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10. Yueshang Melody
        Can also be pronounced "Yuechang"
        Standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 2
越裳操 1
Yueshang Cao  
(or: Yuechang Cao)
Homeland of the Yueshang (Jiaozhi)? 3    
Yueshang Cao is an ancient qin melody title, being one of the entries in the Qin Cao melody list said to have been compiled by Cai Yong (133-192).4 In addition, the Song dynasty's Monk Ju Yue (Seng Juyue) includes a Yueshang Cao in his list of "most ancient" qin tablature.5

As for surviving versions, several melodies on the Yueshang theme can be found in qin tablature dating from 1511 to 1840.6 These can be broadly divided in two:

  1. Songs in one section and standard tuning, beginning with the one here in 1511;
    There are at least three different melodies, all settings of lyrics by Han Yu.7
  2. A 10-section Yueshang Cao in jiazhong (guxian) tuning, found only in 1525;8
    "Also called Qiushui Nong",9 it was published together with a modal prelude and a 3-section melodic prelude.

Although these include several different melodies, all are attributed to the Duke of Zhou (Zhou Gong), the younger brother of the Civil King (Wu Wang), the first ruler of the Zhou dynasty (1122-249) and later regent for King Cheng (Cheng Wang), Wu Wang's son.10

According to the History of the Latter Han dynasty, during the six years that the Duke of Zhou was regent for King Cheng he acted properly and made music; the world was at peace, (so) the Yueshang sent tribute. These Yueshang are said to have been a people living in an area called Jiaozhi,12 identified as a part of or partly in what is today Vietnam: the map at right shows them in the Hanoi region during the Western Han dynasty, but it is not clear where they might have been earlier.12

The version here in Taigu Yiyin is set to lyrics also found under this title in Yuefu Shiji. The lyrics, by Han Yu (768-824) in the voice of the Duke of Zhou, are also used for the settings in handbooks dated 1539, 1585 and 1802 (see guide). Yuefu Shiji quotes two sources in its introduction to this title:

Qin Cao says, Yueshang Cao was created by Zhou Gong."13

Music Records Old and New says, "The Yueshang presented a white pheasant, so Zhou Gong created a song. According to tradition it was called Yueshang Cao.14

Both stories suggest that if the Han rulers are virtuous, then all the countries around will pay homage. Peace and prosperity will ensue.

Yuefu Shiji then includes two poems of this title. First is a very brief one, which it says Qin Cao attributes to Zhou Gong himself.15

Alas and alack,
not the strength of Dan (Duke of Zhou),
but the virtue of King Wen.

After this come the Han Yu lyrics set to music in Taigu Yiyin and in at least three later handbooks.

The melody of this title in Xilutang Qintong (1525) has no lyrics; the comment that it is "also called Autumn Waters Melody" comes under the title. Although neither this melody nor its prelude is musically related to the other Yueshang melodies, the 1525 afterword connects it to this Zhou Gong story. Versions of its jiazhong modal prelude are found elsewhere, and it is difficult to determine whether either it or the melodic prelude called Yueshang Yin was specifically created in connection with this Yueshang Cao. In addition, although published 138 years later the earliest Yueshang Cao song, it is not necessarily a later melody: Xilutang Qintong has a a number of melodies apparently copied from earlier tabalture. (There is further comment on this melody below.)

Original preface 16 (translation not finalized; compare 1525)

According to history,17 the Duke of Zhou helped King Cheng, educating him very correctly. The Southern Yueshang people from Jiaozhi said, "The skies have no evil winds or bad rain, and the seas have not been rough for three years. This must mean that the Central Kingdom has a virtuous man. Why don't we go visit him?" The Duke of Zhou gave them five double-horse chariots equipped with compasses,19 so that they would not lose their way. He wrote this melody to show that there was no place that the king's civilizing influences could not reach. See what the Sage (Confucius, in the Book of Songs, said), "They did not dare not coming to present offerings, they did not dare not coming for the king's acknowledgement."18 This can be used to think about seeing these times.

Music and lyrics (by Han Yu): One section20
Completely syllabic setting (60 notes) following the structure of the lyrics ([3+3+6] x 1, then [4+4] x 6), as follows:
(There is no singing on my two recordings currently online [further comment].
  Timings: 01.04 for the recording 聽錄音 on this site,     01.25 on YouTube; see transcription)

雨之施,物以孳。       我何意於彼為?
Yu zhi shi, wu yi zi. Wo he yi yu bi wei?
Rain is bestowed, so that living things can grow,     how can I contemplate that?

自周之先,       其艱其勤,
Zi Zhou zhi xian, qi jian qi qin.
Beginning with the Zhou dynasty,     its difficulties, its labor.

