Liezi Yu Feng
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35. Liezi Rides the Wind
- Jue mode, standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
列子御風 1
Liezi Yu Feng  
Riding the wind3 (compare here and here)          
According to this famous ancient story, a student hears that the sagely Liezi can ride the wind. The student is impatient to learn, but Liezi spurns him, saying he spent many years assiduously learning from his masters before he could relax and, losing his awareness of ordinary human distinctions, drift with the wind, not knowing whether he is riding the wind or the wind riding him. This is not something which can be learned quickly. The phrase "Liezi yu feng" is originally found in the book of Zhuangzi, which briefly tells of Liezi traveling by riding the wind.4 A passage in the book attributed to Liezi gives more detail.5

Once a very popular piece, Liezi Yu Feng has undergone various revisions but is still recognizable in the 40 handbooks through 1876 which include it,6 as well as in the 1950s recording of Yue Ying7 playing it "from handcopied qin tablature", now available on CD.8

The numerous revisions have not affected the attribution tto the famous Song dynasty qin master Mao Minzhong (Mao Zhongweng). Looking at the SQMP pieces in order, this is the first of several it attributes to this famous Song dynasty qin player. The melody that precedes it, Lingxu Yin, seems to serve it as a prelude, and perhaps for this reason it later is also sometimes attributed to Mao Minzhong

Original Preface9

The Emaciated Immortal says,

as for this piece, Mao Zhongweng wrote it based on the account in the Yellow Emperor chapter of Liezi, in which (Liezi) rides the wind in such a way that his spirit roams throughout the universe.10 The flavor of the tune is the same as this story.

Music: 10 sections11 (timings follow the recording from my CD)
See transcription; also see this video (first string tuned to A).

(00.00) 01. Relying on the air to ride the wind
(00.25) 02. Looking down on the earth
(01.04) 03. How vast is the universe!
(01.33) 04. Not aware whether the wind is riding me
(01.51) 05. Not aware whether I am riding the wind
(02.31) 06. Aiming for the silent heavens
(03.01) 07. His spirit roams in the stratosphere
(03.43) 08. Howling in the empty azure sky
(04.05) 09. Shaking out clothing in the celestial wind
(04.44) 10. Having enjoyed everything, (the rider) returns
(05.23) --- play harmonics of the modal prelude
(05.36) --- Piece ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Liezi Rides the Wind (列子御風 Liezi Yu Feng
ZWDCD has only 1921.2 列子 the book; 10392.75 御風 quotes Zhuangzi Section 1: 列子御風而行. Nothing about a melody.

2. Jue mode (角調 jue diao)
For more information on jue mode see Shenpin Jue Yi. See also Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Image: Riding the Wind (御風 Yu Feng)
This image, excerpted from a larger anonymous painting, was probably not specifically intended to depict Liezi, but it suits the concept of his riding the wind. Regarding the seal, "古希天子 Ancient Rarity (belonging to the) Son of Heaven", see further.

Compare the image with the one for the prelude, Lingxu Yin, as well as the image of Qu Yuan with Li Sao, which also involve being seated on an animal or chariot, and note that although he is on a cloud, there does not seem to be a comparable expression "ride the clouds", or even for humans "flying".

4. Liezi Rides the Wind, from the book of Zhuangzi
China Text Project, Zhuangzi, Chapter 1 逍遙遊 - Enjoyment in Untroubled Ease (also the name of a separate melody here translated as Carefree Roaming), gives both the original text and the Legge translation, as follows:

There was Liezi, who rode on the wind and pursued his way, with an admirable indifference (to all external things), returning, however, after fifteen days, (to his place). In regard to the things that (are supposed to) contribute to happiness, he was free from all endeavours to obtain them; but though he had not to walk, there was still something for which he had to wait. But suppose one who mounts on (the ether of) heaven and earth in its normal operation, and drives along the six elemental energies of the changing (seasons), thus enjoying himself in the illimitable - what has he to wait for? Therefore it is said, 'The Perfect man has no (thought of) self; the Spirit-like man, none of merit; the Sagely-minded man, none of fame.'

