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Silk Stone Moving House Program for premiere performance

International Dance Center, Inc.
Gregory Cary, Kevin McKenzie, Bentley Roton, Martine van Hamel
The world Premiere of

June 28 and 29, 2003

A dance-theater collaboration of East-West fusion
Curated by Daryl Ries
Choreography: MICHAEL MAO

Cirron Greenidge
Makiko Ishimori
Salvatore LaRussa
Karen Nicely
Manuel Rojas
Stacy Yoshioka

SILK STONE MOVING is a work that emanates from the ancient Chinese music of the silkqin zither. The dance takes its cue from the story of each song, and the visuals provide an emotional overtone, a psychological sub-text that comments on the sound and movement. It may be seen that each form comments on the other, creating a dialogue connecting the three.

Notes on the music for Silk Stone Moving

The music all comes directly from two of the most important early sources of qin music, Shen Qi Mi Pu (Handbook of Spiritual and Marvelous Mysteries, 1425) and Xilutang Qintong (Qin Anthology of the Hall in the Western Foothills, 1539). The former was compiled by Zhu Quan, who called himself the Emaciated Immortal; he was the 17th son of founder of the Ming dynasty. The latter was compiled by Wang Zhi, about whom there is very little information. All the music was reconstructed from the original scores by John Thompson.

Outline of the Music for Silk Stone Moving

1. The Ancient Style (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)
2. Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)
3. Boya mourns Ziqi (Xilutang Qintong, 1459)
4. Withdrawing from Society (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)
5. Courting Phoenix Suite (Xilutang Qintong, 1459), in three parts:

a. Modal Introduction,
b. Linqiong Prelude
c. Courting Phoenix
6. Falling into Grief (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)
7. Song of Chu (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)

Introduction to the Melodies

Below is a translation of the original commentary for these melodies, as well as the lyrics for the two songs (#3 and #5c). Related analysis is available on the website www.silkqin.com.

1. The Ancient Style (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)

The Emaciated Immortal says this is a very old piece, composed by King Wen (12th c. BCE). Its intention is to follow the purest ancient style of doing things, which is not to control them, and yet not have disorder; not to say anything and yet be believed; not to give instruction and yet to get things done. How vast it is: people cannot describe it at all. As for the worldly aspect, it is like happily ascending a terrace in springtime. They used Dao to preserve life, and used virtue to control their actions; these people all ate whatever was available and lived contentedly, loving their land and respecting life. Their actions were done openly, and their hearts had no likes or dislikes. They could hear each other's chickens and dogs, and yet during their whole lives not visit each other. Not having likes or dislikes, and not having evil addictions, had been something commonly seen during the time of the Great Simplicity and it was now seen again

2. Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)

The Emaciated Immortal says this piece existed in antiquity, but long ago transmission ceased. (In the 13th c. CE) Mao Minzhong continued it.

The (first section of the) book Zhuangzi (Daoist philosopher ca. 6th c. BCE) says,

"(I) Zhuangzi once dreamed I was a butterfly fluttering about..., not knowing about Zhuangzi. Suddenly I woke up, glad to find I was still Zhuangzi. (But then) I didn't know whether I had dreamed that I was a butterfly, or was a butterfly dreaming of being Zhuangzi. There must be a difference between Zhuangzi and a butterfly, and this is what is called "material transformation."

"Thus a gentleman who can attain the Dao shrinks that which has been created beyond objective existence, (instead) using his spirit to guide his life force, wandering pleasantly in a broad, quietly empty place, going along with all the changes in heaven and on earth, and being of one substance with the Universe. This pleasure is not the sort an ordinary bumpkin can know; (only) men of distinction attain it."

3. Boya mourns Ziqi (Xilutang Qintong, 1459)

Yu Boya met Zhong (Zi)qi along the banks of the Clear River. They made friends (because Ziqi understood whatever Boya played on the qin), then parted. More than 10 years later (Bo Ya) came to pay (Ziqi) a visit, but he had already died. So he (broke his qin and never played again, saying in life a person is lucky to find even one person who understands his music, and) wrote this song to describe his sad thoughts.

