Shenpin Guxian Yi
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62. Celestial Air Defining Guxian Mode
- guxian mode2 ("same as qingshang"3): tighten 2nd/5th/7th strings4 (6 1 2 3 5 6 1)
神品姑洗意 1
Shenpin Guxian Yi
This tuning uses quite a few different names, the various preludes being outlined
below. Melodies that use the tuning include:6

  1. Shenpin Guxian Yi (present melody)
  2. Feiming Yin (Shen Qi Mi Pu #63: probably a prelude to #64, Qiu Hong)
  3. Qiu Hong (conveys the same idea as #63 and, with 36 sections, the second longest piece in the qin repertoire)
  4. Jiazhong Yi (modal prelude; 1525) and the two pieces that follow it:
  5. Yueshang Yin and
  6. Yueshang Cao
  7. Nanlü Yi (1571) and the melody that follows it:
  8. Qiu Sheng (1571); not yet reconstructed, but seems to be a condensed and adapted version of Qiu Hong
  9. Qingshang Diao (1589); lyrics; can serve as a prelude to Dao Yi (next)
  10. Dao Yi (1589); lyrics, but unrelated to Dao Yi Qu
  11. Ming De Yin, serving as a prelude to:
  12. Kong Sheng Jing (both Confucian hymns; mode called biyu, but no modal prelude)
  13. Da Ming Yi Tong (1589 version of a song previously published in 1539)

As can be seen here, Longhu Qinpu calls this tuning nanlü.7 Note, however, that in 1525 the tuning for nanlü is different (same as mangong).

The Shen Qi Mi Pu Table of Contents adds after the guxian section title the words "same as Defining Qingshang", while below the mode name, before the modal prelude, is the following explanation:

Same as gu jiazhong mode:8 tighten 2nd/5th/7th strings;
Open 7th string = 5th string stopped at 10th position;
Open 7th = 4th stopped between 8th and 9th position;
Open 4th string = 2nd string stopped at 11th position.

Fine Tuning (Guxian)
This is a purely pentatonic tuning, so for fine tuning the qin one can apply the normal harmonic relationships, discussed further under
fine tuning: standard tuning. The following chart has the harmonic equivalents for fine tuning guxian using the harmonic relationships, with comparisons given for standard tuning:

    (Note:  a harmonic on the 7th position of the 7th string  no  longer  has   the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 4th string.)
  1. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 6th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 3rd string.
  2. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 5th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 2nd string.
  3. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 4th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 1st string.
  4. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 7th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 5th string.
  5. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 6th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 4th string.
  6. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 5th string should now have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 3rd string.
    (Note:  a harmonic on the 9th position of the 4th string  no  longer  has   the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 2nd string.)
  7. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 3rd string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 1st string.

In this way all the open strings are in tune with each other according to the Pythagorean (sanfen sunyi) system.9

There are 24 modal preludes using this tuning (including those under the names guxian, qingshang, jiazhong, gu jiazhong and nanlü) identified in 20 handbooks from 1425 to 1722.10 In all the modal preludes the main note is 1 (gong; open 2nd and 7th strings), often accompanied by 5 (zhi). Sometimes 6 (yu) and 3 (jue) are secondary tonal centers. This is also true of the two SQMP melodies that use this mode.

As with mangong, the stated tuning method required retuning three strings, in this case up instead of down. However, if one normally tunes the strings as high as they comfortably can go without fear of breakage, then this tuning must be accomplished by lowering four strings (1, 3, 4, 6) instead of raising three.

As with mangong diao, perhaps the inconvenience of having to retune so many strings is the main reason for the fact that, although guxian as a note and as a mode have an ancient history, since the Ming dynasty this tuning has not much been used much: for the repertoire that survived into Qing dynasty handbooks, this tuning is associated only with the two pieces included here in Shen Qi Mi Pu, plus the Dao Yi first published in 1589.11

Original preface

One section; timings follow the recording on
my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription (which is followed by that of Feiming Yin).

(00.50) -- harmonics
(01.07) -- 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. Celestial Air Defining Guxian Mode (神品姑洗意 Shenpin Guxian Yi)
6286.19 姑洗 Guxian identifies it as 十二律之一 one of the 12 律 lü (pitches) as well as the name of a bell. Generally it is considered the 5th pitch, corresponding to E in a scale from C to C' . It is not clear why this name is applied to this particular tuning. (6286.19 quotes 國語,周語 as saying, "三曰姑洗,所以修潔百物,考神納賓也。", apparently connecting different modes to different days of the week).

2. Guxian mode 姑洗調
For more information see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature. For more on modes in general also see Qin Tunings, some theoretical concepts.

