Baji You
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50. Roaming to the Eight Corners (of the Earth)
- Biyu mode,2 slacken 3rd string: 1 2 3 5 6 1 2
八極遊 1
Baji You  
  Lu Yan roaming in the clouds 3   
Baji You is the title of two unrelated qin melodies, one in biyu mode (lowered third string), the other in mangong mode (lowered first, third and sixth strings),4 as follows:

In either case the sort of roaming described cannot be by ordinary walking or riding: it must be done by riding in the air, perhaps on a chariot or a crane, but more specifically on a breeze, or perhaps on clouds, as in the illustration at right. Although this illustration more specifically refers to the later Xie Xian You melody (comment), since Zhu Quan's 1425 preface makes no mention of a specific person it perhaps might be appropriate here as well.

Versions of the lowered third string tuning version of Baji You survive in at least six handbooks from Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425) through Zangchunwu Qinpu (1602) but then suddenly, except for a reprint of 1425 in Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian (1670), seem to disappear.6

Perhaps coincidentally, versions of Xie Xian You, i.e., the ones using mangong tuning, then quickly take over from the former melody, surviving in over 20 handbooks from 1609 (where it is called Baji You) through 1931, where it is called Xie Xian You.7 Zha Fuxi's Guide is sometimes confused on these, mixing them in its lists, and also including a separate listing for the title The Spirit Roams to the Eight Boundaries (Shen You Baji), though the melodies under this title actually belong with the other two listings.8

Some of the later handbooks attribute the biyu mode Baji You to the Yellow Emperor. Some of those with the mangong mode Xie Xian You, in contrast, attribute it to the Tang dynasty recluse Lü Yan, who came to be counted as one of the eight immortals.9

Technically the ba ji (eight corners or boundaries) are those to north, east, south and west plus the four intermediary directions, but this is also a term found in ancient Taoist writings to refer to everywhere. As for the Yellow Emperor, sources such as Liezi tell of his spirit roaming in the dream in which he travels to the land of the Huaxu Clan (see #3 Huaxu Yin), but these stories make no mention of ba ji (or liu he). And the Yingzhou10 of the section titles was thought to be an island in the Eastern Sea where immortals lived; the first emperor of the Qin dynasty (Qin Shi Huangdi) sent a mission there to search for the elixir of immortality.

Although there are modern recordings of the Meian version of Xie Xian You, other than my own there are none of the old Baji You.

Original Preface11

The Emaciated Immortal says

this tune is probably a very lofty old one. The theme of the tune is in hoping to travel beyond the furthest distances, and rambling along the edge of the universe ("eight vastnesses"). It is like riding in a whirlwind cart pulled by heavenly wind-blown cloud horses, roaming freely on heaven and earth, and sightseeing around the universe; there are no limitations or obstacles. If one is not a person who, having thoughts of wandering, has left ordinary society, how could one express such sentiments?

Music (timings follow the recording on my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription)
The transcription begins with that of the modal prelude
Six sections (titles from Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu 12)

(00.00) 1. Obscured by the cloudy skies
(00.26) 2. Rise up and fly far away
(01.04) 3. Travel around the world
(01.58) 4. Over four seas and even Yingzhou
(02.33) 5. (Look down on) Lakes Dongting and Poyang
(02.59) 6. Whirling and driving the chariot
(03.42) -- harmonics
(04.04) -- Piece ends

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

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Baji You, references
八極遊 1475.377 has only 八極, with quotes from several sources including 莊子 Zhuangzi, 荀子 Xunzi and 淮南子 Huainanzi. In the Zhuangzi story (near the end of #21 田子方 Tianzi Fang) 伯昏無人 Bohun Wuren tells Liezi the higher man is unchanged no matter where he goes, even to all eight extremities (of the universe). Liezi (#2 黃帝 Yellow Emperor) has basically the same story but there the man is called 伯昏瞀人 Bohun Maoren.

A net search for 八極遊 mainly turns up references to a martial arts novel 八極遊龍 Baji You Long by 雲中嶽 (云中岳) Yun Zhongyue. The title could mean "Dragon - i.e., martial arts hero - who is roaming everywhere", but perhaps it refers to the martials arts form called Eight Extremes Fist (八極拳 Baji quan; Wiki).