Other online translations include that of Burton Watson (search for "Lieh Tzu7 could ride the wind and go soaring").

5. Liezi Rides the Wind, from Chapter 2 "黃帝 Yellow Emperor" in The Book of Liezi
The A. C. Graham translation (The Book of Lieh-Tzŭ, pp. 35-37), is as follows (romanization changed to modern pinyin):

Liezi had Old Shang as a teacher, and Bogaozi as his friend. When he had nothing more to learn from either of them, he came home riding the wind. Yin Sheng heard of him, joined his disciples, and for several months did not look for lodgings. Ten times, when Liezi was not busy, he took the opportunity to beg for his secrests; and each time Liezi turned him away and would not tell him. Yin Sheng was indignant and took his leave; Liezi made no objections.

A few months after Yin Sheng withdrew he had not renounced his aim, and went to join Liezi again.

'Why do you keep coming and going?' Liezi asked him.

'Not long ago I made a request to you, but you would not tell me. It is true that I felt some rancour against you, but now it is all gone. So I have come again.'

'I used to thik you intelligent; are you really as vulgar as all that? Here, I will tell you what I learned from my own Master. Three years after I began to serve the Master and befriend a certain man, my mind no longer dared to think of right and wrong, my mouth no longer dared to speak of benefit and harm, and it was only then that I got as much as a glance from the Master. After five years, my mind was again thinking of right and wrong, my mouth was again speaking of benefit and harm, and for the first time the Master's face relaxed in a smile. After seven years, I thought of whatever came into my mind without any longer distinguishing between right and wrong, said whatever came into my mouth without any longer distinguishing between benefit and harm; and for the first time the Master pulled me over to sit with him on the same mat. After nine years, I thought without restraint of whatever came into my mind and said without restraint whatever came into my mouth without knowing whether the right and wrong, benefit and harm, were mine or another's, without knowing that the Master was my teacher and the man I have mentioned was my friend. Only then, when I had come to the end of everything inside me and outside me, my eyes became like my ears, my ears like my nose, my nose like my mouth; everything was the same. My mind concentrated and my body relaxed, bones and flesh fused completely, I did not notice what my body leaned against and my feet trod, I drifted with the wind East or West, like a leaf from a treee or a dry husk, and never knew whether it was the wind that rode me or I that rode the wind.

'Now you come to be my disciple, and before even a year has gone round, you are indignant and resentful time and again. The air will refuse your slip of a body, the earth will refuse to carry one joint of your finger; can you hope to tread the void and ride the wind?'

Yin Sheng was deeply ashamed, held his breath for a long time, and did not dare to speak again.

The original Chinese text (see China Text Project) is as follows:


A number of other translations can also be found online.

6. Tracing 列子御風 Liezi Yu Feng (see tracing chart)
Zha Guide 5/56/80: the 40 handbooks through 1876 also include the variant titles 御風行 Yu Feng Xing (1585) and 列子 Liezi (1596).

There is also an old story here mentioning a melody called 御風曲 Yu Feng Qu.

7. 樂瑛 Yue Ying
Sometimes written incorrectly as "Le Ying"; a recording she made of the Liezi Yu Feng from 1766 can be found here.

8. Other recordings
There are metal string recordings of the 1425 Liezi Yu Feng on CDs by Wu Wenguang and Chen Changlin (this mp3 is from this CD). There are also a silk string recording of the version in Xilutang Qintong (1525) by Wang Duo and another from 1766 by Le Ying.

9. Preface
See original Chinese text.

10. "Riding the wind in such a way that the spirit roams throughout the universe"
"御風擬神遊六合"; 擬 is "determine, resemble, compare"; "神遊六合" is also the name of another qin melody, Shen You Liu He .

11. Music for Liezi Yu Feng
The lyrics from the version in 1585 can be paired to the 1425 tablature following the standard formula, suggesting the whole of Liezi Yufeng in the original edition of Zheyin Shizi Qinpu had the same tablature as here. However, as with other pieces in the 1491 handbook, this does not necessarily mean that anyone ever sang the lyrics to the 1425 melody. For example, the phrasing of these lyrics does not fit well with my current understanding of the 1425/1491 music. This suggests either that my phrasing is wrong, or that the tablature and lyrics were paired by someone following the standard formula but not knowing the actual music. As for the latter, one must consider the possibility that the 1585 version has a different melody because the person who created the 1585 melody wanted to use the 1491 lyrics but could not make them fit the 1491 melody in a way that was satisfying.

