what are here the third, fourth and fifth songs.14

Original Afterword15
The original text with my current attempt at understanding it are as follows:

When Shun was about to yield his position to the Great Yu, he announced it in the form of Qing Yun zhi Ge. The hundred chiefs all worked together, all bowing their heads as they came forward in peace. The emperor then continued to record the song in order to make clear the idea of abdicating on behalf of another generation.

Music and Lyrics (5 sections; timings follow my recording and transcription)16
Each section begins with lyrics, then continues with an instrumental solo. The original lyrics are given here with my tentative translation:

    00.00 Music of the modal prelude (taken from the end)

  1. 00.14
    Qīng yún làn xī, jiū màn màn xī. Rì yuè guāng huá, dàn fù dàn xī.
    The auspicious clouds are vivid,
    Gathered together they circle around.
    The sun and moon have brightness and splendor,
    Returning dawn after dawn.
    00.32 Instrumental continuation

  2. 00.59
    Míng míng shàng tiān, làn rán xīng chén. Rì yuè guāng huá, hóng yú yī rén.
    There is great clarity in the heavens,
    Glistening are the stars displayed.
    The sun and moon have brightness and splendor,
    As greatness is bestowed on a single individual.
    01.08 Instrumental continuation

  3. 01.41 (whole section in harmonics)
    Rì yuè yǒu cháng, xīng chén yǒu xíng. Sì shí shùn jīng, wàn xìng yǔn chéng.
    The sun and moon are constant,
    The heavenly bodies have their circuits.
    During the four seasons they continue along smoothly,
    And myriad families are allowed to form.
    01.51 Instrumental continuation

  4. 02.15
    (?) hū lùn yuè, pèi tiān zhī líng. Qiān yú xián shàn, mò bù xián tīng.
    Coming to a discussion of music,
    It accompanies heaven's spirit.
    Moved towards worthiness and benevolence,
    No one is not moved to heed.
    02.22 Instrumental continuation (begins with
    an odd gun fu)

  5. 03.01
    Chāng hū gǔ zhī, xuān hū wǔ zhī. Jīng huá yǐ jié, qiān cháng qù zhī.
    "Chang" we drum it,
    Spinning round ("Xuan") we dance it.
    When the spirit is exhausted,
    We loosen our gowns and leave it all behind.
    03.07 Instrumental continuation

    03.51 Harmonic coda
    04.10 End

The identical structure of the lyrics for each section means that the same melody could have been repeated for each section, but in the 1525 version this was not in fact the case. Note also that the meaning of the words fits well into the arrangement that divides the melody into four parts instead of five.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Song of Auspicious Clouds (卿雲歌 Qing Yun Ge) (III/148)
Also romanized Qingyun Ge. 2933.21#2 and 2/546 Qing Yun 卿雲 say it is the name of a song (but neither mentions the full title 卿雲歌), and both quote the same lyrics given in section one. The reference is 尚書大傳,卷二 or 尚書大傳,虞夏傳) (Shang Shu Da Zhuan, Folio 2 or Yu Xia Zhuan).

2. Zhi mode (徵調 zhi diao)
As discussed under Shenpin Zhi Yi, pieces assigned to zhi mode often use standard tuning considered as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2, but there is also precedent for sometimes, as here, considering the strings to have the relative tuning 4 5 6 1 2 4 5. The reason is that, if one assumes the standard Chinese pentatonic scale to be the relative pitches 1 2 3 5 6 (i.e., do re mi sol la) then, when playing a melody in any particular tuning, the first step in determining the relative pitch names for the seven strings is to find which names allow the notes of the melody to avoid non-pentonic pitches. For the present piece this clearly clearly requires the tuning to be considered as 4 5 6 1 2 4 5. The tonal center is 1, the note of the open fourth string, called zhi, hence the mode name.

