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Song of Tea
清徵 Qingzhi mode: 1 2 4 6 5 1 2 2
Tentative transcription of Cha Ge3
The person who created (or arranged) the music, though never stated, is generally presumed to be Zhang Tingyu, compiler of the handbook. Thus, although the preface says that Lu Tong "作此歌 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 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). Here, to avoid most non-standard notes (i.e., not in the scale 1 2 3 5 6) the relative tuning of the qin is considered as 1 2 4 6 5 1 2. Considered this way, the melody mostly uses the notes 1 2 5 6 (do re so la; see details). However, unlike with all the previous zhi mode melodies I have studied, where the relative note 5 seems to function as do and so the relative note 1 is generally avoided because it feels like a fa, here the note 1 (do) is very prominent (57 occurrences) while 7 and 7b are almost negligible. In addition, the relative note 4 (fa) is relatively common and the melody ends somewhat strangely on fa do. All this gives the melody a modal feel very different from all the other Ming dynasty melodies I have reconstructed.8
Cha Ge preface 9
The melody preface says,
The melody itself is discussed above.
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)
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.
Qingzhi Mode (清徵調 Qingzhi Diao)
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):
|Note\Section||1||2||3 (2 parts)||4||total #||%||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|
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.
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.
Trace Cha Ge
Zha Guide lists it only here. Ref: 31/240/454
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.
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.
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.
Cha Ge melody modal details
See also the Qingzhi mode introduction above. It should also be mentioned that I have not studied enough of the melodies in Lixing Yuanya (or others from that period or later) to know for certain whether the modality here is truly unique.
Cha Ge preface
The Chinese original is:
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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