2. Biyu mode (碧玉調 biyu diao)
In the Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio I melody Dun Shi Cao this lowered third string tuning is called 慢角調 manjue diao. For more on the lowered third string biyu (and manjue) mode see Shenpin Biyu Yi as well as Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature. Note also that Xilutang Qintong also has melodies classified as biyu mode, but they use a different tuning, found only there. here called Mangong or Man'gong (see below).

3. Image: Lü Yan roaming in the clouds
Although this image, from 中國的神仙 Immortals in Ancient China, p. 296, relates more specifically to the not so much to the present melody as to the later Baji You now known as Xie Xian You, it might also be used here for reasons mentioned in the text above. Compare the illustrations with those for Ascending the Great Void (Lingxu Yin) and Liezi Rides the Wind (Liezi Yu Feng).

4. Mangong mode (慢宮調 mangong diao)
This tuning ( 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 ) is attained by slackening the 1st, 3rd and 6th strings one half tone each from standard tuning, giving 7 2 3 5 6 7 2, then transposing upwards so that the notes have the names of notes in the Chinese pentatonic system (1 2 3 5 6). In Shen Qi Mi Pu this tuning is used only for #11 Huo Lin and so, although Huo Lin does not have a modal prelude, the mode is discussed further in a footnote there.

5. Tracing Baji You in biyu mode
Tracing this earlier melody in the original mangong mode is complicated by the fact that it comes under three separate but inconsistent listings in Zha's Guide

8/83/133   Baji You (8 entries)
28/225/-- Shen You Baji (q.v.; 2 entries)
33/255/-- Xie Xian You (q.v.; 15 entries)

The Baji You listing, which gives alternate titles as Xie Xian You and Shen You Baji, includes these titles in 15 handbooks, but mixes the biyu versions with completely different ones in mangong mode.

In fact there seem to have been only seven or eight Baji You in biyu mode, as follows:

  1. 1425 (I/153)
    1491? (not in extant copy, but 1585 lyrics fit pretty well)
  2. 1525 (III/194; different commentary but melody almost same)
  3. 1539 (II/378; same as 1425 but no commentary)
  4. 1571 (QF/268; lyrics as 1585, different commentary, similar music)
  5. 1585 (IV/424; 6 sections, titled; lyrics; melody rather diff.; preface begins "by Yellow Emperor", otherwise it is the same as 1425)
  6. 1602 (VI/431; listed separately as Shen You Baji and grouped with Huo Lin; attrib. Yellow Emperor)
  7. 1670 (XI/425; preface attributes Yellow Emperor, but the music seems to be a copy of 1425; afterword quotes from Chapter 1 of Huainanzi:
    (是故) 大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮;以天為蓋,以地為輿;四時為馬,陰陽為御;乘雲陵霄,與造化者俱。縱志舒節,以馳大區。可以步而步可以驟而驟。令雨師灑道,使風伯埽塵。電以為鞭策,雷以為車輪。上游於霄雿之野,下出於無垠之門。劉覽偏照,復守以全。經營四隅,還反於樞。故以天為蓋,則無不覆也;以地為輿,則無不載也;四時為馬,則無不使也;陰陽為御,則無不備也。 [translation there on p. 52])

It can thus be seen that the biyu versions were all published prior to the mangong versions, discussed above and traced below, except for the reprint of the biyu version in the 1670 handbook. It might also be noted that although both of these versions are sometimes connected to the Yellow Emperor, only the latter melody (see next) mentions the Huaxu lands.

6. 挾仙遊 Xie Xian You (Embrace Immortal Roaming): 八極遊 Baji You in 慢宮調 man'gong mode (trace) 1609 tablature (complete pdf)      
Also transliterated Xiexian You, Xia Xian You and Xiaxian You, this melody first survives from the 1609 Boya Xinfa, where it was in fact called 八極遊 Ba Ji You. However, by that time the earlier Ba Ji You melody had all but disappeared (see chart below). The version of Xie Xian You played today is largely coming from the Mei'an tradition (in the list below tracing Xie Xian You see 1931 but also 2015)

Besides "Embrace Immortals Roaming" translations of Xie Xian You include Voyage with the Immortal, Journey of an Immortal, Roaming with the Immortals, and so forth. To achieve mangong tuning from standard tuning lower the first, third and sixth strings (or raise the second, fourth, fifth and seventh), giving 3 5 6 1 2 3 5. Versions of this melody from later handbooks, as well as other melodies using this tuning, may give the mode other names.

