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Song of Tea
清徵 Qingzhi mode: 1 2 4 6 5 1 2 2
茶歌 1
Cha Ge  
Tentative transcription of Cha Ge3      
This melody, surviving only in Lixing Yuanya,4 is set to lyrics by the Tang dynasty poet Lu Tong.5 The setting, which divides the poem into four sections, is largely one note for each Chinese character.

The composer of the music is unknown, though generally presumed to be Zhang Tingyu, compiler of the handbook. Thus, although the preface says that Lu Tong created "this song" as a result of a gift of tea from his friend Imperial Censor Meng,6 who was a poet as well as an official, there is no evidence at all connecting Lu to this melody, or even suggesting that he had a melody in mind when penning the lyrics.

The middle section of the lyrics, has long been popular as a separate poem called The 7 Bowls of Tea.7 There is a translation in Kit Chow and Ione Kramer, All the Tea in China, as follows:

The first cup caresses my dry lips and throat.
The second shatters the walls of my lonely sadness.
The third searches the dry rivulets of my soul to find the series of five thousand scrolls.
With the fourth the pain of past injustice vanishes through my pores.
The fifth purifies my flesh and bone.
With the sixth I am in touch with the immortals.
The seventh gives such pleasure I can hardly bear
The fresh wind blows through my wings,
As I make my way to Penglai.

The tuning and modality of Cha Ge (see qingzhi mode footnote) are both quite strange. Although the tuning calls for lowering the fifth string and raising the fourth, I have been unable to find the advantage of playing the melody this way rather than using standard tuning. In addition, there is one passage in double stops which seems to have been written using standard tuning. This suggests the melody was originally written down using standard tuning, then for unknown reasons was re-arranged for this non-standard one without intentionally changing any notes.

As for the melody itself, it is largely quadratonic (4 tone): with the tuning considered as 1 2 4 6 5 1 2 it mostly uses the notes 1 2 5 6 (do re so la; see details). The next most common note is 4 (fa) and it ends somewhat strangely on fa do.8

Cha Ge preface 9
The melody preface says,

As Imperial Censor Meng Jian had honored him with tea, Lu Tong thanked him by creating this song. Its writing style (?) is startling. A sharp person should attain its oddities. (Translation tentative)  
Cha Ge lyrics and melody 10
The lyrics in Lixing Yuanya seem to have been slightly modified from a poem by Lu Tong called, Rapidly penning thanks to Imperial Censor Meng for sending some new (freshly picked) tea. The following has the lyrics for the melody together with my own literal translation:

  1. 日高丈五睡正濃,軍將打門驚周公。
    As the sun rose late one morning,
        an envoy knocked on the door jolting (me from) a dream.         (See Zhou Gong
    He said the imperial censor had sent a letter,
        it was white silk with three seals slanting across it.
    開緘宛見諫議面,首閱月團三百片。                 (Elsewhere: 手閱月團三百片)
    Breaking it open, it was as if I could see the face of imperial censor (Meng):
        he had personally sent 300 pieces (bricks) of "round moon" (tea).
  2. 聞道新年入山裡,蟄蟲驚動春風起。
    I had heard that a path during the new year had gone through the mountains,
        when insects were just beginning to be aroused by spring breezes.
    The Son of Heaven is supposed to taste his Yangxian tea         (Yangxian: see
        before all the other plants dare to bloom.
    Kindly breezes had dissipated the pearls of frost (on the branches),
        at the beginning of spring drawing out the yellow golden buds.
    Picked fresh, (the buds) were dried fragrant and curled up,
        (so the tea could be) at its best and not overblown.
    This was supposed to be sent to honor royalty,
        what an affair that it had been brought to this home in the mountains.
  3. 柴門反關無俗客,紗帽籠頭自煎喫。
    I closed the gate to my humble abode so that no common folk could intrude,
        then put on my best clothes and cap to boil (the tea) for myself.
    The azure clouds were drawn by a continuous breeze,
        white flowers floated and glowed on the surface of the bowl.
    一碗喉吻潤,二碗破孤悶。                         (See comment; the music for this line is all double stops.)
    The first bowl whet my mouth and lips,
        the second bowl broke my lonely depression.
    三碗搜枯腸,唯有文字五千卷。                 (From "三碗 the third bowl" to the end the music is all in harmonics.)
    The third bowl allowed me to search my tired mind
        for fine expressions from my collection of 5000 books.
    The fourth bowl brought out light persperation, and so
        troubling affairs in my life all dispersed through my pores.
    The fifth bowl made my whole body cleansed,
        the sixth bowl sent me off with the immortals.
    The seventh bowl I could not drink down:
        it just seemed as though I had two wings that rustled as a light breezes arose.     (See comment.)
  4. 蓬來山,在何處!玉川子,乘此清風欲歸去。
    Penglai (mountain of immortals), lies at such a place!
        I, Yuchuanzi, will mount this light breeze so that I can return there.
    From the mountain all the immortals have come down to earth,
        but with a remote purity that separates them from wind and rain.
    How can they know the fates of countless lives,
        fallen from the summit and undergoing bitterness.       (Blofeld: refers to labor of the tea pickers)
    So I must ask the imperial censor whether these lives
        in the end will ever be able to rest or not.

