Zepan Yin
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56. Marshbank Melody
- Qiliang mode (tighten 2nd/5th strings: 2 4 5 6 1 2 3 2
Zepan Yin 1
See illustrations  
This Zepan Yin melody was quite common in early extant handbooks, surviving in nine of them from 1425 to 1585; usually it preceded Li Sao. Later, however, it seems to survive in only one handbook, a repeat of the Shen Qi Mi Pu version in the 1670 Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian, which copies a number of old melodies. After this the title (and apparently the melody) disappear (see appendix).

In addition, Xilutang Qintong (1525) has two versions, the present one and a second that seems musically unrelated except for the mode; and Zepan Yin is also the title of yet another melody (still in qiliang mode) found in handbooks dated 1589 and 1602 .3

Zepan Yin is the only piece Shen Qi Mi Pu ascribes to Xu Tianmin, the famous Song dynasty qin teacher and colleague of Mao Minzhong. Xu is better known as a collector and teacher of old qin pieces.4

The original reference to a fisherman by a marshbank comes from the chapter The Fisherman in the book of Zhuangzi.5 Here a passing fisherman makes a comment about Confucius' failings. Confucius goes down to the marshbank and receives a lecture before the fisherman rows off.

Perhaps this story was a model for the story related here, which can be found in a poem in the Chu Ci, the Songs of the South.6 The Chu Ci collection has several stories along these lines, all concerning (or perhaps written by) the unemployed scholar-official Qu Yuan (340?-278 BCE), but the section titles of Zepan Yin directly connect it with the poem called Chu Ci poem Yu Fu, The Fisherman. This poem presents a conversation between Qu Yuan and a fisherman on a marshbank; when Qu Yuan speaks of his grief, the fisherman responds by getting into his boat and singing a Canglang Song,7 the meaning of which is that when government is clean it is fine to work with it, but when it becomes dirty one should be happy to leave it.

This story is related in detail in Qu Yuan's biography in The Book of History,8 which quotes another Chu Ci poem, Embracing Sand (Huai Sha, one of the Jiu Zhang), adding that after reciting the poem Qu Yuan jumped into the Miluo river and drowned himself, an event still commemorated by the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

Other melodies connected to Qu Yuan's grief include the Li Sao (#57), which relates Qu Yuan's fanciful search for a worthy sovereign; and Qu Yuan Wen Du, which also depicts an encounter between Qu Yuan and a fisherman (or boatman).

Zhu Quan in Nanchang, although as a prince he could be considered an official, was in fact in a form of exile for having been associated with a rival competitor to the emperor, and so he had to steer clear of any official controversy. The lyrics added to this melody in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu also includes a reference to Canglang.

There is also a recording of this piece by Yao Gongbai, his own reconstruction, not Yao Bingyan's.

Original Preface9

The Emaciated Immortal says

this piece is said to have been composed by Xuejiang (Xu Tianmin). It depicts Qu Yuan's upright service to his lord, being out-of-step with his (evil) times and thus sent into exile, then wandering along the banks of a river, having the heart of a man loyal to his lord and loving his country, resulting in his appearance seeming withered and melancholy. Furthermore, this connects with his meeting a fisherman and telling him (this story) in order to get rid of his feelings of depression at being covered with the dust (of society), not realizing that the old fisherman would disagree, then row his boat off by himself. (Qu) Yuan, having no one to whom he could speak his accusations, could do nothing and had to stop. This idea of there being nothing one can do cannot help but cause listeners to be moved to sadness, cry bitterly and shed tears, and be unable to stop sighing.

Timings follow the recording on
my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription.
Four sections:10

(00.00) 1. Wandering along the bank of the river11
(00.42) 2. Meeting an old fisherman as he travels
(01.32) 3. Unfairly treated by society
(02.18) 4. Paddling the boat and singing.
(02.58) -- play harmonics of this mode
(03.14) -- Melody ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. References
澤畔吟 18858.33 zepan: Quotes the story from Zhuangzi. See also comments by Xu Jian, p.107. Normally I don't translate such words in the title as "yin" and "cao", but in this case the related story also involves a song (滄浪歌 Canglang Ge, discussed further below).

2. 凄凉意 Qiliang Mode (see also tracing chart)
For further information on qiliang mode see Shenpin Qiliang Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Tracing Zepan Yin
The appendix below is largely based on Zha Guide 9/89/137.

4. Xu Tianmin
For further information on Xu and his contemporaries see Historical Notes on the Silk String Zither.

5. Zhuangzi, Section 31 Yu Fu, beginning. See translation by James Ware.

6. 楚辭 Translated by David Hawkes (Penguin, p.206); see also Xu Yingchong, Poetry of the South, Hunan Publishing Co. p.163 (dual language). The conversation takes place along a marshbank.

7. Canglang Song (滄浪歌 Canglang Ge)
Reference under #52 Fan Canglang. Section 4 of the lyrics added to the Zepan Yin in Zheyin also include a reference to Canglang (the Canglang River?). However, there is no musical relationship to the surviving Fan Canglang melody, which is grouped here under the previous mode (ruibin).

8. See The Grand Scribe's Records, William Nienhauser, ed., Vol. VII, p.299.

9. For the original Chinese text see 澤畔吟.

10. For the original Chinese titles see 澤畔吟.

11. Three marginal notes, in Sections 1, 2 and 4
A marginal note near the beginning of Section 1 says, "憔悴枯槁 his form is withered and wizened".
In Section 2 a passage is prefaced by, "我獨清醒 I am the only one who is clear-handed".
In Section 4 the first passage is described as, "此段鼓枻聲 this section has the sound of rowing".

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Zepan Yin
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's
Guide, 9/89/137.

    (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/169 [detail])
4T; Zhu Quan attributes it to Xu Tianmin
Precedes Li Sao
  2.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/264)
4T; lyrics; otherwise same as 1425
Precedes Qu Yuan Wen Du
  3. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/251)
#1: 4 sections; same titles but a few changes in music
No separate afterword: both this and next seen as preludes to Li Sao?
    . 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/252)
#2: 3 sections; "又 Also"; seems to be a completely new melody
Precedes Li Sao; no separate afteword
  4. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/303)
4T; same titles as 1425; same music except for punctuation
  5. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/497)
4T; titles as 1425; music also seems same as 1425; not in 1546
  6. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; F7#3)
4; titles as 1425; music also seems same
Not in QQJC/ see facsimile edition, folio 7, #3 
  7. 太音傳習
      (1552-61; IV/168)
4T; related to 1425
  8. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/393)
4T; similar to 1425
  9. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/511)
4T; Titles diff. from 1491 but lyrics same;
Music is related to 1425 but very different
    . 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/92)
3; new melody, different from both 1425 and 1525 #2  
    . 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/445)
3; same as 1589 
10. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/417)
4; no titles but seems to try to copy 1425: differences are mistakes? 

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