T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
玉梧琴譜 Yuwu Qinpu (1589)     ToC Listen to my recording 聽錄音  /   首頁
Water Dragon Intonation
Yu Mode:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
Also: the related Ruilong Yin 3 and Canghai Long Yin 4
水龍吟 1
Shuilong Yin
In the manner of a water dragon intoning 5  

The title Long Yin (Dragon Intonation) can be found on some ancient melody lists such as that with You Lan, but there is no reason to think there is any melodic connection between that and the present melody, which can be dated back only to 16th century handbooks.6 This is particularly true in that the earliest of the surviving versions has the title Auspicious Dragon Intonation (Rui Long Yin), the literary references to that being a ci pattern associated with love poetry.

In addition, after several occurrences of Shui Long Yin (Water Dragon Intonation), this melody later was more commonly called Canghai Long Yin (Dragon Intoning on the Sea) or Cangjiang Yeyu (Night Rain on a River). None of the titles other than Shui Long Yin seems to appear in any of the old qin melody lists. Rui Long Yin survives in only the 1579 handbook. Shuilong Yin tablature survives in 11 handbooks (four with lyrics) from 1589 to 1751, while for Canghai Long Yin there is tablature in 23 handbooks (none with lyrics) from 1609 to 1910 (see appendix 7 and note the recording). All are musically related except for the two Shuilong Yin that use ci lyrics, 1682 and 1687.

Regarding prefaces to Shui Long Yin, the earliest is in the earliest surviving published version, in Yuwu Qinpu (1589); this preface attributes the melody to Kongming, a nickname of the famous third century military strategist Zhuge Liang; several later tablatures make the same attribution, and the 1751 preface adds that Kongming used this melody to "evaluate himself" while living as a recluse by Reclining Dragon Ridge.8 The other prefaces speak only in general terms without mentioning specific people,9 and the same is true of the surviving lyrics.10

Although none of the commentaries mentions a direct connection between Zhuge Liang and the term "water dragon" ("shui long"), and there is also no mention of Zhuge Liang in the available dictionary references for either "shuilong" or "shuilong yin", the connection is actually quite natural. Before coming to the aid of Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang is said to have been like a submerged dragon, awaiting an appropriate time and person.11

Regarding prefaces to Canghai Long Yin, only the one dated 1894 attributes it to Zhuge Liang. Most of them are general comments, many repeating the comments in the earliest version with this title, Yang Lun Boya Xinfa. This preface begins by saying the melody resembles the sound of a dragon intoning.12

The title "Shuilong Yin" is better known as a pattern within ci poetry.13 The tablature would have to be changed in order to make the lyrics with this pattern fit the present melody according to the normal pairing method. However, the lyrics accompanying the tablature for the unrelated melodies of this title in the 1682 and 1687 handbooks do follow one version of this Shuilong Yin pattern.

"Shuilong Yin" is also quite well known as a qupai: a melody within northern opera, particularly one featuring the suona reed aerophone.14 Perhaps related to this the same title also appears in the repertoire of some wind and percussion ensembles. In this regard one should note that the wailing nature of some sections of the qin melody may be intended to evoke this.

The preface to this earliest surviving tablature connects the melody to a name associated with the famous Song dynasty handbook Zixiadong Pu. This suggests that the melody was being revived from old tablature. Unfortuately, there is no direct evidence to support this claim. As suggested above, all but two of the melodies discussed here are related. The four Shuilong Yin having six sections are all quite similar; the two having four sections are quite different, as are the two in three sections with lyrics; the one in two sections is in gong mode, but still seems musically related.

As for the versions called Canghai Long Yin, although they are clearly related to Shuilong Yin, they are more closely related to each other. One interesting aspect of the connection is the fact that the earliest version of Shuilong Yin has a comment at the beginning of its last section that seems to suggest that here one should play again music from the previous three sections (see quote). The tablature for Canghai Long Yin seems to write out just that.

In sum, the early variety for Shuilong Yin and the continued publication of versions of the melody under the other titles suggests that this melody and its theme were quite popular in the late Ming dynasty and throughout the Qing.

