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169. Spring Dawn at Peach Blossom Spring
- Qingyu mode 2: 2 3 5 6 1 2 3
桃源春曉 1
Taoyuan Chunxiao
From the Tianjin Museum 3 
The story told here to introduce this melody summarizes and quotes from Tao Yuanming's famous Peach Blossom Spring.4 The essay and poem tell of a fisherman who, one spring during the period 376-397, rowed upriver from his home in a place called Wuling (hence the opera version of this story, Wuling Spring (Wuling Chun).5 Here he discovers a hidden valley in which people live in peace and know nothing of the outside world. After a pleasant stay the fisherman goes home. But although he tried to mark the path by which he had entered the valley, when he tries to find it again he cannot.

Today Wuling is best known as a mountain range in northwest Hunan province. East of here is a Peach Blossom Spring (Taoyuan) district. This suggests that the original story may have been set in northwest Hunan province. However, other settings have also been theorized.6 And in addition, a similar story is told with the melody Tiantai Yin, but the setting for Tiantai Yin is in Zhejiang province.

The story connected to Tiantai Yin tells of two men, Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao, who come across the hidden paradise. When they leave and return to their home village they find that seven generations had passed. There seems to be no melodic connection between Tiantai Yin and Taoyuan Chunxiao. In fact, the melody with the Zhejiang setting uses standard tuning, while the present one uses a raised fifth string tuning, often associated with melodies having a Chu theme.

The Peach Blossom Spring (or Peach Spring) story was later retold by a number of poets, including Wang Wei, Han Yu and Wang Anshi. It is also the subject of numerous paintings.7

The melody written out here in Xilutang Qintong survives in no other handbooks. Nevertheless, there is evidence that it might be quite ancient.8 Other melodies in this handbook are clearly copied from earlier tablature. In addition, the tablature for Taoyuan Chunxiao employs a number of archaic fingerings, and the prevalence of notes played in harmonics is generally a characteristic of older surviving melodies.9

The present title should not be confused with another title also called Taoyuan Chunxiao, but having the yuan meaning "garden" instead of "spring".10 Spring Dawn at the Peach Garden, as published in 1670, seems to be related to the Xilutang Qintong melody Yang Chun; it uses standard tuning, has an explanation unrelated to those of the above melodies, and is attributed to the poet Pan Yue.11 That version was later recopied in 1876, where it is called Spring Dawn at Peach Spring.

In addition, a melody entitled Taoyuan Yin survives in 10 handbooks from 1596 to 1890, but it seems melodically unrelated and is perhaps also thematically unrelated to the present story.12

Original afterword 13

During the Taiyuan era of the Jin dynasty (376-397) a fisherman of Wuling while rowing his boat up a stream lost his way. He saw peach blossoms along the river bank, with fallen petals of many colors. He continued along the stream and entered a place of strange vistas, with mulberry trees, hemp plants and a small village with men and women living harmoniously. They struggled (with each other) to come and ask how he'd got there. They said they were people of the Qin dynasty who had come here to flee the disorders. They did not know there had been a Han dynasty, not to mention the Wei or Jin. Finally one day they saw him off and he returned home. Later he looked again for this place, but could not find it. And so there is this melody.

Seven sections, untitled (timings follow
my recording 聽錄音 14)
The final section is all in harmonics, so there is no harmonic coda

(Preceded by Qingyu Yi)
00.00   1.
00.41   2.
01.32   3.
02.02   4.
02.24   5.
03.08   6.
03.55   7.
04.42       end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Spring Dawn at Peach Blossom Spring 桃源春曉
15099.129 桃源 Taoyuan (peach spring, or peach tree spring; not to be confused with 桃園 taoyuan, peach garden (see below) says it is a place, mountain and district in Hunan, and quotes Tao Yuanming. 15099.130 桃源行 Taoyuan Xing says this is the name of a poem. 陶淵明 Tao Yuanming wrote 桃花源記 Taohua Yuan Ji; 王維 Wang Wei, 韓愈 Han Yu, 王安石 Wang Anshi 胡宏 Hu Xiong and others wrote Taoyuan Xing. There is no entry for Taoyuan Chunxiao (Tao Yuan Chun Xiao).

