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01. Song of Southern Winds
- Standard tuning:2   5 6 1 2 3 (uses only 1st five strings)
南風歌 1
Nan Feng Ge
  Shun plays Nan Feng Ge at Jiuyi Shan 3              
This piece, the first melody in Taigu Yiyin (1511), combines what are said to have been two songs, both attributed to Emperor Shun. In the first Shun tells of the omens that led to his agreeing to succeed Emperor Yao, and of the southern winds coming to honor him during the resulting celebration; in the second he tells of the benefits these winds bring to his people.

As with the second song, Si Qin Cao, Nan Feng Cao uses only five strings for the melody, thereby honoring the tradition of "Emperor Shun playing a five string qin and singing the lyrics of Southern Winds", after which the world was well-regulated (see below). The fame of this story led to debate on such matters as to whether it was the correct playing of the melody that led to the world being at peace, or whether this was due to the fact that Shun was simply playing music, without concern for the result of his action.4

There has been some confusion between "Nan Feng" (translated here as "Southern Winds") and "Nan Xun" (translated here as "Southern Breezes").5 Thus, although the Nan Xun Ge of ca. 1491 is clearly a different melody from the present Nan Feng Ge as well as from the nearly identical setting of these lyrics published in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539), at least four melodically related later versions with the same lyrics as these Nan Feng Ge instead use the title Nan Xun Ge. In addition, other melodies on the southern winds/breezes theme, whether with different lyrics or no lyrics, also generally made the same connection as here with Shun and his five-string qin. Likewise, almost all versions limit themselves to the use of five strings.6

As mentioned, the present lyrics are said to have originated as the lyrics for two separate songs. In this regard, although some old melody lists include a song called Five Ancients Play (Wu Lao Tan), said to have the same theme as a Nan Xun Ge with the present lyrics (examples), another source suggests Five Ancients Play had only the first part of the lyrics.8 This latter interpretation is also in accord with the text in the Yuefu Shiji, which also arranges the lyrics as two separate poems (distinguished in the translation below as A and B).9 The lyrics of B can also be found in Kongzi Jiayu and elsewhere.10

Nevertheless, there is no evidence to suggest that at that time these surviving versions were particularly ancient song settings. Indeed, as with other melodies in this book, there is at present no reliable way to know the actual age of the music.

The lyrics for the Nan Feng Ge in the Yuefu Shiji, almost identical to those here in Taigu Yiyin, is accompanied by commentary that quotes two sources on their origins:

  1. Music Records Old and New says,

    Shun played a five-string qin, and sang the lyrics of Southern Winds.

  2. The Book of Music, in the Records of the Grand Historian,11 says,

    Shun sang Southern Winds and the world was well-regulated....

The lyrics in Taigu Yiyin begin "ascend" (陟彼 zhi bi), otherwise they are identical to those in YFSJ, which begins "return" (反彼 fan bi).12

The preface in Taigu Yiyin specifies that the instrument on which emperor Yu Shun played this piece was a five string qin. The Shao music to which it refers is also often attributed to Shun. A related ritual dance is said to have been performed throughout the Zhou dynasty. It is recorded in the Shi Ji biography of Confucius and elsewhere that after he heard this music performed in the state of Qi he was so overwhelmed that for three months he did not know the taste of meat.13

Original preface14 (translation not completed)

According to history, when Shun ascended to the throne, he opened up broad possibilities for public discussion. He asked worthy men to assist him, he acted respectfully without taking action, and used sounds to please the world. His music was called Shao. The Master said, "Shao is very beautiful and also very perfect." The book says, "(After Yao) played Xiaoshao nine times, the phoenixes arrived." It refers to this. This is the melody (Yao) played on the five string (qin); and later someone through imitation made this interpretation. And look at the words: "There is a yellow dragon coming out from the river, carrying cosmological diagrams easily through the loose sand." This is ancient writing, and so for explanation this was written down.

Lyrics15 and Music16: Two sections (聽錄音 Listen with 看五線譜 staff notation )
As mentioned, YFSJ divided these lyrics into 二首 two pieces (here marked A and B; see numbers in brackets for further subdivision). These two pieces (A+B) are played here first in harmonics, then repeated in a second section consisting mostly of stopped sounds. In both verses the setting follows the syllabic structure of the two poems in accordance with the standard pairing method. The possible exception to this is the two places, at the beginning of A1 and of A3 in both section, where the tablature calls for a phrase to be repeated without indicating whether the accompanying verse should be repeated. In my interpretation I include the lyrics only during the repeat at A1 and during the first playing of A3. In addition, at A3 the music pattern changes because of the repeat of the first phrase. Here the musical structure seems to divide the first two lines of A3 as 按圖觀讖兮,按圖觀讖兮。 then 閔天嗟嗟;擊石負韶兮,淪幽洞微。

1. (All harmonics)

A1. ([5+4] x 2; the tablature says to play the first line twice)
//,//。 陟彼三山兮,商嶽嵯峨。
// , // .   Zhi bi San Shan xi, Shang yue cuo e.
// , // .  
Ascending those Three Mountains,         the Shang peaks reveal rocky outlines.

