Shenpin Ruibin Yi
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51. Celestial Air Defining Ruibin Mode
- Ruibin mode:2 tighten fifth string one position: 2 3 5 6 1 2 3
神品蕤賓意 1
Shenpin Ruibin Yi 3  

The following explanation is added under the name of the mode:

Same as Defining Jinyu Mode4
(From standard tuning,) tighten the 5th string one position;
open 7th string = 5th stopped in 11th position

As discussed in Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature "diao" can refer either to a tuning or to a mode.5 "Ruibin" seems to be discussed usually as a tuning rather than as a mode, perhaps because it uses a non-standard tuning. However, its modal characteristics are intriguing, especially in comparison to those of the standard tuning shang mode.

First, regarding the actual pitches used in this tuning, in traditional Chinese music there is no pre-modern evidence for absolute pitch. The tuning given for ruibin mode is thus only relative. According to my understanding, this should be considered as "re mi so la do ri mi, here written as 2 3 4 5 1 2 3. In modern recordings this "do" (1) can vary between the modern pitches of about A to C; in Chinese conservatories today the first string is usually tuned to the Western concert C (based on A=440 Hz); accordingly transcriptions are usually in the key of B-flat major, with two flats (Bb and Eb).

Regarding the modal characteristics, ruibin is a la mi mode: as determined primarily by phrase and section endings, the major tonal center is la, the secondary tonal center is mi. By this analysis, virtually all early guqin melodies are either in a la mi or a do sol mode.

According to the Zha Guide, from 1425 to 1585 there were about 17 modal preludes that used a fifth string tuning. The Guide lists them under three titles:6

Modal preludes had apparently gone out of favor by the end of the Ming dynasty.

Melodies that use this tuning include the following:

  1. Fan Canglang
  2. Xiao Xiang Shui Yun
  3. Yu Ge Diao (a short song later also called Leji Yin)
  4. Yu Ge (the version later usually called Ao Ai)
  5. Taoyuan Chunxiao plus its related modal prelude Qingyu Yi
  6. Yu Lou Chun Xiao, a popular Mei'an school melody8
  7. Qi Yan Hui, only in 1937 but now actively played

    In addition:

  8. Later versions of #46 Longshuo Cao (earlier ones use huangzhong tuning).
  9. Long versions and later short versions of Yangguan Sandie (earlier versions use qiliang tuning, which fits old tonal ideas better since the tonal center is re - see mode chart)

The first five listed here not only share modal similarities, like many raised fifth string melodies their themes all have connections to the Chu region. The first two in particular, from Shen Qi Mi Pu, have a similar theme: the former is a short melody that might have been created as a prologue to the more famous latter one. However, they share no musical motifs.

The Ming dynasty melodies that use this tuning all seem to be modally related. The short ruibin modal prelude has 6 (la) as the main tonal center, secondarily 3 (mi), but with 2 (re) also very important. Both melodies in this mode also have 6 as the main tonal center, with 3 as a secondary center. However, 1 (do) is also a tonal center, and the relationship of 3 to 1 as well as 3 to 6 also seems very important. It should be noted that re also may have a special prominence particularly in later melodies or versions of these melodies. This is where comparison should be made to shang mode.

The two later pieces in this tuning, however, are quite different modally. Yu Lou Chun Xiao has sol as its main tonal center and Qi Yan Hui has do (1).

Original preface

Music 10
Timings follow the recording on my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription, which has Fan Canglang attached at the end.

One section
(01.01) -- harmonics
(01.19) -- Modal prelude ends

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

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 神品蕤賓意 Shenpin Ruibin Yi
32719.4 蕤賓 ruibin: 十二律陰陽各六陽六為律, 其四曰蕤賓.... (9/547 same; Matthews: luxuriant vegetation; f#)
For more information on modes see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

2. Tuning See also Qin Tunings, some theoretical concepts.

3. Image
Not yet selected.

4. Jinyu 金羽 ("golden feather")

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

6. Tracing Raised fifth tuning preludes (tracing chart)
The tracing chart, which largely follows the Zha Guide listings, shows that the most common preludes were similar to the one found earliest in 1546.

7. Clear Feather Mode (清羽調 Qingyu Diao)
This section includes the qingyu modal prelude and one melody, Taoyuan Chunxiao; neither is found elsewhere. Also in 1525, the ruibin modal prelude is quite different from here, and the qingyu prelude is complerely different.

8. 玉樓春曉 Yu Lou Chun Xiao (Zha Guide 44/--/--)
Mei An Qinpu categorizes this melody, which has raised fifth tuning, not as ruibin diao but as 仲呂調 zhonglü diao. The modal center (based on phrase and section endings) seem to be 5 (sol), the equivalent note of the open third string. Its modality is thus different from that of earlier melodies using this tuning.

The only modal prelude using the title zhonglü diao, in 1525, also uses the open third string as its main tonal center. However, it uses standard tuning so this note is do (1). The 中呂均 zhonglü yun commonly ascribed to melodies in today's repertoire seems to refer to mode rather than tuning; most melodies using it have standard tuning (source?).

