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100. Li Ling Thinks of Han
- Huangzhong mode:2 1 2 3 5 6 1 2
Li Ling Si Han
Su Wu parts from Li Ling (see text)3
As for a possible earlier origin of this melody, another factor suggesting this is its topic. During the 2nd century BCE the Han dynasty military leader Li Ling7 and the political ambassador Su Wu (see Han Credentials) were both captured and held in long captivity in north central Asia by the Xiongnu.8 Their stories became very popular again during the 13th and 14th centuries as the Southern Song dynasty was collapsing under northern pressure, then came under Mongol control during the Yuan dynasty. This made the main issue brought up by their stories particularly relevant: should one serve non-Han rulers? This issue is behind a number of Yuan and late Song dynasty artistic creations, including three 12th/13th century poems in Qinshu Daquan that mention this title,9 and several surviving contemporary paintings with this theme.10
Li Ling, a brave fighter and skillful archer from a family in Chang An with a long history of military leadership,11 became a cavalry officer in the Han army based in Jiuquan, a city in the western Gobi desert in what is today central west Gansu. The Xiongnu base was then apparently about 500 km to the north northeast, near Juyan in what is today westernmost Inner Mongolia.12 When the Han Wudi emperor first sent his army on an expedition against the Xiongnu Li Ling met with particular success. This led the emperor in 99 BCE to send out a major force from Jiuquan; the Shi Ji account says they went to Qilian Tianshan, but while Jiuquan was in the Qilian region (the Qilian mountain range runs east west just to its south), the Tianshan mountains would have put them far west of Juyan. The main body had 30,000 troops while Li Ling, with 5,000 cavalry, was separately sent "about 1000 li north to Juyan" in an attempt to divide the Xiongnu army, and about 100 li from there he found himself surrounded by about 30,000 (or 80,000) Xiongnu. The Han soldiers tried to escape, but after 8 days half the men were dead and they had no more weapons. Finally, cornered in a valley and out of food, Li Ling surrendered to the Xiongnu. Only 400 soldiers managed to escape. Because of Li Ling's family and personal bravery the Xiongnu leader honored Li Ling by giving him a daughter in marriage. However, when Wudi heard this back in Chang'An, and that Li Ling was serving the Xiongnu, he had Li Ling's mother, wife and children executed.13
Several years earlier, the court official Su Wu had been sent by Han Wudi as an envoy to the Xiongnu (see Han Jie Cao). The Xiongnu detained Su Wu and tried to get him to work for them. They tried various methods, including having Li Ling talk with him (see image with Han Jie Cao), but Su Wu refused. In 86 there was peace and in 81, after 18 years in captivity, Su Wu was able to return to Han. His farewell to Li Ling (perhaps at a place as far north from Juyan as Lake Baikal) is another famous theme in Chinese lore, expressed in particular through poetry and art. Li Ling himself could never go home. He spent the rest of his life amongst the Xiongnu, dying amongst them 74 BCE.
Early writers often praised Su Wu and criticized Li Ling. Some later writers were more sympathetic to Li Ling, but he has always remained controversial, not so much for his surrender as for his willingness to work for the enemy.14
Wen Xuan has three poems attributed to Li Ling,15 plus a letter16 he is said to have written to Su Wu.
Modally the scale is predominantly do re mi sol la with the main tonal center being la and secondarily mi. However, the last phrase in Section 9 ends with the note sequence mi flat - re - do. Then the closing harmonics, which are written out but are identical to those in the modal prelude, also end on and use do as the tonal center.
Li Shaoqing lost his ambition amongst the fur (-wearing Xiongnu), and had no way to give expression to his loneliness and resentment. When Su Wu returned home (Li Ling) had a melancholy yearning for the homeland; this brought out his moral loftiness. 100 generations later, just hearing these sounds still causes people's hat and hair to stand on end (in alarm).