3. Qingshang Mode (清商調 Qingshang Diao) (chart)
The original table of contents in Shen Qi Mi Pu (I/97) says Defining Guxian "即清商意 is the same as Defining Qingshang" (the text adds "same as the old jiazhong". 18003.383 清商 says qingshang is 五音之一 one of the five sounds; also autumn wind and a spirit name. It is also Section 6 (Folios 44 - 51) of Yuefu Shiji. The titles therein do not seem to have much connection to qin, much less a specific mode or tuning, though they do include a Wu Ye Ti amongst its 西曲歌 Xiqu Ge plus various 陽春 Yang Chun titles amongst the Jiangnan nong.

The Qingshang Diao tablature in 1609 adds lyrics (商秋,金風落葉也,草木含愁.... Shang autumn, golden wind and falling leaves, grass and trees contain sadness....). These same lyrics and music are in 1692 and 1722. The table of contents for 1692 (XIII/40) uses the first two words of the lyrics (商秋 shang qiu) as the title for the melody, but Zha Guide indexes this version under qingshang diao, omitting shangqiu as a title (it also does not mention it has lyrics). 商秋 3834.76 discusses the relationship between the note shang and the season qiu (autumn), but it does not mention Yuefu Shiji (see above: its qingshang section does not seem to include these lyrics). I have not been able to find these lyrics outside of these qin handbooks, but note the traditional connection between the shang (as the name of the second string as well as the musical note), autumn and gold ("metal").

In Qinshi Bu (琴史補), #39 the biography of 仲長統 Zhong Changtong says that according to Later Han History he played a beautiful qin melody called Qing Shang.

4. Tuning method: tighten 2nd, 5th and 7th strings
The same relative tuning (6 1 2 3 5 6 1) can also be achieved by loosening the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 6th strings half a tone each; see above.

6. Melodies that use guxian tuning
Of these I have reconstructed and recorded all but Nanlü Yi and Qiu Sheng.

7. Nanlü
2798.198 南呂 says 音調十二律之一 one of the 12 tones. Guide has it only in 1525, but this is a different tuning: see 1571 in chart

8. 與古夾鐘同 Same as Gu jiazhong mode (chart)
For jiazhong, 5997.97 夾鍾 and .103 夾鐘 seem to be the same: old note name; "pinched/lined/secret bell".

9. Fine tuning with harmonics
I don't know if any period handbooks specify this method to check the tuning. Although it can be used to produce Pythagorean note relationships for the open strngs of most tunings, there are a few where it cannot do so by itself (see, e.g., the 1525 biyu mode).

10. Tracing Guxian Yi (and other modal preludes with the tuning 6 1 2 3 5 6 1)
See appendix below. Zha Fuxi's Guide has seven entries for modal preludes for this tuning. However, of the 24 individual examples indexed (from 20 handbooks), 22 are closely related either to the melody in 1425 or to the one in 1546a. The other two (1556 and 1571) each occurs only once, and the first of them seems borrowed from another tuning.

11. Other melodies using guxian tuning
Tianwen'ge Qinpu (1876) lists seven melodies as using this tuning: for the first three the mode name is given as guxian; for the other four it is 夷則 Yize (q.v., where this name is associated with a different tuning). The tuning 1876 calls yize is here in 1425 called mangong, but in 1876 the actual tuning is the same as guxian. The seven titles are:

  1. Li Sao of 1705 (XXV/541); incorrectly listed: should be qiliang
  2. Dao Yi of 1802 (XXV/547)
  3. Chunshan Ting Dujuan of 1744 (QF/325; XXV/552)
  4. Pingsha Luoyan of 1744 (QF/381; XXV/581); 1876 has Pingsha in at least 4 tunings
  5. Qiu Hong of 1702 (XIII/299; XXV/587)
  6. Feiming Yin of 1691 (XII/581; XXV/595)
  7. Pei Lan of 唐松仙譜 Tang Song Xian Pu (XXV/597)

On Spring Mountain Listening to a Cuckoo (春山聽杜鵑 Chunshan Ting Dujuan) is the only one of these six melodies with a title that seems to have emerged only after about 1600. Zha Guide (36/262/--) lists it in six handbooks from 1677 to 1914, as follows:

  1. 1677 (XII/341)
  2. 1744 (XVIII/235); afterword refers only to the tuning
  3. 1836 (XXII/275); called "春山杜鵑 Chunshan Dujuan"
  4. 1864 (XXIV/335); afterword only quotes 1744 then gives more specifics of the tuning
  5. 1876 (XXV/552; "from 1744")
  6. 1914 (not in QQJC)

The subscript under the title in 1677 connects this piece to 莊蝶庵 Zhuang Diean, i.e., 莊臻鳳 Zhuang Zhenfeng (ca 1624 - after 1667), and also to 汪紫瀾 Wang Zilan (NFI), also Qing dynasty.

None of these has commentary on the significance of the title. It seems to be suggestive of the connections people have made between the plaintive cry of the cuckoo, the coming of spring, and sexuality. However, I have yet to find a related story mentioning mountains, so the following connections are tentative.