Although considering tuning this way allows most notes to be pentatonic, there are still some specific notes requiring further examination. These are of two types:

  1. In two places the given fingering calles for a flatted 3: once in Section 1 (sung to the first word "旦 dan") and once in Section 4 (last column of QQJC III/148). In both cases the tablature calls for playing the note at the 12th position of the 4th string. Some reconstructions will change this to the 11th position but, as mentioned elsewhere, flatted 3s are actually not uncommon in certain modes, including zhi.
  2. In at least five places a note with the position indicated as 八上 (old system, lit. "above 8"; this is normally 七六, i.e., 7.6 in the modern system) must be played as 7.9 instead of 7.6 to give the pentatonic note. In one case the 八上 must clearly be played as 7.9 (normally just "八" in the old system), as the resulting note must be a unison with the open 5th string. This makes one suspect that "八上" may sometimes have been written based on casual eye observation rather than theoretical correctness (further comment), so similar assumptions might be made in the four other places where 八上 yields a non-pentatonic note, and they may be altered accordingly.

The other available reconstruction, by Ding Chengyun, seems to interpret all the notes as pentatonic. My own experience suggests in the first instance the two flatted 3s are most likely intentional; as for the four questionable notes in the second instance (specifically, in Section 2, just after the song section, where 八上 gives 4 then 5#; and in the Section 5 song section, where 八上 gives 3b then 4), each non-pentatonic interpretation has its own charm and thus should be given serious consideration.

3. Image: Calligraphy marking its use as lyrics for a national anthem
Calligraphy by 丁仕美 Ding Shimei (2007 CE) copied from an image at http://www.skyren-art.com.

5. 尚書大傳 Shang Shu Da Zhuan
7654.71 says this is a book surviving only in fragments, perhaps originally written in the Han by 伏勝 Fu Sheng (www.chinaknowledge.de). The text of the song does not appear in the Shang Shu itself.

6. 舜 Shun passes the throne to 大禹 Yu
As outlined in Wiki, Yu the Great (see also Emperor Shun, who likewise had been appointed by Yao to be his successor),

"King Shun, who reigned after Yao, was so impressed by Yu's engineering work and diligence that he passed the throne to Yu instead of to his own son. Yu is said to have initially declined the throne, but was so popular with other local lords and chiefs that he agreed to become the new emperor, at the age of fifty-three. He established a capital at Anyi (Chinese: 安邑), the ruins of which are in modern Xia County in southern Shanxi Province, and founded what would be called the Xia Dynasty, traditionally considered China's first dynasty."

For other early texts that seem to advocate meritocracy over dynastic succession see Sarah Allan, Buried Ideas.

7. Xia dynasty
夏; Wiki. It thus seems that Yu did not continue the practice of naming the most worthy person as his successor.

8. Tracing 卿雲歌 Qing Yun Ge
See Zha's Guide 20/186/372.

This 1525 melody has been reconstructed by 丁承运 Ding Chengyun both as a qin solo and as a duet for qin and se (with his wife 付麗娜 Fu Lina; online recordings are available).

9. 復旦大學 Fudan University

10. National anthem
The Wikipedia page Song to the Auspicious Cloud concerns the use of Qing Yun Ge as the national anthem of the Republic of China from 1913 to 1915 (Wiki) then, with another melody, from 1921 to 1928 (second period of the Beiyang government, Wiki). Both have six lines of music, the former setting first the four lines of the first poem then adding two lines of new lyrics (時哉夫,天下非。一人之天下也。), the latter setting first the four lines of the first poem then repeating the last two lines.

The Wikipedia page Historical Chinese Anthems gives details on other texts used for the national anthem before "三民主義 San Min Chu-i" was adopted in 1937 (Wiki).

See also this Baidu web page

11. Alternate translations of the lyrics for Section 1
The above translation came with this YouTube recording. Another translation for Section 1 was published here together with the calligraphy example at top.