Tian jiang Wu Lao xi, ying wo lai ge.
From heaven descends (the music/light of) the Five Ancients,         welcoming me with song.

A2. ([4+4] x 2)
You huang long xi, zi chu yu he,
There is a
Yellow (river) dragon         coming out from the river,

fu shu tu xi, wei yi luo sha.
Carrying cosmological diagrams         easily through the loose sand.

A3. ([5+4]) x 4)
按圖觀讖兮,//。   閔天嗟嗟;
An tu guan chen xi, // .   Min tian jie jie,
A cosmological diagram provides guidance, // .         A respectful heaven calls out in appreciation,

Ji shi fu Shao xi, lun you dong wei.
Beating on stones sustains the
Shao music,         plunging into the profound to penetrate the esoteric.

Niao shou qiang qiang xi, feng huang lai yi,
Birds and wild animals hurry along;         while a male and female phoenix come in ceremonial greeting.

Kai feng zi nan xi, kui qi zeng tan.
Triumphal winds from the south,         sigh with increasing admiration.

B.   ([5+8] x 2)

Nan feng zhi xun xi, ke yi jie wu min zhi yun xi,
Southern winds' balm         can be used to resolve my people's irritations.

Nan feng zhi shi xi, ke yi fu wu min zhi cai xi.
Southern winds' timeliness         can be used to multipy my people's resources.

2. (As Section 1, but stopped sounds except for final phrase)
- the melody is mostly very similar, but towards the end some phrases are quite different in both melody and tonality.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Nan Feng Ge 南風歌 (compare 南薰歌 Nan Xun Ge.)
This page on the Chinese website explains some terms used here. The website includes the text of quite a few poems in the Yuefu Shiji but mostly without explanation.
2798.340 南風 gives a long introduction to nan feng and quotes numerous sources. 2798.340/2/i says 南風 Nan feng is 古詩名 the name of an old poem by Yu Shun; in it he praises his parents (earliest reference 禮記 Li Ji). 2798.340/2/ii says it is a song praising peace under heaven. There are then numerous references to this story. Other references cited include 爾雅 Er Ya, 後漢書 Hou Han Shu, 梁簡文帝 Emperor Jianwen of Liang, 孫逖 Sun Ti (8th c.), 禮記,樂記 Annals of Music in the Book of Rites, 尸子,綽子 Shizi: Chuozi (by 尸佼 Shi Jiao of the Warring States period), 孔子家語 Kongzi Jiayu, and 樂府詩集 Yuefu Shiji and 琴操 Qin Cao. YFSJ quotes the lyrics as here, citing "Qin Cao".

Other references: 書圖 Luo Shu & He Tu    

None of these references explains the title "Nan Feng". Perhaps that was too obvious to someone living in the cold north.

2. Tuning and Mode
Taigu Yiyin does not directly name the tuning or mode but the relative tuning seems to be 5 6 1 2 3 5 6. The melodically related Nan Feng Ge in Fengxuan Xuanpin seems to include this piece under shang mode, but its modal characteristics (see under Shenpin Shang Yi) are not like those of other Ming melodies in shang mode (for which the tuning is usually considered to be 1 2 4 5 6 1 2). The Nan Xun Ge of 1585 is in zhi mode, which seems more appropriate (though still 1 2 4 5 6 1 2). For information about modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Shun plays the qin
This is a photograph of a statue at the 舜帝陵景區 Emperor Shun Memorial Scenic Area in 永州 Yongzhou, 九嶷山 Jiuyi Mountains, Hunan Province (near the Guangdong border; see Emperor Shun and photo source).

4. Confucian vs Daoist interpretation
E.g., 陸賈 Lu Jia (d, 178 BCE), Non-Action; translated in Mark Csikszentmihalyi, Readings in Han Chinese Thought. pp.54/5.

5. 南風 Southern winds vs. 南薰 southern breezes
This distinction between 風 and 薰 is somewhat arbitrary, as the context clearly suggests that the southern winds are also felt to be balmy. In addition, "xun" itself doesn't specifically refer to winds, instead having such meanings as "balmy" and "fragrant". Some further distinctions can be found with the commentary on Song of Southern Breezes (Nan Xun Ge), a musically unconnected but thematically related melody in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (before 1491).

6. Tracing melodies about Shun playing Southern Breezes on a five string qin
This theme, related earlier in 南薰歌 Nan Xun Ge, occurs again here with the name 南風歌 Nan Feng Ge, and will be found later in 南風暢 Nan Feng Chang. Zha Fuxi's Guide has three separate entries tracing each of these three titles. Melodically the division is more complex, as can be seen from this listing.

  1. 南薰歌 Nan Xun Ge: 11/113/189 (not 南熏歌; tracing chart)
    Six handbooks (does not include Nan Xun Cao); the first two are related :

    The other four are instead related to the 1511 Nan Feng Ge and so are here listed under that title, next.