Last year I rowed to a Qing River landing,
and with a true gentleman unexpectedly became emotionally attached.
Suddenly, upon now arriving at the river,
I don't see my music friend and so am empty and sad.
Heartbreak, heartbreak, more heartbreak!
The Yangzi and Han rivers just make me gloomy.
I have such strong feelings I can't bear to go to your grave,
(so here I must) sprinkle the wine in drops, becoming empty as I pour.

We each came from a separate part of the world,
but by the Qin river that moonlit night our feelings were unforgettable.
I returned to visit you, but you had died,
causing all to be aggrieved, hearts perturbed.
Ziqi, Ziqi, Ziqi, Alas!
Listen to my qin's words of allusion.
The melody is elevated, the song is sad, the sound is wailing.
Just thinking of you brings tears like rain.

Thinking of you is bitter, my emotions seem foolishly doting.
The qin sounds are urgent and share the misery.
Sharing the misery, the heart becomes sad.
As for people who understand music, who else is there?
As for people who understand music, who else is there?

4. Withdrawing from Society (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)

The Emaciated Immortal says this tune was composed by Xu You (ca. 23rd century BCE). Of all the lofty and pure tunes mentioned in Qin History, this one is the loftiest and most ancient. According to what is written in Zhuangzi:

"(Emperor) Yao, (wanting to) cede the world to (the sage) Xu You, said, 'If a torch is not extinguished when the sun or moon come out, won't it be hard (for it to have any effect)? And if one continues irrigating when it is raining, won't it be toilsome (for it to have any effect)? You stand up (for your principles), and so the world is well-ordered; if I continue to officiate over it, I will see myself as wasting my time. Please accept (control of) the world.'

"Xu You said, 'With you governing, the world has been well-ruled; if I were to do it instead of you, I would be doing it only for the fame! Fame is a by-product of reality; would I want to be just a by-product? The tailor-bird sewing its nest in the deep forest uses only one branch; the tapir drinking from a river takes no more than will fill its stomach. Go back and take a rest, my lord! I have no use for worldly affairs. Even if the chef in the kitchen is not working, the sacrificial officials do not leave the sacrificial vessels to substitute for him.'"

Thereupon (Xu You) withdrew from society, secluding himself at Mount Ji and writing this composition.

5. Courting Phoenix Suite (Xilutang Qintong, 1459), in three parts:

a. Modal Introduction,
b. Linqiong Prelude
c. Courting Phoenix

Sima Xiangru (179-117 BCE) wandered into Linqiong, where he met Wenjun, the daughter of Zhuo Wangsun, who was recently widowed. He wrote these (lyrics) to seduce her. (She heard them from another room when he played them at a gathering in her father's home), and so she eloped with him and they both went back to Chengdu. Later this was made into a qin melody. (Sima Xiangru also became a famous poet).

A. (sung during section 3)
This male phoenix has returned to his old home,
from roaming the four seas searching for his mate.
Time was not yet ripe, there was no way to meet her;
then what a surprise: this evening I come up to this hall,
and there's a dazzling maiden in the women's quarters.
The room near but she far: this poisons my guts.
How can we entwine our necks like mandarin ducks?
How can we flutter about, and together soar?

B. (sung during section 8)
Lady phoenix, lady phoenix: come with me and nest,
be supported, breed with me, forever be my wife,
exchange love in the usual way, our hearts harmonious:
at midnight if you follow me who will know?
Our wings together will rise, fluttering as high we fly.
If your are unmoved by my feelings, I will be miserable.

