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17. Celestial Air Defining Gong Mode
- Gong mode, standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
神品宮意 1
Shenpin Gong Yi 3

Gong modal preludes may have a variety of names. The ones covered here are listed above the chart tracing these preludes. They include a number of melodies intended to introduce characteristics of gong mode or, in some cases, the modal characteristics and melodic style of the pieces following it.4 These range from those almost identical to the one here, to ones with melodies that seem unrelated. There are gong modal preludes in at least 25 handbooks from 1425 to 1670, but after this there are very few.5 The later ones include several repeats from Ming handbooks (usually grouped together rather than placed separately at the beginning of their respective modal sections) and the new Yuyin Chudiao published in 1876. Several of the preludes have lyrics.6 Several have lyrics.6

Although there is quite a variety of melodies within these preludes, the tonal characteristics seem quite consistent throughout the Ming dynasty.7 All seem to consider the third string as gong (do, 1) and use that as their main tonal center, with zhi (sol, 5) as the secondary tonal center. This characteristic (also found in some of the other modes here) makes it tempting to compare it with the Western major mode. Most of the preludes open on 5 (played on the open 1st and 6th strings) and end on 1/5 (inverted fifth on 1).

For more information on such modal characteristics see also Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio 1 has seven melodies said to be in gong mode:

  1. Gufeng Cao (The Ancient Style)
  2. Gao Shan (High Mountains)
  3. Liu Shui (Flowing Streams)
  4. Yang Chun (Sunny Spring)
  5. Xuan Mei (Profoundly Serene)
  6. Zhao Yin (Seeking Seclusion)
  7. Jiu Kuang (Wine Mad)

This consists of all the SQMP Folio 1 pieces using standard mode. However, the first of these, Gufeng Cao, seems in fact to follow yu mode characteristics right up to but not including the ending.

In addition, SQMP Folio 2 has two further melodies in gong mode:

  1. Guanghan You (Wandering in a Lunar Palace)
  2. Meihua Sannong (Three Repetitions of Plum Blossom)

Both use the first string as gong (do) with do as the main note and sol as the secondary note.

Later pieces in gong mode that I have studied include the following (all have their first surviving version in Xilutang Qintong [1525]):

  1. Gong Yi (Defining Gong Mode)
  2. Xiuxi Yin (Purification Ceremony Intonation)
  3. Yang Chun (Sunny Spring)
  4. Kangqu Yao (Ballad of the Highroad)
  5. Chonghe Yin (Intonation on Balanced Vital Force))
  6. Gukou Yin (Gukou Allure)
  7. Yi Qiao Jin Lü (Going for Shoes under the Bridge)
  8. Da Guan Yin (Intonation on Being Free of Worldly Emotions)
  9. Liu Shang (Floating Wine-Cups)
  10. You Lan (Secluded Orchid)

A few of these later gong mode melodies (e.g. Gukou Yin) have a characteristic otherwise especially common in early shang mode melodies: including a minor third (flatted mi) along with the standard mi.

Original preface8

One section (timings follow recording on my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription)

(00.41) -- harmonics
(00.52) -- Modal prelude ends

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Celestial Air Defining Gong Mode (Shenpin Gong Yi 神品宮意)
神品宮意 25211.182 神品 shenpin refers to art, not music. 7327.169 宮調 says it is an old music category, e.g. for Music for Feasting (fairly lengthy entry). Gong, which literally means "palace", is the first note of the Chinese music scale. "Yi" is short for "diao yi", the common name for a modal prelude (compare "kaizhi").

2. Gong mode tuning
See also Qin Tunings, some theoretical concepts and Van Gulik's comments in Lore, pp.86-7. Here Van Gulik says the diaoyi include all the basic playing techniques used in that mode, but I have not found this to be the case.

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4. Intention of the modal preludes
Some modal preludes may have been created specifically for the pieces they precede; such preludes, according to some definitations, should have been called kaizhi.

5. Tracing Gong modal preludes
See the tracing chart below. Of the versions availablve after 1670, those in 1715 and 1871 seem to copy Ming editions while the Gongyin Chudiao published in 1876 is a new melody.

6. Lyrics for gong modal preludes
Zha Guide copies the lyrics from several handbooks, including the following (translations by the film director and scholar 劉成漢 Lau Shing Hon):