Yi Lan
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32. Flourishing Orchid
Shang mode:2 standard tuning played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
猗蘭 1
Yi Lan
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Melodies related to this Yi Lan may also be called Yilan Cao (Rippling Orchids Melody; the character for "yi" is different);4 together related melodies with these titles can be traced through at least 36 handbooks to the end of the 19th century.5 There are, in addition, a few unrelated melodies of this title.6 but the theme is still the same.

The first occurrence of Yilan Cao is in the second surviving handbook with one of these titles; this is the Yilan Cao in Taigu Yiyin, which has as lyrics poems on this theme attributed to four people, Confucius himself, Han Yu (see section titles below), Bao Zhao and Cui Tu.7

Yi Lan and Yi Lan Cao are both said to be ancient, with the latter in particular listed as one of the 12 cao (laments) included in the Qin Cao attributed to Cai Yong (150 - 200 CE; see the preface below).8

The story associated with these melodies has also been associated with the ancient qin melody title You Lan 9 (Secluded Orchid), a version of which is said to have survived in a 7th century manuscript in longhand qin tablature, preserved in Japan, where it was discovered in the late 19th century.10 Now reconstructed,11 it is musically unrelated either to the present Yi Lan or to the You Lan to be found in the active Ming and Qing dynasty repertoire, surviving in eight handbooks from 1525 to 1876.12 In addition, that earliest version might be subject to quite a different interpretation.

The qin melody Pei Lan13 (Fragrant Orchids, or Pendant Orchids), attributed to Mao Minzhong, has entirely different stories and is also musically unrelated.

A special characteristic of Yi Lan is its intonation,14 as epitomized by the first two notes, both in harmonics: with tuning following the standard Pythagorean method, the first note, played at the 11th position (node, hui) on the first string, gives a natural third (ratio of (80/64=5/4) above do while the second note, played at the 9th position of the fifth string, gives a Pythagorean third (81/64) above do. The "dissonance" caused by playing these two notes in sequence (discussed further under Qin Tunings) has led some people into efforts to reconcile the two systems by re-tuning the qin to a mixed Pythogorean and natural tuning system. Starting in the mid-18th century it also apparently led some handbooks to change the tuning of the melody from standard to lowered third string.

Original Preface15

The Emaciated Immortal says (following Qin Cao), 16

"Confucius made respectful visits to the feudal lords of 70 kingdoms, but did not gain any recognition, and was unable to achieve rank. While returning from Wei (the last of the 70) to Lu (his home), in a secluded valley he came across a solitary (fragrant) orchid flourishing alone. Sighing deeply he said, 'An orchid is worthy of spreading its fragrance to a king, but now it blooms alone, alongside common grass. (This is like the sage who is living in an inappropriate time, and so hangs around with commoners.)' So he stopped his cart, took up his qin and played it." He himself was aggrieved because he did not live in an appropriate time; so he borrowed words about the orchid to say (of himself), "The flourishing orchid spreads out its fragrance. If no one plucks one to wear it, what harm does that do to the orchid?" So a philosopher of old, emulating this (idea), wrote this tune.

Music (timings follow the recording on my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription)
11 sections;17 titles are from Xilutang Qintong (1525)18

(00.00) 01. The orchid is flourishing
(00.42) 02. Its fragrance spreads
(01.21) 03. If no one plucks one to wear it, how could that harm the orchid!
(01.59) 04. My coming back today, who caused it?
(02.44) 05. I have been traveling everywhere, for years on end
(03.40) 06. The luxuriance of the frost and snow
(04.16) 07. ...(will bring) luxuriant crops (in spring)
(04.57) 08. If you are not sad...
(05.37) 09. ...I will not come to see you
(06.17) 10. Luxuriant crops (mean) a good harvest
(07.05) 11. Although a gentleman may be sad, he keeps proper conduct
(07.58) --- play shang mode harmonics
(08.10) --- Piece ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Yi Lan sources
20945.22 猗蘭 yilan, a type of orchid; note, however, that "蘭 lan" itself may not have referred to flowers we know of today as orchids.