以有疆宇,       私我後人。
Yi you jiang yu, si wo hou ren.
Were for having border regions,     privately for my descendents.

我祖在上,       四方在下,
Wo zu zai shang, si fang zai xia.
My ancestors are above,     the four directions are below.

厥臨孔威,       敢戲以侮。
Jue lin kong wei, gan xi yi wu.
Approach in great awe,     as daring to fight requires disrespect.

孰荒于門,       孰治于田。
Shu huang yu men, shu zhi yu tian.
Who has famine at the gate,     who has control in the fields?

四海既均,       越裳是臣。
Si hai ji jun, Yue Shang shi chen.
The four seas are ruled fairly,     with the Yueshang as vassals.

(Translation is not finalized; the recording here can serve as a prelude to the 1525 Yueshang melodies.)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Yueshang Cao 越裳操
The title could also be pronounced "Yuechang Cao": not only can 裳 itself be pronounced "chang", but historical sources also write the name as 越常 or 越嘗, both of which would normally be pronounced Yuechang. However, Loewe uses "Yueshang" (p.323) in mentioning their presenting one white and one black pheasant to the Han court around the year 1 BCE. Perhaps there is a connection between this and the story of the Yueshang sending Zhou Gong a white pheasant.

37943.130 Yueshang says it is 古國名,故地當在今越南南部 the name of an old nationality, its former area being in what is today southern Vietnam. It then gives as its earliest reference the History of the Latter Han, which says,

To the south of Jiaozhi is the country of the Yueshang. Zhou Gong, 居攝 acting as regent for six years, controlled the rites and created music with the result that the world under heaven was at peace. So the Yueshang 以三象重譯 used three interpreters for repeated translation and offered white pheasants.

9/1115 越裳 gives 越常 [Yuechang] and 越嘗 [same] as alternates and adds several more references. Elsewhere yet another reference given as 尚書大傳卷四 Folio 4 of Shangshu Dachuan, but 7654.71 says this is a fragmentary work from the Han, perhaps no earlier than History of the Latter Han.

37943.131 Yueshang Cao identifies this as lyrics in the qin melody section of Yuefu; this is discussed further above. Yuefu Shiji and Hanyu Dacidian, IX, P.1115 give no mention of Yueshang outside of the context of the Zhou Gong story. Keith Weller Taylor, The Birth of Vietnam (Berkeley, U. California Press, 1983), mentions the story on p.186. Sometimes the Yue people are called 越常 Yuechang (Yue Chang), as in the 文選 Wen Xuan poem 東京 賦 Eastern Metropolis Rhapsody by 張衡 Zhang Heng. Knechtges' translation, Vol. 1, p.178, refers to a translation by Hightower of 韓詩外傳 Han Shi Wai Zhuan.

Other 37943 越 Yue entries include Yue Song (37943.126 越歌 Yue Ge, mentioned in the Han History) and Yue Mode/Melody (37943.134 越調 Yue Diao). 越操 Yue Cao 37943.xxx.

On an internet website called Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog I read the following (Việt Thường refers to Yue Shang),

A White Pheasant and the Sino-Vietnamese Tributary Relationship
This is another story from the Arrayed Tales of Selected Oddities from South of the Passes (Lĩnh Nam chích quái liệt truyện). This story is clearly the invention of a medieval scholar. Mention of the Việt Thường clan exists in Chinese sources. It is not clear in Chinese sources, however, where they were from, other than that it was someplace far to the south. What they stand for in Chinese sources is the power of the Chinese emperor. These people supposedly arrived from far away to present tribute (a white pheasant) to the emperor because they had seen signs in the natural world which indicated to them that there was "a sage in the Middle Kingdom." This surprised the Chinese as they had never heard of the Việt Thường clan and did not know that the emperor’s moral virtue reached so far away that it could lead such distant peoples to make the journey to present tribute....Their words could not be understood, so Zhou Gong [the king’s main assistant] had an emissary make multiple translations and they were finally understood...."

The page goes on with more detail and analysis of this story.

2. Tuning and mode
The 1511 Yueshang Cao uses the standard relative tuning for the qin, here considered as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 as only this will yield notes restricted to the standard Chinese pentatonic scale, 1 2 3 5 6 . As for the mode, Taigu Yiyin does not specify this. The later songs are grouped with shang mode melodies (see Shenpin Shang Yi), and for for most of the piece it does have shang characteristics: 1 (do) as the primary tonal center and 2 (re; shang) as a secondary one. However, the closing on the diad re and sol is not characteristic of the shang mode.

