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Leaves Dance in an Autumn Breeze
Qing Gong mode (standard tuning):2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6)
梧葉舞秋風 1
Wuye Wu Qiufeng  
  Preface and first page of the original tablature 3    
Regarding the significance of this melody Xu Jian writes the following in his Introductory History of the Qin:4

The creative concept of this piece provides a lot of food for thought. Thus, the octave downward leaps that often appear at the end of phrases all have, amidst hints of autumn sparseness, a sense of being in a static state of silent meditation, and also when making use of the technique of sliding up and down from a central note having a dynamic state of winds blowing and leaves dancing. One can examine this by using the fifth section as an example:

This is followed by five lines of staff notation that present Section 5 of a modern version of this melody, apparently as played by Wu Jinglue.5 A comparison of this transcription with the original composition clearly shows that the modern version has a lot more of the up and down slides than is specified in the original version; there also seem to be a few more octave leaps, and in addition there are some significant differences in punctuation, discussed further below. One is then left with significant questions about the original aims and/or meaning of the melody.6

Wuye Wu Qiufeng was created in the mid-17th century by Zhuang Zhenfeng and first published in his Qinxue Xinsheng Xiepu (1664); it survives in at least 26 handbooks from then until 1914.7 Zhuang was a teacher of Jiang Xingchou (1639-1695), who presumably took it when he moved to Japan. However, it was not published in any of his handbooks there; in China, meanwhile, it is not certain to what extent the versions that can be heard played today are a result of direct transmission or of reconstruction via old tablature.

Xu Jian's commentary does not discuss issues of transmission or possible reconstruction of this particular melody, nor does it refer to the preface to the melody by Shi Runzhang (not yet translated: the image at right has the original). Instead Xu Jian, before expressing the opinions translated above (see his original text) quotes Zhuang Zhengfen stating in his essay Fanli, 8

I am inspired to create a new melody having perhaps encountered a beautiful turn of phrase from a famous person, or perhaps in response of a bird call or the sound of the wind; the emotion enters my ears, then my hand responds to my heart.

There is also mention of a comment in 1833 saying Wuye Wu Qiufeng was the only piece by Zhuang then still played (compare the comment in 1744 that this was Zhuang's best new melody); plus quotes from 1894 that it has a smooth rhythm and was good for the development of playing skills.

Wuye Wu Qiufeng is today best known through the version played by Wu Jinglue. Its transcriptions and commentary all say they come from here in 1664, but that version is somewhat different, particularly regarding punctuation (much of which later versions partially omit) and ornamentation. According to his son Wu Wenguang,9 Wu Jinglue originally reconstructed this melody in 1928 according to the 1664 version. If he did this independently (the number of late 19th century publications of the melody suggests there should also have been other people playing it at that time), presumably he then and/or later compared this with other early tablature and/or other performances, and perhaps for this reason did not always adopt the earliest phrasing. However, from my observation all of the earlier published versions, such as that of 1864, are quite similar to 1664, omitting some phrasing indications but not suggesting the apparent re-phrasing by Wu.

Two immediately noticeable differences between the opening of the 1664 tablature and the beginning of Wu's interpretation are as follows:

  1. Although Section 1 in Wu and 1664 have the same notes (harmonics), except at the end, their phrasing is different:
        modern: 1 2 5 5 5 6 5 3 5 1 6 , 5 5 5 1 2 , 3 3 1 3 , 3 3 1 3 2 2 2 , 6 6 6 2 1 , 2 1 6 2 1 1 .
        early    : 1 2 5 5 5 , 6 5 3 5 1 , 6 5 5 5 , 1 2 3 3 1 3 , 1 3 1 3 , 2 2 2 , 6 6 6 , 2 1 6 1 , 2 1 1 .
    This different phrasing emphasizes different notes, giving the two versions a very different flavor.
  2. As with other modern interpretations, Wu begins Section Two with two stopped dos an octave higher, divided by a double slide up and followed by a single slide up; these slides are not in the 1664 original, but from 1689 they are almost always specified.