The melody itself is discussed above.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Cha Ge 茶歌 (QQJC VIII/279)
31686.177 茶歌 says "a song sung while picking tea", but the present melody does not have the flavor of a tea picking song.

2. Qingzhi Mode (清徵調 Qingzhi Diao) (in ToC)
The tuning/mode used here is unique. Tuning instructions are to "緊四慢五絃各一徽 raise 4th and lower 5th strings one position each"; this in effect switches tuning for the 4th and 5th strings. According to my transcription the melody has 273 notes and is largely quadratonic (4 tone; little information is available on this kind of music).

The relative pitches not being stated, one must consider at least two possibilities (my own transcription uses the first):

  1. 1 2 4 6 5 1 2 (do re fa la so do re), changed from 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
    Here is a chart of note occurrences when considering the first string as 1 (the +1 in Section 4 comes from the last note being a diad on two different notes):
    Note\Section 1 2 3 (2 parts) 4 # %
    A 4 6 9+4 8 31 11.3
    Bb 1 1 0+0 0 2 0.7
    C 9 14 3+13 18 57 20.9
    D 4 19 13+19 17 72 26.4
    Eb 0 5 0+0 0 5 1.9
    E 1 2 0+0 0 3 1.1
    F 6 0 2+1 1(+1) 10(+1) 3.7
    F# 0 1 0+0 0 1 0.3
    G 21 28 14+14 15 92 33.7
    Total 46 76 40+42 59 273(+1) 100
    As can be seen, 92.3% (252 of 273) of the notes are 1, 2, 5 or 6, the other 21 notes being 3b (all within one passage), 3, 4, 4# and and 7b. The main tonal center is 5 and the secondary tonal center is 2, the structure most common in earlier melodies using the standard zhi mode.

  2. 5 6 1 3 2 5 6 (so la do mi re so la), changed from 5 6 1 2 3 5 6)
    In this case 252 of the 273 notes are 2, 3, 5 or 6, the other 21 notes being 1 (11 occurrences), 7 flat (5 occurrences, all within one passage), 7 (twice), 4 (twice) and 1 sharp (once). The main tonal center is 2 and the secondary tonal center is 6.

In either case, there is a sudden shift in the tonal center during the last two phrases. If treating the first string as 1, then the penultimate phrase ends on 1, while the closing note of the whole piece is 1 over 4. Almost all earlier zhi mode melodies end on 5 or 5 over 2, the only exception from Shen Qi Mi Pu or Zheyin Shizi Qinpu being the latter's Nanxun Ge, which ends 5 over 1. The last two phrases of Cha Ge prepare the Western ear for a closing on 1 (in spite of the earlier tonal center on 5), so playing 4 together with 1 gives an unexpected modal feeling. (Likewise, if treating the first string as 5 then the penultimate phrase ends on 5, so the 2 in the closing 5 over 2 diad is unexpected.)

