Xiao Hujia
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15: Short Version of Nomad Reed Pipe 1
Or perhaps "Modest Version"; Huangzhong mode (1 3 5 6 1 2 3)3
小胡笳 2
Xiao Hujia
  Cai Wenji in the desert with her qin4            
The story related here, and also with the surviving titles Da Hujia and Hujia Shibapai, concerns the experience of Cai Wenji (Cai Yan), a beautiful and talented Han woman,5 after she was abducted by Xiongnu (Central Asian nomads) from her home in Chenliu, in today's Henan province; this took place in the year 190 CE, near the end of the Han dynasty. Cai Wenji was the daughter of the famous literatus Cai Yong (133-192), who died shortly thereafter.6 During her 12-year captivity in Central Asia Wenji was married to one of the Xiongnu chiefs and had two children by him. Thus, although she was terribly homesick living in the desert, when she was ransomed by the famous general Cao Cao (155-220), who had been a friend of her father, leaving her children was also a traumatic experience. Nevertheless, she returned to Chenliu and re-married.

This story soon became quite widely spread, related in poetry and song, and finding its way into the repertoire of various musical instruments, as mentioned in several pre-Tang as well as Tang dynasty sources (drama came later).7 In this it competed in popularity with the story from two centuries earlier about Wang Zhaojun being married to a Xiongnu prince (see #46 Longshuo Cao, Folio Three).

All, or almost all, of the Cai Wenji stories and early melodies would have focused on the nomad reed pipe ("hujia", a term actually rather difficult to translate), but about the earliest melodies nothing is really known. The earliest information about such melodies seems to come from their mention in Tang dynasty poetry. In the Tang dynasty Liu Shang wrote the lyrics in 18 sections later connected to the qin melody Da Hujia and in the Song dynasty Wang Anshi created another set. Meanwhile Cai Wenji herself is credited with several poems about the experience, including (rather questionably) the one in 18 sections published in the Yuefu Shiji and set for qin in 1597. In addition, the Hujia scroll (connected to the melody Da Hujia) reminds us that at least since the Song dynasty this Hujia theme has also been popular in fine art.

As for surviving surviving qin tablature for melodies on this theme, the earliest examples are the two found here from the Ming dynasty publication Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425): Xiao Hujia (four occurrences) and Da Hujia (Long Version of Nomad Reed Pipe; seven occurrences). Nevertheless, both melodies were certainly quite a bit older. Just how much older, however, is up to debate.

Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425) puts Xiao Hujia in Folio 1, which has pieces for which there was old tablature but no players; Da Hujia is in Folio 3, which has pieces that were still played. Although this may suggest that this specific version of Xiao Hujia is more ancient than this specific version of Da Hujia, it does not prove that either the title or the basic melody is older: neither title seems to occur in any of the surviving Tang dynasty melody lists.8

Evidence from poetry does not clarify the ages of the Xiao Hujia and Da Hujia melodies as we know them. For example, one of the earliest references to Xiao Hujia connects it to a Tang dynasty qin player named Jiang Xuan.9 And later a qin player of the Southern Tang dynasty (937–976) named Cai Yi10 is also said to have played it. However, although this Xiao Hujia is clearly mentioned in Tang dynasty poetry, and this is not certain for Da Hujia, there is evidence that this Xiao Hujia actually refers to a Xiao Hujia Shibapai, which would presumably have been very different from the present melody, which has only seven sections.

Further regarding actual surviving Xiao Hujia tablatures, these can be found in four handbooks from 1425 to 1585, then once again in 1890 (seems to be unrelated).11 Of the first four, the version in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (<1491) adds lyrics but is otherwise identical to 1425, as is Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539). Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585) had the same lyrics as Zheyin, but a somewhat different melody.12

Comparing this with Da Hujia, as this chart shows, until 1596 Xiao Hujia occurs in mostly the same handbooks as does Da Hujia, substituting only in inclusion in 1585 instead of 1525. Related Da Hujia then appear in 1596 and 1634 before being replaced in 1689 by a somewhat related but also very different melody called Hujia Shiba Pai; this then became the standard melody up until the present.13

At least one source says that Xiao Hujia had 19 parts, whereas Da Hujia had 18. Its creation or adaptation as a qin piece is generally attributed to Dong Tinglan14 (ca. 695 - 765), a qin master famous for playing several melodies in huangzhong (yellow bell) mode that have a strong non-standard Chinese modal feel.

Although the Ming dynasty versions of Xiao Hujia and Da Hujia have completely different melodies they are connected by this yellow bell mode. In addition they both have a structure whereby each has a phrase that it repeats at the beginning of most sections.

With regard to the mode, perhaps it is significant that Dong was from Longxi,15 a region in Gansu province not far from its current capital, Lanzhou, and about 500 km WNW of Chang An, the Tang capital. He studied qin from Chen Huai(gu),16 who was then serving in the army in Fengzhou, about 150 km upriver from Chang An. Presumably Dong later spent some time in the capital because he became well known in literary circles and was highly praised in several poems. He edited a qin handbook, now lost. Two of his students, Zheng You17 and Du Shanren,18 both also became well-known players.

