Jiang Gui Cao
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
TGYY   ToC 聽錄音 Listen with staff notation below   首頁
14. About to Return Melody
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
將歸操 1
Jiang Gui Cao
Confucius turns back at the Yellow River 3        
Like numbers
13, 15 and perhaps 16, this melody connects to an episode in the life of Confucius. The picture at right illustrates the present story, as recounted in his family biography, Section 47 of the Records of the Grand Historian.4

Confucius, once again unemployed, was on his way west to see Zhao Jianzi of Jin. However, when he arrived at the banks of the Yellow River he heard that Zhao's advisers Dou Mingdu and Shen Hua had been executed. Confucius sighed, saying that it was a beautiful river, but he was not fated to cross it. That if you kill young animals, the unicorn will not come. If you kill fish by emptying their ponds, the dragon will not come. If you destroy the eggs in a nest, the phoenix will not come. How could he then go on to Jin? So he returned to the village of Zou, where he composed Zou Cao. Zou Cao is given as an alternate title for Jiang Gui Cao.

The preface in Taigu Yiyin relates a shortened version of this story, but does not identify the source of the lyrics. Yuefu Shiji5 identifies them as by Han Yu (768-824), who wrote using the voice of Confucius.

This title is also found in five later handbooks to 1828.6 All have the same lyrics set to different melodies, except Huiyan Mizhi (1647), which has a melody in three sections with no lyrics.

Original preface7
Compare this preface with the one in the Qin Cao attributed to Cai Yong, translated below.

As Confucius' wheeltracks circled the earth, the Dao was not following. He headed west to see Zhao Jianzi, but heard of the death of Dou Mingdu. By the river he sighed and said, "Beautiful are the waters, and vast. As for my crossing it, that is (not my) fate." Later someone fixed this as a song and popularized it as a Qin Melody (Qin Cao). Its meaning is still relevant.

Music and Lyrics: One section 8 (translation tentative; 聽錄音 Listen with 看五線譜 staff notation)
A largely syllabic setting, following the structure of the Han Yu lyrics:
([4+4] x 4, then [5+4] x 1, then ([2+2] x 1, then [5+4] x 1)

Qiu zhi shui xi, qi se you you.
Water in autumn, its color is dark.

Wo jiang ji xi, bu de qi you.
I was about to cross, but did not have a motive.

She qi qian xi, shi nie wo zu.
Ford it when it is shallow, and stones bite into my feet.

Cheng qi shen xi, long ru wo zhou.
Ride where it is deep, and dragons come into my boat.

Wo ji er hui xi, jiang an gui you.
If I cross and then regret it, then returning will be my fault.

Gui hu, gui hu.
Return! Return!

Wu yu shi dou xi, wu ying long qiu.
No fighting with rocks, no Responsive Dragon to entreat. (Yinglong?)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Jiang Gui Cao 將歸操
7599.117 relates the stories from Shi Ji and Yuefu Shiji. The illustration can be found in several collected illustrations of the life of Confucius.

2. Taigu Yiyin does not indicate mode.

3. From a reprint of a collection of Qing dynasty prints illustrating the life of Confucius.

4. Translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang in Records of the Historian; Hong Kong, Commercial Press, 1974, p.14.

5. p.841

6. Tracing 將歸操 Jiang Gui Cao (see tracing chart)
The chart below is based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 13/136/242.

7. Original preface to Jiang Gui Cao
The Chinese original of the above preface is as follows:


More detailed is the preface to this melody in the Qin Cao attributed to Cai Yong, translated here (page 27) by Dorothee Schaab-Hanke from the original Chinese as follows,

Zhao Jianzi had sent jade and silk (gifts) and invited Master Kong. Master Kong was about to travel there, but shortly before getting there, he heard, while crossing the Di River, that Zhao had executed his worthy minister Dou Mingdu. Upon this he sighed saying: “The force by which Zhao was able to rule, was based upon Mingdu. If he calls for me after killing Mingdu, what use would it have for me, Qiu, to proceed there? If one tries to cultivate fields by burning down the forests, the unicorns will not come; where the nests of birds are turned upside down so that the eggs are broken, the Phoenixes will not fly up. When beasts and birds detest that damage was afflicted to their species, how much more gentlemen should do! (Return)

Original lyrics
Han Yu's original lyrics (YFSJ/841) without translation are as follows,

Taigu Yiyin changed "歸乎歸乎" to "歸兮歸兮".

Return to the top

Appendix: Chart Tracing 將歸操 Gui Cao
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 13/136/242

    (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/289)
1; lyrics
  2. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/149)
1; same lyrics but different music
    . 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #29)
Same as 1585?
  3. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/409)
1; same lyrics; another new melody
  4. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/69)
3; shang mode; no lyrics; unrelated to previous
No commentary;
    . 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; fac.)
Presumably identical to 1649
  5. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/)
1; zhi yin; lyrics and music same as 1585
  6. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/454)
1; seems to be same as 1585
"尹芝僊" (Yin Zhixian compiled 1647!???)

Return to the , to the Taigu Yiyin ToC or to the Guqin ToC.