Wang Ji
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
SQMP ToC     ("Modern" Ou Lu Wang Ji, also with recording) 聽錄音 Listen to my recording with transcription 首頁
23. No Ulterior Motives
- Shang mode:2 standard tuning played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
忘機 1
Wang Ji
  The original tablature from Shen Qi Mi Pu 3        
According to a story from the Yellow Emperor chapter of the Han dynasty book of Liezi,4

There was a man living by the sea-shore who loved seagulls. Every morning he went down to the sea to roam with the seagulls, and more birds came to him than you could count in hundreds.

His father said to him: 'I hear the seagulls all come roaming with you. Bring me some to play with.'

Next day, when he went down to the sea, the seagulls danced above him and would not come down.

Therefore it is said: 'The utmost in speech is to be rid of speech, the utmost doing is Doing Nothing.' What common knowledge knows is shallow.

Sources for this story along with other references are given under 1620 as well as the below. There are also other versions of this story, for example, according to one5 the old man himself never noticed the birds as he fished, so they came right up to him. One night he decided he should catch one, but the next day when he went out the birds would not come near. In his own preface Zhu Quan seems to combine both of these two stories.

This title (with several variants) has been very popular, appearing in 48 surviving handbooks from 1425 to 1961.6 However, only the first five (plus two related versions with other titles) to 1585 are musically related to the melody played here.7 The other 41 evolved from a completely unrelated Oulu Wang Ji (Seabirds [trust those with] No Ulterior Motives) first published in 1620. This latter melody became the version still played today, still usually called Oulu Wangji.8 Xilutang Qintong (1525) has the old version but also calls it Oulu Wangji. The other two titles for surviving versions of the old melody are Teng Liu Yin9 (Melody of Teng Liu, deity of snow), and Jin Shan Yin10 (Completed Skills Intonation).

The reputed creator of the melody, Liu Zhifang,11 from Tiantai in Zhejiang province, is also credited with a piece called Wujiang Yin.12 He was a student of Guo Chuwang and thus one of the qin players in the Zhe(jiang) School of the Southern Song Dynasty, which flourished in Hangzhou during the 12th and 13th centuries. Yang Zan, who collected a large number of qin pieces in his now-lost Rosy Cloud Cave Handbook, was particularly impressed when he heard Guo's pieces in the shang mode.13

Other than my own, there are no other recordings of any of the early versions of this theme.14

Original Preface15

The Emaciated Immortal says

this piece was created in the Song dynasty by Mr. Liu Zhifang of Tiantai. Some say its meaning follows that of Liezi's story about the Old Man of the Sea, who had no ulterior motives, and so birds didn't fly (away from him). The fingers are used to achieve this. Perhaps it has the same flavor as sitting down and forgetting meanings.

Music (timings follow the recording on my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription)
Two sections (Titles from Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu;16)

(00.00) 1. The ulterior motives stop
(00.51) 2. Sitting in tranquility
(01.58) -- harmonics
(02.11) -- Melody ends

Return to the Shen Qi Mi Pu ToC or to the Guqin ToC.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Wang Ji references
10543.54 忘機 Wang Ji says "心無紛競,淡焉漠焉,謂之忘機 being calm and detached is called wangji". There are two quotes, one from a poem by 儲光義 Chu Guangyi (should be 儲光羲 Chu Guangxi, fl. 846; ICTCL), the other a poem by Li Bai. No mention of qin.

Oulu Wang Ji references
When it comes to qin melodies, the Wang Ji story always concerns seabirds/seagulls, for which the various accounts/titles use several different terms (these
ZWDCD references have no images):

48240.41 鷗鷺忘機 Oulu Wang Ji says .41/1: "謂人無機心者,能便異類亦相與狎近也 this refers to people without ulterior motives being able to make things with which they are not related become familiar". It then cites three references: the Book of Liezi story, Li Shangyin and Chen Yuyi, as follows:

After this 48240.41/2 says "古琴曲名 old qin melody title".

