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Handbooks from Japan   From QQJC   Correct Toko Kinpu   Japan Theme   Qinci   Feng Lei Yin 聽 listen with the lyrics   首頁  
Thunderbolt Prelude 1
Yu mode (羽音 Yuyin) 2
Pili Yin  
  Pili Yin from Hewen Zhuyin Qinpu3        
Today one often hears of Pili Yin (Thunderbolt Prelude) being an alternate title for Feng Lei Yin (Wind and Thunder Intonation), but this association seems to have been made rather late (for guqin apparently beginning only in 1833).4 In fact, as a separate qin melody Pili Yin is preserved only in Japan, where it is a melodically unrelated qin song set to lyrics by 沈佺期 Shen Quanqi (c.650-713). No surviving qin melody called Feng Lei Yin uses these (or any other) lyrics.5 The stories used with the instrumental melody and the song are very different. And the modality here is very different from those of the various Feng Lei Yin melodies.

Nevertheless Xu Jian, in his analysis of Feng Lei Yin (Qin Shi Chu Bian, Tang dynasty qin melodies, pp.69-70), uses the Shen Quanqi lyrics to suggest a connection between the surviving instrumental melody and the melody mentioned in Tang dynasty sources. In addition, he takes his musical examples from the version of Feng Lei Yin published in 1722 without mentioning its musical differences from the earlier surviving versions, 1525 and 1539 being the earliest of these.

The lyrics by Shen Quanqi used for the Pili Yin in Japan can be found in Yuefu Shiji (YFSJ) Folio 57 (Qin melody lyrics #1), where it is the 11th entry.6

The Pili Yin entry (Folio 57, #11) begins with two conflicting comments on the melody:

  1. Qin Lun by Xie Xiyi (Xie Zhuang) says, "Yu the Great" (Xia Yu) wrote Pili Yin."

  2. Yuefu Jieti says, "When Chu Shang Liang was traveling in 雷澤 Thunder Marsh, thunder rolled down. So he played his qin and created this, calling it Pili Yin."

Guo Maoqian adds, "It is not known which is correct." There is no mention of the story told with Feng Lei Yin of the Metal Bound Box and the Duke of Zhou. The account from Qin Shi about Chu Shang Liang has more detail. It also mentions lei ze (thunder marsh) instead of feng lei, as in the version of the story in 1833; compare also the version in Qin Cao - Pingjin edition. 7

YFSJ then gives three sets of lyrics, the last of which being the lyrics accompanying the present melody.8

Musically Pili Yin seems quite special, presenting a number of challenges to interpretation.9 For my reconstruction I understand the song, though short, to have four sections (see below: they start at 00.15, 00.42, 01.24 and 02.02 respectively):

  1. Sets the occasion
  2. Evokes the sounds coming from the qin (rhymed)
  3. Suggests the reaction of the listeners to the music (rhyme change)
  4. Praise for the music (not rhymed)

Each of these sections is musically quite distinct; their variety added to the challenge of interpretation.

Original preface
None. At front it says only, "Shen Quanqi of the Tang dynasty." At the end it says only "Hand copied by Gao Du the Mountain Woodgatherer (皋䲧山樵手挍).

Melody and Lyrics11 (看五線譜 See transcription; timings follow 聽錄音 my recording)
See note on the translation and for linked expressions see Glossary):

(Play the closing harmonics 彈曲尾泛音 )

Suì qī yuè, huǒ fú ér jīn shēng.
In the year's seventh month,
      as Fire receded and Metal rose,
Kè yǒu gǔ qín yú mén zhě, zòu "Pī Lì" zhī shāng shēng.
Among my guests was one who plucked his qin zither at my gate,
      playing "Thunderbolt" with its shang tones.

Shǐ jiá yǔ yǐ huō huò, zhōng kòu gōng ér pēng líng.
First he struck the note "yu" and the sounds cut through the air;
      finally he plucked the note "gong" and it thundered out.
Diàn yào yào xī lóng yuè, léi tián tián xī yǔ míng.
Lightning blazed and flashed as dragons leapt through the skies;
      thunder boomed crashing, and rain made it dark.
Qì wū hán yǐ huì yǎ, tài chuā xī yǐ héng shēng.
Vapors gaped and moaned as in the odes;
      seeming agitated as they (blew) past us.
Yǒu rú qū qiān qí, zhì wǔ bīng,
It was like the waving of a thousand flags,
      the activation of five branches of soldiers;
Jié huāng huī, zhuó cháng jīng.
The slashing of mystical serpents,
      and the slaying of long leviathans.