Nine sections, titled;18 timing follows my recording 聽錄音; no lyrics
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)
Li Ling Si Han references
14819.1082 李陵 has only Li Ling himself, no mention of music. For biographical information see Wikipedia and Loewe. For poetic references see below. There is a Peking opera called Li Ling Stele (李陵碑 Li Ling Bei) about a Song dynasty general who commits suicide by hitting his head against a stele commemorating Li Ling rather than surrendering to the northern invaders (compare Su Wu Miao).
From standard tuning lower the third string. The 1539 version uses the same tuning but calls the mode Manjiao (lowered third). For more information on this tuning see Shenpin Biyu Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.
Parting of Li Ling and Su Wu in art and poetry
The image above was extracted from the online version of a famous painting called Parting of Su Wu and Li Ling (National Palace Museum, Taiwan). For more on images with this theme see below.
There are a number of poems about this parting, some attributed to Li Ling himself. Three from Wen Xuan are mentioned below. Another, also traditionally but dubiously attributed to Li Ling himself, is usualy called simply "Parting Song" (別歌 Bie Ge, but 1955.xxx !):
Arthur Waley, A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, translates this poem after including another (see original text from Wen Xuan), connecting them with commentary the source of which I have not yet traced, as follows:
Parting from Su Wu, by Li Ling
Li Ling and Su Wu were both prisoners in the land of the Huns. After nineteen years Su Wu was released. Li Ling would not go back with him. When invited to do so, he got up and danced, singing:
The source of this latter poem is perhaps 漢書 Han Shu; it is not in Wen Xuan or Yuefu Shiji.
Earlier mention of Li Ling Si Han
Li Ling Si Han in Fengxuan Xuanpin
The tablature for Li Ling Si Han in Fengxuan Xuanpin has lyrics. I have written out a transcription and studied this version, but the one I have actually learned is the related melody here in Xilutang Qintong (1525). Further details from 1539 are as follows:
1539 Section titles
The lyrics generally follow the standard pairing method, but I have not been able to make this pairing seem natural, so have not actually played through my transcription in a way that I consider satisfactory. They are partially copied here, as follows:
Perhaps a complete version (and translation) of the lyrics would deepen one's appreciation even for the 1525 version of the melody.
Tracing Li Ling Si Han (as well as Han Jie Cao and Su Wu Si Jun; see tracing chart)
For the poetic references see below. Zha's Guide Li Ling Si Han (16/167/363) has two entries; Han Jie Cao (22/194/380) has six, but #2 to #6 are all called 蘇武思君 Su Wu Si Jun. This grouping is presumably based on the statement under the title of the only surviving version of Han Jie Cao, which connects them (q.v.). However, the actual melody and lyrics of the later pieces entitled Su Wu Si Jun suggest that they have more connection to the 1525 Li Ling Si Han though, as the tracing chart shows, the melody of 1589 was quite new and most later versions copied that.
Li Ling (d. 76 BCE)
14819.1082 李陵 Li Ling 字少卿 style name Shaoqing. Biography in Loewe. See also in Wikipedia.
Xiongnu 匈奴 (Wiki)
The Xiongnu in general were a confederation of non-Han tribes, located generally north of the Great Wall but in a variety of places at different times in Chinese history. They were mainly of importance to China during the Han dynasty. During the early Han period the Xiongnu, though nomadic, were centered on their annual meeting place, 蘢城 Longcheng. For this 33170.2 quotes Shi Ji 110 匈奴, 111 衛將軍 and 112 主父偃 Zhufu Yan without clarifying its location, but seemingly suggesting it was near eastern Mongolia. Other sources suggest it was in the Koshu-Tsaidam region by the Orkhon River, which flows northward into Lake Baikal.
Poetic references to Li Ling Si Han
Qinshu Daquan (1590) includes at least three relevant poems,
The poems by Yun Ruo (which mentions 5-character verse) and Xie Ao are 7x4; that by Chen Qiuyan is quite lengthy. None of these poems sheds any light on the actual music.
Paintings on the theme of Su Wu and Li Ling
Ancestor of Li Ling: Li Guang 李廣
Shi Ji #109 (中文, pp. 2867-7877; Watson translation, RGH II, pp. 117-128,) has Li Guang's biography and that of several descendents, including Li Ling; the account in the above paragraph comes from this source (中文, p. 2877). Watson (p.128, fn.4) says the end of Annal 109, including comments attributed to Sima Qian praising Li Ling, was a later addition.
