Dunshi Cao
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01. Withdrawing from Society
- Manjue tuning (slacken 3rd string: 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 ) 2
遯世操 1
Dunshi Cao
Yao visits Xu You          
Dunshi Cao, with its story of Xu You,3 a recluse said to have lived around 2000 BCE, extols the virtues of a quiet life in the country. Xu You represents an idealized Daoist attitude towards life. This melody is not included in any earlier melody lists,4 but section titles and commentary5 connect it to the famous title Jishan Cao6 (Mount Ji Melody), directly attributed in ancient sources to Xu You, but no reason is given as to why this different name is used.

Several mountains in China have claimed a connection to Xu You's Mount Ji.7 The biography of Xu You says, "Today on the mountain top there is still a mound," but it does not indicate to which Ji Shan it refers.

The title Dunshi Cao survives in five handbooks from 1425 to 1670.8 The version published in 1525 seems expanded from 1425; the versions dated 1539 and 1670 are basically reprints of the 1425 edition; the version published in 1585 has quite a different melody, but its lyrics can with small adjustments be sung with this 1425 version.9

The Dunshi Cao in Xilutang Qintong (1525) is quite different, though still closely related to here.10 Xilutang Qintong calls this lowered third string mode "Taicou", and precedes the melody itself with two short pieces,

These two pieces (recording below) have no separate commentary, but from the tuning and the titles it is clear that they are intended to accompany Dunshi Cao. For example, the title Dinghui Yin concerns the related story that Xu You was so focused on higher philosophical thinking that he washed his ears after the kingship was offered to him, and threw away a gourd because the sound of the wind whistling through it aroused his senses too much. In addition the motif at the beginning of Dinghui Yin is similar to that at the beginning of Dunshi Cao, though in stopped sounds rather than harmonics.

Besides my own, there is also a recording by Cheng Gongliang of Nanjing of his own reconstruction of the 1425 Dunshi Cao.13 Chen Changlin has made a recording of Dinghui Yin.14

Original Preface 15

The Emaciated Immortal says

this tune was created by Xu You. Of all the lofty and pure tunes mentioned in Qin History,16 this one is the loftiest and most ancient. According to what is written in Zhuangzi:17

"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-product18 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 officials19 do not leave the sacrificial vessels to substitute for him.'"

Thereupon (Xu You) withdrew from society, secluding himself at Mount Ji and created this melody (lament?).

In Xilutang Qintong (1525) Dun Shi Cao is preceded by the modal prelude Taicou Yi, then by a melodic prelude called Ding Hui Yin; there it may be intended as part of a
set of three.

Taicou Yi (1525; )
See transcription; timings here are for my attached recording of the two preludes.20

(00.00) Beginning
(00.41) Harmonic coda
(00.58) Taicou Yi ends

Ding Hui Yin (1525; continues from previous)

(01.00) Section 1
(01.25) Section 2
(02.06) Section 3
(02.37) Harmonic coda
(03.00) Ding Hui Yin ends

Dun Shi Cao (1425; )21
See transcriptions; timings follow the recording on my CD. sq01dsc01.htm">transcription of page 1)

(00.00) 01. Walking alone in the haze and mist
(00.37) 02. The woodcutter tells him which road to take
(01.18) 03. Climbing up to Mount Ji
(02.22) 04. Monkeys howl in the bright moonlight
(03.00) 05. Clouds gather and the dragon can hide itself
(03.22) 06. The sun shines down on the cliffside22
(03.43) 07. Deer as friends
(04.05) 08. A fisherman and woodcutter exchange pleasantries
(04.24) 09. Sighing about the insecurity of life
(04.45) 10. Not caring about year or month. 23
(05.30) --- Piece ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. (Lament on) Withdrawing from Society Dunshi Cao 遯世操)
39972.4 遯世﹕避世如逃遯然,故曰遯世 hiding from the world/society as if escaping by concealing oneself, so it is called "withdrawing from society". References to 易、乾 the first chapter of the Yi Jing (Qian) and 禮記、中庸 the Zhongyong chapter of the Book of Rites. No musical references, and this title is not in any early lists. 遯 is sometimes written 遁 dun; 39893.6 遁世 dun shi says same as 遯世 but gives two different references, 孔叢子,記義 and 文選,陸機,演連珠 (Lu Ji, Expanse of Connected Pearls), both of which refer to 遯世之士 gentlemen who have withdrawn from society.

For 操 cao see diaozi and caonong plus various lists such those in as QSDQ, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13. See in particular 箕山操 Jishan Cao (also below).

