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Han Xiang
- Qinshu Daquan, Folio 15, #64
韓湘 1
琴書大全,第十五卷 #64 2
Han Xiang is the immortal with a qin 3    
The historical Han Xiang was a nephew of Han Yu (768—824). However, he is best known as one of the Eight Immortals, also called Han Xiangzi or Han Xiang Zi (Master Han Xiang). He is usually depicted holding or playing a flute, and indeed was considered protector of flautists. There are, however, illustrations showing him with a qin, as at right.

The first 14 of the 25 lines in this entry present a dialogue between Han Xiang and Han Yu, here referred to first as Han Wen Gong (Han Wengong), then simply as Gong. In the dialogue Gong suggests to Han Xiang that he should take public office. Han Xiang's response, which includes a poem that mentions him playing a biyu mode melody (see Biyu diao) on the qin, is that he is headed on another path. When Han Yu says this is just empty words, Han Xiang magically makes flowers suddenly grow from a clod of earth; within them is a couplet in golden characters saying,

"Clouds go through the Qin mountains, where is my home?
Snow covers Lan Pass, my horse will not go forward."

Again Han Yu considers these words to have no reality to them. However, the account continues by saying that shortly after this episode Han Yu, because of the affair of the Buddha's bone (Han Yu having criticized the emperor for his interest in it), lost his official position and was banished to Chaozhou. On the way through the mountains Han Yu gets stuck in a snowstorm. Han Xiang suddenly appears, reminding Han Yu of the prediction. Over several evenings Han Xiang discusses Buddhism and Daoism with Han Yu, then predicts (correctly) than Han Yu will eventually be invited back to his official position.

Han Xiang's poem also appears in other stories about him, with variants. For example, it is included in a Ming dynasty novel called The Complete Record of Han Xiang. The novel mentions qin in at least seven of its 30 chapters, specifically mentioning Han Xiang playing the melody He Ming Jiugao.4

The entry on Han Xiang in Qinshu Daquan (Folio 15, #12) begins as follows:5

Han Xiang, style name Qingfu, was a nephew of Han Wen'gong (Han Yu). His illusory knowledge (?) was nurtured at (Han Wen)gong's home. All the children of Gong studied very hard, with only Xiang being unconventional and uninhibited. If he encountered wine, then he became drunk. When drunk he would sing loudly.

Gong challenged him, saying, "How is it that you don't see how solitary and wretched our lives are if we don't have fields to which we can return to supervise amidst poetry and books (the classics), and so die amongst literati? How do you expect to establish yourself?"

Xiang laughed and said, "What I am studying is not something that you can understand.'

Gong wondered at these words and said, "You have something I can hear?"

(Han) Xiang thereupon made a "poem of words" (中文), saying,

A cave in green mountains with clouds and waters: such is my home.
All night long I flow on jadelike dew; in the cold dawn chew on falling mist.
Play qin in biyu mode; in a stove nurture white pearl powder.
In my cauldron lives a golden tiger; my large field nurtures white crows.
My single gourd retains all of nature; my 3-footer (a sword) beheads evil goblins.
Relieving, I replenish the diminishing wine; in an instant make flowers bloom.
If anyone can learn how I do this, together we can look at the immortals' flowers.

Gong thereupon interrogated him further, saying,

....Translation incomplete (see summary).

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 韓湘 Han Xiang (also called 韓湘子 Han Xiangzi or Han Xiang Zi)
Bio/2284; Giles; Wiki). Han Xiang, style name 清夫 Qingfu, was a 姪孫 nephew of 韓文公 Han Wen'gong (i.e. Han Yu).

2. Qinqu Jicheng, V/337: 25 lines

3. Image: Han Xiang with qin
This illustration, entitled 漢鐘離度脫唐呂公 Han Zhongli Dutuo Tang Liu Gong (Zhongli [Quan] of the Han Released from Time Limitations [Meets] Master Lü of the Tang, is connected to an opera about Lü Dongbin. It is one of a pair of illustrations in which the other one shows Lü, having awoken, speaking with Han Zhongli.

4. Ming dynasty novel about Han Xiang
The novel by 楊爾曾 Yang Erzeng (1623) has several titles. An online version is called the 韓湘子全傳 Complete Record of Han Xiangzi (reference). It mentions qin in several chapters, one of which includes the poem above:

  1. Chapter 1 (twice: 彈琴品簫 play qin and xiao)
  2. Chapter 4 (once, saying he played the old melody He Ming Jiugao)
  3. Chapter 5 (once, in a poem)
  4. Chapter 11 (once, in a poem)
  5. Chapter 13 (twice, again mentioning the title He Ming Jiugao)
  6. Chapter 14 (once: the poem above).
  7. Chapter 25 (once).

5. Original text
The Chinese text begins:



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