There are several reasons to think the melody was originally written down using standard tuning, then (for unknown reasons) revised to use this unique "clear zhi" tuning. In the first place, zhi is the name of the fourth string, and zhi mode generally uses this as the main note; with the present re-tuning the main note becomes the open fifth string, so that if the piece were conceived with this tuning in mind one might expect the name of the fifth string (yu) in the title. In the second place there is a passage in double stops in the middle of Section 3 (beginning 一碗; mm. 85-92 of my transcription) which produces very strange dissonances as written, but sounds quite normal if played in standard tuning: the copyist perhaps forgot to alter the original tablature here. In addition, the tablature is difficult to interpret in several places. The first such case is the sixth note. As written it seems to call for playing a note "above the 10th position", i.e., at position 9.5, an unusual (but not necessarily unpleasant) dissonance; it is tempting to interpret 十上 "above 10" as 十卜 "綽 slide into 十 10", giving a unison with the previous note, but I have not seen tablature written this way in any earlier handbooks.

3. Tentative transcription of Cha Ge
This linked .pdf file is my transcription, but I do not feel I have a real sense of its musical aims. My handwritten comment at the bottom of page 3 refers to the string switching mentioned above.

4. Trace Cha Ge
Zha Guide lists it only here. Ref: 31/240/454

5. Lu Tong 盧仝 (790–835)
Lu Tong (Bio/381, Wiki and ICTCL p.954), self-nicknamed 玉川子 Yuchuanzi, was a poet best known for his love of tea: he spent his life studying it, never becoming an official. His lyrics 風中琴 Qin in the Wind are included in Qinshu Daquan, Folio 20 #24.

6. 孟簡 Meng Jian
7107.326 孟簡 Meng Jian says he was 善詩 a poet as well as an official. The poem refers to him by rank, Imperial Censor Meng (孟諫議 Meng Jianyi). Hucker translates the rank as Grand Master of Remonstrance.

7. The 7 Bowls of Tea (七碗茶詩 Qi Wan Cha Shi)
The poem is as above from 一碗喉吻潤 to 唯覺兩腋習習清風生 (sometimes adding 蓬來山,在何處,玉川子,乘此清風欲歸去)

An internet search for the first line of the translation above will turn up many websites having this translation (including a website called Seven Cups; see also main site). None identifies the translator. A hard copy of the translation by Kit Chow and Ione Kramer is in their book All the Tea in China, China Books and Periodicals, 1990, pp. xiii and xiv.

Most online versions make some changes to the above translation, but there is also a rather different translation under Lu Tong in Wiki, which also does not identify the translator. These translations, if they include the Chinese, usually have the latter ending with 蓬來山,在何處,玉川子, 地位清高隔風雨, but none of them seems to translate the part after 蓬來山.

8. Cha Ge melody details
See under Qingzhi mode introduction.

9. Cha Ge preface
The Chinese original is:
  孟簡 孟諫義簡惠茶,謝之而作此歌。奇峭驚人。快人應得稱其古怪云。

10. Cha Ge lyrics
It is not clear who did the slight modifications of the lyrics in Lixing Yuanya; the original is 盧仝:走筆謝孟諫議寄新茶 Lu Tong, Rapidly penning thanks to Imperial Censor Meng for sending some new (freshly picked) tea.

Mention of "周公 Zhou Gong" in verse 1, as explained at 3/295#3, "喻夜夢 is a metaphor for dreaming". As for 陽羨茶 Yangxian tea, Yangxian is an old name for 義興, now 宜興 Yixing (Wiki), still famous for its tea; Yangxian tea was sent annually to the emperor as a 貢茶 tribute tea.

The original poem is also translated in Blofeld, The Chinese Art of Tea, pp. 11-13. For the melody published in 1618 it was arranged into four sections.

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