Original preface 15
The complete 1589 (and 1602) preface is as follows,

According to Zixiadong (Zixiadong Pu?) study, Kongming created it. It is said, 'The dragon is a yang being. At the beginning of the Yi Jing it is lying low.' Nowadays a dragon makes sweet dew (manna) as it returns to the deep sea, for a moment its humming sound flows along, its significance vast and broad, having the sound of the nine heavens."

Six Sections, untitled;
16 (timings follo my recording 聽錄音)

00.00   1.
00.55   2.
01.45   3.
02.08   4.
02.31   5.
03.21   6. (03.28 is the beginning of Section 6 in original tablature)
03.41       harmonic coda
03.54       end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Water Dragon Intonation (水龍吟 Shuilong Yin) (Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. VII/201)
The dictionary references are as follows (note that Shui Long Yin can also be romanized Shuilong Yin):

  1. 17458.780 and 5/887 水龍 shuilong: water dragon, dragon in water, prehistorical rank, warship, old fire-fighting device, herbaceous plant (Jussieua repens?), etc. In Chinese astrology a water dragon is a person born in a water and dragon year (one of every 60 years, most recently 21 January 1952 to 13 February 1953). See also "submerged dragon" below.
  2. 17458.781 and 5/887 水龍吟 Shui Long Yin: 詞牌 ci lyrics pattern and 曲牌 qupai, a tune in northern opera. The Shuilong Yin lyrics in the handbooks dated 1682 and 1687 seem to follow one form of the Shui Long ci pattern.

For more on the ci pattern see below.

"Water Dragon" also has a potential connection to tea in that there are "水龍茶杯 water dragon tea cups". Note also that in fengshui the term is used to describe a type of man-made water course.

2. Yu mode (yu diao 羽調)
For further information on yu mode see Shenpin Yu Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Auspicious Dragon Intonation (瑞龍吟 Ruilong Yin)
21606.144 詞牌名 name of a cipai, apparently coming from a romantic poem by 周邦彦 Zhou Bangyan (1056-1121). I did not discover its connection to Shuilong Yin until after I had completed the above commentary, so Rui Long Yin is here discussed separately. See in particular the comment on pronunciation

4. Dragon Intoning on the Sea (Canghai Long Yin 滄海龍吟) (Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. VII/205)
This piece, alternately called Night Rain on a Broad River (滄江夜雨 Cangjiang Yeyu, seems to be a variant of Shui Long Yin; it could also be translated as Sea Dragon Intoning. I can find no relevant comments in dictionary references such as,
18460.29 滄海 Canghai (blue sea, island of immortals), etc.;
18461.2 滄江 Cangjiang (blue river, i.e., river), etc.;
32424.24 蒼江 Cangjiang (same as 滄江);
32424.29 蒼海 Canghai (same as 滄海).
Although none of the melody commentaries connects Canghai Long Yin with Shuilong Yin, a direct lexical connection can be seen in the illustration. In addition, even a casual examination of melodies under the two entries shows that they are versions of the same melody. Zha Guide 30/234/-- said only that Canghai Long Yin is also called 滄江夜雨 or 蒼江夜雨 Cangjiang Yeyu; it then lists the melody in 23 handbooks to 1910 (in comparison, Shuilong Yin is listed in 11 handbooks [four with lyrics] from 1589 to 1751).

The 1609 Qinpu Zhengchuan is the only handbook to include both Shuilong Yin and Canghai Long Yin; here Shuilong Yin is a 琴歌 qin song. Furthermore, no commentary seems to discuss the relationship between the two, the former never mentioning the latter, the latter saying only that Canghai Long Yin and Cangjiang Yeyu are the same, with no mention of Shuilong Yin.

The earliest direct attribution in any of the various Canghai/Cangjiang prefaces seems to be the one in Qinxue Chujin (1894) attributing it to Zhuge Liang. In fact, Taiyin Xisheng (1625, IX/109) had a comment attributing Cangjiang Yeyu to Li Shuinan, but it does not include the tablature. Guqin Quji I/211 has a transcription of a recording by Le Ying based on the 1820 tablature.

