1425 Yang Chun
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07. Sunny Spring
- Gong mode,2 standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
陽春 1
Yang Chun
Playing qin in spring 3              
Yang Chun has been a very popular melody title in both the qin repertoire and the repertoire of other musical instruments or ensembles. The title can be found in early qin melody lists,4 and in many surviving qin handbooks, but this clearly encompasses quite a variety of melodies.

In literature Yang Chun is usually paired with Bai Xue (White Snow).5 In addition, in many music repertoires there are melodies called Yangchun Baixue.6 In the qin repertoire the two melodies seem equally popular: versions of Yang Chun can be found in 38 surviving handbooks from 1425 to 1946, while versions of Bai Xue are in 39 handbooks from the same period.7 It should also be noted that the Yang Chun entries comprise two musically unrelated melodies (with the present version in only three of handbooks, one handbook having both versions); and that whichever version of Yang Chun is being considered, in these qin handbooks Yang Chun and Bai Xue, while sharing similar commentary, are two completely distinct melodies and rarely placed together.

In fact, even in ancient times Yang Chun and Bai Xue were associated with different modes: as stated in the original prefaces both here and under Bai Xue, Yang Chun is in gong mode and Bai Xue in shang mode. Surviving Ming dynasty versions accord with this. As a result, since in most surviving early qin handbooks melodies are grouped by mode, in those handbooks Yang Chun and Bai Xue could never be placed together.8

As for the two distinct melodies called Yang Chun in Ming dynasty qin handbooks: both are in gong mode, but otherwise seem completely unrelated musically.

  1. First there are the versions related to this, the earliest surviving version. These seem to occur in only three handbooks, published in 1425, 1552 and 1670 (probably not >1505: see in the appendix below).

  2. Next, a much more common Yang Chun can be found in at least 34 handbooks from 1525 (Xilutang Qintong, #4) to 1946.9

Taiyin Chuanxi, dated variously 1552 to 1561, has both of these versions, saying that the second melody should actually be called Longmen Taolang Yin; this title is also mentioned in several other places, beginning in 1546, as an alternate title.

In addition, an apparently new melody called He Yangchun was published in 1673. Also in gong mode, it survives in at least 11 handbooks from 1673 to 1878.10

The version of Yang Chun played today is the one that can be traced back to the Yang Chun in Xilutang Qintong (1525).11

According to R.H. van Gulik,12 Yang Chun and #30 Bai Xue (White Snow) were melodies of the southern state of Chu, originally popular in the 5th c. BCE, but of such continuing popularity that the names were soon ascribed separately or together to a great variety of melodies. They were also long associated with a variety of famous people, including Shi Kuang, Song Yu and Liu Juanzi.

It is thus not surprising that there is a certain amount of confusion when trying to trace the origin of the stories mentioned here by Zhu Quan.13

When reading this, one should keep in mind that these stories are mainly for their literary and historical associations, and probably have little to do with the actual origins of any surviving melody. Of this we can only say that the Yang Chun published in 1425 CE was probably copied from a 13th century manuscript of uncertain age.14

Zhu Quan follows to a certain extent the introductions in Yuefu Shiji not to Yang Chun (which are not in the qin melody section), but to Bai Xue Ge (which are). That introduction is translated under the introduction to Bai Xue.

The Yang Chun in Yuefu Shiji are all included under Qingshang quci. First is a single entry in Folio 50, which has the following explanation:

Xin Xu by Liu Xiang says,15 "Song Yu responding to the questions of King Wei of Chu" says,

When a visiting singer in Zheng (the capital of Chu) began by singing Lower Village (and) Man of Ba, a thousand residents accompanied him; when he sang Yang A (and) Picking Scallions, several hundreds accompanied; when he did Yangchun (and) Baixue those who accompanied did not exceed a few dozen; when he sang using non-standard pitches (yin shang ke jiao, za yi liu zhi), only a very few residents could accompany; this is because the more elevated the piece the more rare are those who can accompany it. Moreover, the origins of Yang Chun are far off.

Yuefu Jieti says, "Yang Chun is grief".

Yuefu Shiji Folio 50 then includes lyrics by Shen Yue entitled Yang Chun Qu.