2. Shang mode (商調 shang diao)
Standard tuning is also considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6. For further information on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. The original tablature from Shen Qi Mi Pu (enlarge) A bird like this?    
Copied from QQJC I/137.

As for including a picture of seagulls or seabirds, see further comment on the image at right with the separate entry for Oulu Wang Ji. Basically it says that the location ("海上 on the sea") and type of bird ("漚鳥 ouniao") are not completely clear.

4. Liezi 列子 (Wiki: book and person; CTP, 列子,黃帝 11)
Quoted from the translation by AC Graham, p. 45-6. The original text is as follows (note that "seabirds" are called 漚鳥 ouniao; ref. above),


Liezi is the name of a person (also known as 列禦寇 Lie Yukou) and of his book, also called The Book of Liezi.

5. Reference to be added

6. Tracing the various Wang Ji melodies
There are three relevant entries in the Zha Guide; see details in the appendix below.

7. Tracing the old version of Wang Ji
The four versions of the apparently Song dynasty Wang Ji melody, plus the three related melodies listed at the top of the Appendix below, are in handbooks dated:

  1. 1425 (Wang Ji; 2 sections)
  2. 1525 (Oulu Wang Ji; 3 sections)
  3. 1539 (Wang Ji; identical to 1425)
  4. 1552 (Teng Liu Yin; 3 sections)
  5. 1557 (Teng Liu Yin; identical to 1551)
  6. 1561 (Jin Shan Yin; 2 sections)
  7. 1585 (Wang Ji; 2, lyrics, gong mode and rather different, but still related to 1425)

Note that although there is no version in the existing 1491 handbook, the lyrics from 1585 can be made to fit the 1425 version (Section 1, badly; Section 2, easily). This perhaps suggests that the original edition of 1491 included this melody.

8. No Ulterior Motives regarding Seabirds (modern version, from 1620; separate entry)
Gong or yu mode: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
Oulu Wang Ji

The version of Oulu Wang Ji played today also uses standard tuning, but is otherwise musically unrelated to the earlier one described above. As can be seen from the chart below (based largely on Zha Guide 4/42/64) versions of this melody survive in over 40 handbooks from 1620 to 1961, though some of the later melodies listed in the Guide also seem unrelated, such as the one in Youshengshe Qinpu, while others may still be related but are very different, such as the one in Songfengge Qinpu (1677, regarding which see also Wuxue Shanfang Qinpu (1836).

(Further commentary on the modern version has now been moved to a separate entry).

9. 滕六吟 Teng Liu Yin (Intonation of Teng Liu, deity of snow)
18466.2 Teng Liu 滕六﹕雪神名。見古書《幽怪錄》。 This version of Wang Ji survives only in 太音傳習 Taiyin Chuanxi (1551; QQJC IV/63) and Taiyin Buyi (1557; QQJC III/327); the two are identical, and both are used as a prelude to Bai Xue (White Snow). An old story book called Youguai Lu (幽怪錄 9411.59xx uncanny, spooky) tells of a deer, knowing a notorious hunter is after him, who prays to the diety of snow. The next day there is heavy wind and snow so the hunter does not come out.

10. 盡善吟 Jin Shan Yin (Intonation of the Perfectly Good)
23556.36 盡善 jin shan refers to .37 盡善盡美 (perfectly beautiful and perfectly good), quoting Lun Yu, 八佾 Bayi/25 (D. C. Lau, p. 27). In that passage Confucius uses these terms to describe the Shao music of Emperor Shun. This version of Wang Ji survives only in Qinpu Zhengchuan (1561; QQJC II/517), where it has two sections and is used as a prelude to Xiaoshao Jiucheng Fenghuang Laiyi.

11. Attribution to 劉志方 Liu Zhifang
Later versions that seem musically unrelated to the present version are also sometimes attributed to Liu, who was from 天台 Tian Tai, near the coast about 150 km southeast of Hangzhou. He is mentioned in Xu Jian p. 89 (Chapter 6a3) as follows: 郭楚望; 楊瓚; 紫霞洞譜十三卷; 毛敏仲; 吳江吟. Xu Jian gives as reference a 胡長孺,紫外譜琴序.

