Shanzhong Si Youren
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14: Amidst mountains thinking of an old friend
- Huangzhong mode:2 1 3 5 6 1 2 3 )
Shanzhong Si Youren
A painting by Wang Mingming           
As with most Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio 1 melodies, Shanzhong Si Youren survives in only the usual five handbooks through 1670.3 The title then seems largely to have gone out of use until 1937, when the famous Jinyu Qin Meeting published in its handbook an Yi Guren (Thinking of Old Friends), saying it is the same as Shanzhong Si Youren. This melody is very popular today, but it uses a different tuning and is in fact musically unrelated to the earlier Shanzhong Si Youren.4

The melody in Shen Qi Mi Pu is quite singable using the lyrics found in <1491 and following the traditional pairing method, though some re-alignment is needed of the words and tablature. In common with the other melodies in Folio I of Shen Qi Mi Pu, the original tablature had no punctuation. 1539 does, and in two places it has phrasing different from that given in <1491. The lyrics, included below with the section titles, give a good idea of the theme of this piece.

In earlier surviving qin sources I have not yet found the attribution made here to "the same person who wrote Qiuyu Zhao Maoting", i.e., Cai Yong or Zuo Si.

Besides my own there are two other recordings, by Yao Gongbai, following his father Yao Bingyan's reconstruction, and by Liang Mingyue on the Taiwan recording Xiaoxiang Shuiyun (SMT or SMCM 1017). Liang plays the Kaizhi as a preface (see comments).

Original preface5

The Emaciated Immortal says

this piece was written by the same person who wrote Qiuyue Zhao Maoting. The interest of the piece lies in my having cherished thoughts, but no way to tell this to anyone. There are emotions about the present time (being inappropriate), longings for antiquity, or laments (for someone), but there is no way to express any of this. If someone don't understand music, how they share (my feelings)? Once I was thinking of a learned person I knew in the past, and I wanted to tell him (or her about this), but I could not do it, so I wrote this piece. (And) in the past when the wise men said the Dao was not prevailing, this meant they were longing for a sage. Of old it was said, "I think of a good friend and how the world is one place (but we are not together), so I want to go be with him because I cannot forget him." These are (ancient) sayings.

Music and Lyrics6
Three sections; titles and lyrics added from Zheyin Shizi Qinpu
My recording here (listen 聽錄音) is influenced by the lyrics, included on this transcription;
The addition of the lyrics (中文) has made this version quite a bit slower that the one on my CD (聽錄音 listen with that transcription)

  1. (00.00; repeat at 00.40) Deep feelings In this poor reed studio the room is filled with with mist and haze,
    how far away are the things which interest me;
    the old plum tree seems exhausted, its flowers about to die,
    the mountains are lonely and I am nostalgic for the good old days.
    The moon shines brightly on this lovely evening,
    from this distance I think of my old friend and wonder where he is.
  2. (01.19) Think of old days The green of the mountains never diminishes,
    but before I know it my hair is turning white;
    the moon is waning and flowers are withering,
    old friend, I constantly dream of meeting you.
    How hard it is to recall the joy of a pleasurable meeting!
    With the many mountain ranges,
    and the hidden tigers and coiled dragons,
    I am unable return to (you in) Chang An.
    The road is distant, the tall trees make the road dark, and the world is vast.
  3. (02.05) Know oneself I mourn Aquila and Lyra
    (separated [by the Milky Way], like the cowherd and weaving girl),
    on the ground we are separated by 1,000 li ("kilometers"),
    in the sky we are each in a separate place,
    and our strong feelings go to waste.
    There has been no warm correspondence,
    (02.41)「 there is restraint to the bright harmony,
    and the flowings streams are swallowed by the setting sun.

    (02.54)   "From (the mark) 「 you can also play in harmonics" (my recording repeats these two lines in harmonics)
    (03.17)   End

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Shanzhong Si Youren 山中思友人 Chinese words do not specify number, so youren can mean either "friend" or "friends". It suggests here people who have been friends a long time, hence the word "old" is usually added in translation. (Return)

2. For Huangzhong mode, slacken 1st, tighten 5th strings each a half step. For more details on this mode see under Kai Zhi and in Shenpin Wuyi Yi. For more on modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. See Zha's Guide 3/33/42. More details are in the appendix below.

