Qiu Hong
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64. Wild Geese in Autumn
- guxian mode2 (tighten 2nd/5th/7th strings: 6 1 2 3 5 6 1)
秋鴻 1
Qiu Hong  
From "Mourning Autumn", one of 36 Qiu Hong images 3  
Wild geese, with their ability to fly great distances can represent freedom;4 at the same time their migratory habits led Chinese literati often to use them as an allusion to exile.5 As those in exile are likely to dream of the freedom to return, the two themes often go together. This is true whether the geese are referred to as "hong"6 or by the more common word, "yan".7 Thus, the theme of exile is one aspect of the very popular melody Pingsha Luo Yan (Wild Geese Descend on a Sandbank). The melody Wild Geese in Autumn shares some of the imagery of that melody, and this may have led to some confusion between the two.

An imperial edition of qin tablature for Qiu Hong (part of one image is at right, with a link to further details) may have contributed to this confusion. The tablature there is divided into four folios, titled Ping, Sha, Luo and Yan. In addition, the pages seem to have been somewhat scrambled, with the contents of folio one switched with that of folio two. Generally, though, the tablature follows that of the Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425) edition, while the section titles largely follow those in Wugang Qinpu (1546).

Tracing the history of Qiu Hong, it does not appear to be an ancient title, though there are references to wild geese in autumn in earlier poetry both as images and perhaps even as melody titles. As for the word hong (wild geese), the first poem in the third Xiao Ya section of the Book of Songs (#181) begins, "The wild geese (hong and yan) are flying." A commentary adds that a large goose would be called hong, while a smaller one would be called yan, and books can be found illustrating this hong, but eventually the word hong came to be commonly used only for its extended meanings, like "large" or "grand".

Coming to surviving tablature, the version of Qiu Hong that Zhu Quan included in Shen Qi Mi Pu seems to be the earliest surviving tablature; it is perhaps for this reason that some handbooks have attributed the melody to Zhu Quan himself. But the assumption that this is the earliest surviving tablature is based on two assumptions: that the imperial illustrated edition, which is undated, was copied largely from Shen Qi Mi Pu (the tablature of which is most similar to it); and that the other early versions, such as those of 1539 and 1546, were either modified from the Shen Qi Mi Pu version or, if coming via independent traditions, were changed since the melody was first created. And just as the attribution of Qiu Hong to Zhu Quan himself seems on the surface to be quite unlikely, the attribution to him of the other Shen Qi Mi Pu guxian mode piece, Feiming Yin is also questionable.8

Perhaps more believable might be the attributions to the famous Song dynasty qin player Guo Chuwang, with later editing by his (musical) descendants.9 However, equally plausible is the possibility that the version in Shen Qi Mi Pu was created by a person or persons connected to Zhu Quan and his court in Nanchang. To start with, the theme of exile, associated with geese, was apparently very close to Zhu Quan's heart. Then the melody's tuning suggest a southern origin (raised fifth tunings seem mostly to associated with melodies from the old region of Chu). Finally, the melody's subtitles seem to suggest a focus on returning north, with the numerous reversals and side trips, may suggest either a group effort or perhaps what might be called a stream of consciousness passage on the part of a single creator.11

In all, Qiu Hong survives in at least 33 handbooks from 1425 to 1910.12 It is also considered by some to be a predecessor of the aforementioned Pingsha Luo Yan, although there is no identifiable melodic connection between the two.11 On the other hand, a melody called Autumn Sounds seems to have been written in imitation of Qiu Hong.14

The range of geese is great: Section 9 of Qiu Hong mentions Yanmen Guan (Goose Gate Pass15), in Shanxi province at the western end of the northern Hengshan mountain range. The poem included here, and several section titles, mention places in the southern Hengshan mountain range,16 thought to be the southern end of geese migration. It runs along the Xiang River in Hunan province from Changsha south to Hengyang. The southern Hengshan range is is part of the old kingdom of Chu, a region often associated with exile.17

Qiu Hong, with Guangling San, is one of the two longest pieces in the qin repertoire. Guangling San has 44 or 45 sections to Qiu Hong's 36; however, in actual performance the relative lengths seem to be much closer. In addition, according to tradition Guangling San achieved its great length in part due to additions over time; Qiu Hong, in contrast, apparently has had 36 sections from conception.18

The poem included with the preface (below) is also often attributed to Zhu Quan. After the poem, Zhu seems to say he wrote either the poem, the music, or both. It is quite likely that Zhu Quan in Nanchang considered himself something of an exile.19

Sections 15 and particularly 27 have instructions such as are not found in other early (or perhaps late) qin pieces. What Zhu seems to be saying here is that there is a particular way of playing this piece, and to get it right, one really should have a teacher who knows how to play it. This, together with Zhu's strenuous efforts to make corrections to the tablature in his possession, is a strong argument that the aim of the handbook is to recreate the way pieces were played in the past (or at least by one's teacher).