Beautiful colorful rosy clouds,
colored silk-like covered the sky.
Radiance of the sun and the moon, ah, shine on the earth,
day by day no end

A more complete but still partial translation (from www.yqxwdx.cn, which divides the song into three parts, 4x4 + 4x4 + 4x12) is as follows:

  1. We celebrate the bright clouds
    that are gathering and are yielding a peaceful atmosphere.
    We enjoy the brightness of sun and moon light
    day after day.
  2. The sky and the stars
    are both bright.
    The brightness of the sun light and moon light
    is increased by one person.
  3. ("A song sung by the emperor in which it says that everything is going well in the nation.")

The .pdf file downloaded from www.yqxwdx.cn, called 古谣谚.pdf, includes a number of other poems from the same source.

12. Translation of lyrics for sections 2 to 5
Thanks to Lau Shing-Hon for assistance with this.

13. Song structure of the qin melody Qing Yun Ge
With almost all qin melodies published in the Ming dynasty, and apparently in the Qing dynasty as well, if a melody has lyrics the lyrics are paired throughout following a relatively fixed method. In contrast, Xilutang Qintong, although it follows the same method in its 18 melodies with lyrics, 14 them have lyrics in only part of the melody.

14. Lyrics in Shang Shu Da Zhuan
China Text Project (in 古逸, the first section of a volume called 古詩源; a Qing anthology: see www.chinaknowledge.de) has:

5. 卿雲歌:卿雲爛兮,糾縵縵兮。日月光華,旦復旦兮。     (4x4)
6. 八伯歌:明明上天,爛然星陳。日月光華,弘于一人。     (4x4)
7. 帝載歌:日月有常,星辰有行。四時從經,萬姓允誠。     (4x6) + (4x6)
8.                                                         遷于賢善,莫不咸聽。

The alignment is thus different from the 1525 alignment, which is as follows:

  1. 卿雲爛兮,糾縵縵兮。日月光華,旦復旦兮。
  2. 明明上天,爛然星陳。日月光華,弘于一人。
  3. 日月有常,星辰有行。四時順經,萬姓允成。
  4. 於乎論樂,配天之靈。遷于賢善,莫不咸聽。
  5. 鼚乎鼓之,軒乎舞之。精華已竭,褰裳去之。

As can be seen, the original version (according to its format in the China Text Project) arranges the lyrics into three titled songs:

  1. 卿雲歌 Qing Yun Ge ([4x4]x1)
  2. 八伯歌 Ba Bo Ge ([4x4]x1)
  3. 帝載歌 Di Zai Ge (in two parts, [4x6] + [4x6])

1475.181/1 八伯 Ba Bo has a long commentary that seems to say this refers to the leaders of eight regions. 9064.160 帝載 Di Zai says it is the same as 帝業 imperial enterprises.

From my understanding of the text, this (original?) arrangement is somewhat more coherent than the division given with the 1525 song setting. In addition, it does seem that "Qing Yun Ge" originally referred specifically to the first of several songs.

15. Afterword
The original 1525 commentary was here copied from http://www.qinzhijie.com. If it not made clear whether this text is quoting an earlier original source.

16. Music and Lyrics
Regarding the lyrics see two possible alignments above.

As for the music, the modality is discussed further above. Also of special note is the 滾拂 gunfu glissando (q.v.) that begins the instrumental part of Section 4. The instructions there ("余玄並艹", i.e., "余絃並散 the other strings are played open") seem to say that the first four notes of the gunfu are played with the strings stopped in the 10th position, then the rest of the notes until the last note of the fu are played on open strings. I have not yet seen such instructions elsewhere.

17. Drumming and dancing
Regarding 鼚乎鼓之, 49351 鼚 chang says "鼓聲 sound of beating". As for 軒乎舞之 "Xuan" (spinning, soaring) we dance it, 39038.33 軒軒 says 舞貌 quoting 淮南子,道應訓 Dao Ying Xun, a chapter of the Huainanzi (Major et al, Responses of the Way, 12.42 軒軒然方迎風而舞 "spinning round and round as if welcoming the winds in dance"). I have not yet found a reference to 軒 specifically being used as a dance title.

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