4. 憶故人 Yi Guren (Thinking of Old Friends; video recording by Tong Kin-Woon [comment])
The title could also be translated as "Thinking of an Old Friend" or, more literally, "Thinking of Old Acquaintances". The modern Yi Guren ( uses standard tuning and is musically unrelated to the Shanzhong Si Youren in huangzhong mode surviving from 1425 through 1670 (see chart). The modern melody's earliest known tablature has the version as played by 彭慶壽 Peng Qingshou (1891-1944), included in Jinyu Qin Kan (1937; pp. 193-199; see Qin Fu, pp.1367-73). Under the title there it says the tablature came from a 理琴軒舊抄本 Li Qin Xuan Old Copybook dating from about 1880. (A modern version of Pu An Zhou is also said to have come from this source.)

There are two afterwords with the Jinyu Qin Kan tablature (ibid., pp.199-202, QF 1373-6 [.pdf 2.9MB]). The first afterword, by Peng Qingshou himself, begins "憶古人,亦名山中思友人或空山思故人...," i.e., the melody is also called Shanzhong Si Youren or Kongshan Si Guren (25994.11xxx); it also mentions the possible connection to "Cai Zhonglang" (Cai Yong); it then has some general comments on the music - the old version I believe, including its use of a different tuning. The second part, by 張子謙 Zhang Ziqian (1899-1991), then goes on to give some details of the Peng Qingshou melody and its actual origin: he had apparently learned a version of it as a child.

This association with Cai Yong ssems to be borrowed from the melodically unrelated Shanzhong Si Youren: there is no related title in the Caishi Wunong or listed amongst his Qin Cao. Some later copies of the modern Yi Guren also mention this connection (e.g., 2000, p.165). However, the version published in 1961, where it is called Kongshan Yi Guren, associates this same melody with Wang Ziyou visiting his old friend Dai Kui on a snowy evening, saying there is a tradition that Dai Kui wrote the melody thinking of his friend Wang (compare the melodically unrelated Ziyou Fang Dai).

The modern Yi Gu Ren is very popular today, with many recordings available. The Jinyu Qin Kan tablature is reprinted in Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu, p. 1367. It is also copied in such other publications as the Yinyinshi Qinpu and the Wumen Qinpu. Guqin Quji, Vol. 2, p. 116, has a version as played by 顧梅羹 Gu Meigeng, with staff notation, also saying his version comes from the Liqinxuan Qinpu.

A recording of this by Gu Meigeng can be heard here.

5. For the original Chinese text see 山中思友人.

6. 中文歌詞 (聽錄音); Chinese lyrics (英文 translation)
The original lyrics and section titles in 浙音釋字琴譜 Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (ca. 1491) are as follows:

一、感懷 (00.00 & 00.40)


二、憶舊 (01.19)


三、知我 (02.05)

「 有限韶光, (02.41)
自「 作泛亦可 (02.54)
終 (03.17)

By comparison, timings from my CD are:

  1. 00.00
  2. 00.58
  3. 01.40
    02.10 (begin last two lines)
    02.23 (begin repeat of last two lines
    02.38 (end)

The version with slower tempo was influenced by singing the lyrics (traslation above).

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Shanzhong Si Youren (plus Yi Guren)
based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 3/33/42

    (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/129)
3; no phrasing indicated
  2.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/249)
3, titled; adds lyrics; otherwise same as 1425
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/375)
3; same as 1425 but with phrasing indicated
  4. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/499)
3; 山中思故人 Shanzhong Si Guren; titled; lyrics as <1491;
music related but quite different
  5. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/414)
3; 山中思友 Shanzhong Si You; almost same as 1425, but a few changes;
a few phrase indications
  6. 今虞琴刊
      (1937; QF/1367)
Yi Guren: "憶故人,亦名山中思友人或空山憶故人"
standard tuning, unrelated to the above; earliest printing of today's version
  7. 夏一峰傳譜
8; like 1937
  8. 研易習琴齋琴譜
      (1961/Folio 2)
8; like 1937
  9. 愔愔室琴譜
6; like 1937; has gongche pu
10.a. 虞山吳氏琴譜
from 1937; staff notation
10.b. 虞山吳氏琴譜
From 1425; staff notation

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