In addition, Yuefu Shiji Folio 51 has six sets of lyrics called Yang Chun Ge, then four more called Yang Chun Qu. There is no commentary; the original lyrics can be seen under the 1525 Yang Chun.

According to Van Gulik the common attribution to Liu Juanzi, a 4th c. CE Daoist doctor, is from the Qin Treatise16 by Xie Zhuang (421-466); the story about Shi Kuang,17 a qin master from Confucian times, is from Huainanzi (see Liu An; perhaps 2nd c. BCE), with the part about Song Yu, a nephew of the famous 4th century BCE poet and official Qu Yuan, being available from many sources, quoting a Han dynasty original; that in the Bowu Zhi Zhang Hua actually says Su Nü 18 played the piece on a se zither; and that the information about Lü Cai19 is from the Xin Tang Shu (New Tang History).

Besides my own, a transcription and recording by Yao Bingyan can be found in Bell Yung, Celestial Airs of Antiquity. Yao Gongjing's version follows his father's.20 Other Yang Chun recordings are of the contemporary Yang Chun descended from the 1525 version.21

Original preface 22

The Emaciated Immortal says:

Qin History23 states,

"Liu Juanzi was good at playing the qin. While at Ying he played the tunes Yang Chun and Bai Xue." Qin Collection24 states, "Bai Xue, written by Shi Kuang, is a tune in the shang mode."

Song Yu told (King) Xiang of Chu,

"(As for) Yang Chun and Bai Xue, the more refined the tunes, the fewer those who can accompany him." And Zhang Hua stated in his Bowu Zhi 25 "The Celestial (i.e., Yellow) Emperor caused Su Nü to play the five stringed qin; she played Yang Chun and Bai Xue." By the time of the Tang emperor Gaozong (r. 650 - 84) this tune was not played any more, so in 658 he ordered the Great Regulations Department (taichang) to supplement and revise the old tune. (Taichang official) Lü Cai reported, "Yang Chun and Bai Xue were refined tunes, but those who could accompany them were few. From the time of Song Yu to now 1,000 years have passed and no one can play them. Now, imitating the qin melodies amongs old pieces, we have determined the notes and created this piece." Thus the tradition was restored.

Music (Timings follow the recording from my CD; listen with transcription)
Eight sections, untitled 26

(00.00)     1.
(01.06)     2.
(01.59)     3.
(02.46)     4.
(03.17)     5.
(04.00)     6.
(04.47)     7.
(05.12)     8.
(06.22)     Melody ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Tracing the title Yang Chun
42673.149/2 Yang Chun says "music piece" and quotes a Wen Xuan story contrasting it with the melody "Ba Ren" 巴人; .153 Yangchun Baixue says "old song, and gives the Song Yu story (see below) from Wen Xuan. Most of Zhu Quan's commentary can be found quoted in YFSJ, p.823.

2. For more information on gong mode see Shenpin Gong Yi. See also Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. 陽春圖 Yang Chun image
In this unsigned 景德鎮瓷畫 Jingdezhen ceramic painting, the low clouds and waterfall suggest spring. The sun is burning off the clouds, while the solitary qin player suggests the rarified tones of antiquity.

4. Yang Chun in early melody lists
The earliest such list, from the 7th century, mentions only Bai Xue. Likewise the lists in Qin Yuan Yao Lü and Seng Juyue. Thus the earliest list that includes Yang Chun seems to be the Song dynasty list of Yuan Junzhe.

5. As can be seen from the Original Preface here. Note, however, that the Qin Cao Hejian Yage lists a Bai Xue (#7), but no Yang Chun.

6. Yangchun Baixue
42673.153 陽春白雪 says Yangchun Baixue is 古歌曲名 "the name of an old song", then gives the Song Yu story from Wen Xuan, as in Yuefu Shiji; discussed here under Yang Chun. (It also has this as the name of two volumes of poetry, one edited by 宋趙聞體 Zhao Wenti of the Song dynasty; the other edited by 元楊朝英 Yang Chaoying of the Yuan Dynasty.) Zha Fuxi's Guide has no Yangchun Baixue, and in old melody lists the two titles are usually not even placed together.

7. Tracing Yang Chun and Bai Xue
For Yang Chun see Zha Fuxi's Guide, 3/27/19. More details are in the appendix below.
   For Bai Xue see the Guide 5/48/66 ; its appendix compares which handbooks omit which title.