Regarding my two recordings currently online (see links):


3. Image: Homeland of the Yueshang (Jiaozhi)?
This map, showing the Jiaozhi Commandery (交趾郡 Jiaozhi Jun) during the Western Han dynasty as being in the Red River Delta (including modern Hanoi) of Vietnam, is part of Jiaozhi Prefectural Governor's Region (交趾刺史部 Jiaozhi Cishi Bu), a map in Volume 2 of the Historical Atlas of China.

4. 蔡邕琴操 Cai Yong's Qin Cao
Qin Cao does not survive directly. The versions in 琴苑要彔 Qinyuan Yaolu (Yuan dynasty, Beijing reprint), where the melody is called 越嘗操 Yuechang Cao (37943.xx; chang = taste), and in 琴學叢書 Qinxue Congshu (1910; see Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu, pp.741-2) have almost identical introductions which quote the short poem attributed to Zhou Gong. The commentary and text are included below.

5. Early listings
The list attributed to 僧居月 Seng Juyue, which includes 越裳操 Yueshang Cao, has no related commentary.

6. Tracing the Yueshang Melodies
Zha Guide has three Yueshang entries:

Tracing the Yueshang Melodies (under the 1525 Yueshang Cao) gives more details.

7. Yueshang Cao song settings
Comment is made here about a possible attempt to put Zhou Gong's lyrics to music.

8. Yueshang Cao in jiazhong (guxian) tuning; #s 125-7 in 1525)
Discussed separately, this is actually a set of three related entries surviving only in Xilutang Qintong (1525; Qinqu Jicheng III/220-222).

9. Autumn Waters Melody (秋水弄 Qiushui Nong; also Qiu Shui Nong)
Discussed separately,

10. 周公 Zhou Gong is also mentioned in #4 Qishan Cao and #9 Wen Wang Qu.

11. Jiaozhi 交趾 (also Jiao Zhi)
244.165 交趾 says it is in the Tongkin area, which is in the north of Vietnam; it has nothing about Yueshang. Keith Taylor, op.cit., p.26, says the term (in Vietnamese Giao-chi) means "intertwined feet", referring to a group sleeping custom of some peoples of the region, but not the Vietnamese. See also next.

12. Connection to Vietnam?
In the context of this melody, connecting this story to Vietnam is probably anachronistic. The kingdom/people referred to in the story may well have been living in southern China: during the Han dynasty there was a Kingdom of Nanyue (Southern Yue; Wiki) that included part of what are today northern Vietnam plus Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. The important thing to note here is that the Yueshang are treated here as foreign peoples on China's southern border; accounts specifically tell of interpreters being needed (the mention of three interpreters may suggest such obscurity that intermediate translation was necessary), as the Yueshang speak a language not understood by the Zhou rulers.

13. Yueshang Cao in Qin Cao
In Yuefu Shiji the introduction quotes Qin Cao (see above) only as saying, "琴操曰,越裳操,周公所作也。" A longer version can be found elsewhere, as follows:


Not yet translated.

14. 古今樂錄
The original text in Gujin Yuelu is,
      "古今樂錄 曰﹕越裳獻白雉,周公作歌。"

15. Poem attributed to Zhou Gong
Perhaps it is a fragment. The original is:
This was also quoted in the longer Qin Cao account above.

16. Original preface
The original 1511 preface is as follows:


17. 按史 According to History
It is unclear to what this refers.

18. 「莫敢不來享,莫敢不來王」
This couplet, "They did not dare not coming to present offerings, they did not dare not coming for the king's acknowledgement.", comes from Yin Warriors (殷武 Yin Wu), Poem #305 of the Shi Jing. There it actually refers to two (or more) other borderland group(s), the 氐羌 Diqiang and 荆楚 Jingchu. The Diqiang (or perhaps Diqiang, or Qiang of Di) were apparently from the Gansu and Tibet regions; the Jingchu (or Jing and Chu) were people of the ancient Chu region to the south. The poem begins by saying the Yin had forced the Jingchu into submission through battle; it then reminds the Jingchu that even the Diqiang had not dared not submit to Yin. The qin melody otherwise ignores the martial aspect of this relationship with the Yueshang.

19. Compass (指南 zhinan)
The Chinese have been credited with inventing the compass. However, Wikipedia entries such as those on the compass and the Four Great Inventions of ancient China trace it only to the 4th century. I don't know the origin of the story (legend) that it was known in the time of Zhou Gong.

20. Lyrics
If the tuning is considered 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 then the music uses the pentatonic scale 1 2 3 5 6, with the main tonal center 1 at first, with the secondary tonal center 2; then at the end the main tonal center becomes 5.

The original lyrics without translation are as follows:


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