The strong and lively nature of Wu's interpretation is both appealing and initially persuasive. However, upon second glance it seems quite likely that another recording, by Liu Shaochun, might reflect more closely the interpretations that were passed down through the old handbooks. Wu Jinglue's version seems to suggest the leaves were dancing rhythmically, like people. Perhaps the less regular rhythms of Liu Shaochun better capture the dancing of leaves.10

In addition, perhaps the original punctuation, as well as the theme of the melody, suggest a more ethereal flavor. In trying to capture this, though, one must recall the various commentaries in old handbooks saying that this is a beautiful melody, the rhythms of which should be easily picked up by beginners.

Some modern interpretations, whether or not they differ somewhat from that of Wu Jinglue, are perhaps based on reinterpreting his version (perhaps in consultation with the original or another early tablature). Or perhaps the players are doing their own modifications of an earlier version, or they come from a different tradition, or they are using some combination of the above. This deserves closer study, in particular as to how this impacts our understanding of the traditional repertoire as handed down vs. the traditional repertoire as reconstructed.11

By Shi Runzhang; see original; not yet translated

Eight sections plus a harmonic coda (timings are from
my recording 聽錄音)

00.00   1.
00.30   2.
01.07   3.
01.35   4.
02.06   5.
02.29   6.
02.47   7.
03.14   8.
03.34   Closing harmonics
03.59   End

The recording was made on 5 October using a guqin newly made by Tong Kin-Woon and silk strings by Marusan Hashimoto, newly strung (24 September 2013). Open first string = B flat; this recording replaces the one of 27 September 2013, which had open first string = G#.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Leaves Dance in an Autumn Breeze (梧葉舞秋風 Wuye Wu Qiu Feng)
This title is also translated as Leaves Dancing in the Autumn Wind, Parasol Leaves Dance in the Autumn Wind, Wu Leaves Dancing in an Autumn Wind, etc. "Wu" (parasol tree, catalpa tree) is sometimes synonymous with qin, since it (often by its full name wutong) is said to be one of the best types of wood for making qins. However, since wu leaves do not create any special images in English, I have not used wu or its translation in the English title.

As for literary or other references, 15169.27 is only 梧葉 wuye, adding no significant references. And 25505.223 秋風 qiufeng, as well as the entries following, also seem to have nothing connected to the present melody (none mentions 梧葉 wuye.

The preface (see below) also fails to give specific references explaining the title, though there is mention of "古調秋風梧葉", which seems to mean old melodies about autumn breezes in wu leaves.

One example of a poetic reference to autumn breezes in wu leaves is a poem by 戴复古 Dai Fugu (1167- ?), a "River and lakes poet" who traveled around Zhejiang (as did 莊臻鳳 Zhuang Zhenfeng) and liked to stay at Stone Screen Mountain (see his 石屏詩集 Shiping Shiji; there is a Shiping Mountain near 滁洲 Chuzhou, but it is across the river from Nanjing, in Anhui); the poem begins "Autumn breeze in wu leaves and rain", as follows:


Perhaps there are other similarly themed poems.

2. Qing Gong mode (清宮調 Qinggong Diao)
Qing gong literally means "clear gong", and this piece clearly fits into the Ming dynasty standard for gong mode pieces: gong (1; do) is the main tonal center throughout, with zhi (5; sol) as the secondary tonal center. See further under Shenpin Gong Yi and Modality in early Ming qin tablature.

3. Image: QQJC XII/116
The top half of the pdf has a preface to the melody; it is discussed further below.

The bottom half has melody details then the first three sections of tablature. The melody details, on the first four lines (from the right), are,

  1. Wuye Wu Qiu Feng; Qinggong mode; 8 sections; "此係二集暫附譜末 this is one of two pieces appended" (? see comment in the ToC)
  2. Personally created by Zhuang Zhenfeng (style name) Die'an of Sanshan (Yangzhou)
  3. The 男 men 洵允兹 Xun Yunzi and 滙涵遠 Hui Hanhuan together revised it.
  4. First section, in harmonics

Regarding "man" (22235.0 男), this word similarly occurs in two other places: in mentioning the same two people as having revised the first and third melodies (Taiping Zou and Shitan Zhang).