8. The origins of this modal differences are unclear.

9. Other versions related to 1425
The other two occurrences of the 1425 version of Yang Chun are in Taiyin Chuanxi (1552) and Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian (1670). The lyrics in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (15 sections) cannot be matched to the SQMP version.

Zha's Guide does not distinguish between this early version and the musically unrelated later one: see again the appendix below. The Guide also does not include Taiyin Chuanxi, which has both versions.

Regarding the chronological spread of surviving versions of Yang Chun note the following.

1425 to 1644: 22 of 37 handbooks
1644 to 1709: 8 of 22 handbooks
1709 to 1802: none of 18 handbooks
1802 to 1946: 5 of the 43 handbooks

From this it would seem that over time Yang Chun became less popular.

10. He Yangchun 和陽春
"He" has various meanings including "in accord with", "in tune with", "mild" and "peaceful". In the qin repertoire He Yangchun (3600.xxx [.206 only 和陽, someone's nickname]) is a 宮音 gong melody. According to Zha Fuxi's Guide, 34/260/--, it survives in 11 handbooks:

  1. 大還閣琴譜 #3 (1673; X/341); directly follows Yang Chun; afterword attributes it to 陳星源 Chen Xingyuan
  2. 澄鑒堂琴譜 (1689; XIV/201); no Yang Chun
  3. 琴譜析微     (1692; XIII/49); no Yang Chun
  4. 臥雲樓琴譜 (1722; XV?); no Yang Chun
  5. 存古堂琴譜 (1726; XV?); no Yang Chun
  6. 春草堂琴譜 (1744; ?); no Yang Chun
  7. 自遠堂琴譜 (1802; XVII/307); no Yang Chun
  8. 裛露軒琴譜 (>1802; ?); "雍門譜"; directly follows Yang Chun
  9. 琴譜諧聲     (1820; ?); no Yang Chun
  10. 天聞閣琴譜 (1876; XXV/150);
  11. 希韶閣琴譜 (1878); directly follows Yang Chun
  12. 研易習琴齋琴譜 (1961); no Yang Chun

The last of these is not listed in the Zha Guide.

11. Earliest versions of Yang Chun
I always try to learn the earliest known version of any melody I study. However, since the Yang Chun which has survived into the modern repertoire is unrelated to the earliest known version after I had finished my Shen Qi Mi Pu project I started working on what I thought was the earliest version of this later Yang Chun, the one in 1539. I wrote out a transcription of it but found textual problems (in addition to the lyrics that needed translating) and before I was able to make it into what I considered a convincing melody I discovered that the Xilutang Qintong was probably published in 1525, not 1549, making it the earliest version of this later melody. So I changed my focus to ">that one.

12. Van Gulik's Hsi Kang, p.92, fn.36, gives the most detail. Both here and in Lore, p.116, fn.77, he mentions various attributions of both Yang Chun and Bai Xue.

13. Confusion over "Juanzi"
This name provides an example of the difficulties that arise when trying to trace the origins of the stories mentioned by Zhu Quan. Early qin sources are quite inconsistent in using the name "Juanzi", which seems to have referred to at least three people:

  1. Juanzi (17907.2 涓子); his biography is Qin Shi #27. He is apparently not related to the 師涓 Juanzi (Master Juan) referred to in the Shi Kuang story related below. See also Knechtges, Wen Xuan, III, p.224.
  2. Xie Juanzi ([謝涓子]; see Qin Shi Bu #24 (grouped with Liu Juanzi); the stories are vague. Zangchunwu Qinpu (1602) says he wrote Tianfeng Huanpei.
  3. Liu Juanzi (2270.xxx [劉涓子]; see Qin Shi Bu #24. Bell Yung has Liu Yuzi ??. R. Van Gulik, Hsi Kang, p.92 says Qin Lun [QSCM #20] by Xie Zhuang calls him a 4th C. CE Daoist doctor.

No source is clear about when or where he supposedly lived.

