Ba Gong Cao
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22. Melody of the Eight Dukes
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
Ba Gong Cao 1
  Statue group depicting the Eight Dukes of Huainan 3    
The title Ba Gong Cao can be found in three handbooks.4 All are settings to music of the same lyrics, which are included in Folio 58, #25 of the Yuefu Shiji.5 All introductions attribute it to the King of Huainan, Liu An6 (ca. 180 - 122 BCE).

Liu An was a grandson of the founder of the Han dynasty, Liu Bang. Huainan was one of the biggest kingdoms, extending south almost to Guangdong from its base in Shouchun on the Huai River in Anhui.7 Liu An was famous as a scholar and for his interest in alchemy, but he also became involved in political activities. According to historical records this led the emperor to condemn Liu An to death, so he committed suicide. However, according to tradition, he discovered and then ate an elixir of immortality. Tradition also says that, because of his combination of virtue and alchemical skills, the eight dukes descended to his court to assist him; he wrote this song to welcome them.

The Huainanzi, an important source of information on mythology, is by tradition attributed to him, though perhaps it was compiled by scholars at his court.

Liu An also has an entry in Zhu Changwen's Qin Biographies.8 Here it says that Liu An was a good qin player and student, and that the eight dukes were immortals who came to help him. It does not name them, but describes what skill each had. In the end he joined them as an immortal.

Proper names in the poem include Liangfu, a mountain near Tai Shan in Shangdong province;9 Yaoguang, a star in the Big Dipper; the North Star; and the Jade Maiden, a Daoist immortal, said have been one of the Qin emperor's palace ladies, who went to Hua Shan after the fall of that dynasty. Growing wings and feathers means becoming an immortal.

Original preface10

The preface says:

This melody was created by the Prince of Huainan.

The Old and New Music Collection (Gujin Yueji) says, "The Prince loved the Dao. Once, near the beginning of the year, when the Eight Dukes descended into his courtyard, the prince created this song, in order to suggest the joy of the immortals' wanderings, he broadcast it as a string melody. ....

The Qin Lun of Xie Xiyi also says, "'Eight Dukes' was created by the Prince of Huainan."

Translation incomplete; Does not give any details about the dukes.

Music and lyrics: One section (聽錄音 listen my recording; played twice; timings follow my transcription)
Syllabic setting of the following lyrics, in the original11 structured (4+4) x 8.

Huang huang shang tian,   zhao xia tu xi.
Resplendent you ascended to heaven,     then shone down on earth.

Zhi wo hao Dao,   gong lai xia xi.
Knowing I love the Dao,     you dukes came down.

Gong jiang yu yu,   sheng mao yu xi.
You will give me,     a growth of feathers and wings.

Chao teng qing yun,   dao Liang Fu xi.
so I can stride up and mount the clear skies,     and tread on Mount Liangfu.

Guan jian Yao Guang,   guo Bei Dou xi.
I will look at Yao Guang,     and go past the North Star.

Chi cheng feng yun, shi yu Nü xi.
Ride upon the wind and clouds,     and summon the Jade Maiden.

Han jing tu qi,,   jiao zhi cao xi.
Take in essence, exhale vapor;     and eat plants of immortality.

You you jiang jiang,   tian xiang bao xi.
In the vast distances     Heaven extends its protection.
01.17 End verse 2
01.23 Repeat Verse 1
01.58 Repeat Verse 2
02.40 End melody

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Melody of the Eight Dukes (八公操 Bagong Cao)
1475.77 八公操 Bagong Cao: qin melody, also called Huainan Cao, quoting Qin Lun (Qin Treatise) and Gu Jin Yuelu (Old and New Music Records). For a translation of the lyrics for Huainan Cao as they appear in the Sou Shen Ji (搜神紀; they are almost identical to those here) see Kenneth J. Dewoskin and J.I.Crump, trans., In Search of the Supernatural: The Written Record, a translation of the Sou-Shen Chi; Stanford, Stanford U. Press, 1995. pp.5-6. Related to this is:

Eight Dukes (八公 Ba Gong) (the statues of them above are discussed further below)
1475.75 八公 ba gong: 漢淮南王劉安之客也 guests of Huainan Prince Liu An of the Han dynasty. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether they were 仙人 immortals themselves, or merely advisors who helped Liu An write Huainanzi (and become an immortal himself). It names them as follows,

  1. 左吳 Zuo Wu
  2. 李尚 Li Shang
  3. 蘇飛 Su Fei
  4. 田由 Tian You
  5. 毛披 Mao Pei
  6. 雷被 Lei Bei
  7. 晉昌 Jin Chang
  8. 伍被 Wu Bei

Eight Dukes of Jin Wudi (晉武帝八公 Jin Wudi Ba Gong)
The second entry under 1475.75 lists another eight dukes, these from the 晉 Jin period several centuries later. They are listed, with their ranks, as follows:

1. 安平王孚為太宰 Anping Wang Fu: taizai
2. 鄭沖為太傅 Zheng Chong: taifu
3. 王祥為太保 Wang Xiang: taibao
4. 司馬望為太尉 Sima Wang: taiwei
5. 何曾為司徒 He Ceng: situ
6. 荀顗為司空 Xun Yi: sikong
7. 石苞為大司馬 Shi Bao: da sima
8. 陳騫為大將軍 Chen Jian: da jiangjun

After the Eight Dukes came the Eight Immortals, who seem to have supplanted the above.