2. Slackened third tuning/mode (Manjue diao 慢角調)
慢角調; 7/xxx. Throughout Folio I pieces are grouped by tuning, with the name of the tuning written below the first piece in each group. One must keep in mind that "diao" can mean either tuning or mode. Thus the standard tuning (正調 zheng diao) melodies are divided into various modes such as 宮調 gong diao (gong mode), and so forth. Most melodies in any particular non-standard tuning (外調 wai diao) seem all to have the same modal qualities, but in other cases there may be non-standard tunings whose differing names are intended to convey differing modal characteristics.

Here the table of contents puts Dun Shi Cao within "manjue mode", and also writes it under the title "Dun Shi Cao" at the front of the actual tablature, but it adds no separate commentary to explain the tuning and also gives the mode no separate prelude here in Folio One. In Folio 3 there is a piece using this tuning with its own modal prelude and with modal characteristics similar to here, but there is no reason to think there is any further connection. For further details on this tuning see Shenpin Biyu Yi the name for manjue tuning in Folio Three.

For more on modes see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature. As for the specific modal characteristics of the 1425 Dunshi Cao, the main tonal center is do with sol the secondary center but the tablature also clearly calls for flatted thirds in three places (see my transcription mm. 77, 183 and 189).

3. Xu You 許由
36125.50 許由,字惡仲 Xu You, style name Ezhong, is said to have been a famous philosopher-hermit; the legendary emperor Yao (23rd c. BC) wanted him to rule, but he preferred hiding at Mount Ji, perhaps in Henan province; in Section 61 of Shi Ji Sima Qian says he visited Xu You's grave there. Other references to Xu You include those in Zhuangzi, Huainanzi, and so forth. Cai Yong, Qin Cao (琴操 21570.92; by Seng?) gives a somewhat differant version of the account than here.

堯時許由隱居箕山, 常以手捧水而飲。 人見其無器, 以一瓢遺之。 由飲畢, 以瓢掛樹。 風吹樹動, 歷歷有聲, 由以為煩擾,遂取瓢棄之。

This version is reflected in the section titles for Ding Hui Yin. Not yet translated,

4. In his preface Zhu Quan says he has changed the names of some melodies without saying which ones.

5. Zhu Quan's sources
Zhu Quan here mentions "qin history" (琴史 qin shi). Qin Shi is the title of a famous collection of biographies by Zhu Changwen (朱長文, 1041-1098), but Zhu Quan may not be referring to this title: the Qin Shi Xu You biography of Xu You mentions only Jishan Cao, not Dunshi Cao.

6. Jishan Cao: (箕山操 26722.10)
Section 3 of Dunshi Cao is called 陟彼箕山 Ascending Jishan, but there is no way to know whether Dunshi Cao has a melodic connection to any versions of the famous early title Jishan Cao. In addition to the Xu You quote above from Qin Shi, Jishan Cao is discussed in various collections of information on qin cao. See, e.g.,

    Qinshu Daquan, Folio 11 (V.230, commentary) and Folio 13 (V.281 and V.283, lyrics).
    Cai Yong, Qin Cao, Hejian Zage, #1
    Qinyuan Yaolu, Melody list, #21.
    Seng Juyue, Qinqu Pulu, Most Ancient, #21

The Jishan Cao published 1676 in Japan is unrelated. So are Qishan Cao (岐山操) and Jizi Cao (箕子操). And the music of all these is unrelated to that of Jishan Qiu Yue, though some of the prefaces to the latter mention Xu You and Emperor Yao.

7. Mount Ji (箕山 Ji Shan) of 許由 Xu You "Graves" of Xu You        
Over the years quite a few places have claimed to be the Mount Ji of Xu You. Perhaps the most widely believed are the claims for it being part of the 嵩山 Songshan Range in 登封 Dongfeng County, Henan province, and at right are three online images from Dongfeng Country showing what seem to be conflicting claims for a supposed 許由墓 grave of Xu You there (sources 1, 2 and 3; compare Xu You Temple).

This Mount Ji is also mentioned in the melody titles 箕山操 Jishan Cao and Jishan Qiu Yue. The mountain is by tradition the place where Xu You became a recluse. Xu You's home was on top. 箕 Ji means "winnowing basket", and mountain was said to have had a beauty that resembled such a shape, hence its name. However, there being no consensus on where the mountain should be located, in expressions such as "The desire to go to Jishan" (26722.6 箕山之志 Jishan zhi zhi) it simply refers to a desire to be like Xu You and withdraw from society.