14. Zhu Quan is thought to have obtained much of his tablature from the great Song dynasty collection of Yang Zuan.

15. Yang Chun according to 宋玉 Song Yu
Song Yu is said to have been an early Chu poet. His statement about Yangchun and Baixue as quoted in Wen Xuan and elsewhere is said to be the earliest surviving commentary on these melodies, but the source may actually be Han, not pre-Han. In Wen Xuan it is the first piece in Folio 45 (p.2111), "(Song Yu) Responds to the Questions of the King of Chu". See also David Knechtges, Wen Xuan, Vol. 3, p. 222 and Xu Jian p. 9. The four comparisons made are: Xiali (and) Baren 下里巴人 ; Yang A (and) Xielu 陽阿薤露 ; Yangchun (and) Baixue 陽春白雪; and yin shang ke yu, zi yi liu zhi 引商刻羽,雜以流徵,

The connection to King Xiang of Chu (r. 298 - 263?) is much more common than the one in YFSJ to King Wei. Song Yu, having been told that some people are criticizing him, compares himself to a rare melody, saying,

"When a visiting singer in Zheng (the capital of Chu) began by singing Lower Village (and) Man of Ba, several thousand residents accompanied him; when he sang Yang A (and) Dew on the Scallions, several hundreds accompanied; when he did Yangchun (and) Baixue those who accompanied did not exceed a few dozen; when he sang using non-standard pitches (引商刻羽 [YFSJ has 引商刻角],雜以流徵), only a very few residents could accompany; this is because the more elevated the piece the more rare are those who can accompany it...."

The Wen Xuan passage has more, but does not include the final sentence of the Yuefu Shiji passage.

16. Qin Lun 謝莊琴論, Qin Treatise, by Xie Zhuang , is an important source on early qin players. His quote on Yang Chun and Bai Xue, with the latter in YFSJ, p.823, is somewhat different from the one here.

17. Biographies of 師曠 Shi Kuang (see Qin Shi #31) most commonly relate the story in Shi Ji 24 (a treatise on music) of Shi Kuang in 6th C. BCE stopping Juanzi from playing the zither music of a fallen state (he had learned it in Yin, which preceded Zhou). See also David Knechtges, Wen Xuan, Vol. 3, p. 224. Zhu Quan attributes Bai Xue (in Folio II), to Shi Kuang.

18. 素女 Su Nü
For Su Nü see Qin Shi Bu #5. 27924.11 Su Nü has subsections for either three different woman with this name, or one woman with three different attributes. The first of them, said to be a contemporary of the Yellow Emperor, was skilled at music; see also Qin Ji(?).

19. 呂才 Lü Cai (600? - 665)
Lü Cai is connected to Bai Xue as well as Yang Chun. Bio/523 and 3479.5 呂才 Lü Cai, from 清平 Qingping, was a skilled musician and Daoist who rose to the rank of taichang cheng 太常丞, a deputy to the Chamberlain for Ceremonials. For taichang see Hucker and 5965.354 太常. Under the chamberlain was a government department whose responsibilities included rites and music; they apparently would take old tunes and re-do them as ritual pieces. Lü Cai's biography is in Chapter 79 of Jiu Tang Shu. Xu Jian, with reference to Tang Hui Yao 唐會要, says Lü Cai played an accompaniment to local lyrics. Hsu Wen-Ying (The Ku-Ch'in, p.171) writes that the Gaozong emperor (650-684) wrote lyrics for Bai Xue, and that Lü Cai altogether set to music 16 poems written by Gaozong, who called them Yue Fu (q.v.).

20. Timings: YBY: 6.53; YGB: 7.08; FJT: 6.22. A major difference is in interpretation of the figure juan. There are no quanfu in Yang Chun and Yao plays juan here as he elsewhere plays quanfu; my juan is like the juan they play elsewhere.

21. See recordings by Ding Yang, Wu Jinglue, Wu Wenguang, Wu Zhaoji, Xie Xiaoping and Su Sidi.

22. Original preface
For the original Chinese text see 陽春.

23. 琴史 Qin Shi: book name, or just the history of qin? Zhu Quan's sources are problematic. It is not from Zhu Changwen's Qin History. The biography of Liu Juanzi is in Qinshi Bu.

24. 琴集 Qin Ji: not found; Zhu Quan's sources are problematic.

25. Bowu Zhi, 3rd c. CE; see introduction: VG says it actually claims Su Nü played the piece on a se

26. Music
Timings follow my CD. Note that all sections end with the same phrase. Sections 4 and 7 have harmonics; the later long versions have harmonics for either 3 & 5 or 3 & 6.