Unfortunately there is no information about who were Zhu Quan's qin teachers and what he actually learned from them.

Unlike the only potentially longer piece, Guangling San (see Folio I),21 Qiu Hong obviously was actively played during the Ming and Qing dynasties: the changes in the 33 surviving versions to 1910 prove that. By the end of the Ming dynasty it had already changed quite a lot.

There is a complete recording of the 1910 interpretation by Yang Baoyuan. In addition, Wu Wenguang made two partial recordings of the Shen Qi Mi Pu version (about nine minutes each). Yu Shaoze recorded 16 of the 36 sections from Tianwenge Qinpu.22

Original Preface23

The Emaciated Immortal says,

of the long qin melodies, this can be called the longest piece besides Guangling San. (Qiu Hong) draws on lofty and far-reaching ideas, with the mind wandering in the cosmos, so that one's aim is in the Milky Way. The man of distinction and the elevated scholar, with their other-worldly talents, (but) equipped with knowledge from the common world, (feels he is living) in a time inappropriate (to his talents); knowing that the Dao is not prevailing, and believing this Dao is about to be destroyed, he remains nobly detached from his own distress; wanting to flee to a place where he can hide in secret, and feeling ashamed to mix with ordinary society, he seeks to emulate the wild geese of autumn, rising into the bright empty (sky), going into the azure mist, extending his journey over the four seas, finding release amongst the rivers and lakes, and keeping himself pure throughout the world; and thus was this melody written.

Based on this I have written the following prose poem (fu).

"There is a bird that can spend autumn as a guest,
    knowing the time, it flies south;
it bursts through the Milky Way to pass above it,
    sounding out loudly as it crosses rivers;
to avoid hot weather regions
24 it migrates north,
    (but) then the dark trees lose (their leaves) and they are alarmed at the frost;
(so) this draws the whole flock to move to the western frontier area,
    looking only for a few fields of rice and millet;
how distant are the mountain passes and rivers,
    but they still do not forget their old home!
even 10,000 li doesn't seem such a great distance,
    yet they seldom go much farther (south) than Heng Yang mountain;
because of xin (faith) they are never lost among the mountains and rivers;
    because of yi (duty) they won't give up on the places they usually go to;
because of li (rites) there is natural order as arrange themselves (while flying),
    otherwise how could they proceed in an orderly fashion?

Spreading their powerful wings they fly up high,
    heading into the autumn sky;
crossing the (Yangzi Chang)jiang and Han (rivers) below,
    they rise to touch the dark sky above.
They face the empty bright green sky,
    their apparently small figures break through the boundless expanse;
sometimes they reside at a southern river bank,
    sometimes they fly far off and settle down by the Xiao and Xiang rivers;
sometimes they fly into a cloud to avoid revealing their shapes (to hunters),
    sometimes (on the ground) they hold catkins in their beaks so as to conceal themselves;
(the wild goose's) aims are different from those of swallows or other small birds,
    its ren (need to take care of each other) ranks it with phoenixes;
in its eyes the four seas are as nothing,
    but it considers everything in all directions;
furthermore, (the wild geese) are comparable to noble men,
    who know when to come out into society or when to be reclusive;
impulsively they will soar off to keep distant (from danger),
    and they would feel ashamed to hurry off to hot and cold places
    (i.e., they will never sponge off wealthy friends while avoiding the poor).

I sigh over the confusions of society:
    how can one live an ordinary life with vulgar people!
Because I value these lofty ideals,
    I have created this piece to praise (the wild geese);
thus I composed it for the qin,
    to nurture my passionate soul so that it becomes brighter.
Should anyone ask who composed this,
    if it is not someone who has been a long time in qin circles,
    who else could (thus) extol (the wild geese)?
Actually, I am just a lazy old man on the west side of the river,
    just a "child of heaven" (i.e., member of the royal family) who is crazy about poetry.
while somewhat tipsy I wrote this to describe my happy feelings,
    and so I made some pleasant sounds over this."