挾仙遊 (.48 is 挾賢 but no 挾仙 or 挾僊); 6/605xxx. Also nothing for 夾仙. 挾 can also be pronounced jia and jie as well as xie and xia. An internet search for 挾仙 does not seem to add anything. However, 391.180 仙遊 says xian you means, in addition to "travel like an immortal", the same as 仙逝 xianshi, i.e., pass away (die: immortal roaming!). It should be added that, although the translation here may seem ambivalent, there is nothing in the introductions to versions of the melody that suggest death. (As an aside, 12405.32 挾琴 xie qin ["embrace a qin"] relates a story from 列子湯問 Liezi, Tangwen, about 師曠 Shi Kuang.)

Although the earliest surviving version of the man'gong melody, the Baji You in the 1609 edition of Boya Xinfa (part of Zhenchuan Zhengzong Qinpu, also called Qinpu Hebi ; VII/208), it is nevertheless listed in the Zha Guide together with the old biyu versions of Baji You. In all, mangong tuning versions survive in over 20 handbooks (details) from 1609 to 1931 (Mei'an Qinpu). The earliest version to use the title Xie Xian You is the one in 1634 (IX/365; no commentary).

Some introductions to this man'gong version connect it with the Huaxu story from Liezi. Only the first one, 1609, seems to connect it with Lü Chunyang (depicted above). The second surviving commentary, in Youshengshe Qinpu (early Qing; XI/158), discusses only the tuning/mode. Youshengshe Qinpu often refers to "嚴譜 the tablature of Yan", i.e., 嚴澂 Yan Cheng, whose Songxianguan Qinpu has only melodies using standard tuning. This makes Xie Xian You (which Youshengshe Qinpu says is "夷則,宮調 yize, gongdiao") different from the melodies of Yan Cheng. However, Youshengshe Qinpu refers to 嚴澂 Yan Cheng as 嚴徵 Yan Zheng (see XI/180 "嚴徵評"). Since this "徵 zheng" can also be "徵 zhi" (i.e., zhi mode), it is not always clear when the text here, which writes only 徵, is referring to the person rather than the mode. There seems to be no discussion of what makes it "gong diao".

1609 preface
This earliest preface for the new melody in mangong mode mentions ba ji and xie xian only in the text of a poem. It starts off by saying,

This was written because
Lü Chunyang, having attained the Dao, flew up to the heavens. I reverently describe this with Chu-style lyrics (they are not in the actual Chu Ci), capturing only a small part."

After this it only has the poem, in twelve couplets, as follows (not yet translated):

形骸放浪挾仙遊兮,遙昇遐舉 ("The physical frame without restraint xie xian you, rising in the distance and going far away);
此身以八極為家兮,不計東西 ("This body [person] has the ba ji as home, not thinking of east or west";
歸來援琴操弄兮,八極為題。("Upon returning take up the qin and play it, with baji as the theme")

Although I have not been able to identify the source of this poem, it seems largely to consist of phrases already found in lyrics accompanying the older version of Baji You included in 1585 (in ToC). It might be mentioned that both handbooks were published in Nanjing.

After the 1609 preface, at the beginning of Section 1, is the statement "關中琴友王龍泉校 revised by qin friend Wang Longquan of Guanzhong" (the central 陝西 Shaanxi plain). Precisely what Wang did is not clear.

1609 music
12 Sections, untitled.
In some places there are problems determining notes because Yang Lun's handbooks
generally use only "half" for intermediate notes instead of using the more precise older system. Interesting, in the first occurrence of "6 1/2" meaning "6.2" (see Section 5, 1st line) there is a note in the column saying "小半", which only makes sense if interpreted to mean that the "半" here is a little one, i.e., less than half (6.2). Other qualifying comments are not so clear (e.g., 妥 in the next column).