Hsu Wen-Ying says Wuzhizhai Qinpu (1722) attributes Cangjiang Yeyu to Zhuge Liang, but as yet I have found this attribution only in Qinxue Chujin (1894), which calls it Canghai Long Yin, "also called Cangjiang Yeyu".

5. Illustration: In the manner of a water dragon intoning (水龍吟勢; compare sea dragon)
This illustration is from the edition of Xinkan Taiyin Daquanji reprinted in Qin Fu (QF/64); note that in the Taiyin Daquanji reprinted in QQJC, I/61, the title is In the manner of a sea dragon intoning (滄海龍吟勢 canghai long yin shi). Both images illustrate qin finger techniques called 小間勾 xiao jian gou and 大間勾 da jian gou; these are old techniques that do not actually appear in this melody.

6. Dragon Intonation (龍吟 Long Yin)
This is sometimes translated as "Dragon's Hum" or "Dragon's Moan", in particular when it is the name of a qin (e.g., at the Freer). As a melody title it can be found in the You Lan list, but seems to be used as a title for the present melody only in 1812.

7. Tracing Shui Long Yin (as well as Canghai Long Yin and Cangjiang Yeyu)
See Appendix. Zha Guide 26/218/419 includes 11 handbooks with the title Shuilong Yin and 30/234/-- includes 23 with the title Canghai Long Yin or Cangjiang Yeyu. Only one handbook (1609) has versions of both.

8. Preface to Shui Long Yin in Yingyang Qinpu (1751)
The original Chinese preface there is as follows,


"Evaluate himself" is "自況 zi kuang".

9. Two further prefaces to Shui Long Yin
Two later prefaces are as follows:

  1. 琴譜正傳,伯牙心法 Boya Xinfa (1609) and 理性元雅 Lixing Yuanya (1618) :
    A note under the title "Section 1" adds "謫僊子即李白 the immortal banished to earth was Li Bai"; the preface also mentions praise of the qin in a Shuilong ci.
  2. 穎陽琴譜 Yingyang Qinpu (1749) :
    "This piece was created by Zhuge Kongming of Shu (Sichuan). Thoughts of Kongming brooding over his strategy to help society and bring peace to people. Secluding himself at Nanyang's Reclining Dragon Ridge, he created this piece as part of his self-evaluation. It is said that a dragon in water changes without limits....

10. Lyrics from 1609 and 1618
There are as follows:




There are actually two sets of lyrics for Shuilong Yin. The others, following the ci pattern, given below, could of course be replaced by others in the same pattern (example.

11. See, for example, the interpretation of the first Yi Jing hexagram, mentioned below.

12. Preface to Canghai Long Yin in Boya Xinfa (1609)
The original preface, which makes no attribution, begins:

As for Canghai Long Yin, its sound resembles that of a dragon intoning....

13. Ci lyrics for Shui Long Yin
This ci pattern also has other names such as Small Building Connected to a Garden (小樓連苑 Xiaolou Lian Yuan) and 龍吟曲 Longyin Qu. It is defined as 雙調一百零二字,仄韻 double verse of 102 characters each, ze rhyme. 17458.781 has 填詞名解 (5458.37xxx) saying it is 越調曲也,取名於李白詩,笛奏龍吟水 a yuediao melody that takes its name from a Li Bai poem, Di Flute plays Longyin Shui" - see comment above with the 1609 preface.

The lyrics of the Shuilong Yin published in 1682 and 1687 are by 瀛州宮夢仁 Gong Mengren of Yingzhou (Jiangsu; 17th c.; Bio/1786). Gong wrote one of the prefaces for the handbook. The lyrics follow a ci pattern for Shuilong Yin:

酒家屠,。紛紛都是,朱門教曲。 (Not 6+6: see XII/348)


Su Dongpo used the same pattern for a ci of his own, subtitled 小舟橫截春江:



In both cases the second verse repeats the pattern of the first except in the final line. As here the second verse seems often to have 100 instead of 102 characters. It also comes in a number of variations. Thus, in addition to the original there is the present 5.4.4 as well as 3.6.4, 9.4, 7.3.3 and others.