6. Falling into Grief (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)

The Emaciated Immortal says there are two qin melodies called Li Sao, one of 18 sections written by Qu Yuan (332-295) himself, and one of 11 sections written by later people in memory of (Qu Yuan). The Falling Into Grief Classic says,

Qu Yuan's original given name was Ping. He had the same family name as that of the Chu ruling family, and he served under King Huai of Chu as the Sanlu Dafu, whose duty was to manage the affairs of the Sanlu -- the three (Chu) royal clans, Zhao, Qu and Jing. Qu Yuan organized the records of its members, supervising the good and virtuous ones, so as to set a good example for all national officials. When he entered (the palace) he would examine and discuss policy with the king, and make decisions; when he went out he would inspect the lower rank officials, deal with the nobles, and carry out policies; the king valued Qu as if he were a close relative.

Later he was slandered, and the king distanced himself from Qu Yuan, their intimacy declining daily. Qu, troubled and confused, didn't know who was accusing him, so he wrote Falling into Grief. For the olden days he portrays the rule of the three emperors Tang (Yao), Yu (Shun) (and Xia Yu); for latter days he portrays the disorders of Jie (last ruler of the Xia), Zhou (last ruler of the Shang), (Lord) Yi and (Strongman) Jiao. Qu hoped his sovereign would realize the truth and return to the Correct Way and they could be together again.

At this time the state of Qin sent (their advisor) Zhang Yi on a treacherous mission to trap (King Huai) into having a meeting at Wu Guan. Qu Yuan advised the king not to go, but he didn't listen and set off. As a result he was coerced into submission and died while captive in Qin, (his son) King Xiang coming to power. Again slanderous words were used and Qu Yuan was transferred to Jiangnan.

Qu Yuan also wrote Jiu Ge, Tian Wen, Yuan You, Yu Fu and other such poems, hoping thus to make known his ideals in order to enlighten his sovereign; but in the end he was not understood. He could not bear seeing his own country fall into a dangerous collapse, so he expanded this onto the qin in order to make his pronouncements to heaven and earth. (He then drowned himself in the Milo river, an event still commemorated today in the Dragon Boat Festival).

7. Song of Chu (Shen Qi Mi Pu, 1425)

The Emaciated Immortal says this piece is an old one. It concerns Xiang Yu (of Chu, whose defeat by Liu Bang led to the latter establishing the Han dynasty in 202 BC) coming to Gai Xia, being unable to defeat the Han soldiers, (being tricked into) entering a ravine, (where) the Han soldiers surrounded him several layers deep. (The Han general) Han Xin caused his soldiers all to sound out with songs of Chu. Xiang Yu heard this at night, and was greatly alarmed, saying, "Has Han already overcome Chu? If this is so, how can the men of Chu be so numerous!" And so that night he got up and drank in his tent. He sadly sang about forgetting his troubles, and planned to bid farewell to his wife Yu Ji. He himself made a song which said,

My strength can lift mountains, and my spirit can encompass society;
But the times are not appropriate, and (my horse) Zhui is no longer quick;
When Zhui is no longer quick, what can I do?
Alas, Yu Ji; alas, Yu Ji; what can I do?

He sang (this) several times, and Yu Ji joined him. Thus their tears flowed down, and all his followers cried; when none could look up at them, Yu Ji took a sword and slit her throat. Thereupon Xiang Yu mounted his fast horse, together with over 800 strong comrades under his banner, and went out into the night and broke through the blockade toward the south. (At daylight) when the Han soldiers realized this they chased them, and consequently his double pupils had no more hope. His soldiers scattered and his power lost, he came to the Wu river and, (refusing the offer of a boatman to take him across to safety, saying he had lost all his honor,) perished (also by slitting his throat).

Someone of that time was moved by this affair, and wrote a qin song to commemorate it.


Who's Who in the Company

Michael Mao (see website)

John Thompson (see website)

Howard Finkelson (see website)

Daryl Ries, theater/exhibition curator, has promoted east/west cultural exchange as director of Arts Promotion Asia in Hong Kong from 1990-2000 notably with the presentation of top Western and Asian dance companies. More recently she has curated contemporary dance theater fusing the work of artists from Asia and the USA, creating a multi media experience. As with other projects, Silk Stone Moving will also be presented in Asia and Europe.


Go to Silk Stone Moving, to my performances or to the Guqin ToC