Although I have written out a transcription, I have not yet learned to play it. Nevertheless, from looking at the tablature and playing the transcription (in Encore) electronically, it is easy to see that this earliest version, though musically related, is much longer and more complex than the modern Meian version.

A number of silk string recordings of the modern Xie Xian You exist, including those by

According to the Meian preface (as translated in Lieberman, p.125), "This composition is light and relaxed, with great feeling of floating like a heavenly spirit. According to tradition it was written by (the Yellow Emperor); it is supposed to simulate his doctrine of nurturing life (yang sheng)."

7. Tracing 挾仙遊 Xie Xian You (八極遊 Baji You in 慢宮調 man'gong mode)
This melody is introduced above. As mentioned, although the Zha Guide gives a separate listing for Xie Xian You (33/255/---) it is necessary also to look at the tablature listed under 8/83/133 Baji You and 28/225/--- Shen You Baji to get a relatively complete list of the melodies related to the present one, which actually survives in about 20 handbooks from Yang Lun Taigu Yiyin (1609 edition) to Mei'an Qinpu (1931). Although its earliest surviving version is called Baji You and this name is also used with some of the later mangong versions, it is unrelated to the earlier melody of this name, which uses 碧玉調 biyu tuning (lowered third string).

The versions descending from 1609 Ba Ji You (thus related to the melody known today as Xie Xian You) are as follows (note the various titles used: BJY 八極遊 Baji You; XXY 挾仙遊 Xie Xian You; SYBJ 神遊八極 Shen You Baji; SYBG 神遊八卦 Shen You Bagua. For modes: 慢宮調 mangong mode; 太簇 taicou (1525 is different); 夷則 yize; 南呂 nanlü):

  1. 1609 (12 sections; VII/216; Baji You, in Boya Xinfa but not the 1589 edition; commentary)
  2. 1634 (12; IX/365; earliest use of title Xie Xian You; no commentary or mention of BJY;
    much changed from 1609: additions and elabortions, but also deletions)
  3. 1647 (12; X/226; BJY; the ToC [X/15] mistakenly has 慢角調 manjue mode (!); no commentary;
    expanded from 1609 but closer to it than it is to 1634)
  4. 1692 (12; not printed: BJY; copy of 1647)
  5. early Qing (12; XI/156; XXY; "夷則宮調 yize gong mode; also called BJY; 鄭譜 Zheng's tablature";
    In many places almost a copy of 1609, but leaves out some ornaments; afterword)
  6. 1702 (13; XIII/295; BJY; "太簇 taicou mode"; change, expansion and elaboration of the music (compare 1634); no commentary)
  7. 1705 (14; XIII/412; XXY "併八極遊 or Baji You"; expanded from 1702; short afterword mentions 御風 riding the wind)
  8. 1744 (10; XVIII/267 (QF/358); XXY; 夷則均 yize jun; "併八極遊,又名神遊八卦 also BJY and SYBG"; afterword discusses mode and mood, not source)
  9. 1755 (12; XVI/271; BJY; afterword does not discuss source)
  10. 1799? (10; facs.; XXY; taicou; very different from 1589; almost same as 1864 and 1931; no commentary)
  11. 1833a (12; XXIII/178; BJY; 夷則宮; afterword discusses earlier versions but not the source)
  12. 1833b (12; XXI/489; BJY; 夷則宮; afterword attributes Yellow Emperor, quotes a variety of sources including Liezi, Huainanzi, Dongfang Shuo and Li Bai)
  13. 1836 (12; XXII/396; XXY; 南呂均宮音; nanlü)
  14. 1849 (13; XXIII/425; BJY; 夷則宮)
  15. 1864 (10; XXIV/304; XXY; has 神遊 Shen You as another alternate title? 夷則; commentary says "4th string is gong")
  16. 1868 (12T; XXVI/110; BJY; "also called XXY; 羽調羽音"; afterword mentions Yellow Emperor, Guangchengzi and the Huaxu lands)
  17. 1876 (14; XXV/526; BJY; "1705"; taicou)
    1876 (10; XXV/538; XXY; "1744"; taicou)
  18. 1876 (12; XXI/489; BJY; "則羽調")
  19. 1894 (11; XXVIII/333; XXY; "also called SYBG; commentary attrib. 雪祖生 Xue Zusheng!)
  20. late Qing (11; ?/?; XXY; "復古齋本"; same commentary as 1864)
  21. 1931 (10; XXIX/212; XXY; very similar to 1864, also 1744)
  22. 2015 (pu same as 1836; no recording)

Although the mode names beginning 1702 vary, all seem to use mangong tuning.