Music: 36 sections25 (中文; 36 corresponding images)
Timings follow the recording on my CD; 聽錄音 listen with my transcription. (compare 18.55 for this live recording).

(00.00) 01. Flying clouds while crossing a river
(01.15) 02. Knowing it is time to become an autumn guest (in the south)
(01.47) 03. Settling down on an islet in the bright moonlight
(02.11) 04. Calling out to the flock to gather together
(02.55) 05. Calling out in the willows as they spend the night
- - - - - - - - ("the melancholy calls make the willows turn white" [with sadness])
(03.27) 06. Realizing the season (and so) mourning because it is autumn
(03.56) 07. Gathering at night on the flat sand
(04.24) 08. In the south so thinking of Dongting lake
(05.02) 09. Looking north towards Yanmen Pass (in Shanxi province)
(05.50) 10. Reed blossoms on a moonlit night
(06.21) 11. Looking at themselves and mourning for each other
(06.48) 12. Soaring up through the autumn sky
(07.25) 13. The wind is stirred up and the geese must fly obliquely
(08.06) 14. Creating character-like forms in the autumn sky
(08.51) 15. Descending on a remote sandbank
- - - - - - - - ("This section is very profound; as with Section 27 below
- - - - - - - - one must receive personal instruction")
(09.46) 16. Alarmed by the frost and calling to the moon
- - - - - - - - ("the sound of calling to the moon should be strong and loud")
(10.14) 17. Stretching the necks and getting close together
(10.52) 18. Knowing the hour and calling it out
(11.18) 19. Struggling amongst the rushes and crying back and forth
(11.43) 20. The flock all fly away from the islet
(11.55) 21. Lining up with clouds to set out for the frontier
(12.08) 22. In one flight traveling 10,000 li
(12.41) 23. Lining up horizontally across the sky
(13.09) 24. With grass in their beaks avoiding hunters' arrows
(13.39) 25. Settling together and caring for each other
(14.06) 26. Affections like brotherly love
(14.26) 27. A lonely image in the clouds
- - - - - - - - ("This section is very profound. One must receive personal instruction to
- - - - - - - - avoid the problems of not playing smoothly and continuously, of being
- - - - - - - - choppy, and of getting the phrasing wrong. In this it is like section 15 above")
(15.20) 28. Wanting news from Heng Yang
(15.37) 29. Carrying a message 10,000 li
(16.07) 30. Entering the clouds to hide their shapes (from hunters)
(16.36) 31. Flying in formation because alarmed by the cold
(17.26) 32. Arriving in the south but longing for the north
(18.02) 33. Lining up in formation to soar through the clouds
(18.41) 34. Knowing autumn is coming they go to the frontiers
(19.01) 35. Flying a great distance high in the sky
(19.52) 36. (harmonics) The sounds break up over clouds of Chu
(20.20) --- Piece ends

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Qiu Hong references
47821 鴻 hong defines it as either 鴻鵠 honggu, a sort of bean goose (including a sketch apparently by Swinhoe, who gave it the Latin name anser segetum serrirostris); or 黃鵠 huanggu, a large crane-like bird. For both there are several classical references.
25505.616 秋鴻 Qiu Hong has no musical references; it does quote several poems, the earliest being a fu (rhapsody) by 沈約 Shen Yue (441-513).

愍衰草賦 Rhapsody on minshuai grass (decaying? see in Chinese Wiki)
秋鴻兮疏引,寒烏兮聚飛。         秋鴻 qiu hong

For a Song dynasty poem mentioning 秋鴻 Qiu Hong as a melody see here.

Xu Jian, Qinshi Chubian, discusses the melody on pp.135-8.

2. Guxian mode
For more on this mode and other modes with this tuning see Shenpin Guxian Yi; for early modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Part of "Mourning Autumn", one of 36 Qiu Hong images
This is from an undated publication in the old library of the Forbidden City. It has illustrations of the 36 sections of the melody Qiu Hong (Wild Geese in Autumn) divided into four folios, entitled 平 Ping, 沙 Sha, 落 Luo and 雁 Yan. These have been reprinted in at least two publications, a facsimile edition and as part of a book entitled Zithers of the Forbidden City.