14. Shui Long Yin as qupai
Another name for Shuilong Yin when used as a 曲牌 qupai is 打開門 Da Kaimen: Great Door Opening; it is purely instrumental and generally features the 鎖哪 suona reed aerophone. It is said to be 北曲入越角隻曲 (see 4.432 七調). Some examples of wind and percussion recordings entitled Shuilong Yin can be found through an internet search.

15. The original preface from Yuwu Qinpu (1589)
The original 1589 Chinese preface is:


Regarding the Yi Jing reference in the preface, the text with the book's first hexagram (called "乾 qian": "initiating") begins, "乾﹕元、亨、利、真。初九,潛龍勿用。" Here, after giving four attributes of qian, it says of the first gram (bottom line): "潛龍勿用 the qian long (submerged dragon) is not ready for use". This line has been interpreted as, "When the times are not right, the dragon should lie low or submerge in water". 18887.151 潛龍 qianlong quotes the line from the Yi Jing, adding that as a result the term "submerged dragon" originally referred to an unrecognized sage. This is also a description of Zhuge Liang before Liu Bei came to meet him.

16. Comment on music
The following compares the music of the present version (1589) with versions of 1579 (Ruilong Yin), 1590, 1609 (Canghai Longyin) and late Ming.

  1. All versions quite similar in Section 1, though 1609 seems more ornamented here and throughout
  2. Other versions also begin Section 2 here; my m.55 is stopped 9th position on 3rd string; 1609 same, but other versions play open 3rd string
  3. 1609 also begins
  4. Harmonics; 1590 and 1609 also have the harmonics as Section 4
  5. Others except 1589 skip a passage which for me is mm. 128-30 (9 notes); 1609 splits this into two sections
  6. Last section(s) of many versions write out repeats of earlier material; here 1589 says "同前三段續此 continue from/with Section 3", but then it writes out a new ending.
    Section 7 of 1609 also writes out the repeat (end of Section 2 plus all of Section 3), omitting the multi-note cluster ending, substituting instead a passage similar to last measure of Section 5 plus Section 6 of 1589.

According to this, the 1589 version seems most closely related to 1609, in spite of the latter's added embellishments; the other three seem then to have drawn mainly on each other.
Return to the top

Appendix: Chart Tracing 水龍吟 Shuilong Yin and 滄海龍吟 Canghai Long Yin
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide, 26/218/419 and 30/234/-- (also called 滄江夜雨 or 蒼江夜雨 Cangjiang Yeyu)
All are 羽調 yu mode unless otherwise indicated