4. Xu Jian's commentary on Wuye Wu Qiufeng
See Qinshi Chubian, p.164: Qing dynasty, Qin melodies. His full original commentary is as follows (with the section translated above put into a separate paragraph at the end:


此曲的意境是很耐人尋味的,如句尾常出現八度下行的跳躍,具有在秋意寥落中,沈思默想的靜態。而演奏中上、下換音的運用,又有著風吹葉舞的動態。試以其第五段為例: (五線譜)

Details of the first part are discussed here. Regarding the five lines of staff notation from Section 5, it seems to follow Wu Jinglue's interpretation. Other modern interpretations are mentioned below.

5. Xu Jian's staff notation for Section 5
The determination that this was Wu Jinglue's version, discussed further below, was made by comparing the transcription in QSCB, p.164, which does not include attribution or tablature, with the one in Guqin Quji I, which does (it is also available with the transcription in The Qin Music Repertoire of the Wu Family, p. 1). The original tablature details tuning, finger positions, stroke techniques and ornamentation, but does not directly indicate note values (rhythm/tempo). Traditionally this would have been learned learned from a teacher or interpreted via a process nowadays referred to as dapu. Today of course staff or number notation can be used to convey the note values.

6. Original nature of Wuye Wu Qiufeng
The comments here are based on examining my own transcription of the original Wuye Wu Qiufeng. To my knowledge there have been no published studies of this earliest surviving version. In fact, the strong and lively nature of Wu's interpretation (very similar to the one that I originally learned from my own teacher) is both appealing and inititally persuasive, and this has so far kept me from completing my own reconstruction based on the original tablature and its punctuation (i.e., although I have written out the earliest version in staff notation, the counterintuitive rhythms suggested to me by its ornamentation and punctuation have so far prevented me from memorizing my transcribed version). In addition, its publication date makes it later than my general repertoire.

7. Tracing Wuye Wu Qiufeng (tracing chart)
Zha Guide 34/257/-- lists it in 21 handbooks, beginning with 琴學心聲諧譜 Qinxue Xinsheng Xiepu of 莊臻鳳 Zhuang Zhenfeng; it seems to have missed two of the versions listed here and QQJC prints several more that were in handbooks not indexed by Zha. None of the later versions is a copy of the original, including the one in 1802, which otherwise has copies of seven of the melodies here.

Modern interpretations of Wuye Wu Qiufeng are included in:

There is further comment in the chart below.

8. 凡例 Fanli
QQJC XII/15, top, line 9. Xu Jian also discusses this essay further in one of his Qin essays (p.163).

9. See The Qin Music Repertoire of the Wu Family, p. 1.

10. Dancing rhythm
In doing my own reconstruction I tried using a slow tempo attuned to the irregularity of floating leaves, but found that the more I played it the faster and more rhythmic it became.

11. Issues in interpreting the original tablature
One of the problems is that some of the tablature is not explained, or not explained clearly. As is common, Qinxue Xinsheng has a section (see QQJC XII/50-53) of finger technique explanations, but it is not complete. One finger techniques used here that is not explained at all is 次立; then two that are not clearly explained are 𠂊, which should represent 急, but this does not seem likely when attached to notes with ornaments or that are said to be held (省); as well as one that seems to represent 度 .

12. Preface to Wuye Wu Qiufeng (top half of the pdf)
The preface here was written 宛水愚道人施閏章 at Wanshui by the Foolish Daoist Shi Runzhang (1618-1683), a well-known poet from 宣州 Xuanzhou in Anhui; Wanshui seems to refer to Jiyunlou, his villa there (寄雲樓:宛水東岸施愚山別墅). It is dated 庚戎中秋 mid-autumn of 1670, i.e., six years later than the original handbook (some commentary suggests that the last two melodies in the handbook were a later attachment, along with the poems and essays that followed).