4. Wild Geese representing freedom
As an example, Alfreda Murck, Dissent, p.78, mentions a relevant poem by Du Fu.

5. Wild Geese representing exile
See again Alfreda Murck, Dissent

6. Hong: Wild Geese
47821/1 has an illustration (鴻圖 hong tu, which usually means "far-reaching plans") identifying the hong as anser segetum serrirostris, a term (and perhaps illustration) apparently taken from Robert Swinhoe, who saw one near Xiamen in about 1870; this bird is more commonly called anser fabalis, or Chinese bean goose. 47821/2 then gives the above quote from The Book of Songs (鴻鴈于飛 hong yan yu fei), explaining that this hong refers to 黃鵠 huanggu, a type of snow goose.

7. Yan: Wild Geese
Also written 鴈 .

8. Attribution to Zhu Quan (see also below)
This attribution is not found in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (1491), which has the same tablature. The attribution to Guo Chuwang may seem more likely, but one must also consider the possibility that it was quite different from the surviving melody, and/or that it was either greatly modified by or created by someone at Zhu Quan's court. In addition, the similarity of the Shen Qi Mi Pu version to the Palace edition, combined with the what seem to be the mistakes in the latter (note especially Section 10), suggest that perhaps Zhu Quan's version was a revision of the Palace edition.

9. Attribution to Guo Chuwang (Guo Chuwang)
The most important evidence for this are the comments with the surviving Palace edition and at the beginning of the version in Wugang Qinpu (1546; repeated in Qinpu Zhengchuan) the following statement (Qinqu Jicheng I/435 and II/477)

Guo Chuwang's tablature; fixed and touched up by all the Xu masters. Qingshang mode.

There are also suggestions in the imperial illustrated edition that the melody came from Guo Chuwang. In this case one must consider the possibility that Guo's version entered the palace before the publication of Shen Qi Mi Pu and Zhu Quan's tablature is an edited version of this. Even if this is true it does not answer the question of whether versions such as that of 1546 were copied down later after being modified via oral or other tradition.

11. Source of the melody Qiu Hong
For an discussion of arguments for and against the possibility that Zhu Quan himself created the qin melody Qiu Hong see 馬如驥:論古琴曲《秋鴻》作者, a page from the blog of Yan Xiaoxing. In the end Yan says it was almost certainly not created by Zhu Quan. However, he adds that, although it may not be possible to know this for certain, along the way he has much cogent to say about trying to date old qin melodies based on tablature and other historical documents.

12. Tracing Qiu Hong
The appendix below is based largely on Zha Guide 10/102/158.

13. Connection to 平沙落雁 Pingsha Luoyan?
See Xu Jian, op.cit., Chapter 7.B. (p.139). Section 15 of Qiu Hong is Yuan Luo Pingsha (遠落平沙). Note that 鴻 hong, 雁 yan and 雁鴻 yanhong can all be translated as "wild geese". The domestic goose is usually called 鵝 e.

14. Autumn Sounds (秋聲 Qiu Sheng)
This melody survives only in Longhu Qinpu (1571) and in Yixuan Qinjing (late Ming). Under the melody title in Yixuan Qinjing it says Qiu Sheng 即秋聲賦 is the same as Qiu Sheng Fu; the edition in QQJC (IX/444) has only Section 1 and the first two lines of Section 2, but this shows it is the same melody as in 1579, thus unrelated to the Qiu Sheng Fu of 1589, a qin song using standard tuning. Zha Guide makes the same mistake.

The tuning for Qiu Sheng, which has 13 titled sections but no lyrics, is called Nanlü but is the same as the guxian tuning of Qiu Hong. According to its preface in Longhu Qinpu, where it is the 25th melody, Qiu Sheng, 亦名擬秋鴻 also called Ni Qiu Hong (Imitating Autumn Geese), was created by Shi Yuezhou (Longhu Qinpu consists of his repertoire). The preface goes on to give some description of how it imitates Qiu Hong, and indeed it does use a lot of musical material from that much longer and more famous melody.

15. 鴈門關 (or 雁門關) Yanmen Guan
Yanmen Pass is at the western end of 恒山 Hengshan, a mountain range in northern 山西 Shanxi province that is considered the northern "sacred mountain". It was traditionally considered to be the northernmost point to which geese went in summer.

16. Hengshan
恒山 Hengshan (in Shanxi); 衡山 Hengshan (in Hunan)

17. Zhu Quan apparently considered his post in Nanchang a form of exile.

18. For long pieces see further below.

19. The painting above shows someone playing the qin at Zhu Quan's grave near Nanchang as ghostly geese fly overhead.

21. Long melodies
A few similarly long pieces occur at intervals in surviving handbooks. Most, like the 38 section version of Shenhua Yin (see Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian [1670; IV. p.419]) occur only once (note, however, that 1670 often prints old tablature, and specifically calls this old.)