Three of the four surviving qin handbooks from the 15th and 16th centuries that include Xiao Hujia also have Da Hujia, the latter having 18 sections.19 But after this the Hujia title survived basically as Hujia Shiba Pai (18 Beats of Nomad Reed Pipe), always in 18 sections, though several different new melodies were tried before settling on the version common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Melodically there is little relation between the short and long versions, except that they both use the same huangzhong tuning.

As for the nomad reed pipe itself, it developed into a curved horn with three fingerholes, but the early nomad versions were said to have been made by rolling up a local reed and blowing into it. The sound is commonly said to be mournful and elsewhere it is said that the sound reminded Wenji of her sorrow. Although its mention in Section 2 does not specify who is playing it, the preface does say that Wenji herself rolled up a reed and blew into it. Images alluding to music, however, almost always have her playing qin, not blowing into reed pipes. (Compare Wang Zhaojun, who is commonly depicted with a pipa.)

Besides my own, there are recordings of Xiao Hujia by Xu Jian (first half), Ding Yang and Yao Gongbai, as well as the recording with transcription in Bell Yung's Celestial Airs of Antiquity.

Original preface20

The Emaciated Immortal says

this piece was created by Dong Tinglan in the latter half of the Tang dynasty. It concerns (the following story:)

Cai Yong's daughter Cai Yan, literary name Wenji, during the great disorder at the end of the Han dynasty, was kidnapped by nomad (hu) cavalry and became a queen in their foreign land. In 12 years she bore two sons; the king respected her. Once in spring (while riding a nomad chariot), she was so moved by the sound of a nomad reed pipe that she herself rolled up a bullrush reed to make a pipe and blew into it; the sound was very mournful. Dong Tinglan used the qin for expressing these sounds of the nomad reed pipe. These are the Short and Long Versions of Nomad Reed Pipe. The Long Version of Nomad Reed Pipe is in Folio III (#47).

Music (timings follow recording on my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription)
Six sections:21

(00.00) -- Prelude
(01.06) 1. The geese are returning, so she thinks of China
(02.01) 2. Blowing of a reed pipe expresses grief
(02.52) 3. She cannot control her words
(04.26) 4. Offering up a great sigh to heaven.
(07.22) -- Postlude
(10.22) -- Piece ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Translating "大 Da" and "小 Xiao" with regard to 胡笳 Hujia (for "hujia" itself see under Da Hujia)
QSCB also discusses these titles. As can be seen, translating the two titles "Da Hujia" and "Xiao Hujia" is not as clear as it might initially seem. Specifically regarding "大 da" and "小 xiao", here are some considerations:

Here it should be kept in mind that in spite of their modal similarities the "da" and "xiao" melodies are very different. In other words, there is no particular reason to think they both came from the same source.

As yet, to my knowledge, there are no definitive answers to these questions.

2. References related to 小胡笳 Xiao Hujia
See in Xu Jian, QSCB, Chapter 5 as well as under Da Hujia, 18 Blasts and the Hujia scroll.

Xiao Hujia-related references from ZWDCD include:

As for titles beginning "Hujia 胡笳", 30073.357-361 has these five entries:

There is no separate entry for 胡笳弄 Hujia Nong although this is mentioned in the YFSJ quote of Liu Shang's preface with .539 Hujia Shibapai above.

Further regarding Xiao Hujia, in addition to the above references and their links, 41049.1228 金徽 Jin Hui (Golden Studs) quotes a Preface to Xiao Hujia (see below) by the Tang writer Yuan Zhen.

3. Yellow Bell Mode (黃鐘調 Huangzhong Diao
For Huangzhong (or Wuyi) 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.

4. Cai Wenji and her qin
The above image is from #4 in the scroll 18 Songs of the Nomad Flute. At least six of the 18 paintings in the set show a servant standing next to Cai Wenji holding her qin.
  Wenji with a nomad reed pipe (expand)    
In contrast, paintings showing Cai Wenji with a 胡笳 nomad reed pipe are more rare. The one at right, copied from the internet, where it is sometimes titled "清李堅:文姬思漢圖 Wenji Thinks of Han, by Li Jian of the Qing dynasty", is one such example. It shows her with two children, perhaps her own; one is playing the pipe.

Regarding Li Jian, 14819.1082/d is "李堅,相符人,字敬堂,號琴浦,一作琴甫...乾隆進士" a Li Jian from Xiangfu (?) who achieved his jinshi during the Qianlong reign (1711-1799), then became an official. However, although I found the image in several places on the internet, none seems to give any further information about the artist or about the source/location of the painting, so at present I am not yet sure whether it is by the same person. I am also not clear where the apparent title comes from or the meaning of the last line, "褚人榮小邊笳曲八章李堅".

5. 蔡琰 Cai Yan, also called 蔡文姬 Cai Wenji
Cai Yan has a biographical entry in in Qin Shi and there is further information under Shen Qi Mi Pu melody #47 Da Hujia. Giles gives much the same story under Ts'ai Yen, also mentioning her skill in music.