26722.5/1 箕山 Ji Shan says 山名 "mountain name", then identifies eight possible locations:

  1. Hebei: 河北省,行唐縣西北 western Xingtang district (north of 石家莊 Shijiazhuang).
    26722.5/1 quotes the 17th c. 讀史方輿紀要 (Essence of Historical Geography; 中文) as saying that it was here.
  2. Shandong: 山東,鄄城四山之一 one of the four mountains of Juancheng (north of 菏澤 Heze, near the Hebei border)
    26722.5/2-5 identify the claims of 4 places here (益都縣、費縣、莒縣、濮縣); the last, Pu County, includes Juancheng.
  3. Henan: 河南,登封 Dongfeng county, near the Songshan mountain range (as in images at right).
    26722.5/6 mentions this location; Nienhauser (GSR VII, p.2, fn.12) also places it here.
  4. Shanxi: 山西,平陸縣 Pinglu district or 遼縣 Liao district
    26722.5/7-8 briefly mention these two claims.

Xu You Temple (image)
As of 2010, Baidu mentioned only the claims of 登封 Dongfeng in Henan and 濮縣 Pu county in Shandong. An internet search did not turn up images claiming to show the actual Mount Ji; instead there were images such as the ones at right purporting to show a grave of Xu You in Dongfeng. One can also find online images of a Xu You Temple (許由廟 Xu You Miao) in Dongfeng county, such as the one linked at the top of this paragraph (the text, from the online source, indicates that in 2004 the temple committee was beginning to raise money for repairs, claiming the original temple dates from the Han dynasty.)

8. Tracing 遯世操 Dunshi Cao
Zha Fuxi's Guide 2/9/11 lists it in six handbooks, with 箕山操 Jishan Cao given as an alternate title and the melodically unrelated Japanese Jishan Cao given as #6. Further details are in the appendix below.

9. Lyrics for the Dunshi Cao dated 1585
The possible (though strained) pairing of these lyrics perhaps suggests that Dun Shi Cao could originally have been included in a complete version of Zheyin Shizi Qinpu. Note also the tea connection: these lyrics mention a tea stove, perhaps invented by Zhu Quan himself. The specific lyrics (1585 Section 6) are:


Not yet translated.

10. 遯世操 Dunshi Cao in Xilutang Qintong (1525; 1525 #103)
The version here in 1525 calls its slackened third string tuning "太簇 taicou", and is the only version of the melody to have a separate modal prelude. The music of the 1525 Dunshi Cao is related to that of 1425, but it becomes gradually more different. It has 12 titled sections compared to the 10 in 1425. 1525 Sections 1 and 2 combine 1425 Section 1; after this the connections are harder to find. In general, the two seem to have similar motifs put together in different ways. For example, 1525 Section 7 ends and 8 begins as 1425 Section 5 ends and 6 begins but the surrounding music is quite different. 1425 Section 10 seems to be a set melody somewhat different from the rest of the piece, with instructions "次第彈"); 1525 Section 12 has the same title but only one of the phrases from 1425, plus its comment is "作飛鳥翔集勢 play in the style of flying birds soaring together".

Dunshi Cao was included in Folio 1 of Shen Qi Mi Pu, reserved for melodies for which Zhu Quan could find no players. Perhaps a closer examination of the 1525 Dunshi Cao could determine whether it was created by someone based on hearing the 1425 version played, or by someone who had only been able to examine the tablature itself.

In addition to its Taicou modal prelude the 1525 Dun Shi Cao also has a melodic prelude called Dinghui Yin (further comment below). Its afterword, which also concerns Xu You, is shorter than the 1425 preface, largely quoting only the second passage from Zhuangzi.


The new section titles are 3. 敝屣天下; 5. 倚巖睇盼. The altered titles are 6. 月明猿嘯; 7. 雲合龍隱.

11. 太簇意 Taicou Yi (Defining Taicou mode; 1525 #101; recording)
Taicou Tuning and Mode (太簇調 Taicou Diao: 5965.657: 十二律之一 one of the 12 tones)
This mode is further discussed above under Manjue (slackened third string) tuning, as well as under Tunings in Qilutang Qintong. Note that it contains motifs found in the melody it precedes, #101 Dinghui Yin (next footnote), but its harmonic coda is different from that of Dinghui Yin, instead being identical to those of the preceding 1525 entries, Huangzhong Yi and Li Ling Si Han

12. 定慧引 Dinghui Yin (Fixed on Mental Pursuits; 1525 #102; recording)
Zha guide 21/190/--. 7256.188 定慧 Dinghui: name of a temple in Jiangsu; Buddhist term. The term Dinghui does seem generally to be used in a Buddhist context, and there are a number of Buddhist temples with this title as well as monks with this as their or in their name. However, a comment under the melody title says the melody is "also called Cast Aside the Ladle" (棄瓢吟 Qipiao Yin; 15251.67 棄瓢巖 Qipiao Cliff says it is a place in Henan where Xu You lived). These titles as well as the three section titles connect to the story in Qin Cao which says Xu You focused on high philosophical thoughts, washing his ears after the kingdom was offered to him, and throwing away a gourd because of the pleasant sound caused by the wind passing by it, interrupting his intellectual concentration.

