Hong Fei
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04. Geese Flying
- zhi mode (1 2 4 5 6 1 2 ) 2
Hong Fei
  鴻則離之 A wild goose became entangled 3 
This melody, the fourth of five surviving from Wusheng Qinpu (1453), is generally said to have been created by the handbook's author/compiler, "Lan Xian", the "Lazy Immortal". However, there is no commentary accompanying the present tablature (the only one with commentary is #3 Xian Shan Yue), and there is evidence that at least some other melodies may have been copied from earlier tablature.4

As for literary and cultural references related to this melody title, in Chinese there are different words for domestic and wild geese. Literary references to domestic geese are not common, but to wild geese they are very common, connecting them to such ideas and traits as escaping the trammels of society, faithfulness to a partner, exile, and being ready for changes in seasons. Examples of famous melodies with wild geese as their theme include:

Commentary with those melodies also includes many related images.5

The present melody is actually quite extraordinary modally, with many seemingly non-pentatonic notes. Some of them quite likely are mistakes, but there does seem to be some method involved, with the non-pentatonic notes perhaps often indicating shifts in pentatonic tonal centers rather than making this something like a diatonic melody.

There are also some very interesting musical structures.6 For example, note in particular the third section. This is the only melody I have ever encountered that has a section, as is done here, clearly marked as divided into three sub-sections (indicated as Sections 3.A, 3.B, and 3.C in my transcription). Each sub-section then has two parts:

  1. The first part is a harmonic passage solidly in the zhi mode (as seen from the further links below, this means they are centered primarily on the note zhi, secondarily on shang [i.e., it is a sol - re or 5 - 2 mode]) but then ending on gong (do, 1).
  2. The second half of each sub-section is solidly based on gong (do, 1) throughout, first playing the note do repeatedly in harmonics then ending with a passage in stopped notes still centered on do (though the second of the three sub-sections ends strangely on fa over do).

In contrast, the fourth section naturally divides into two parts, but the two parts are so different that it is not clear why they do not form two different sections. The first part is all stopped sounds. The second pars, all harmonics, seems to consist of four extended phrases, the first three following a pattern similar to each other, the fourth, to my ears, being a sort of coda to those three.

One should be able clearly to discern the patterns just described here in Section 3 of the transcription as well of the recording.


Original Preface

Music (see transcription; timings follow my recording)
Nine Sections (untitled; third section subdivisions are marked in origina; fourth section one is not [comment])

  1.       00.01
  2.       01.08
  3. A.  01.51 (harmonics first half)
    B.  02.21 (harmonics first half)
    C.  02.55 (harmonics first half)
  4. A. 03.26
    B.  04.06 (harmonics)
  5.       05.06
  6.       05.49
  7.       06.12
  8.       06.40 (harmonics)
  9.       07.38
  10.       08.38 (harmonics)
    End:       08.56

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a
separate page)

1. 鴻飛 Hong Fei references
47821.58 鴻飛 Hong Fei has nothing about music. The first reference is from the Shi Jing, a poem from Airs of Bin (豳風 #159) called 九罭 The Minnow Net, as follows (Translation in ctext):


After this there is a reference from Guanzi: "管子,霸形:管仲及門徒桓公在位,管仲、隰朋見。立有間,有貳鴻飛而過之...." (ctext)

   12/1096 has several references; they suggest reclusion, avoiding danger. Also nothing about music.

2. Zhi mode (徵調 zhi diao)
For more on this mode see Shenpin Zhi Yi. Note, however, that here the mode, already complex, is made more problematc because of issues such as those brought up here and here. Here are two examples specific to Hong Fei,

  1. At the end of Section 1 (see measure 39 of my transcription) there is a note that seems clearly intended to be a flatted mi (Eb) given that its position (七八, i.e., "between 7 and 8", in the old systlem meaning 7.6) is the same as that of the note two notes later. For the expected pentatonic note, E natural, the correct position is 7.3, in the old system indicated as "七下 below 7". However, whoever wrote the tablature for this piece did not seem to use, at least not consistently, these fine distinctions, so the actual note intended here is not actually certain.
  2. In meansures 9-10 and 144 of my transcription there is a sequence of going down from position 9 on the third string (C) to position 10 (Bb) then to position 12 (Ab). The fact that the original tablature does this in two separate places suggests it may be intentional, and if I play the latter passage often enough it may become almost natural, but not so the former passage. As a result, my instinct here so far has been for both passages to slide down to position 9.5 (B) then to position 11 (A) on the basis that Bb and Ab here are too unusual and perhaps these positions could be due to someone using eyesight rather than a theoretically correct finger position.

This is not to say that it is useless to try to figure this out. There is still a lot more evidence within Ming tablature for solving such issues, at least partially, than there is when engaging in such tasks as playing old bell and gong sets and calling it ancient music.

3. Image: 鴻則離之 A wild goose became entangled
The text of this image (not yet translated), is


This connects it to Poem 37 of the Shi Jing (Book of Songs), The New Terrace, one of the Airs of Bei. It seems to concern a woman who, while fishing (for a mate?) catches a toad. She also ensnares a wild goose. The significance of this poem is not clear. However, its having been ensnared can perhaps be compared to my being ensnared trying to figure out how the melody should proceed!

The image comes from 毛詩品物圖改 Revised Nature Illustrations for Mao's edition of the Book of Songs. It purports to illustrate animals as depicted in the Book of Songs. It refers to 47821.58 鴻雁 hong yan and repeats a tradition that says that big geese are 鴻 hong while small ones are 雁 yan. The full text with the image has not yet been translated.

4. Earliest?
See comments on #1 Chun Yu and #3 Xian Shan Yue.

5. Literatry references
See the Wikipedia entry Geese in Chinese poetry. Note in particular that there are three common Chinese characters meaning "goose": 鵝 e, 雁 or 鴈 yan, and 鴻 hong. E refers to domesticated geese, yan and hong refer to wild geese. The two yan characters have identical meaning; efforts have been made to distinguish between hong and these yan but essentially they can refer to any wild geese.

6. Musical Structures
In the original tablature phrases are marked off by little circles (o). As can be seen in my my transcription in some sections there are very few phrase markings. A close examination of this transcription shows that there are places that clearly want phrase markings, and it is not clear why many of these are omitted. Here I have added phrase markings, clearly indicating each one by drawing a circle with a tie on it around each one. (The circle with tie looks someing like this: O< .)

Return to the Wusheng Qinpu ToC or to the Guqin ToC.