6. 蔡邕 Cai Yong
Cai Yong is connected to a number of melodies, including #13 Qiuyue Zhao Maoting ;

7. Hujia theme in various media
In addition to the above there is considerable detail in Xu Jian, op. cit. For drama see under Cai Wenji.

8. Which is earlier, Da Hujia or Xiao Hujia?
Regarding the age of "Hu Jia" see above. Logic suggests that the title "Hujia" should occur before either "Xiao Hujia" or "Da Hujia", and indeed early melody lists mention only "Hujia". This, however, even if this is true it is not proof of the relative age of the actual melodies. For example, these could first have appeared under completely different titles.

9. Tang poetry specifically mentioning Xiao Hujia
The best known example seems to be 小胡笳引 Xiao Hujia Yin by 元稹 Yuan Zhen (779-831). "Xiao Hujia Yin" means "Prelude to Xiao Hujia", and although the lyrics seem generally to be attributed to Yuan Zhen, the poem is also sometimes referred to as "無名氏 Anonymous, 姜宣彈小胡笳引歌 Jiang Xuan plays a prelude song for Xiao Hujia", suggesting that Yuan Zhen wrote a separate preface.

The lyrics are as follows:

雷氏金徽琴,        王君寶重輕千金。
哀笳慢指董家本,姜宣得之妙思忖。(See QSCB, p. 55)
流宮變徵漸幽咽,別鶴欲飛猨欲絕。       (流宮 17762.xxx)

Not yet translated.

10. Cai Yi 蔡翼
32581.xxx; Bio/2446xxx (Sui). Qin player of the Southern Tang dynasty. To my knowledge it is not clear from the references to Xiao Hujia in Qinshu Cunmu and Qin Diao what exactly he played. The reference to him in Yuefu Shiji concerns only his comment on the melody, as follows:

According to Cai Yi's "Qin Melodies" there are Long and Short (versions of) Hujia Shibapai. Shen Liao's Collection (says) at that time it was common that Xiao Hujia also had a 契聲 (summary/outline sounds?), giving it 19 in all; this was called the Zhu family version. It is not clear to what period Mr. Zhu belonged.

契聲 qisheng 6038.xxx, but there are further references in connection to Guangling San, Li Liangfu and in Qinshu Daquan Folio 13 Melody Addenda.

11. Tracing Xiao Hujia
See Zha Fuxi's Guide, 3/35/42. More details are in the appendix.

12. Lyrics from 1491 and 1585
The complete lyrics are here. At that time adding lyrics did not necessarily mean the melody was intended for singing. As described here, lyrics were paired to the music by a formula that was intended basically to assign one character to each right hand stroke and to certain left hand plucks (slides usually do not have characters paired). This method meant that characters could at times have been paired by someone who was simply looking at the tablature and may never have heard the music. Leaving aside the issue of singability, such pairing is relatively straightforward with simple right hand tablature, but old tablature sometimes uses multi-stroke right hand indications and unspecified repeat indications that defy this system. Thus the lyrics added to the prelude begin with two phrases of 6 then 4 characters, but the tablature it accompanies begins with a phrase having 9 right hand strokes repeated then a phrase of four right hand strokes. The complete lyrics of this prelude are as follows:


As for pairing these lyrics with the 1585 tablature I have not yet examined that aspect.

13. The survival of Xiao Hujia and Da Hujia
There is some discussion here of the general survival of melodies from Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio 1 (and some other apparently old melodies).

14. Xu Jian, Qinshi Chubian, p.55, discusses Dong Tinglan.

15. 42837.8 隴西 Longxi; almost all references are to Gansu

16. Qinshu Cunmu Folio II #2 lists a "Qinpu 21 folios" under his name, connecting it also with Zhao Yeli.

17. Zheng You 鄭宥 40513.xxx

18. Du Shanren 杜山人
The proper name of Du Shanren (Mountain Man Du) was apparently 杜陵 Du Ling.

19. See also Qinshu Daquan (1590, V. pp.222, 261-7 and 270. No music included but a great variety of commentary on different versions and sources of this piece.

20. For the original Chinese text see 小胡笳.

21. 前敘; (一)鴈歸思漢; (二)吹笳訴怨; (三)無所控訴; (四)仰天長嘆;後敘。

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Xiao Hujia (compare Da Hujia)
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 3/35/44

    (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/130)
6T (1+4+1); no phrasing indicated
  2.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/249)
6T (1+4+1); adds lyrics; otherwise same as 1425. However, the lyrics don't match very well and the melody does not easily lend itself to singing.
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/368)
6t (1+4+1); same as 1425 but with phrasing indicated
  4. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/492)
6T (1+4+1); lyrics as <1491; music related but different from above
(No Da Hujia)  
  5. 希韶閣琴瑟合譜
      (1890; XXVI/462)
11T (1+9+1); lyrics; pairs the se zither part; melody is quite different from the above

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