  2. 南風歌 Nan Feng Ge: Guide 12/125/235
    Zha Fuxi's Guide 12/125/235 lists the melody in handbooks dated 1511, 1539, 1709 (南風操, Japan), 1745 and 1840. Of these, 1539 (QQJC II/161) is identical; the others seem unrelated. Instead, the four just mentioned called Nan Xun Ge are all related settings of the
    present lyrics and so should be included here. These six are thus:

    • 1511 (I/274 [details]); lyrics sung twice, first set to harmonics, then to a related melody in stopped sounds
    • 1539 (II/163); identical to 1511
    • 1573 (facs#52); NXG; identical to 1585?
    • 1585 (IV/450); NXG; 徵調 zhi mode; almost same lyrics, music closely related but no repetition of 按圖觀讖兮
    • 1618 (VIII/317); NXG; almost same lyrics; music again closely related
    • 1802 (XVII/521); NXG; like the second half of 1511,

    Additional Nanfeng Ge entries are in these handbooks (the first two from Japan):

    • 1772 (XII/254); this 明和本 Meiwa edition Nan Feng Ge from Japan in 徵音 zhiyin is a setting of only the second poem (melodically unrelated to earlier ones)
        - see transcription and recording
      1898 (XII/263); this 大原止郎本 Ohara edition version is called 南風操 Nan Xun Cao and is in 商音 shang yin, but it is otherwise identical to previous
    • 1709; Japan; this melody called Nanxun Ge is in the form of earlier versions but is melodically quite different.
    • 1745 (XVI/376); another short setting of the second poem
    • 1840 (XXIII/357); identical to 1745 but without lyrics.

  3. 南風暢 Nan Feng Chang: Zha Guide 18/176/--, but see also 22/196/384 (虞舜思親 Yu Shun Si Qin)
    Zha Guide seems to confuse these two titles. Their relationship is discussed further here.

I have reconstructed and recorded the earliest examples of #1 (1491) and #2 (1511), but have not yet done so with any of #3.

8. Five Ancients Play (五老彈 Wu Lao Tan)
In the lyrics "wu lao" could suggest light shining down from the five "ancients", i.e., planets. However, the addition of "彈 tan" suggests there was the sound of music from a plucked string instrument, in those days most likely a qin. The title "Wu Lao Tan" is included in some old lists; commentary included in the first melody list from 1590 suggests this might originally have been a name for the first song included here (i.e., "A1+A2+A3" below). The commentary there begins and ends,


Note "西山 xi shan" (eastern mountains) instead of 三山 san shan (three mountains). At the end, after "sigh with increasing admiration" (憎 should be a misprint for 增) it says, As a result we have Wu Lao Tan.

9. Yuefu Shiji original passage The original passage in Yuefu Shiji (p.824) is as follows.

Records of the Grand Historian, Music Annal, says, "Shun...sang the lyrics of Southern Breezes...and so the world was orderly.... (full text here).

Note that one character was changed (驩 to 歡) and one punctuation is changed from Shi Ji, Chapter 24. Zhonghua Shuju, p.1235, as copied with Nan Xun Ge.

10. Quotes of Nan Feng Ge lyrics
Besides Kongzi Jiayu, the 琴史 Qin Shi biography of Emperor Shun, after telling the story of his creating this melody, quotes the second poem.

11. Shi Ji on Music
Shi Ji, Chapter 24. Not yet translated.

12. "Ascend" (陟彼 zhi bi) vs. "return to" (反彼 Fan bi)
Comment 1 after the Nanfeng Ge in YFSJ seems to quote "琴操 Qin Cao" as having two pieces called "反彼三山 Fan bi san shan", but Cai Yong's Qin Cao has neither this title nor a Nan Feng or Nan Xun title, and the contents of other lists called "Qin Cao" are not known. In addition, all other qin settings of these lyrics seem to use zhi bi. Could there be confusion with the 陟彼 Zhi bi.... in #2, Siqin Cao?

13. Confucius and the taste of meat
Analects 7.14 says (translation by D.C. Lau),

The Master heard the Shao (music) in Qi and for three months did not notice the taste of the meat he ate. He said, "I never dreamt the joys of music could reach such heights."

A translation of the Shi Ji biography of Confucius (Chapter 47) can be found in chapter 1 of Yang, Records of the Historian (Hong Kong, Commercial Press, 1974).

14. Original Chinese preface


Translation above is tentative.

15. Original lyrics
The original lyrics of 南風歌 Nan Feng Ge in Taigu Yiyin are given above. Note that the last two lines are also used as lyrics for section 4 of the 南風暢 Nan Feng Chang of 1525.

16. Music: Comparing Section 2 to Section 1
In my original interpretation the differences in the tablature for Section 2 led to some differences in note values/rhythms. Later I reinterpreted the note values so that both sections have the same rhythm.

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