Shú yǔ "Guǎng Líng" bǐ yì, "Bié Hè" chóu jīng ér yǐ.
Even with
Guangling (melody) it rivaled in scope;
      as for Departing Cranes the same essence is just what it had.
Bǐ wǒ xióng zi pò dòng, yì fū fā lì,
It caused our heroic souls to stir,
      (and) resolute men's hair to stand on end.
Huái ēn bù qiǎn, wǔ yì shuāng jí.
Their thanks for His grace was not superficial,
      since war modes pair us into harmonies.
Shì Hú ruò jiè, jiǎn Jié rú shí.
Look down on the Hu nomads as trifles,
      Cut through the Jie barbarians as if harvesting.

Qǐ tú kǎi kāng zhōng yán, bèi qún yú zhī**xī xí zāi?
How could (this music simply) be bringing strong feelings at a social gathering,
      when it encompasses for all delights: ** the greatest inspiration?
*** 故知此也。
       gù zhī cǐ yě.
       Thus we know of it.
02.35 end

  ** Here the closing harmonics begin
*** New text added in Japanese handbooks.


Note on the translation
The translation above is in part copied from, in part based on, the one by Stephen Owen in The Poetry of the Early T'ang, Yale University Press, 1977, pp. 360-361. In 1977 Professor Owen (who earned his doctorate at Yale University in 1972) wrote of Pili Yin (which he translated "Thunder Rumble Song") that it is one of a number of Tang poems that might be compared to the old rhapsodies (賦 fu) on music.

The tradition of the poetic descriptions of music was old and well established in the fu. Poems on music were particularly popular during the eighth and ninth centuries, and some of them are among the greatest poetry of the Tang. Since music was a nonverbal medium, descriptions of music allowed the poet a wide scope of imaginative metaphor, describing the scenes evoked or emotions stirred by the sounds. Like the dream poem, the music poem came from a "real" occasion which by its nature demanded imaginative treatment. Shen Quanqi was one of the first Tang poets to fully exploit the poem on music in the following heptasyllabic song on a qin player whose music evoked thunder. "The Thunder Rumble Song" was originally a literary yuefu of the Liang which described real thunder; in contrast to Song Zhiwen's return to the original yuefu in "Wangzi Qiao", Shen's treatment of his yuefu theme is completely original.

After his translation he added that,

"From summoning up a thunderstorm, Shen's (qin player) stirs up all manner of martial feelings among the guests, a music different from the refined music of a Xi Kang or of the immortals. By the end of the performance the guests seem ready to go off to the frontiers to obliterate the enemies of the empire in gratitude for the emperor's grace."

As yet I have not seen the edition of The Poetry of the Early Tang re-published by Quirin Pinyin Updated Editions, 2012 (further details).

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Thunderbolt Prelude (霹靂引 Pili Yin) (XII/210 and XII/272; TKKP IV/32)
43433.5 霹靂引 Pili Yin: qin melody name; only reference is to Yuefu Shiji, which it quotes. It makes no mention of "wind and thunder" (風雷 feng lei), nor does the Pili Yin entry in Zha Guide 35/261/50 give Feng Lei Yin as an alternative title, although the Feng Lei Yin listing at 16/164/-- does include one 19th century handbook that compares it to Pili Yin.

In sum, as a separate melody Pili Yin is found only in the Japanese handbooks connected to Shin Etsu. The melody of this qin song is totally unrelated to that of any of the Feng Lei melodies.

2. Yu mode
My transcription using 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 tuning shows many phrases ending on yu (la; 7), but there seem to be many problems with the tablature.

3. Image above: Pili Yin in Hewen Zhuyin Qinpu (complete pdf; compare TKKP at right) Pili Yin in 東皋琴譜 (TKKP; IV/37; expand)            
From Hewen Zhuyin Qinpu, QQJC XII/210-213, but re-aligned to fit onto two pages. Of the other two available surviving editions, the one in 大原止郎本東皋琴譜 Dayuan (XII/272) is mostly the same as in Hewen; both of them include marks that show Japanese how to pronounce the Chinese lyrics; in contrast, the one at right, from TKKP (IV/37), has a number of differences, mainly in finger positions (as shown in this transcription from QQJC, which has TKKP's differences marked in red.

4. Tracing 霹靂引 Pili Yin
Zha Guide 35/261/508: Only in Japan (261 has comments from four sources, not qinpu). Feng Lei Yin (16/164/--), traced here, has commentary from 1833 that mentions Pili Yin as well as Feng Lei Yin.

5. Versions of Feng Lei Yin
As outlined on this chart, all 40 surviving versions until 1910 seem to be musically related, then in the Meian Qinpu of 1931 a completely new melody was introduced.

