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17. Partial Form Melody
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
Can Xing Cao 1
  "Take those 狐貍 huli"; from Maoshi Tu 3 
The title of this melody could have several other translations and also be romanized as Canxing Cao. It tells of Zengzi, a disciple of Confucius, having a dream in which he sees a headless animal called a "狸 li", a word that can be variously interpreted as, for example, fox, raccoon, wild dog or wild cat (compare "hu"). Such a story has also been connected to another disciple of Confucius, Minzi.

The melody title itself is very ancient, having been listed as number 10 of the 12 Laments included in Cai Yong's Qin Cao. However, old melodies with this title survive only in three handbooks, where they are short songs. The first is Taigu Yiyin (1511), the others being Qinpu Zhenchuan (1573) and its later edition Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585).4

The introduction usually connected to the Cai Yong listing5 tells a story somewhat more elaborate than the one told with the present melody. According to the Qin Cao account,6

Once when Zengzi was playing the qin, Mozi stood and listened from the outside. At the end of the piece Mozi came in and said, That's marvelous. When you play the qin I can see a body that is already complete, but where the head is not yet formed. Zengzi responded, While taking a nap (I imagined that) I saw a fox. I could see its body but I could not see its head. When I got up, I expressed this on the strings, the result being (the melody) Partial Form.

The lyrics (in Yuefu Shiji) are by Han Yu (768-824) in the voice of Zengzi.7 At first glance they also seem to mention two other people, Kongming (i.e., Zhuge Liang)8 and the legendary astronomer Wu Xian.9 However, those people lived later than Zengzi, making such a translation an anachronism, so here those words are translated as "very bright" and "astrologers". As for Zengzi himself, he was a follower of Confucius so famous for his filial piety that he was said to be the author of the Canon of Filial Piety (Xiao Jing, apparently written in the Latter Han dynasty). This canon was one of the first books young people would memorize as part of their studies.

The biography of Zengzi in Zhu Changwen's Qin Shi mentions the story told here (q.v.).

There is another story concerning a li shou: what might also be a fox head, in "Tou Hu" (The Game of Pitch Pot?), a section of the Record of Rites, as follows:

He ordered the string players, "Please play 'The Fox's Head', keeping intervals (between what?) all the same." The music director answered, "If you wish."

The significance of this is not clear.10

The poem that forms the lyrics here consists of four couplets in which the narrator tells of dreaming about the headless fox, then wondering about the omen.

Original preface11

According to the Qin Record (Qin Lu), "Can Xing was written by Zengzi." Once when Zengzi slept during the daytime he dreamed he saw a fox without a head. As he thought of it upon awaking, he didn't know what the omen was predicting, so in disappointment he created this piece (lament).

Music and lyrics: One section12 (聽錄音 Listen with 看五線譜 staff notation)
A largely syllabic structure, following the structure of the Han Yu lyrics ([5+4] x 4)

有獸維狸兮,           我夢得之。
You shou wei li xi,   wo meng de zhi.
There is a wild beast like a fox, in a dream I once saw one.

其身孔明兮,           而頭不知。
Qi shen kong ming xi,   er tou bu zhi.
Its body was quite vivid, but of its head I was not aware.

吉凶何為兮,           覺坐而思。
Ji xiong he wei xi?   Jue zuo er si.
Auspicious or ferocious: which one? I realized I should sit and think.

巫咸上天兮,           識者其誰。
Wu xian shang tian xi,   shi zhe qi shei?
Astrologers ascend to heaven, do they know about this?

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Partial Form Melody (殘形操 Can Xing Cao, Canxing Cao)
16860.56 Yue Fu melody by Zengzi. A "操 Cao" in poetry is usually a Lament; "殘 can" can also be translated as "incomplete", "damaged", and so forth. Other translations of the title thus include: Partial Form Lament, Lament over a Damaged Form, Damaged Form Melody, Incomplete Form Melody, and so forth.

2. Mode
Taigu Yiyin does not group melodies by mode.

3. Image: "取彼狐貍 Take those huli"; from Maoshi Tu Compare this 狸 li, from HYDCD      
The commentary with these images resulted from my attempt to see how the 狸 li, 貍 li and 狐 hu are related. For example, what is the difference between the 狸 li of the present melody and the 狐 hu mentioned in the 詩經 Shi Jing? 說文 Shuo Wen says,

Hu: Vehicle for spirits. It has three attributes: harmonizing color, small in front while big in back, in death it lifts its head."

As yet I have not found further stories that might suggest that either "li" ever had associations with the attitudes commonly associated with fox spirits ("狐狸精 huli jing").

The Maoshi Tu commentary with this image begins by identifying four animals: 貍 li, 狐 hu, 貒 tuan (badger) and 貈 ge (?; also other pronunciations). See below for references to the "狐貍 húlí", and note that the above illustration makes no reference to the common modern term for "fox", "狐狸" (also "húlí"). I have not yet found any references to a headless 狐 hu, or headless 狸 li, only a headless 貍 li.