12. Wujiang Yin 吳江吟
Wujiang is a town about 25 km south of Suzhou. has no references to music, nor is this title included in any handbooks or melody lists.

13. Southern Song Hangzhou qin players
There is further discussion of Liu Zhifang and his Hangzhou contemporaries in QSCB, Chapter 6a3. See also Shen Qi Mi Pu: A General Introduction.

14. My own version is included in my Shen Qi Mi Pu recordings.

15. Preface
For the original text see 忘機.

16. Music
For the original titles see 忘機.

Return to top.

Appendix: Chart Tracing Wang Ji

This chart is based mainly on three entries in Zha Fuxi's Guide:

4/42/64 : 忘機 Wang Ji (plus 鷗鷺忘機 Oulu Wang Ji, 海鷗忘機 Haiou Wang Ji, 忘機引 Wang Ji Yin and 鷗鷺 Ou Lu)
23/199/-- : 滕六吟 Teng Liu Yin
18--/-- : 盡善吟 Jin Shan Yin.

    (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/137)
2 sections
? See comment
  3.  西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/105)
3; called 鷗鷺忘機 Oulu Wang Ji but almost the same as in 1425
  2.  風宣玄品
      (1539; II/146)
2; same as 1425, including mistakes
  4.  太音傳習
      (1552; IV/65)
3; called 滕六吟 (Teng Liu Yin); Teng Liu is deity of snow; precedes 白雪 White Snow
not indexed
  5.  太音補遺
      (1557; III/333)
3; called 滕六吟 (Teng Liu Yin)
identical to 1552
  6.  琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/521)
2; called 盡善吟 Jin Shan Yin
used as prelude to Xiaoshao Jiucheng Fenghuang Laiyi  
  7.  新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; ---)
not indexed; same as 1585?
  8.  重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/329)
2; lyrics; rather diff.; included with gong mode pieces
  9.  思齊堂琴譜
      (1620; IX/31)
3; "宮意 gong mode"; ends on do then says "play the gong mode harmonics", which end on do over sol.
This is the earliest example of modern version but condensed and no opening harmonics.
10.  古音正宗
      (1634; IX/291)
4 sections (divides 1620 Sec. 3 in two parts); follows 1620 throughout,
writes out the harmonic coda, and elaborates mostly by changing vibratos to slides
11.  陶氏琴譜
      (late Ming; IX/461)
3 (not numbered) + harm sect at end; lyrics; called 忘機引 Wang Ji Yin;
more elaboration of 1620; starts Section 2 two phrases earlier
12. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/207)
"羽音 yu mode"; 7 Sections: 1 is new harmonic opening; 4-7 expand 1620 Section 3,
Sec 6 begins as 1634 Sec. 4, Sec. 7 replaces 1620's phrases changing to do mode; ends on la
13. 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; fac/)
Not in QQJC
(should be identical to 1647?)
14. 友聲社琴譜
      (early Qing; XI/169)
15 sections; Yize mode (raise 2 3 4 5 7): unrelated to the rest? begins w/harm (but not run).
"鄭譜,何校 Zheng tablature revised by He", otherwise no commentary; not indexed
15. 愧菴琴譜
      (1660; XI/65)
4+harm; 羽變宮商 "gong changing to gong shang?
No illustration; seems to be yet another different melody (begins 3rd string 外, 1st open, 打圓)
16. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/359)
4; shang mode but ends on sol; like 1620, with no opening harmonics; called Wang Ji
first modern version to have commentary; says by Liu Zhifang (!), alt. title 海鷗忘機 Haiou Wang Ji
17. 松風閣琴譜
      (1677/82; XII/303)