9. Although SQMP modal preludes have no prefaces, those in Zheyin (which all have identical music) do. In Zheyin the preface to the ruibin modal prelude is as follows:

是意也,一名金羽意。其取義於蕤賓。言陽氣幼小。 蕤委陽不困之故曰賓。位於午,五月也。付之琴音, 而有清和發越之音,其於諸調大不牟矣。
(Ruibin Yi) : The Beyond Sounds Immortal says, (not yet translated).

10. Music
The music of Ruibin Yi in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu is identical to that of 1425, so the added lyrics for its coda (another copy) can be sung here:


Living north or south the road is forked; worldly affairs bring anxiety, as if blown around by the wind.
We come into the world with no certainty of support.
Coming and going,
All situations are just like this.
Yi Yin and Zhou Gong achieved a lot; but why should we envy them?
A lavish household and luxurious possessions?
Or a bamboo fence with a thatched cottage?
(Closing harmonics)
Whether stuck in a ditch or flowing along with your ideas and interests, just go with what you have.

Translation tentative.

Chart Tracing Modal Preludes using 蕤賓 Ruibin tuning

See further; this chart covers the following entries from Zha Fuxi's Guide:

Shenpin Ruibin Yi
8/--/-- 1425, 1539, 1546, 1561, 1590 & 1670;
      1589/1602: "also called Jinyu Diao"
  蕤賓意 Ruibin Yi 11/117/200 >1505, 1525, 1556, 1596 & ~1640; plus:
          Ruibin Yi:
      Ruibin Yi:
      Ruibin Yi Kao:
        1585, 1611 & 1871: "also called Jinyu Yi"
      1552: "also called Jinyu Diao"
      1557: "also called Jinyu Diao"
  清羽意 Qingyu Yi 23/--/-- Only in 1525

Music notes give relative pitch based on considering the tuning as 1 3 5 6 1 2 3 (raised 5th string tuning); some versions have lyrics.

    (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/166 [details])
Shenpin Ruibin Yi; tonal centers 6 and 3; main section ends 2, harmonic coda ends 6.
Begins 散跳七,大九勾四,打圓.... (3 3 33 3 3 3, 1 1 3 3 1 3 3, 1 3 6 12121 2 3 3 3....)
  2.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (>1505; I/217)
Ruibin Yi; lyrics same as 1585;
Music same as 1425
3a. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/203)
Ruibin Yi; tonal centers 6 & 3 but coda ends 1 & 5;
Begins 散跳五,無名十勾三,省,三作.... (1 1 11 1 1 1, 1 2 3 3 3, 5 6 1 6 6 5 13 3....)
3b. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/277)
Qingyu Yi;
Begins 散五,無名十勾三....(1 2 3 3 3....)
  4. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/327)
Shenpin Ruibin Yi;
Identical to 1425
  5. 梧岡琴譜
      (1546; I/455)
Shenpin Ruibin Yi; tonal centers 6 & 3 but ends on 1 & 5; relate to above but differs much;
Begins 無名十勾三,散跳五.... (1 1 3 3, repeat, 6 5 3 3...);
  6. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/475)
Shenpin Ruibin Yi ;
Identical to 1546
  7. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; Facs #46)
Not in QQJC III; Ruibin Yi;
Almost identical to 1546
  8. 太音傳習
      (1552-61; IV/179)
Ruibin Yi; preface says "also called Jinyu Diao";
Almost same as 1546
  9. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/398)
Ruibin Yi Kao; preface says "also called Jinyu Diao";
Same as 1552/1546
    .   新刊正文對音
      捷要 (1573; --)
See Ruibin Yi, #59 in the ToC: identical to 1585?
10. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/471)
Ruibin Yi; preface says also called Jinyu Yi; lyrics = >1505 but music very different;
Begins 散跳七,大九勾四.... (3 3 3 3 3 3 3, 6 3 3 3 6 3 3, 1 3 4 3 1 3 4....[ends 2 33])
11. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/76)
Shenpin Ruibin Yi; preface quotes a 琴史 Qin Shi and says also called Jinyu Diao;
Music same as 1546
    . 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1589; ---)
1609 edition has several melodies using this tuning,
but no modal prelude
12. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/524)
Shenpin Ruibin Yi;
Begins same as 1546 but becomes more elaborate
13. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/262)
Ruibin Yi;
Almost same as 1546: some change near end
    . 綠綺新聲
      (1597; VII/--)
Melody but no modal prelude
14. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/425
Shenpin Ruibin Yi; also called Jinyu Diao;
Preface and music identical to 1589
15. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/429)
"Ruibin Yi, "same as Jinyu Yi;
Almost same as 1602
   . 琴適
      (1611; VIII/--)
Melody (VIII/39) but no modal prelude (same as 1597)
   . 樂仙琴譜
      (1623; --)
Melody but no modal prelude
16. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; IX/---)
~1640; Ruibin Yi
Missing (see Zha Guide 86 [128])
17. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/435)
Shenpin Ruibin Yi, "same as Jinyu Yi";
A copy of 1425
18. 白菡萏香館琴譜;
      (1871; XXIV/432)
Ruibin Yi, "same as Jinyu Yi";
A copy of 1611

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