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Yang Chun (see also the Bai Xue chart)
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 3/27/19.

    (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/123)
8 sections (no titles); above
2nd edition has some phrasing
   .  浙音釋字琴譜
      (>1505; I/xxx)
lyrics of 1585 don't fit 1425
  2. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/63)
10T; commentary: musically unrelated to 1425; try the prelude from 1597?
Afterword quotes Zhang Hua and Song Yu, but says Shi Kuang's were two, one gong, one shang  
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/60)
15T; 1st; lyrics [and section titles], otherwise rel. to 1525; no commentary;
Lyrics begin: 陽律乍轉,葭灰始飛。陰陽反復,反復,五行....
  4. 梧岡琴譜
      (1546; I/380)
13; related to 1525;
"also called 龍門桃浪引 Longmen Taolang Yin"; no other commentary
  5. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/413)
same as 1546
but lyrics of 1539 version were added at II/399
  6. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; facsimile, #2)
No lyrics; related to 1525 
no commentary; not in QQJC/III
7.a. 太音傳習
      (1552-61; IV/30)
14; similar to 1539
preface is an abbreviated version of 1425
7.b. 太音傳習
      (1552-61; IV/34)
8; virtually the same as 1425, but with phrasing added
preface says, "義見前曲 for its meaning see the previous (Yang Chun) melody"
  8. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/317)
preface re-hashes same as above
  9. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; --)
15T; same as 1585?
10. 五音琴譜
      (1579; IV/198)
16; related to 1539
11. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/306)
15T; titles same as 1539 but lyrics completely different
music also seems to be different from the above; commentary adds some explanation
12. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/13)
13; like 1539, as is its prelude
13. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/471)
16; like 1579?
14. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/196)
15; like 1539; has prelude
15. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/313)
13; melody and prelude same as 1589 above
16.a 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1589; VII/60)
13; lyrics different again; music starts like 1539, then different;
16.b 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1609; VII/xxx)
same as 1589 edition?
17. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/372)
15; music starts like 1539, then different
18. 松絃館琴譜
      (1614; VIII/84)
15; music starts like 1539
19. 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/196)
15, titled; lyrics again different; music starts different
21. 樂仙琴譜
      (1623; VIII/423)
15; 宮音; first handbook to put Yang Chun and Bai Xue side by side
Zha's index misses it!
20. 太音希聲
      (1625; IX/132)
14, titled; lyrics; see earlier
22. 古音正宗
      (1634; IX/286)
16, titled; starts as 1539
23. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; IX/415)
13; starts like 1539
24. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/29)
15; starts like 1539
25. 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; X/???)
not included; same as 1647?
26. 臣卉堂琴譜
      (1663; XI/88)
27. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/321)
11; very similar to 1425; has some phrasing
28. 大還閣琴譜
      (1673; X/342)
15; starts like 1539; it is directly followed (X/347)
by the earliest of 12 versions of an unrelated melody called 和陽春 He Yangchun
29. 德音堂琴譜
      (1691; XII/496)
30. 蓼懷堂琴譜
      (1702; XIII/187)
15, titled; starts like 1539
31. 誠一堂琴譜
      (1705; XIII/341)
18; starts like 1539
32. 一峰園琴譜
      (1709; XIII/527)
5; short, but starts like 1539; paired with Bai Xue
33. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/83)
15; "from 1702"
34. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/393)
35. 悟雪山房琴譜
      (1836; XXII/293)
 (QQJC ToC incorrectly lists this twice)
36. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/150)
15; "= 1702"
(see Zha Guide, p. 29 (273) 
37. 希韶閣琴譜
      (1878; XXVI/xxx)
This melody was in Continuation Volume (see XXVI/276), missing from the QQJC edition
38. 沙堰琴編
      (1946; XXIX/325)
   . 研易習琴齋琴譜
No Yang Chun, only He Yangchun
"from 1744"
39. 愔愔室琴譜
preface quotes 1705
40. 虞山吳氏琴譜
      (2001/87 & 352)
p. 87: related to 1539 version;

p. 352 is a reconstruction from 1425; both have staff notation;

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