Perhaps closer examination could determine whether someone familiar with Dunshi Cao created these two short pieces specifically to accompany this 1525 version, which seems quite likely.

The melody has three titled sections:

  1. 歷歷風聲 Lìlì fēng shēng (Constant wind sounds)
  2. 苦厭其煩 Kǔ yàn qí fán (Bitterly tired of this annoyance)
  3. 顿然棄擲 Dùn rán qì zhí (Suddenly abandon and throw away)

Translation tentative.

Melody reconstruction is incomplete, but it seems to begin with a motif from Dunshi Cao, though in stopped sounds instead of harmonics.

13. Recording of Dun Shi Cao by Cheng Gongliang
Included in Cheng Gongliang: Autumn Aria, ROI RA-941004C, 1994. Cheng changes all the flatted thirds to natural thirds whereas I don't. His interpretation of the technique quanfu (see, for example, several notes from the beginning) is also different from mine; quanfu is an archaic technique (found often in Folio I) which has several conflicting and sometimes unclear explanations. Cheng plays freely and sensitively, taking full advantage of the ability of metal strings to sustain notes (his version times at 7.50 compared to my 5.30).

14. See 陳長林古琴專集.

15. For the original 1425 Chinese preface see 遯世操.

16. 琴史 Qin Shi: book name, or just the history of qin? Zhu Quan's sources are problematic.

17. See Zhuangzi and the Qin. I consulted the translation in James Ware, Zhuangzi, Chapter 1, Let Fancy Roam

18. bin (賓 "guest"; meaning is similar to ke (客 guest); in Qin Kuang (琴況 , cf. Qin Fu, p.288 bottom, l.2) the qin player is warned against having "guest sounds" when one plays a note: only include what is necessary.

19. shizhu (尸祝); shi was a boy who stood motionless on the altar, later replaced by a tablet or statue; the zhu recited prayers

20. Recordings
The recording of Taicou Yi and Ding Hui Yin was made on 3 October 2015 using a qin by He Mingwei, with silk strings by Marusan Hashimoto.

Details of the Dun Shi Cao recording are here.

21. For the original Chinese of these section titles see 遯世操.

22. Cliffside = jiong (扃 = 戶+同 ). The original character in Shen Qi Mi Pu was shang (戶 + 向 ; 12024. 戶耳也 doorbell), apparently a mistake, unless it also implies a cliff dwelling.

23. Section 10, Not caring about year or month (不知歲月 Bu zhi sui yue)
This section adds the instructions cidi tan (次第彈 play slowly and steadily). It could perhaps also mean, and be intended as, "play sequentially". If so this could mean that the player could express a sense a timelessness, as in the section title, by repeating the last section several (many?) times.

Note also that the music of this section also seems to stand out as a separate melody, one that could even be sung. However, I know of no existing lyrics that could be paired to the melody here following the traditional pairing method

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Dunshi Cao;
based mainly on Zha Fuxi's
Guide, 2/9/11.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1.  神奇秘譜
      (1425; I/110)
10T; the original tablature indicates flattened thirds in three places, all played "between the 9th and 10th position on the fifth string" (in Sections 3 and 8; see my transcription mm. 77, 183 and 189). The last section has instructions: 次第彈 "play continuously"; 2nd edition adds some phrasing
   .  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/--)
Not included in surviving edition, but lyrics from 1585 can be made to fit 1425, so perhaps it was originally included
  2. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/194)
12T; "太簇 taicou mode"; details: music related, but gradually more different; afterword
preceded by Taicou Yi and Dinghui Yin, the latter also concerning Xu You; none has flatted 3rds
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/231)
10T; listed under 商角 shangjue mode ? ; basically same as #1 but tablature somewhat updated. Replaces the first flatted 3rd with a whole tone 3rd but keeps the other two. Section titles are as 1425, but with no commentary
  4. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/427)
10T; lyrics; same preface as 1425 and music seems related, but sections titles are somewhat different and music is very hard to figure out - either very different or badly written or both. Regarding lyrics see <1491.
  5. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/422)
10T; same as SQMP? Keeps the flatted 3rds; has punctuation.
   . 和文注音琴譜
      (<1676; XII/220 *)
(Japanese); 1; called 箕山操 Jishan Cao;
shangjue -- standard tuning; short; no apparent relation

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