22. Other recordings
The recording by Yang Baoyuan was made in the late 1950's or early '60s but was apparently never published until it was included in 絕響 Jue Xiang, which identifies it as the 1722 version. As for recordings of incomplete versions, one of those by Wu Wenguang has sections 1-5, 15-24 and 36 with some omissions and elaborations.)

23. See the original Chinese preface.

24. Zhurong 祝融
25230.115 祝融峰 Zhurong feng is the highest peak in 南嶽衡山 the Heng Shan range in central Hunan; it is named after 祝融 Zhurong, the fire god, giving zhurong the extended meaning of hot weather.

25. See the original Chinese section titles. <1491, with the identical melody, adds lyrics throughout.
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Appendix: Chart Tracing 秋鴻 Qiu Hong
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's
Guide, 10/102/158.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1.  故宮琴譜
      (n/d; pp.198-239)
36 Sections, titled (details); one image with each section. Section titles as in Wugang Qinpu, but the melody most closely resembles that of Shen Qi Mi Pu (except Section 10)
  2.  神奇秘譜
      (1425; I/176)
36 sections; titled (中文)
Music very similar to that of the illustration volume above
  3.  浙音釋字琴譜
      (<1491; I/236)
Section titles and music same as 1425; some added commentary. Lyrics throughout, beginning:
"澤國秋高風露涼,,嗈嗈旅雁也思還鄉。天空月冷,雲暗江遙長...." complete
  4. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/198)
36T; many changes; sections aligned differently
Recorded by Li Mingzhong (see original pu [pdf])
  5. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/308)
36TL; music very similar to 1425 but with mistakes and omissions & T altered; lyrics are diff. from 1491. Here they begin:
  6. 梧岡琴譜
      (1546; I/459; NIML)
36T (section titles mostly same as with illustrations); music modified from 1425, or a separate tradition?
More problems than in 1425, including two missing sections (14 and 24); shortened titles for 8 and 10; see also its 15, 21 and 22
  7. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/481)
36T; identical to 1546
  8. 太音傳習
      (1552; IV/160)
36T (T same as 1425 or 1539); music quite similar to 1425 but parts are damaged;
  9. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/406)
36T (T same as 1546); related
      (1571; 琴府/272)
秋聲 Qiu Sheng
10. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/478)
36TL; lyrics close to 1491; melody related but very different
11. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/98)
36T (T same as 1546); preface quotes Guo Chuwang
Seems to be an uncorrected copy of 1546
12. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/529)
36 (not titled); seems to be another copy of 1546
mode called 清商 qingshang
13. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/281)
36; related but quite different from all the previous;
清商 qingshang mode;  
14. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/451)
36; identical to Yuwu Qinpu (1589)
15. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/424)
36; related (太古正音欽佩)
16. 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/266)
36T; titles and lyrics like 1585 but ruibin mode
Melody seems to have many of the same motifs, but this must sound different in this tuning!
17. 古音正宗
      (1634; IX/354)
36T; related but very different
18. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/454)
36T (T same as 1425); related
19. 澄鑒堂琴譜
      (1689; XIV/353)
36; related
20. 響山堂琴譜
      (<1700?; XIV/156)
36; related
21. 蓼懷堂琴譜
      (1702; XIII/305)
36T; related
22. 誠一堂琴譜
      (1705; XIII/436)
36T (T same as 1702 except #36); related
23. 五知齋琴譜
      (1722; XIV/567)
36; the 1585 lyrics are printed after the melody;
attributed to Zhu Quan and opens like 1425, but soon diverges; see 1910
24. 臥雲樓琴譜
      (1722; XV/131)
25. 琴香堂琴譜
      (1760; XVII/184)
26. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/500)
36; "商調商音 shangdiiao shangyin", but same tuning
27. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/170)
28. 稚雲琴譜
      (1849; XXIII/397)
29. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/587)
Preceded by "秋鴻原辭 original lyrics for Qiu Hong"
"From 1722"
30. 天籟閣琴譜
      (1876; XXI/220)
36; lyrics like 1585
31. 希韶閣琴瑟合譜
      (1890; XXVI/---)
32. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/352)
Afterword attributes it to Zhu Quan
33. 琴學叢書
      (1910; XXX/265)
Also 琴府/1050; no titles; recorded by 楊葆元 Yang Baoyuan (1899-1961);
said to be 1722 version; has its own interpretation of ornamentation; adds rhythmic indications

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