Bie Gu Cao
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18. Departing Snow Goose Melody
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
別鵠操 1
Bie Gu Cao
Yuefu Shiji,
Folio 58, #11, has commentary, three sets of lyrics called Beihe Cao (Parting Crane Melody) and six sets of lyrics called Bie He (Parting Crane) (q.v.).4 The third one, by Han Yu (768-824) in the voice of Shangling Muzi, provides the lyrics for the song in Taigu Yiyin. In Yuefu Shiji the title is still Bie He Cao, but there is a footnote saying that Han Yu called it Bie Gu Cao. Han Yu's own preface in Complete Tang Poems is apparently otherwise the same as here.5

The preface in Yuefu Shiji also has the same story, but it adds that Bie He Cao was one of the four grand qin melodies. These have not survived, there being only this short melody and the related one in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585).6

Zhu Changwen's biography of Shangling Muzi adds that Shangling Muzi was torn between the necessity of obeying his parents and finding an heir, and loving his wife.

Han Yu's lyrics are translated below.

Original preface>7

According to Qin Lu (Qin Records), Shangling Muzi had taken a wife, but after five years there was no son. Muzi's parents wanted him to change to another wife. His wife heard this and in the middle of the night cried sadly. Muzi was moved by this and so wrote this song.

Music and lyrics: One section8 (聽錄音 Listen with 看五線譜 staff notation)
A largely syllabic setting, following the structure of the Han Yu lyrics:
([5+5] x 3, then [5+7] x 1)

雄鵠銜枝來,        雌鵠啄泥歸。
Xiong gu xian zhi lai,   ci gu zhuo ni gui.
The male snowgoose arrives carrying a twig,
      the female snowgoose preens (with makeup) as he returns.

巢成不生子,        大義當乖離。
Chao cheng bu sheng zi,   da yi dang guai li.
They have made a nest, but have no child,
      From duty this is a deviation.

江漢水之大,        鵠身鳥之微。
Jiang Han shui zhi da,   gu shen niao zhi wei.
The grand river-size of the Han,
      The small bird-size of a snow goose,

更無相逢日,        且可繞樹相隨飛。
Geng wu xiang feng ri,   qie ke rao shu xiang sui fei.
Perhaps there will be no more meetings,
      yet they can follow each other flying around a tree.

Elsewhere this last line may be written:

更無相逢日,        安可相隨飛。
Geng wu xiang feng ri,   an ke xiang sui fei.
Perhaps there will be no more meetings,
      yet they can follow each other flying around.

To sing the latter version (or use the melody with any other poem with the format [5+5]x4), simply omit the first two notes of the last phrase (i.e., replace them with a quarter-note rest).

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Parting Snowgoose Melody (Bie Gu Cao 別鵠操)
1955.170 bie gu says it is the same as 1955.175-7 bie gu, and gives special reference to Han Yu. See also Bie He Cao in Xu Jian, Chapter 2.B..

2. Taigu Yiyin does not specify the names of modes.

4. Parting Crane, or Parting Crane Melody (別鶴操 Bie He or Bie He Cao)
This is also the name used for a melody in Qin Cao telling the same story about Shangling Muzi and his wife. The Qin Cao commentary is as follows:


(Double column commentary: 案《古今注》:「《別鶴操》,(商陵牧子所)作。 (Skips: 牧子娶妻五年,無子,父母將為之改娶。妻聞之,中夜起,聞鶴聲,倚戶而悲。 Then continues:) 牧子聞之,愴然歌曰:『將乖比翼隔天端,山川悠遠路漫漫。攬衣不寢食。』忘飱與此異」。 (Double column commentary ends.)


Meanwhile, the respective entry in Yuefu Shiji, Folio 58, #11, is organized as follows.

- Cui Bao Gujin Zhu says,

Parting Crane Melody is by Shangling Muzi.... Qin Pu (?) says, "There are Four Great Melodies (四大曲; 大曲; compare the Five Grand Qin Melodies). One of them is Parting Crane Melody." (It does not identify the other three.)

(The lyrics are by:)

  1. Shangling Muzi
  2. Bao Zhao
  3. Han Yu
Bie He
(No separate commentary from Bie He Cao above)
  1. Liang Jianwen emperor
  2. Wu Jun of Liang
  3. (Tang) Yang Juyuan
  4. Wang Jian
  5. Zhang Ji
  6. Du Mu

5. Taigu Yiyin has "five ten" (50) instead of the Tang collections's "five nian" (5 years), but that must be a misprint.

6. Tracing 別鵠操 Bie Gu Cao (tracing chart)
Zha Guide 13/141/248 mentions only two occurrences. The other, in 1585, has the same lyrics but rather different music.

7. Original preface
The original Chinese text not yet online.

8. Original lyrics
The Chinese lyrics are Han Yu's poem (see also in YFJS). Without translation they are:


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Appendix: Chart Tracing 別鵠操 Bie Gu 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; beginning and ending are in harmonics; lyrics
2. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; E170; #37)
Related to others but different; see transcription
3. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/411)
1; lyrics same as 1511; melody seems related though different;
see transcription  

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