Si Qin Cao
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Qin in
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02. Thinking of Parents
- Standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 (uses only the first five strings2)
思親操 1
Si Qin Cao
  Shandong tableaux: Shun and family 3            
Many classical sources mention
Emperor Shun (22nd c. BCE), the death of his mother, and the filial piety he then showed towards his father, stepmother and stepbrother, even though they badly mistreated him. His "ploughing at Mount Li,4 fishing at Lei Marsh,5 and making pottery along the banks of the river" is almost a stock expression. Historians mostly associate these places with southwestern Shanxi province, but Shun's wide popularity is emphasized by the many other places that claim them. Thus both Mount Li and Lei Marsh have been associated with places as far apart as Shanxi and Shandong, and "the river" is generally said to be the Yellow River. In addition, as related in Annals of the Historian6 (see the melody Nan Feng Ge), Shun is also associated with Jiuyi mountain near the Hunan border with Guangdong province.

Zhu Changwen's biography of Shun gives a brief account of this story, adding that his filial piety after his mother died was described by the melody Si Qin Cao. It also tells of him composing a now-lost version of Nan Feng Ge. The biography of Shun in Annals of the Historian, though it does not mention Si Qin Cao, gives the most detailed early account of Yu Shun's filial piety. The biography there tells of Shun's mother dying and his father taking a new wife, by whom he had another son, named Xiang. After this the three of them treated Shun very badly, even trying several times to kill him. However, Shun always remained loyal to them. It was in part because of these filial actions that Yao chose Shun to succeed him as emperor.

Lyrics for Si Qin Cao are included in the Yuefu Shiji, which quotes two sources on the origins of the melody:

  1. Music Records Old and New says,

    Shun traveled to Mount Li. Seeing a bird flying he thought of his parents and wrote this song.

  2. Xie Zhuang's Qin Lun, says,

    Shun wrote Si Qin Cao, expressing great filial respect.

The lyrics in Taigu Yiyin are identical to those in YFSJ.

This title survives in seven qin handbooks.7 Most use only five strings of the qin, commemorating the tradition that Shun played a five string qin, but the only one identical to here is the one in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539).

The second entry, Si Qin Yin, in 1525, uses seven strings and is a completely different melody with a completely different story.8

Original preface 10

According to (history), before Shun was emperor he ploughed at Mount Li, fished in Lei Marsh, and made pottery along the banks of the (Yellow) river. He did his best to serve his parents. His father was obstinate, his (step-) mother was insincere, and (his step-brother) Xiang was presumptuous. But Shun acted with great filial piety and the loyalty of a younger brother. (His father) Gusou (Venerable Blind One) yielded. When later (Shun) followed the ancestral sacrifices of Yao and took over the world, his parents were no longer alive. Because he saw a bird flying he wrote this song. Its sound did not survive, but later someone through imitation made this interpretation.

Music and Lyrics: One Section (聽錄音 Listen with 看五線譜 staff notation)
- Also two videos: teaching video and memorial video 11
- Setting follows the syllabic structure of the YFSJ lyrics12

(The original tablature says to play the first line twice)
Zhi bi Li Shan xi, cui wei.
Ascend that Li Mountain, ah; with its precipitous rocky peaks.

有鳥翔兮, 高飛。
You niao xiang xi, gao fei
There is a bird soaring, ah; flying high.

Zhan bi jiu xi, pai hui.
Gaze at that dove, ah; flying about.

He shui yang yang xi, qing ling.
River waters vast and swelling, ah; clear and refreshing.

Shen gu niao ming xi, ying ying.
In a deep valley a bird cries, ah; "ying ying".

設罥張罝兮,思我父母 (see next footnote)
She juan zhang ju xi, si wo fu mu
When entangled in a great net,13 ah; we think of our father and mother

li geng. Ri yu yue xi, wang ru chi.
strenuously ploughing14 by sun and mooon, ah; I should go there as if galloping.

Fu mu yuan xi, wu dang an gui.
Father and mother are far away, ah; so I ought to arrange my return.

This transcription also has a translation which tries to follow the above meaning but in a way that allows the song to be sung in English.

High up Li Shan Mountain climbing,
You see a lone bird flying.
Just one dove loudly crying,
Clear river waters swelling.

A lonely bird cries "ying ying",
trapped, its thoughts to its parents must go.
For they always must work, one should be there!
Father, mother, oh! To you I must go.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Si Qin Cao 思親操
10734.228 思親操: qin song; refers to Qin Cao, Qin Lun and Yuefu Shiji. The list of songs by 僧居月 Seng Jueyu (Song dynasty) includes it as one of the"most ancient".

Another qin song calling for filial piety is Sheng De Song, specifically Verse 4.

2. Tuning and mode
Taigu Yiyin does not group pieces by tuning or mode.

3. Image
This photo is of a tableaux at the 大舜苑文化旅遊區 Great Shun Garden Cultural Tourism Area at 南距市 Nanju in 諸城 Zhucheng, Shandong, one of the places claiming this story (from a blog article). Claims for Shun's connection to Shanxi are generally considered more historical (see next footnote).

4. Mount Li (歷山 Li Shan)
16702.3 歷山 has 11 mountains of this name, at least six claiming to be where Shun plowed (two each in 山東 Shandong and 山西 Shanxi, one in Zhejiang, one in Chahar [Hebei?]). Geng Li Shan is a title on some old qin melody lists, 1525 has a Li Shan Yin, and it is mentioned in several other qin melodies, such as Cangwu Yuan.