20945.24 猗蘭操,琴曲名 Yilan Cao, name of a qin melody. The story given here, which does not seem to occur in standard Confucian texts, is quoted from Qin Cao 琴操, where this title is listed, and from Gujin Yuelu 古今樂綠 .

Ming emperor Xuanzong is said to have written the following in appreciation of Yi Lan Cao,


Not translated. Xuanzong was one of several Ming emperors whose qin connection gave them an entry in Qin Shi Xu.

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.

4. Rippling Orchids Melody (漪蘭操 Yi Lan Cao)
漪蘭; 18599.7 水波也。。。(文選,左思,吳都賦)。。。 This variant title sometimes refers to a version of the 1425 Yi Lan, sometimes to another new melody. Search for 漪蘭 in chart below.

5. Tracing Yi Lan (see Appendix)
In Zha Fuxi's Guide 5/52/75, 猗蘭 Yi Lan, also includes 漪蘭 Yi Lan and 猗蘭操 Yi Lan Cao, totalling 32 entries. However, several of the melodies listed are musically unrelated to the present one. The Guide 19/181/-- also lists eight occurrences of 幽蘭 You Lan.

6. Unrelated Yi Lan melodies
See, for example, the 1618 Yi Lan Cao in the chart below.

7. 猗蘭操﹕孔子,韓愈,鮑照,崔塗。

8. Most of the passage attributed to Qin Cao is translated in Van Gulik, Lore, p.93

9. Secluded Orchid (幽蘭 You Lan)
9411.431: "ancient melody title", giving two examples, in both of which the melody is played on the qin. (More in full reference.)

10. You Lan preserved in Japan This is the famous Jieshidiao Youlan 碣石調幽蘭, republished in several sources including Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. I.

11. Reconstructions of You Lan
In addition to my own there are also recordings by Guan Pinghu, Wu Wenguang, Liang Mingyue, Li Xiangting, Gong Yi and others.

12. Ming dynasty You Lan
Zha Guide, 19/181/--; see especially the You Lan in Xilutang Qintong; it uses gong mode.

13. Fragrant or Pendant Orchids (佩蘭 Pei Lan) >BR?612.70 佩蘭 pei lan mentions another type of plant but it commonly refers to an orchid traditionally worn on the body as ornament and for smell; the qin melody Pei Lan, in 38 handbooks from 1539 to 1893, is associated with an ancient Daoist called Xulingzi 虛靈子.

14. Issues of intonation
Add to the above: the second entry dated 1833 uses the same tuning but calls it "黃鐘宮 huangzhong gong. In naming the strings it says the 1st is huangzhong gong, the second is 太簇商 taicou shang, the third is 禁 jin: forbidden, i.e., do not play open third string, though a qualification is added that it is acceptable to play it during a run across all the strings.

15. Preface
For the original Chinese text see 猗蘭.

16. Zhu is quoting almost verbatim from Qin Cao, adding the number of kingdoms and omitting both the word "fragrant" (香) and the analogy made by Confucius (see in brackets).

17. Timings follow my CD.

18. 1549 section titles
Compare the titles of 1556. The original of the titles below, which quote the entire poem Yi Lan by Han Yu (see Yilan Cao in Taigu Yiyin), are as follows

01. 蘭之猗猗
02. 揚揚其香
03. 不採而佩,與蘭何傷
04. 今天之旋,其曷為然
05. 我行四方,以日以年
06. 霜雪茂茂...
07. ...薺麥之茂
08. 子如不傷...
09. ...我不爾覯
10. 薺麥之茂,薺麥之有
11. 君子之傷,君子之守

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Yi Lan
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's
Guide, 5/52/75
猗蘭 or 漪蘭 ; compare 幽蘭 You Lan