8. 神遊八機 Shen You Baji
25211.315 神遊 shen you discusses Yellow Emperor's spirit going to Huaxu country (see Huaxu Yin, Liezi and Huainanzi). Zha's Guide (28/225/---) lists Shen You Baji as a separate melody, giving two entries:

  1. 1602 (8; VI/431;
    Although grouped with Huo Lin (in the margins of the folio pages for both melodies the modes are given as mangong diao) it is clearly related to Baji You (in the ToC [VI/288] the tuning is correctly given as manjue diao)
  2. 1876 (12; XXI/?; "則羽調")
    The tuning is called ceyu but presumably the melody is related to Xie Xian You

It is not clear why Zha Fuxi made a separate entry for this title.

9. Lü Yan 呂巖、呂岩、呂喦 (also: 呂純陽 Lü Chunyang and 呂洞賓 Lü Dongbin; image; Wiki)
Although stories about Lü often take place during the Tang dynasty, and poetry attributed to him is included in collections such as Quan Tang Shi (Complete Tang Dynasty Poems), he apparently cannot be found in actual Tang dynasty historical records, so he may be a Song dynasty creation. Nevertheless, most available information accepts the Song dynasty accounts (including official Song dynasty histories), which have him born in the latter half of the 8th century, perhaps in 京兆府 Jingzhao District, near Chang'an (modern Xi'an). Often depicted as a scholar who carried a sword, he is said to have studied for the imperial examinations then to have given that up to search for Daoist truths, becoming an immortal around age 50. He is said to have learned the Daoist mysteries from Zhongli Quan, one of the so-called "八仙 Eight Immortals" (discussed under 八公 Eight Dukes together with several other gangs of eight); however, Lü is also often considered as the leader of the Eight Immortals. (Giles says that as 呂祖 Patriarch Lü "he is worshipped by barbers....")

This site mentions Lü in connection with the following:

  1. See above: the earliest version of the Xie Xian You melody in man gong mode, which connects it to a story about Lü Chunyang, one of the nicknames of Lü Yan.
  2. The melody Lingxu Yin
  3. A story about him from a Chinese opera.
  4. The melody Yueyang San Zui (and the apparently related opera Lü Dongbin Gets Drunk Three Times in Yueyang Tower


10. Yingzhou 瀛州 19047.6

11. The original Chinese text is on a separate page.

12. Section timings are from my CD. The original Chinese titles are:

1. 隱隱雲天
2. 搖昇遐舉
3. 週旋天下
4. 四海瀛州
5. 洞庭彭蠡
6. 瓢瓢駕馭

Chart tracing the lowered third string tuning version of Baji You

This chart is based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 8/83/133. Each occurrence is preceded by a modal prelude (see further). See also above for the later version of Baji You that also became known as Xie Xian You.

    (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/165 [here])
6; "ancient", but no further attribution; main tonal is 1, secondary 3 and 6;
    . 浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/---)
Character count for 1585 lyrics fits 1425 tablature but phrasing sometimes needs some liberal interpretation (comment)
  2. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/191 [further])
6; afterword is different but music is very similar
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/380)
6; same as 1425
Last piece in the book
  4. 龍湖琴譜
      (1571; 琴府/267)
6; lyrics as 1585; music similar to 1425 but different preface
  5. 新刊正文對音
      捷要 (1573; --)
6; see in ToC: identical to 1585?
  6. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/423)
6; lyrics;
Music related but again different
  7. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/437)
6; "神遊八機 Shen You Baji"; not in 1589; attrib. Yellow Emperor;
Lowered third prelude is missing, so seems to come after Huo Lin in Man Gong tuning.
  8. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/424)
6; almost same as 1425; say 琴史 Qin Shi attrib. Yellow Emperor, but 朱長文 didn't mention him.
Afterword quotes 淮南子 Huainanzi.

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