6; 清宮 clear gong mode; 忘機; afterword: "韓石耕譜 Han Shigeng tablature";
Section 1 new, begins open 1st, open 6th, stopped 4th in 10th position; Section 2 like 1620 #1; ends do over sol
18. 松風閣琴瑟譜
      (1687?; XII/421)
7; 忘機; afterword "韓石耕譜 tablature of Han Shigeng"
see previous
19. 德音堂琴譜
      (1691; XII/507)
5; 宮音 gong mode; 鷗鷺 Ou Lu; Section 2 is like 1620 #1
begins thumb stopping third string 9th postion; ends on do over sol
20. 蓼懷堂琴譜
      (1702; XIII/282)
5; 宮羽音 gong yu mode; 海鷺忘機 Haiou Wang Ji
like 1677: begins with open 1st then 6th; ends on do over sol
21. 五知齋琴譜
      (1722; XIV/443)
gong mode; see separate comments about source and recordings, as well as the transciption in Guqin Quji, I/253-5;
3 titled sections: 1 begins w/harmonics; 2 begins as 1620; 3 begins earlier then is diff; ends on do over so
22. 琴書千古
      (1738; XV/425)
5 sections; 羽音 yu mode
begins open 3rd, 4th then 5th strings, but later seems related
23. 琴學練要
      (1739; XVIII/147)
治心齋琴譜 (facsimile); 5 sections; 宮音 gong mode
begins with harmonics; afterword
24. 春草堂琴譜
      (1744; XVIII/250)
5 sections; 中呂均宮音; afterword: gong mode because ends on gong,
Sec 1 as 1677; secs 2 and 3 are more like yu (from Han Gong Qiu): the old "gong yu mode" kept this straight
25. 琴劍合譜
      (1749; XVIII/307)
6 sections; 宮音 gong mode
begins with harmonics
26. 蘭田館琴譜
      (1755; XVI/204)
6 sections; 宮音 gong mode
compare 1677: begins open 1st then 6th
27. 琴香堂琴譜
      (1760; XVII/37)
6 sections; 宮音 gong mode
begin w/harm
28. 研露樓琴譜
      (1766; XVI/447)
5 sections; 宮音 gong mode
begin w/harm
29. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/326)
gong mode; 3+收音; begin w/harm; see separate comments about
recordings and the transciption in
Guqin Quji, I/250-2
30.A 琴譜諧聲
      (1820; XX/149)
5; 角宮
30.B 琴譜諧聲
      (1820; XX/151)
變徵宮 bian zhi gong ("Bianzhi as gong"? Compare this bianzhi diao)
(lower 1st, 3rd, 6th; play 4th string as gong; see mangong diao)
31. 指法匯參確解
      (1821; XX/275)
32. 峰抱樓琴譜
      (1825; XX/311)
33. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/404)
34. 鄰鶴齋琴譜
      (1830; XXI/37)
35. 悟雪山房琴譜
      (1836; XXII/308)
鷗鷺忘機,中呂均,宮音; credited to Gugang Yipu, but first and last sections like same in 1677;
Recording here seems different again
36. 張鞠田琴譜
      (1844; XXIII/304)
3 sections titled as 1722
37. 一經盧琴學
      (1845; XXII/64)
38. 琴學尊聞
      (1864; XXIV/243)
39. 琴學入門
      (1864; XXIV/338)
鷗鷺忘機,5段; 中呂均宮音; gong mode;
40. 蕉庵琴譜
      (1868; XXVI/32)
41. 以六正五之齋琴學秘書
      (1875; XXVI/235)
42. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/171)
5; 宮羽音 gong yu mode; 海鷺忘機 Haiou Wang Ji;
from 1702
43. 天籟閣琴譜
      (1876; XXI/323)
lyrics as Taoshi Qinpu
44. 希韶閣琴譜
      (1878; XXVI/104)
中州宋渭玉傳; has lyrics
45. 希韶閣琴瑟合譜
      (1890; XXVI/431)
46. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/256)
Afterword quotes 1425
47. 詩夢齋琴譜
not indexed and not in Qinqu Jicheng
48. 夏一峰傳譜
      (1957; p.32)
3 sections plus + 收音 coda;
begins with harmonics; ends with do over sol
49. 研易習琴齋琴譜
    (1961; Folio 2, #8)
5; 中呂均宮音; gong mode; begins with open first then open 6th; ends do over sol;
Compare mode with afterword comments on 1744; compare melody with 1677