Shi Runzhang's original text begins,

With poetry valued more than song, thus began clear play ....(?)

On line 5 (having just mentioned Shi Kuang and Cheng Lian) the preface says "乃有蝶菴莊子,特標韶韻,夙擅琴心 and so here is Master Zhuang Diean especially putting forward the Shao sounds, precociously initiating his heart through the qin." (?)

Then on lines 6 and 7 it mentions "獨存古調秋風梧葉 solely preserving the old melody autumn breeze in wu leaves". It is not clear whether this refers to a specific melody title, Autumn Breeze in Wu Leaves, or whether it refers to the fact that the phrase 秋風梧葉 qiufeng wuye can often be found, as in the Dai Fugu poem above.

Otherwise, the preface does not seem to expand on the melody details that followed.

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Appendix: Chart Tracing
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide, //.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1. 琴學心聲
      (1664; XII/116 [here])
8+1 sections; 清宮調 qinggong diao; long preface;
Notes very similar to today, but punctuation very different
  2. 澄鑒堂琴譜
      (1689; XIV/217)
8; 宮音 gongyin; almost same: omits many 省 (少息) holds and 。 punctuation marks;
also changes some ornaments
  3. 蓼懷堂琴譜
      (1702; XIII/201)
8+1; 清宮音 qinggong yin; closest to 1689
  4. 琴書千古
      (1738; XV/381)
7; gongyin; left hand part elaborated
  5. 春草堂琴譜
      (1744; XVIII/251)
10; zhonglüjun gongyin; like earlier simpler versions; afterword says this was the best of the 10 new pieces created by Zhuang, with pure tones and a rhythm beginners can easily pick up
  6. 蘭田館琴譜
      (1755; XVI/201)
8; qinggong yin; similar
  7. 琴香堂琴譜
      (1760; XVII/35)
8; gong yin; very similar
  8. 酣古齋琴譜
      (n.d.; XVIII/396)
8+1; gongyin
  9. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/324)
8+1; gong yin; very similar but less punctuation
10. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/77)
8; similar
11. 琴譜諧聲
      (1820; XX/161)
8; similar
12. 二香琴譜
      (1833; XXIII/131)
8; gongyin; very similar but less punctuation; afterword says this is the only one of Zhuang's 14 creations still played (but it prints another (Li Yun Chun Si ; XXIII/151)
13. 琴譜正律
      (~1839; XXIII/47)
8; somewhat different; "name of the creator is lost"; early Zhucheng;
not indexed
14. 行有恒堂錄存琴譜
      (1840; XXIII/191)
8; standard
15. 張鞠田琴譜
      (1844; XXIII/301)
8; similar; adds notation
16. 稚雲琴譜
      (1849; XXIII/430)
8; similar but adds some lines next to tablature: for phrasing?
17. 琴學入門
      (1864; XXIV/326)
10 + 1 sections (gongyin zhonglüjun) but still very similar;
(sectioning is diff; again less punctuation)
18. 蕉庵琴譜
      (1868; XXVI/36)
8+1; similar; preface and afterword
19. 琴瑟合譜
      (1870; XXVI/160)
8+1; similar
20. 以六正五之齋琴學秘書
      (1875; XXVI/241)
8; commentary with each section
21. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/199)
8; gongyin gongdiao; "from 1833"
22. 綠綺清韻
      (1884; XXVII/408)
8; gongyin; only has three of the sections;
Afterword says from Yuguzhai Qinpu (its melodies were put into 1864)
23. 友石山房琴譜
      (1887; XXVII/415)
9; gong yin; afterword
24. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/271)
10 sections; similar; afterword comments on 1744 and 1864 versions
25. 鳴盛閣琴譜
      (1899; ???)
10+1 sections, but not in QQJC
26. 詩夢齋琴譜
"from 1744", but not in QQJC
27. 研易習琴齋琴譜
      (1961; F3#6)
10; zhonglüjun gongyin; afterword;
28. 愔愔室琴譜
      (2000; page 131)
10; gongyin zhonglüjun; afterword

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