2. Qingyu Mode
This "Pure Feather" mode (清羽調 18003.xxx; 6/1298xxx) uses the same tuning as 蕤賓調 ruibin mode in that you tighten the fifth string one position, making the fifth string do. In the ruibin melodies the tonal center generally remains la, sometimes shifting to mi. Tao Yuan Chun Xiao and its modal prelude also generally have a la and mi focus; the difference is that almost all of the sections end with the tonal center changing to do. For more on modes see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Painting: Realm of Immortals in Peach Blossom Spring
This image is a section from a Ming dynasty scroll painting (color ink on silk) by 仇英 Qiu Ying. The Chinese title is 桃源仙境圖 Taoyuan xianjing tu. The original is in the collection of the Tianjin Museum; at present a copy of the painting does not seem to be on their webisite, but it can be found on several internet websites. Besides realm of immortals landscapes, another fantasy scene theme might be that of the Huaxu dream.

4. Taohua Yuan Shi 桃花源詩
There are a number of translations of Tao Yuanming's Poem about Peach Blossom Spring. One by James Hightower is in An Anthology of Translations, Classical Chinese Literature, Vol.1, Columbia U. and Chinese U. Press, 2000; pp.515-7. The Penguin Classics Wang Wei has translations by G. W. Robinson of Wang Wei's version (p. 34) as well as that of Tao Yuanming (at end).

5. Wuling Spring (武陵春 Wuling Chun
16623.25 武陵春: 曲牌名 Wuling Chun is name of a qupai. LXS, pp.187-8, says the opera was by 許潮 Xu Chao (ca. 1600). It follows the story told by Tao Yuanming of the man from Wuling going into a hidden valley and meeting people who had been living there since the Qin dynasty (3rd c. BCE), unaware of the passage of time.

Wuling Chun was also the name of a lady during the Ming dynasty.

6. Taoyuan 桃源
15099.129 桃源 Taoyuan town in Hunan province is now a few miles southwest of modern Changde city. East of here is the greatly diminished Dongting Lake. Changde has or is in an area also called Wuling, while the area around Taoyuan is Taoyuan district. The Wuling mountain range west of here includes 慈利縣 Cili district and the 張家界 Zhangjiajie National Park, also called 武陵源 Wuling Yuan (Wuling Spring).

It should be noted that one can elsewhere find suggestions that the setting was in the vicinity of 廬山 Lushan, a mountain range near Tao Yuanming's home town in Jiangxi province.

7. Some further examples are mentioned in connection with the exhibition Fantastic Mountains.

8. This point is discussed by 成公亮 Cheng Gongliang in online comments. See also his 2006 recording.

9. Melodies with lengthy passages in harmonics
That this was a characteristic of early qin melodies is suggested by the fact that the first four melodies in Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio I, said to have the most ancient melodies, have longer passages in harmonics than can be found in the modern repertoire in general; these four are Dunshi Cao, Guangling San, Huaxu Yin and Gufeng Cao. The argument that this characteristic suggests that a melody is much older than its printing day may also be used with other melodies published in the Ming dynasty, such as the Feng Lei Yin first surviving from 1525.

10. Spring Dawn at the Peach Spring vs. Spring Dawn at the Peach Garden (桃源春曉 / 桃園春曉)
Zha Fuxi's Guide 23/198/-- combines 桃源春曉 Taoyuan Chunxiao (Spring Dawn at the Peach Spring) with 桃園春曉 Taoyuan Chunxiao (Spring Dawn at the Peach Garden). The pronunciation is the same, with yuan in the former meaning "spring" and in the latter meaning "garden". Tao means "peach" but it is also used in such contexts for "peach tree" or "peach blossoms". Zha's Guide has three entries, but the latter two are in fact a different melody. As mentioned in the main text above, the actual melody of the second ("Peach Garden"), in Qinyuan Xinchuan (1670; QQJC, XI, p. 477), is a quite close version of Guang Han You in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425). The third, in Ziyuantang Qinpu (1802; no commentary), is called "Peach Spring" like 1525, but the melody is copied from "Peach Garden" in the 1670 handbook. There seems to be no connection to the Peach Garden famously associated with Liu Bei and his Peach Garden Oath.

11. 潘岳 Pan Yue (247 - 300)
Pan Yue was a leading poet of his day and famously handsome: it was said that when he rode through the streets of Luoyang women would follow him, offering him peaches (symbolizing immortality). The 1670 preface quotes a poem (桃芳柳艷,春寒破曉。觸景怡情,寫懷寓意。) that mentions peaches, but I haven't yet traced its source. His 笙賦 Rhapsody on the Sheng is translated in Knechtges, Wen Xuan, III, p.303ff.

12. Taoyuan Yin 桃源吟
For Taoyuan Yin see the earliest surviving version, in Wenhuitang Qinpu (QQJC, VI, p. 217)

13. Chinese afterword
The original text of the afterword is as follows:


Translated above.

14. Music
Recording made July 2011

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