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information         (Shuilong Yin aligned left; Canghai Long Yin/Cangjiang Yeyu aligned right)
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1. 五音琴譜
      (1579; IV/234)
This is the only version called 瑞龍吟 Ruilong Yin (comment); 5 sections;
ends with repeat of passage from #2-3, but with harmonics extended
  2. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/57)
6 sections; #4 has harmonics; very similar to 1579 throughout;
See further comments on music.
  3. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/511)
6; no commentary; seems closer to 1579 than 1589, but breaks sections differently from both
Last section repeats Section 3
  4. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/192)
2 sections;
Grouped with gong mode, but seems put together with passages from the other versions
  5. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/57)
6; identical to 1589
  6. 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1609; VII/201)
3L, quite different; preface has no specifics; lyrics given above
Not in 1589 edition; Fac V/81
  6. 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1609; VII/205)
First to use title 滄海龍吟 Canghai Long Yin; not in 1589 edition; Fac V/89
7; 1 to 5 seem to be elaborated version of same in 1589; 6 is like end of 5; 7 is like 3 then 6
  7. 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/247)
3L: same preface and lyrics as 1609
Music seems almost the same, but sections are divided differently
  8. 思齊堂琴譜
      (1620; IX/64)
4; quite different again, shorter sections
      (1625; IX/109)
No tablature, but Taiyin Xisheng biographies (IX/109) have a comment
attributing 滄江夜雨 Cangjiang Yeyu to Li Shuinan
  9. 古音正宗
      (1634; IX/340)
滄海龍吟,又曰滄江夜雨 Canghai Long Yin #2, also called Cangjiang Yeyu
7; splits 1589 #1 in 2; harmonic section now #5; #7 repeats earlier material
10. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; IX/434)
6; seems closer to 1579 than 1589, though divides sections differently
#6 repeats same earlier material as above, here from second half of #2 the 3
11. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/202)
滄江夜雨 Cangjiang Yeyu (Canghai Long Yin #3)
8; 1-6 are like 1634; again more at end; no commentary
      (1692; fac/)
Identical to 1647?
12. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/398)
滄海龍吟 Canghai Long Yin
7; seems to be copy of 1609
      (1682; XII/348)
泉鳴 quanming tuning; unrelated melody; ci lyrics
      (1689; XII/377)
zhi mode; music again unrelated to 1589; lyrics as 1682
13. 誠一堂琴譜
      (1705; XIII/395)
Cangjiang Yeyu
7; first 5 like 1609
14. 五知齋琴譜
      (1722; XIV/511)
Cangjiang Yeyu; "蜀派 Shu school version"
9; harmonics in #6
15. 琴書千古
      (1738; ?)
7; Canghai Long Yin
16. 春草堂琴譜
      (1744; QF/356)
Cangjiang Yeyu also called Canghai Long Yin
7; harmonics in #4; 1820 (recorded) is very similar to this version, which is also copied in 1876
17. 穎陽琴譜
      (1751; XVI/106)
4; related to 1589 Shuilong Yin, but quite different.
Longer commentary also mentions Zhuge Liang
18. 蘭田館琴譜
      (1755; XVI/263)
Cangjiang Yeyu; 9: almost same as 1722;
"as transmitted by 金陵吳官心 Wu Guanxin of Nanjing" 
19. 琴香堂琴譜
      (1760; XVII/134)
Canghai Long Yin
7; #4 is harmonics
20. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/425)
Cangjiang Yeyu
9; compare 1722
21. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; ?)
Cangjiang Yeyu
9; "Shu school" (see 1722)
22. 小蘭琴譜
      (1812; ?)
Called only Long Yin but afterword says, "same as Canghai Long Yin"
6 sections! (source not indicated: Shuilong Yin?)
23. 琴譜諧聲
      (1820; ?)
Canghai Long Yin; 7+1; harmonics in #4: version very similar to 1744
Guqin Quji I/211 transcribes a recording by Le Ying from here
24. 槐蔭書屋琴譜
Canghai Long Yin
7 (黃鐘調羽音)
25. 蕉庵琴譜
      (1868; fac: Folio 3/26)
Cangjiang Yeyu, same as Canghai Long Yin
9; commentary; like 1722
26. 以六正五之齋琴學秘書
Canghai Long Yin
7; 徵調宮音 zhidiao gongyin!, but same commentary as 1722
27. 天聞閣琴譜
Canghai Long Yin, same as Cangjiang Yeyu
7; from 1744; Folio 10 #4
28. 響雪齋琴譜
Canghai Long Yin
29. 希韶閣琴譜
Canghai Long Yin, also called Cangjiang Yeyu
9; Shu school (see 1722); commentary
30. 琴學初津
Canghai Long Yin, also called Cangjiang Yeyu
9+1; afterword attributes the melody to Zhuge Liang
31. 琴學叢書
      (1910; 琴府/1096)
Cangjiang Yeyu, same as Canghai Long Yin
9; from 1802
32. 研易習琴齋琴譜
      (1961/Folio 3)
7; 滄江夜雨又名滄海龍吟
7; commentary mentions earlier versions in particular 1744
33. 古琴曲集
Staff notation of performance from by 樂瑛 Le Ying (5'26")
7+1; harmonics in #4
Two 水龍吟 Shuilong Yin based on 1682 and 1687

Return to the top or to the Guqin ToC.