See also the original Chinese section titles.

Appendix: Chart Tracing 列子御風 Liezi Yu Feng
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's
Guide, 5/56/80
Further comment above; compare Lingxu 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/149 [here])
10 titled sections; attrib. Mao Minzhong
  2.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/203)
Only Sections 8-10 (front of book is missing);
What is here is same as 1425 plus the lyrics
  3. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/136)
10T; afterword attributes Mao; many differences
  4. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/215)
10; many differences
  5. 梧岡琴譜
      (1546; I/424)
御風行 Yu Feng Xing; 8 (combines 1&2 and 3&4
Drops sharps and flats; other differences
  6. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; III/xxx)
10; closely related to 1425/1546
Facsimile #21
  7. 太音傳習
      (1552; IV/105)
9T; related
  8. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/353)
8; related
  9. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/430)
御風行 Yu Feng Xing
Identical to 1546
10. 龍湖琴譜
      (1571; 琴府/253)
10T (but unnumbered); no lyrics; still related
11. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #46)
Same as 1585?
12. 五音琴譜
      (1579; IV/227)
11; related
13. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/412)
9T; same preface as 1425; lyrics related to 1491;
Melody has some relationship but is very different
14. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/47)
8; attrib. Mao Minzhong; related
15.a 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1589; VII/98)
10; no T; lyrics related to but diff from 1585;
15.b 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1609; Fac/)
16. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/500)
10; related
17. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/232)
Called 列子 Liezi; related
18. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/360)
Identical to 1589
19. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/396)
9; related
20. 松絃館琴譜
      (1614; VIII/114)
10; related
21. 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/232)
10T; again diff. but related lyrics
22. 太音希聲
      (1625; IX/181)
10T; preface; lyrics like 1585 but music not as different
23. 古音正宗
      (1634; IX/320)
10; 列子御風行 Liezi Yu Feng Xing; related (no special connection to 1546);
Long introduction; compare 1589
24. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; IX/429)
Has 1-9 then missing; related
25. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/117)
角音; 10; related
26. 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; fac/)
Same as 1647
27. 友聲社琴譜
      (early Qing; XI/143)
10T; "嚴譜" (1614?)
28. 臣奔堂琴譜
      (1663/5; XI/100)
10; related
29. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/369)
御風行 Yu Feng Xing; 10; preface attribs Mao Minzhong; afterword;
No special connection to 1546; compare
30. 大還閣琴譜
      (1673; X/378)
10; like 1614; afterword
31. 德音堂琴譜
      (1691; XII/543)
角音; 10; related; compare 1614
32. 琴譜析微
      (1692; XIII/88)
角音; 10; related; compare 1614
33. 誠一堂琴譜
      (1705; XIII/366)
角音; 8; related; compare 1614
34. 臥雲樓琴譜
      (1722; XV/67)
角音; 10; related; compare 1614
35. 穎陽琴譜
      (1751; XVI/94)
角音; preface; "10" but only 9 sections marked; phrases separated; elaboration of earlier;
36. 蘭田館琴譜
      (1755; XVI/234)
角音; 10; 徐青山譜; compare 1614
37. 研露樓琴譜
      (1766; XVI/467)
角音; 10; compare 1614
Reconstructed and recorded in 1962 by 樂瑛 Le Ying (listen)  
38. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/473)
宮調角音; 10; compare 1614
39. 小蘭琴譜
      (1812; XIX/444)
角音; 14; shorter sections but many changes esp. towards end
40. 峰抱樓琴譜
      (1825; XX/320)
角音; 10; compare 1614
41. 悟雪山房琴譜
      (1836; XXII/387)
中呂均,角音 (zhonglü jun, jue yin); 10; compare 1614
42. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/289)
"= 1705"

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