Yilan Cao
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13. Rippling Orchids Melody
- Standard tuning2 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
漪蘭操 1
Yilan Cao
  See full illustration                                
The yi of Yi Lan Cao here in Taigu Yiyin adds a water radical to the yi of Yi Lan in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425), changing the meaning from "flourishing orchid" to "rippling orchid" (cao here means "melody").3 Nevertheless, the melody remains related to most of the "flourishing orchid" melodies.4 This means that it is a through composition rather than a set of distinct songs put together.

The Taigu Yiyin preface also uses the "rippling" character, but its lyrics use sometimes use the "yi" meaning "flourishing", other times the "you" meaning "secluded" (as in You Lan).5 I have not been able to determine the reason for this anomaly. According to the preface here the theme is the same as that of Yi Lan.

Like the Yi Lan in Shen Qi Mi Pu as well as numbers 14, 15 and perhaps 16 in Taigu Yiyin, this melody connects to an episode in the life of Confucius. And as with those, some biographies of Confucius provide an illustration.

Taigu Yiyin says, "Yilan was written by Confucius," but it does not mention the source of the lyrics. They can all be found in the Yuefu Shiji, Folio 58, #2 and #3. Folio 58 #2 begins by saying Yilan Cao is the same as Youlan Cao. It then has three prefaces, as follows.

  1. Gujin Yuelu says, "Confucius was returning from Wei to Lu when he saw a fragrant orchid and created this song."
  2. Qin Cao says, "(The first part of this quote is virtually the same as what is here paragraph one of the Taigu Yiyin preface. It then adds, ___ ".6)
  3. Qin Ji says, "You Lan Cao was created by Confucius."

After this are the lyrics, the same as in Taigu Yiyin and in the same order. They are attributed, in order, to,

  1. Confucius
  2. Xin Deyuan
  3. Han Yu (768-824; writing here in the voice of Confucius7)
  4. Bao Zhao (five short poems called 幽蘭 You Lan)
  5. Cui Tu (one, also called You Lan).

In Taigu Yiyin these lyrics are sung straight through, then repeated once; the final section then repeats for a second time the first of the five poems.8

Original preface9 (First paragraph quotes Qin Cao)

Yi Lan was written by Confucius. Confucius made respectful visits to the feudal lords (of 70 kingdoms), but (did not gain any recognition, and) was unable to achieve rank. While returning from Wei (the last of the 70) to Lu (his home), in a secluded valley he came across a solitary (fragrant) orchid flourishing alone. Sighing deeply he said, 'An orchid is worthy of spreading its fragrance to a king, but now it blooms alone, alongside common grass. (This is like the sage who is living in an inappropriate time, and so hangs around with commoners.)' So he stopped his cart, took up his qin and played it.

As for making this melody, these were words from a really grievous period. Later wise men added their own sighs and beautified it.

Music and Lyrics10: Eleven sections
Setting follows the syllabic structure of the five poems; (6-10 repeat the lyrics of 1-5), as indicated11

1. Attrib. Confucius (4+4) x 6 (中文) Gentle valley breezes, bring darkness and rain;
    Now I am returning, having been sent off far into the wilds.
How can it be that heaven, haw not attained what it wanted.
    Having wandered all over, but not finding a fixed abode.
People nowadays are hidden in darkness, and do not recognize sages.
    The years pass by, and I am growing old.

2. Xin Deyuan (5+5) x 4 (中文)

Not yet translated.

3. Han Yu (4+4) x 8 (See Chinese and the Xilutang Qintong section titles) (中文)

The orchid is flourishing, its fragrance spreads.
    If no one plucks one to wear it, how could that harm the orchid!
My coming back today, who caused it?
    I have been traveling everywhere, for years on end
The luxuriance of the frost and snow (will bring) luxuriant crops (in spring)
    If you are not sad I will not come to see you
Luxuriant crops (mean) a good harvest
    Although a gentleman may be sad, he keeps proper conduct

4. Bao Zhao ([{5+5} x 2] x 5) (中文)
Five short poems called 幽蘭 You Lan yo(translated as follows by Robert Shanmu Chen, A Study of Bao Zhao and his Poetry: with a complete English translation of his poems; ph.d. dissertation, University of British Columbia, 1989; online) (five short poems )

  1. The slanting sunset brings along the gloaming,34
    My solitary shadow lingers and longs for your presence.
    Spring will be over when the plum loses its fragrance,
    Time flies by and you never seem to return.

  2. The bamboo door curtain submits to dewdrops with an orchid scent,
    The embroidered draperies fill with peach and plum breezes.
    I fasten my belt and speak nothing of the past,
    But sit to let the fragrant season end.

  3. It is just too obvious to pledge with my pendant,
    And it is too odd to embrace the bridge post.
    The flowers have fallen and I don't know your whereabouts,
    But I sit vainly worrying about missing you.

  4. The tiny long-legged spider subtly spins his web,
    The silkworm quietly elaborates silk.
    I feel ashamed to have no self confidence,
    And I am afraid to have a tryst with you.

  5. The east gates of the Chen and the Zheng states,
    Have been famous from ancient time to the present.
    Here my long sleeves will linger for a while,
    As my carriage and four rest at the fork of the road.

5. Cui Tu (5+5) x 4 (中文)

Not yet translated.

6. Same lyrics and music as #1

7. Same lyrics from different music from #2

8. See #3

9. See #4

10. See #5

11. See #1 (no harmonics)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 漪蘭 18599.xx (Zha's Guide refers this to 猗蘭; neither 18599.0 yi (rippling) nor 漪瀾 yilan (rippling waves) suggests any connection, nor have I found any other source which uses this character in this connection. There is further commentary on 猗蘭 Yi Lan with

2. Taigu Yiyin does not name modes. However, the other related Yi Lan melodies are usually grouped with shang mode.

3. 猗蘭 Yi Lan changes to 漪蘭 Yi Lan

4. Tracing the Rippling/Flourishing Orchid melodies
This chart is based on Zha Guide 5/52/75.

5. 幽蘭 You Lan; Zha's Guide, 19/181/--

6. The Pingjin Guan Qin Cao also has the same beginning, then a still different ending (自傷不逢時,託辭於香蘭云). There are then more lyrics.

7. The lyrics attributed to Confucius are paraphrased for the first verse of Yi Lan in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu

8. ???

9. ???

10. The original lyrics are as follows,

(一、六,十一) (These also in 1618 and Japan; )





11. Repeated melodic phrases bring variety to the structure

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