春山, but 杜鵑 14796.357 is lengthy; it does not mention music, but discusses mythology connected to 杜宇 Du Yu, king of 蜀 Shu. Du Yu was associated with agriculture and it was said that upon death (after he had cuckolded one of his ministers) his soul was transformed into a 子規 zigui, another word for cuckoo; also relates this story, adding that the cuckoo's "appearance in spring has the aim to remind the people beginning with their work on the fields".

Another name for cuckoo, 鳲鳩 shijiu, is the title of Poem #152 in the Classic of Odes (Shi Jing). Here the cuckoo seems to be associated with human fertility. Lore about the cuckoo as harbinger of spring and its connection to sexuality is discussed in C. M. Lai, Messenger of Spring and Morality: Cuckoo Lore in Chinese Sources (JAOS, 1998; JSTOR).

12. Original 1425 preface
Although SQMP modal preludes have no prefaces, those in Zheyin (which all have identical music) do. In Zheyin the preface to the guxian modal prelude is as follows:

按書註云﹕姑者故也。洗者鮮也。萬物去故就新。 改柯易葉。莫不鮮明。位於辰。三月。有清明之音者。
(Guxian mode): The Beyond-Sounds Immortal says: (not yet translated)

There are also lyrics

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Appendix: Chart Tracing Shenpin Guxian Yi
(plus other modal preludes with the tuning 6 1 2 3 5 6 1)

Zha Fuxi's Guide has seven relevant entries, but the titles listed below seem to refer to only 4 different melodies (see comment).

  1. Shenpin Guxian Yi (10/--/--)
  2. Guxian Yi (12/122/215)
  3. Miaopin Qingshang Yi (18/--/--)
  4. Nanlü Yi (22/--/--)
  5. Jiazhong Yi (22/--/--)
  6. Qingshang Diao (30/236/442)
  7. Qingshang Yi (28/--/--)

See also the apparently incorrect use of 夷則 Yize in 1876, also mentioned above.

    (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/176)
SPGXY; "same as 古挾鍾 Gu Jiazhong"; further details);
Begins with open 4th string then 2nd stopped at 11th hui; has sharped 4s (4#s) and, near end, flatted 3s
  2.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/235)
GXY (no Shenpin, otherwise commentary same as 1425)
Music also same as 1425 but adds lyrics (秋寂秋寂寂...)
  3. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525a; III/197)
GXY (same as 1425 except a few notes)
    . 西麓堂琴統
      (1525b; III/222)
JZY (almost same as 1546a except closing harmonics) 
prelude to Yueshang Cao 
  4. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/307)
SPGXY (same as 1425)
no commentary or alternate title
  5. 梧岡琴譜
      (1546a; I/458)
MPQSY (different melody; see 1546b); 
begins with open 7th string then 4th stopped between 8th and 9th hui; flatted 3s near end 
    . 梧岡琴譜
      (1546b; I/458)
SPGXY (same as 1425 except a few notes)
  6. 琴譜正傳
      (1561a; II/480)
MPQSY (=1546a)  
    . 琴譜正傳
      (1561b; II/480)
SPGXY (=1546b)
  7. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; Fac/51)
 QSY; before Feiming Yin in facsimile edition; not in QQJC; very similar to Shenpin Qiliang Yi! 
main melody does not use 7th string but harmonics do, so they sound strange in this tuning 
  8. 太音傳習
      (1552; IV/159)
GXY, but like 1546a except there is no flatted 3  
  9. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/405)
Guxian Diao Kao; almost same as 1425
10. 龍湖琴譜
      (1571; 琴府/272)
NLY; different melody from all the above; precedes Qiu Sheng
Begins open 2nd, open 7th, 2nd at 11th hui, open 4th 
11. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/97)
SPGXY; almost same as 1425
12. 真傳正宗琴譜
      (1609; VII/225)
QSD; similar to 1546a but more ornamented and adds lyrics (as in 1692 and 1722; see further); 
not in 1589 edition; lyrics (商秋,金風落葉也,草木含愁....) don't quite fit earlier versions 
13. 琴書大全
      (1590a; V/529)
MPQSY; like 1546a 
    . 琴書大全
      (1590b; V/527)
SPGXY; almost same as 1425
14. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/280)
QSY; like 1546a 
15. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/450)
SPGXY; same as 1589
16. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/422)
GXY; like 1546a 
17. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; IX/454)
QSY; like 1546 
18. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/452)
SPGXY; same as 1425; note under mode name says "same as JZ, i.e., QS";
 is this why Zha incorrectly lists it under QSD?
19. 琴譜析微
      (1692; XIII/149)
QSD; last piece; music and lyrics (商秋...) like 1609, but lyrics are before the melody, not paired; 
stands alone as a separate melody; ToC gives Shang Qiu as title (see further
20. 臥雲樓琴譜
      (1722; XV/152)
 QSD; last piece; identical to 1692 (same lyrics);
ToC also calls it "商秋 Shang qiu" (after the first words in lyrics)  

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