    (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/146 [here])
11; shang mode;
Starts 3 3 5 5 then repeat; first 3 played on 1st string 11th node (all in harmonics)
   .  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I.8)
Not included 
  2. 謝琳太古遺音
      (1511; I/286)
11L; 猗蘭操 Yilan Cao; related; "春秋"; by 孔子
Starts as 1425; sections marked by circles
  3. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/100)
11T; shang; many differences but close enough that its titles could be used with SQMP
Starts as 1425; also has a 幽蘭 You Lan
  4. 發明琴譜
      (1530; I/386)
11; shang; lyrics; related
Starts as 1425
  5. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/172)
11; shang; related (many differences)
Starts as 1425
  6. 梧岡琴譜
      (1546; I/413)
11; related but more elaborate; "此曲超出 (excels) 神品者也。"
Starts as 1425;
  7. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; facsimile #8)
11T; = 1425
  8. 太音傳習
      (1552-61; IV/62)
Like 1546
  9. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/329)
11; as 1552
    . 太音補遺
      (1557; III/444)
Has a You Lan unrelated to anything before
10. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/442)
11; identical to 1546
11. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; ---)
#21; Same as 1585?
12. 五音琴譜
      (1579; IV/213)
10; shang; "猗蘭操"; related
Starts as 1425 but adds a glissando (li open 7 to 1) before repeat
13. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/398)
11T; lyrics "漪蘭" quite different but still related
Opens somewhat differently but still includes 1st string 11th node
14. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/25)
11; shang; related
Starts as 1425
15. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/482)
13; shang; related; "漪蘭"; see also pp. 238 and 287
Starts as 1579
16. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/229)
11; shang; related; "漪蘭"
Starts as 1425
17. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/325)
11; shang; related (VI/308: You Lan)
Starts as 1425
18. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/385)
13; shang; related; "漪蘭" (太古正音欽佩)
Starts as 1579
   . 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/256)
2TL; "猗蘭操"; unrelated to others, using 慢宮 tuning (lower 1,3,6)
   . 陶氏琴譜
      (late Ming; IX/475)
1L; "猗蘭操"; 徵音; also unrelated to others
Lyrics: "蘭之猗猗,揚揚其香...."
19. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/66)
9; shang; related, though quite different (X/48: You Lan)
Starts as 1579
20. 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; X/--)
Should be same as 1647
21. 友聲社琴譜
      (early Qing; XI/171)
11; shang; "漪蘭"; "鄭譜"; related but quite diff:
Begins 10th node on 1st string, 9th on 6th, 10th on 5th, 9th on 7th, glissando, repeat
22. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/340)
10; shang; "猗蘭操"; related
Starts as 1579
23. 澄鑒堂琴譜
      (1689; XIV/220)
10; shang; related
Starts as 1579
24. 響山堂琴譜
      (<1700?; XIV/119)
10; shang; related
Starts as 1579
25. 存古堂琴譜
      (1726; XV/237)
"漪蘭"; shang; 10
Starts as 1579
26. 春草堂琴譜
      (1744; XVIII/221)
8; "黃鐘均 Huangzhong jun (tuning); 宮音 gong yin (mode)": 寬三絃 lowered third string. Begins 3 3 5 5 played 10th node on 3rd string, 9th on 5th, 10th on 4th, 9th on 6th. It seems still to be adjusting the tuning because of the intonation issue, but trying to retain melody from earlier versions.
27. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/329)
10; zhi yin but still related; (XXII/315: You Lan)
Starts as 1579
28. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/225)
"From 1689"; shang; (XIX/73: You Lan)
Starts as 1579
29. 指法匯參確解
      (1821; XX/280)
9; shang yin; related
Starts as 1579
30. 二香琴譜
      (1833; XXIII/148)
10; gong yin, but still related
Starts as 1579
31. 律話
      (1833; XXI/386)
Yilan Cao; 10; standard tuning, called huangzhong gong; related; has note names paired;
Starts as 1579; at end is 猗蘭操釋, with extensive commentary (further)
32. 悟雪山房琴譜
      (1836; XXII/228)
黃鐘均 Huangzhong jun 宮音 gong yin: lower third strings;
Same as 1744; also includes its commentary above
33. 稚雲琴譜
      (1849; XXIII/446)
"猗蘭操"; 10; shang yin; related
Starts as 1579
34a. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/433)
"猗蘭操"; grouped with zhi mode;
34b. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/518)
Huangzhong mode (lowered 3rd string)
35. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/303)
"猗蘭操"; 8;
like 1744 etc. but without the commentary
36. 雅齋琴譜叢集
      (Not available)
Shangjiao; 9 sections;
Zha Guide [241] 199 says 中州譜 Zhongzhou tablature;

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