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Chapter Six: Song and Yuan dynasties 1  
Xu Jian, Introductory History of the Qin, pp. 104-6

6.B.4. Qin Melodies : Melody Introductions 2  

4. Song of the Fisherman (Yu Ge) 3  



(The Song dynasty's) Mao Minzhong created this piece. The preface to the version in Xilutang Qintong (1525), just as in the preface to Qiao Ge (Song of the Woodcutter) in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425), says after the Yuan army entered Lin'an (Hangzhou), Mao Minzhong because of this disgraceful matter and his own unique character, lived in reclustion, taking no public office, writing this to welcome others of a similar spirit. It would seem that both Yu Ge and Qiao Ge were in fact companion pieces by Mao Mingzhong. However, these sorts of prefaces in reality have some discrepancies, because Mao Minzhong is his later years, together with Ye Lanpo and Xu Qiushan, went north to Yanjing (Beijing) to seek office. People do not realize the total historical circumstances of Mao Minzhong, and so have taken the awareness and patriotic thoughts that were common among the adherents to the fallen Song dynasty, and bestowed these on these two compositions.

Beginning with Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585; see in chart), the introductions in more than 10 Ming and Qing dynasty (handbooks) unanimously say it was created by Liu Zongyuan (773 - 819). Thus, in Wuzhizhai Qinpu it was written,

(Liu) Zihou, having been demoted to a remote position in southern Chu, wished to reject the mortal world and live an unrestrained life in the natural environment.

This was being even more distant from normal affairs. Liu Zongyuan's poem The Old Fisherman had great influence on qin pieces, not only being written down as a qin song, but also being the basis for development into a (full-size) qin piece (using raised fifth string tuning4). In order to distinguish it from Mao Minzhong's Yu Ge it came to be called "Northern Yu Ge (incorrectly according to some comments), then later changed again to be called Ao Ai (also pronounced Ai Nai). Ao Ai and Mao Minzhong's Yu Ge are in reality two completely different compositions, but in the (qin handbook) prefaces they are often mixed up (see table).

The two types of commentary described above (one ascribing the melody to Mao Minzhong, the other to Liu Zongyuan) both go against historical reality; but looking at them from the standpoint of understanding what their contents express, one cannot say that are completely without value for research. Because the piece Yu Ge has relatively high artistic success it has received universal praise from qin players, thus causing broad transmission.

The artistic hand techniques of Yu Ge are worth drawing lessons from. It is large composition with 18 lengthy sections; the whole piece connecting as a thematic melody, undergoing layers of development, forming a music piece that is completed and coherent. It is really as stated in Wuzhizhai Qinpu, this melody has an effect that is "broadly delicate carrying far", with "sounds easily in display".

In the first section as the thematic melody begins to reveal itself it still has a rather condensed simplicity. This continues until the middle of the fourth section, when it develops as a stylish melody that is pleasant to listen to. These are:5

(Staff notation examples 1 and 2 [from Sections 1 and 4]: omitted.6)

These are appropriate to the theme, and in the melody the ao ai sound of the fisherman while rowing appears quite often. This sort of sound also in accordance with the development of the melody gradually had differences. At the beginning of Sections 4 and 8 there is something like a work chantey:

(Staff notation example 3 [in both Section 4 and 8]: omitted.7)

Coming to the Sections 13 and 15, the ao ai song sound becomes even more broadly melodious.

(Staff notation example 4 [in both Section 13 and 15]: omitted.8)

The melody of the work song coordinates with the theme of the musical piece, then in Section 14 these form the high tide of the whole piece.

(Staff notation example 5 [Section 14]: omitted.9)

In Section 18, just before the piece ends there appears a temperporary change in mode such as one rarely sees in ordinary qin pieces. The music piece becomes even more colorful, revealing new achievements in the creation of qin hand techniques:

(Staff notation example 6 [Section 14]: omitted.10)

(Continue with Zuiweng Yin)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Chapter 6 covers these dynasties (dates, capital city [modern name]):

Northern Song (960-1126; Dongjing [Kaifeng])
Liao (907-1125; Dading Fu [Daning?])
Southern Song (1127-1280; Linan Fu [Hangzhou])
Jin (1115-1260; Zhongdu [Beijing])
Yuan (1206-1280-1368; Dadu [Beijing])

2. Translation by JT.

3. Song of the Fisherman (漁歌 Yu Ge)
More information as well as links to further references are included with my own separate pages discussing the earliest version of this melody using ruibin tuning (in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu, <1491) as well as the earliest version of the one discussed here, using standard tuning (in Xilutang Qintong, 1525).

4. I don't know why Xu Jian does not mention that they use two different tunings.

5. Transcription of Yu Ge in Guqin Quji, Vol. 1, pp. 104 - 114
This is a transcription of the Wuzhizhai Qinpu version of Yu Ge as performed by 吳兆基 Wu Zhaoji. However, Xu Jian's transription is somewhat different. Considering the examples he uses from the previous melodies one would guess that he was using a Wuzhizhai Qinpu interpretation by Wu Jinglue, but I have not found any such transcription. Xu Jian is said to have done his own transcriptions of almost all early qin melodies, so perhaps this is his own. However, there is no indication he himself ever played this melody.

6. Compare staff notation examples 1 and 2:

Transcription, p.104, line 2 (in Section 1)
Transcription, p. 106, line 4 (in Section 4).

7. Compare two versions of staff notation example 3:

Transcription, p.105, last line (beginning of Section 4)
Transcription, p.108, line 5 (beginning of Section 8 [harmonics]).

8. Compare two versions of staff notation example 4

Transcription, p.111, line 3 (Section 13)
Transcription, p.112, lines 3-4 (near beginning of Section 15).

9. Staff notation example 5

Transcription, p.111, line 7 (Section 14, line 2)

10. Staff notation example 6

Transcription, p.114, line 7 (Section 14, line 2)

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