5. Lei Marshes (雷澤 Lei Ze)
43196.173 mentions marshes in 山東濮縣 Pu County of Shandong province and 山西永濟縣 Yongji country of Shanxi province, saying both are claimed as Shun's fishing places.

6. Shun biography in Annals of the Historian (世紀 Shi Ji)
See translation in Nienhauser, The Grand Scribe's Records, Vol. I., p.11 ff.

7. Tracing 思親操 Si Qin Cao (tracing chart)
The chart below is based on Zha Fuxi's Guide 12/126/236. All but one of the eight pieces listed use only five strings. Most also use the same lyrics but have a different melody: only 1539 is identical. 1585 has the same lyrics and the melody is similar, but it uses seven strings. Two Japanese handbooks, 1676 and 1700, have an unrelated 思親操 Si Qin Yin (prelude).

8. 思親操 Si Qin Cao in Xilutang Qintong (1525)
The melody here, in zhi mode, uses all seven strings and is in 5 sections with no lyrics. The afterword is as follows:

檀弓載子路云:「傷載貧也,(生)無以為養。」為親負米百里外。 親歿,南遊於楚,後車千乘,累裀列鼎。嘆曰,「雖欲為親負米,其可得呼?」後人擬為此曲。

This begins by saying it is quoting the Tan Gong chapter of the Book of Rites. (Concerning Tan Gong, 檀弓 15975.2 says he was a man of 魯 Lu in the Warring States period who excelled at rites; presumably he was a contemporary of Confucius.) The quote there is as follows (from CTP, which include the Legge translation):

Zi-lu said, 'Alas for the poor! While (their parents) are alive, they have not the means to nourish them; and when they are dead, they have not the means to perform the mourning rites for them.' Confucius said, 'Bean soup, and water to drink, while the parents are made happy, may be pronounced filial piety. If (a son) can only wrap the body round from head to foot, and inter it immediately, without a shell, that being all which his means allow, he may be said to discharge (all) the rites of mourning.'

However, after the initial quote the 1525 afterword goes to other unnamed sources, such as 孔子家語 Kongzi Jiayu or the Yuan dynasty 二十四孝圖 24 Illustrated (Stories of) Filial Piety. The latter, for example, has the following from its story 百里負米 Carrying Rice 100 Li:

There is currently an elaborated translation here.

The latter part of the story says that after his parents' death Zilu traveled to Chu, where he became powerful and wealthy. However, he felt that these contained nothing like the pleasure he had had when he was poor and could serve his parents.

10. Original preface
The Chinese preface begins,
  The rest is not yet online.

11. Memorial video (compare teaching video)
This video was made in the memorial garden at St. John's Church, Tampa, Florida. My parents Marjorie and Jack Thompson, and my sister Alice, all had their ashes scattered under the rose bushes in this memorial garden, with a memorial brick in the wall. When as children my brother, two sisters and I studied at St. John's School (where my mother taught) this was part of a dirt churchyard where we played before school began each morning. The video was shot in the yard with an iPhone, but the sound was later dubbed: the yard is quite peaceful but the ambient sounds became amplified in a recording. The video, with the lyrics subtitled in Chinese and English, can also be seen in the documentary film Music Beyond Sound. There, while listening to the recording, one should either read these singable English lyrics, or look at the transcription linked there.

12. Original lyrics
These lyrics 陟彼歷山兮,崔巍.... were also used for the melodically unrelated Section 5 of Yu Shun Si Qin (1525), except that in 1525 four characters are changed: 深 to 山, 罥 to 罣, 往 to 從 and 當 to 將 . The 1525 Yu Shun Si Qin is actually related to melodies later called Nan Feng Chang, which also use only five strings; some further details are given with this Nan Feng Chang listing.

13. Planning to catch (birds/game) by stretching out a net (設罥張罝 Shè juàn zhāng jū)
Literally this refers to the nets people used to trap birds and other game; but here, thinking of birds reminds Shun of his parents because it reminds him of the net which encompasses the basic human condition.

14. Strenuously ploughing
The modern edition of Yuefu Shiji is punctuated to include the characters for "strenuously ploughing" together with those for "father and mother", but the melody seems to suggest they go with "by sun and moon". The rhythm I selected tries to make the punctuation here ambiguous.

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Appendix: Chart Tracing 思親操 Si Qin Cao
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide, 12/126/236.

All use only five strings unless otherwise indicated

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1. 謝琳太古遺音
      (1511; I/275)
1; lyrics; no harmonics
2a. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/156)
5; no lyrics; 7 strings; melodically unrelated;
The afterword tells of Zilu serving his parents the becoming rich
2b. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/261)
9 (#5L); Yu Shun Si Qin; Si Qin lyrics in Section 5 (harmonics)
But music is related to Nan Feng Chang
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/100)
1; 思親引 Si Qin Yin; identical to 1511;
Grouped with gong melodies
  4. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #30)
1; same as 1585?
  5. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/409)
1; same lyrics and the melody is similar, but it uses seven strings.
  6. 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/318)
1; zhi mode; same lyrics, different music
  7. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/383)
1; zhi mode; same music as 1585 but no lyrics;
forward and afterword
  8. 和文注音琴譜
      (<1676; XII/227)
1; shang yin; Si Qin Yin; 7 strings
Japan; unrelated music and lyrics
  9. 和文注音琴譜
      (<1676; XII/251)
Si Qin Yin
Japan; identical to 1676
10. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/522)
1; shang yin,
but music and lyrics almost same as 1585 (corrected?)

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