Eight Immortals (八仙 or 八僊 Ba Xian) Eight Immortals playing music (source)            
The Eight Immortals listed below (Wiki) have been popular from at least the Song dynasty to the present. Notice the variety of musical instruments pictured in the image here.

  1. 何仙姑 Immortal Woman He (何瓊 He Qiong, the only woman;
    she had replaced 徐神翁 Xu Shenweng in the Yuan dynasty)
  2. 曹國舅 Cao Guojiu (Royal Uncle Cao; proper name uncertain)
  3. 李鐵拐 Li Tieguai (Iron-Crutch Li)
  4. 藍采和 Lan Caihe
  5. 呂洞賓 Lü Dongbin
  6. 韓湘     Han Xiang (Master Han Xiang [韓湘子 Han Xiangzi])
  7. 張果老 Zhang Guo Lao (Elder Zhang Guo)
  8. 鐘離權 Zhongli Quan (further)

Before these eight, according to 1475.77 八仙 ba xian, the term ba xian could refer to the Eight Dukes just mentioned above, to the 蜀之八仙 Eight Immortals of Shu (Sichuan), or to the 唐之八酒仙 Eight Wine Immortals of the Tang (a.k.a. Eight Immortal Drinkers).

The Eight Immortals of Sichuan (蜀之八仙 Shu zhi Ba Xian)
These eight were (

  1. 容成公 Rong Cheng Gong
  2. 李耳     Li Er
  3. 董仲舒 Dong Zhongshu
  4. 張道陵 Zhang Daoling
  5. 莊君平 Zhuang Junping
  6. 李八百 Li Babai
  7. 范長生 Fan Changsheng
  8. 爾朱先生 Er Zhu Xiansheng

The earliest reference given for the Eight Immortals of Shu is 譙秀《蜀紀》 The Record of Shu (Sichuan) by Qiao Xiu (Jin Dynasty).

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

3. Statue group depicting the Eight Dukes of Huainan
The statues are in a shrine/park at the Bagong Mountain Scenic Spot about 100 km north of Hefei and just west of Huainan city in Anhui Province (Wiki). In fact there have been several Eight Duke Mountains (1475.76 八公山 Bagong Shan) in Anhui province. Apparently this one is now a popular tourist spot. As well as the statues it also includes a platform that claims to be the spot from which Liu An ascended into the heavens. The outside source of this image does not state this explicitely but it seems that the ninth statue is of Liu An, Prince of Huai An, at the center.

4. Tracing 八公操 Ba Gong Cao (tracing chart)
The chart below is based on Zha Guide 13/144/250

The later piece Ba Gong Hai Tong (八公還童 The Eight Dukes still appear youthful; 34/256/497) is unrelated.

5. Bagong Cao in Yuefu Shiji
The Chinese edition, pp.851-2, gives Huainan Cao (Huainan Melody) as an alternate title. Otherwise, the preface in Taigu Yiyin simply elaborates on the one in Yuefu Shiji. The Yuefu Shiji lyrics are only the one set seen here.

6. 淮南王劉安 Huainan Wang Liu An is #65 in Qin Shi.

7. Shouchun (壽春), today called Shouxian (壽縣), is a few miles west of the modern Huainan city, with Bagong Mountain in between. This was about 200 km southeast of the Liang court, then based in what is today 商丘 Shangqiu in Henan province. Liu An's half-cousin Liu Wu, King Xiao of Liang (梁孝王劉武; r. 168-144), was also known for supporting literary activities. Sima Xiangru (179-117) was at the Liang court until he lost his position upon the death of King Xiao.

8. See bio #65 in the Qin Shi (琴史) by Zhu Changwen (朱長文 1038-1098)

9. 梁甫 15135.85 mountain; same as 梁父; a mountain in Shandong near Taishan;
   梁甫吟 Liangfu Melody is attributed to the famous general Zhuge Liang (181 - 234).

10. Original preface
The original Chinese text is as follows:


Not yet translated.

11. Original lyrics
The Chinese lyrics without translation are as follows (see also in YFJS):


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Appendix: Chart Tracing 八公操 Ba Gong Cao
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 13/144/250

    (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/297)
1; preface; lyrics
  2. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/162)
1; included with shang mode pieces; same music and lyrics as 1511
22. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #37)
Same as 1585?
24. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/410)
1; lyrics same as 1511 but somewhat different melody

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