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16: Nourishing One's Natural Character
Alternate translation: Nourishing the True;2 Huangzhong mode:3 1 3 5 6 1 2 3
頤真 1
Yi Zhen  
Yi Zhen survives in five handbooks to 1670 then in one more dated 1876; four are identical, the other two related.
5 The melody, if one disregards the occasional octave leaps, is relatively melismatic, and the lyrics6 which accompany the musically identical Yi Zhen in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu are paired in such a way that one could actually sing the melody.

These Zheyin Shizi Qinpu lyrics express the opinion that one shouldn't be concerned with one's physical surroundings: what is important is one's attitude. Zheyin also divides the piece into four titled sections,7

Xu Jian, commenting on this piece in his Qinshi Chubian says that one must consider the possibility that this is one of the pieces for which Zhu Quan changed the title. He points to the A (stopped sounds) B (harmonics) A (stopped sounds) structure, but then emphasizes the refined nature of the music.

Besides my own, other recordings on the internet all seem to use metal strings.

Original preface8

The Emaciated Immortal says,

Qin History states that Yi Zhen was written by Dong Tinglan of the (latter half of the) Tang dynasty.9 Yi means nourish. Books on the Dao say: nourish the heart with as few desires as possible; nourish your natural character by doing things which calm the breath; keep things simple and live harmony; be quietly dedicated to the Dao. As for the qin, it is music to amuse your basic nature. Therefore, the person who created this tune gave it the name Nourishing One's Natural Character

Music (timings follow recording on my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription)
Oriignal was undivided; here arranged here as four sections, from the Zheyin version. 10

(00.00) 1. Keep to the Way
(00.51) 2. Maintaining a natural character
(01.34) 3. Nurturing the heart
(02.29) 4. Amusing your basic nature
(04.11) -- harmonics
(04.32) -- Piece ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Yi Zhen references

It is not clear why the first Yi Zhen reference (Chi Fu in the Eulogies on the Biographies of [Daoist] Immortals, by Guo Yuanzu of the Jin period [265-420], was taken from a commentary rather than from the Liexian Zhuan itself. Here is the full original biography of Chi Fu in the Liexian Zhuan as copied from ctext.org:

Translation incomplete; discusses Chifu's skill with elixirs.

As for the second reference, from 真誥,卷二 the second chapter of Declarations of the Perfected (Zhen Gao; Wiki) by the noted Shangqing Daoist (Wiki) 陶弘景 Tao Hongjing of Liang (456-536; Wiki), it says,

In addition an internet search for "頤真" may at times turn up samples of a "qin and xiao flute duet" that was actually an arrangement of the 1597 version of Hujia Shiba Pai (without the lyrics).

2. Nourishing the True
This translation of 頤真 Yi Zhen is intended to suggest a thematic parallel between this title and that of another qin melody, 採真遊 Cai Zhen You, which I have translated as "Roaming to Gather the True". Alternatively, that melody could also be called "Selecting One's Natural Character". However, there are no apparent melodic connections between the two melodies. (For Cai Zhen You I have also used the translation "Selecting Reality". See this explanation for more on changing from this understanding of "zhen".)

3. Huangzhong mode 黃鐘調
For Huangzhong (or 無射調 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.

5. The usual five, plus 1876. See Zha's Guide 3/35/47 and the appendix below.

6. The lyrics of <1491 begin, "紅日鼎,紫芝田,契道玄玄誤先天,山中甲子竟無年,世界大三千... (see complete lyrics)."

7. See Xu Jian, Qinshi Chubian, p. 70, analyzed Yi Zhen as follows:

"In the introduction to this piece, SQMP says, 'written by Dong Tinglan of the Tang dynasty. Yi means nourish. Books on the Dao say: "nourish the heart with as few desires as possible; nourish your natural character by doing things which calm the breath."' If (we) follow this sort of explanation this proposition obviously reflects the idealist viewpoint in the philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi. However, in qin pieces frequently this sort of circumstance exists: titles are one thing, the actual music is a different matter. We know that Dai Yong of the Northern and Southern Dynasties once took the folk songs Hechang Xing (How could one go?) and Bai Hu (White Swan) and changed the names to Qing Kuang (Clear Vastness). And the editor of SQMP, Zhu Quan, in his preface publicly acknowledges: 'Those with vulgar names (I have) all changed in order to illuminate the Dao of the qin.' Therefore, from those several qin pieces whose titles do not necessarily completely accord with the contents of the piece, one can only do research into understanding the musical content. (If you) wish to understand accurately the piece, still must deeply go into the body of the piece.

"This piece, short and refined, is not divided into sections. The structure is A+B+A+coda. The first part emphasizes open strings, but also mixes in short phrases in harmonics. For example, the piece has the following sorts of phrases,

(Music example not online; see my Shen Qi Mi Pu transcriptions, m.34ff.)
"The 2nd section is purely harmonics. The melody is repeated four times in different registers, somewhat reflecting the use in Zhaojun Yuan (see Longshuo Cao) and Meihua Sannong. The melody is:

(Music example not online; see my transcriptions, m.71ff.)
"The repetition of mi forms question-like musical phrases; the repetition of la has the sense of responses to this. The big leaps at the end of phrases contrast with the steady movement that came before. Yi Zhen has an ending which draws one into deep thought, the source material used by this ending has changes from what comes earlier in the section. The melodic sentiment is also very different: if one says the former part is bright and clear, clear cut and light-hearted, the ending is peaceful, thoughtful, somewhat sedate, and from a philosophical standpoint implicity sums up the whole piece. This (ending) section is as follows:

(Music example not online; see my transcription, m.175ff.)

8. For the original Chinese text of the preface and section titles see 頤真.

9. For more on Dong Tinglan see also Xiao Hujia.

10. The Chinese titles in the Zheyin version are:

  1. 契道 Qidao
  2. 守一 Shouyi; begins at the first harmonic passage
  3. 養心 Yangxin; begins at the long harmonic passage
  4. 娛性 Yuxing; begins at the end of the long harmonic passage

The original Chinese lyrics in Zheyin are on a separate page.

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Yi Zhen
based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide

    (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/132)
not divided into sections; no phrasing indicated
  2.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/253)
4T; tablature same as 1425. It adds lyrics but their pairing in this edition shows that, although it follows the standard pairing formulas, it seems to have been done by someone who either did not understand the music or who did not intend the lyrics actually to be sung.
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/375)
not divided into sections; same as 1425 but with phrasing indicated
  4. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/436)
4, titles expanded from <1491; lyrics as <1491;
music may be somewhat related, but uses different tuning (manjiao)
  5. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/412)
5; like 1425, but writes out recapped passages and has some omissions
  6. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/354)
1; 徵音 zhi yin, but lyrics same as 1585
called 頤真操 Yi Zhen Cao

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