6. YFSJ, Folio 57, #11 (pp.828-9)
Folios 57-60 have Qin melody lyrics. The opening commentary, translated above, is:


It then gives three poems (see next footnote).

7. Pili Yin from Qin Cao
Pingjin edition of Qin Cao (QQJC XXX/23) has an extended introduction to Pili Yin, which it writes as "辟歷引". 39505.133 辟歷 has "疾雷,與霹靂同 sudden thunder, the same as 霹靂." The entry is as follows:

楚商梁子所作也。商梁子出遊九皋之澤,覽漸水之台,張置罟,周於荊山,臨曲池而漁。疾風隕雹,雷電奄冥,天火四起,辟歷下臻,玄鶴翔其前,白虎吟其後,瞿然而驚,謂其僕曰:「今日出遊,豈非常之行耶」,何其災變之甚也?」 其僕曰:「孤虛設張,八宿相望,熒惑於角,五星失行,此國之大變也,君其返國矣!」 於是商梁子歸其室,乃援琴而歌嘆,韻聲激發,象辟歷之聲,故曰《辟歷引》。云:「疾雨盈河,辟歷下臻,洪水浩浩滔厥天。鑒隆愧,隱隱闐闐,國將亡兮喪厥年。」

This account tells the same basic story as the one translated from Qin Shi under the entry for Chu Shang Liang (which gives "Qin Shi" as its source, but writes pili as 霹靂). Qin Shi is known to date from the Song dynasty, but it does not indicate its sources. Note also that, although as a melody list Qin Cao can be traced to an earlier date, the versions with commentary, such as the Pinjin edition used here, can apparently not be dated with certainty until much later.

8. Lyrics for Pili Yin in YFSJ, Folio 57, #11
These are as follows (note that neither of the lyrics in the form (5+5)x2 fits any known version of Feng Lei Yin):

  1. Emperor Jianwen of Liang ([5+5] x 4)


  2. Xin Deyuan ([5+5] x 4)


  3. Shen Quanqi (see also under Feng Lei)

    These are the lyrics used for the present melody.

To my knowledge only the Shen Quanqi lyrics have translations.

9. Interpreting the tablature (see transcription from QQJC and the same with comparisons from TKKP)
Both of the linked transcriptions into staff notation show the version in Hewen Zhuyin Qinpu (QQJC): the "comparative transcription" is the same one from QQJC but it adds marks in red showing the differences in the version in Donggao Qinpu Zhengben [TKKP]).

My own reconstruction, linked above, is based on the version in QQJC. The reasons for this come mainly from the problems described in the first item below:

  1. Both the QQJC and the TKKP versions have a number of dissonances, but TKKP has a lot more, in particular 7th diads (i.e., two notes played together are a seventh interval apart; see mm. 5 [客有], 9 [霹靂], 14 [騞砉], 19 [雨冥], 25 [橫生], 39 [儔精] and 52 [如拾]; at mm. 9, 19, 25 and 52 QQJC has "七七" instead of "八半", making octaves, and at 39 it has a slide up to "六三", making a 11th diad instead of a 7th). One might assume that the 7th intervals are intentional because some of them occur on notes accompanying words that may sound appropriate with such dissonances, such as the one on "thunderbolt" (霹靂 pili), but if so this usage is not consistent. In addition, TKKP has some clear errors, as in m.14 of the transcription, where TKKP omits a stroke (勹), leaving the characters "騞砉" with only one stroke to play them (i.e., it is non-syllabic").
  2. There is not a clear modality: it is said to be in yu mode and most phrases do end on the note yu, but there is not a clear secondary center. In addition, the relative note collection for yu note pieces is usually 6 1 2 3 5 , but here the relative pitch 7 is much more common than 1.
  3. As yet I have not discovered as many of the repeated patterns (such as musical couplets) that usually help give form to the melody.

The second and third problems led to my interpreting the piece as having four sections, each with its own distincitve music feeling, as outlined above. Although there is still a temptation to add more of the dissonances from TKKP because of the sometimes violent imagery, for me this is expressed well enough through the melodies themselves.

10. Preface
None. At front it says only, 唐沈佺期"; at the end it says only "皋䲧山樵手挍" (Zhengben has "皋䲧山樵譜音 notated the melody"). "皋䲧 Gao Du" is presumably Shin Etsu but I have not seen the character 䲧 du elsewhere.

11. Melody and lyrics
The Chinese lyrics by themselves are:


*** 故知此也。

          ** Here the closing harmonics begin
        *** added in the Japanese handbooks.

The lyrics have been translated in Stephen Owen, The Poetry of the Early T'ang, pp. 360-361.

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