Places in Central Asia connected to Li Ling
See again Shi Ji Annal 109. This vast area encompasses much of northern Xinjiang and western Inner Mongolia. However, the area where Li Ling ventured seems to have been generally northeast of Dunhuang: the account says he was finally cornered by the Xiongnu after he led troops from his base in Jiuquan to within about 100 li of Juyan. As a prisoner and then in-law of the Xiongnu ruler Li Ling may have spent much of the rest of his life around here, but also could have lived quite far from here (see Xiongnu above and note that Su Wu is sometimes said to have spent much of his exile near Lake Baikal).
It thus seems that the story connected to this qin melody largely takes place in what is today western Inner Mongolia and central Gansu.
Li Ling and Sima Qian
After Li Ling surrendered, the only person who defended him at Han Wudi's court was Sima Qian, who as a result was given the choice of honorable suicide or shame and castration; he chose the latter so that he could complete his history of China, the Shi Ji.
A net search for "Li Ling" "Su Wu" gives more detail.
Li Ling poems in 文選 Wen Xuan
The three poems, all in Chapter 29 (中文, p. 1295), are titled as follows (named according to their first line:
All were written in 5-character (pentasyllabic) lines. Giles credits 嚴羽 Yan Yu (ca. 1200) with saying Li Ling invented pentasyllabic verse, perhaps based on these poems. However, most critics now doubt the attribution of these three poems to Li Ling himself. All concern his parting from Su Wu.
The first poem is as follows (translated above):
The second poem is:
The third is:
A letter by Li Ling in 文選 Wen Xuan
The letter to Su Wu attributed to Li Ling was included in Chapter 42 (答蘇武書 Dá Sū Wǔ Shū, p.1881). It begins as follows:
It has been translated by Giles; see, e.g., Herbert Giles, A History of Chinese Literature; NY, Grove Press (originally 1923; Evergreen Reprint, 1958?), pp.84-9.
Original commentary 西麓堂琴統解題
The original afterword is as follows:
See QQJC III/191 ; I haven't found its source.
Chinese titles 西麓堂琴統小標題
The original titles are:
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Chart Tracing 李陵思漢 Li Ling Si Han
(plus 漢節操 Han Jie Cao and 蘇武思君 Su Wu Si Jun)
Based mainly on three entries in Zha Fuxi's Guide:
Li Ling Si Han 16/167/363: 1525#1 and 1539
Han Jie Cao 22/194/380: only 1525#2
Su Wu Si Jun = Han Jie Cao: 1585, 1589, 1634, 1670, >1802, 1876
Further comment above
(year; QQJC Vol/page)
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
|9T (or 11: repeat S4-S5); Li Ling Si Han; huangzhong (lowered 3rd string)
Melody begins, "泛起，食七勾一，大七跳三，無名九勾二，大七跳五。少息，再作...."
|10T; Han Jie Cao;
yingzhong (lowered 1st, raised 5th strings);
this melody only here; "alternate title Su Wu Si Jun"
|8TL; Li Ling Si Han; manjiao (lowered 3rd string)
Closely related to 1525#1
|9TL; Su Wu Si Jun; manjiao (lowered 3rd string); lyrics
Clearly related to 1525#1
|8; Su Wu Si Jun; manjiao (lowered 3rd); totally new lyrics
Zha Fuxi made a partial recording; may have a vague connection to 1525#1 but basically new
| Presumably a copy of 1589
|4; Su Wu Si Jun; shang (standard tuning);
Seems unrelated to all the others
|8; Su Wu Si Jun; "小碧玉 xiao biyu" (lowered 3rd); manjiao;
Copy of 1589 but without lyrics or title; preface has no mention of Li Ling
|8; Su Wu Si Jun; lowered 3rd; Manjiao;
|8; Su Wu Si Jun; lowered 3rd; huangzhong;
" = 1670" (& 1589), including section titles but no lyrics
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