References from ZWDZD are as follows (N.B. 犭 is the canine radical, 豸 is originally for legendary creatures):

The "狐 hu" reference in Shi Jing #37 is only to its pelt, but Shi Jing #63 "There is a Fox" (有狐 You hu) begins "有狐綏綏", translated by Waley as "There is a fox dragging along", but in the earlier Legge translation it is "There is a fox, solitary and suspicious". I don't know of there being any connection between the fox (狸 li) in Canxing Cao being headless and the man in the lyrics of "There is a Fox" being without various items of clothing.

As for "狐貍 huli", 20823.37 狐狸 gives as one of its references Shi Jing #154 七月 Qi Yues, but it has "取彼狐狸" instead of "取彼狐貍". The full quote is: "取彼狐貍,為公子裘 take those foxes and wildcats To make furs for our lord" [Waley]). Translations of the Shi Jing into modern Chinese seem often to substitute "狸" for "貍"; I do not know why this was done here, though 20896 狸 does say it is the same as 貍.

The definitions and early references in ZWDCD are not scientific, and I have not yet been able to figure out how one determines the actual animals these words refer to in early classical literature. The particular interest here is whether the character 狸 li (or 貍 li) by itself ever referred to animals with characterisics of the foxes as found in later ghost or otherwise supernatural stories.

The headless animal of the present story is in the original called simply a "狸 li" (also written 貍). This seems sometimes to be translated as "fox", but Kroll translates it as "raccoon-dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides)". Regarding the components of the common modern term for fox, "狐狸 huli", "狐 hu" by itself may also refers to a fox (Kroll: "fox, red-fox Vulpes vulpes), but "狸/貍 li" by itself now seems usually to refer to a type of wildcat.

4. Tracing Can Xing Cao (tracing chart)
Zha Guide 13/140/248 mentions only 1511 and its later edition (1515), which presumably was identical and so it is considered here as one. The other two, in Qinpu Zhenchuan (1573) and its later edition Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1583), have the same lyrics as 1511 (except that 1573 changes them in one place) and the same structure (first, third and fourth lines in harmonics). In fact, although 1573 and 1585 have rather different music from both 1511 and each other, they can be sung with almost the same rhythms, has can be seen from these two transcriptions:

  1. 1573
  2. 1585.

Not yet recorded.

5. Earliest introduction
Such introductions seem to survive not from the list itself but only from later publications of it.

6. The story in Qin Cao
The original Chinese text of the Qin Cao introduction can be found in Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu, I/743.
琴操,殘形操(見唐健垣,琴府, I/743)


As here the "fox" is in the original called a li.

7. Zengzi
曾子 Zengzi (Wiki) is the common name of 14627.6 曾參 Zeng Shen (Giles, Tseng Ts'an, but he doesn't mention the headless fox story or the resulting lyrics). I have not seen elsewhere any connection between him and Wu Xian.

8. 孔明: kongming or Kong Ming?
Kongming should not be Zhuge Liang here because his dates are too late for the story. 7077.130 gives the original meaning of 孔明 as 甚明 shenming: hallowed/sacred. However, this also doesn't seem to fit (although an allusion to the sacred might be appropriate). Since it literally means "great brightness", I have translated it here as "very bright".

9. 巫咸: wuxian or Wu Xian?
Wu Xian seems commonly today to refer (see e.g., Wiki) to one of three great (or legendary) astronomers of the Shang (Yin) dynasty. However, 8927.32 has this first as being the same as 8927.25 巫易 wuyi, i.e., 周官簭人九簭之一 one of the nine Zhou dynasty official diviners ("shi": 簭, i.e., 筮). It then has Wu Xian as the name of at least three different people (from the periods of 堯 Yao, 殷 Yin dynasty and 黃帝 the Yellow Emperor respectively). Stories such as 太戊 Tai Wu telling him to pray for a good harvest (Wiki: Tai Wu) suggest the person was considered more an astrologer. So whether this refers to an actual (or supposedly actual) person, or to a type of Zhou dynasty official (Zengzi lived in the Zhou dynasty), I presume that is how "wu xian" is intended here, hence the translation "the astrologers".

10. Melody: The Fox's Head (貍首 not 貍頭)
The original text is as follows:


狸首 20896.xxx, but 37404.12 貍首 and .13 貍首斑歌 have further references.

11. Original preface
The 1511 Chinese preface is as follows (太古遺音解題如下):


The 1585 preface is shorter at the beginning, then the same:


In 1573 the preface is the same as 1585

12. Original lyrics
The Chinese lyrics are the poem by Han Yu (see also in YFJS as well as this tentative transcription.).

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Appendix: Chart Tracing 殘形操 Can Xing Cao
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide

    (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/291)
1; 4 phrases: 1, 2 & 4 are in harmonics; lyrics
Melodies in 1511 do not indicate mode
2. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; E171 [#39])
1; transcription; quite different from 1585; grouped under 商 shang mode;
Line 3 lyrics changed to: 吉凶何兮,和為兮而思。
3. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/410)
1; transcription; preface and lyrics same as 1511; melody somewhat different but still related;
Grouped under 商 shang mode but feels like 徵zhi

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