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27. Longing to Return Prelude
- Standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
思歸引 1
Si Gui Yin    
  A 19th century impression of Shi Chong at his estate3    
This melody is a setting for guqin of lyrics attributed to the wealty 4th century literatus Shi Chong (249-300). The only other setting for qin of these lyrics, in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585), is also included here as it has related but somewhat different music.4 Meanwhile, there is also a Longing to Return Intonation (also pronounced Si Gui Yin but with the character "yin" meaning "intonation"). However, it has no lyrics and seems to occur only once, in 1557, where it is applied to an unrelated melody also known as Huai Gu Yin.5

"Longing to Return" means "Longing to Return Home". This is the theme of both stories related in the 1511 preface to this song. The first tells of the virtuous Woman of Wei (in ancient times a small kingdom in what is today Henan province), who commits suicide when not allowed to return home;6 the second concerns the man credited with having written the lyrics, Shi Chong for this song. In his original preface to the poem Shi Chong explained quite clearly why he wrote the lyrics. However, most of this detail was omitted from the short preface actually included with the melody in its 1511 publication; here the preface has nothing about the home to which Shi Chong was longing to return, saying little more that that the melody already existed so he wrote lyrics for it.

From other sources, however, we have more detail. Specifically, Wen Xuan had an essay entitled Longing to Return Preface (Si Gui Yin Xu), by Shi Chong.7 Here Shi Chong, after saying he worked in office for 25 years, describes his estate at Heyang. He then writes that his family had musicians there, and that while there he himself enjoyed playing qin and reading books. However, he adds, he is now away from this and longs to return. Having heard a melody called Prelude to Longing to Return, in which men of old expressed the same feelings as his, he decided to write lyrics for the melody. He ends by lamenting that he could not find anyone knowledgeable enough to create a new melody for it, and/or to set it for string and bamboo instruments.

This preface, as well as the lyrics themselves, show that Shi Chong and his Si Gui Yin, dated ca. 296,8 can be compared to Tao Yuanming (365-427) and his famous poem Come Away Home, dated to 405. Tao's poem is also paired to a melody that survives first from the 1511 Taigu Yiyin.

Of further note, because of the way Shi Chong's story and lyrics follow the story of the death of the woman of Wei, perhaps the preface is suggesting that these thoughts of returning could also be alluding to something Shi Chong and his friend Pan Yue said to each other when they were about to be executed: they had always said they would "return to their fate" together.9
  Shi Chong's calligraphy honored by Wang Xizhi        
Before discussing Shi Chong's lyrics, which appear together with various commentaries in the Qin Melody section of the Yuefu Shiji (see below), mention should be made of another preface by Shi Chong. This one describes a literary gathering at his other, more famous estate, at Jingu, north of the Yellow River though still in what is today Henan province.11

This second preface includes a description by Shi Chong of a scene at his estate at Jin'Gu, outside of Luoyang, where numerous guests wrote poems during an event in 296 CE that sounds very much like the 修禊 Xiu Xi that took place in 353 CE at Lanting Pavilion near Shaoxing. That event most famously was commemorated in an essay by perhaps China's most famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi (see Lin He Xiuxi). Meanwhile the Jin'gu gathering has also been the subject of paintings such as those made about the Lanting event. Based on an account of this event in Shishuo Xinyu (16/3), illustrated at right in an Asiapac graphic illustration, one can only regret that the original copy by Shi Chong of his preface does not survive.12

At Jingu, as at Lanting, if the poems were not adequate the guests had to drink a measure of wine. The preface mentions that there were music instruments playing there, including "琴瑟笙筑": qin, se, sheng mouth organ and zhu bowed zither.

As for paintings of the Jin'gu gathering, I have read that there are some including one by 仇英, but Ihave not yet found any online.

Details about Shi Chong's death and the Jingu gathering are mentioned here because, although it is not mentioned in the preface, it would have been known to most people likely to have heard the melody at that time.

The lyrics used for the melody are included in the guqin melody section of Yuefu Shiji; the entry there begins with several prefaces, then has lyrics by three poets, Shi Chong himself, Liu Xiaowei (496-549) and then Zhang Hu (8th c.). Details of this entry are as follows.

Yuefu Shiji, Folio 58, #1, Si Gui Yin.13

Also called Leave Detention Melody (Li Ju Cao).14

Qin Cao says,15 ....
(The account here, copied almost verbatim in the 1511 preface, tells of a woman who is compared to the Virtuous Woman of Wei but who commits suicide after being detained against her will.)

Shi Chong's Si Gui Yin Preface says,16
"When Chong was young he had great ambition; later he enjoyed taking it easy. (The rest of this account is also copied below almost verbatim in the 1511 preface)

(To this someone, presumably Guo Maoqian himself, adds):
"But these thoughts of returning (si gui) are to Heyang and so concern a different matter" (than that of the woman who commited suicide because she could not go home).

Yuefu Jieti says,17
"Perhaps Liu Xiaowei of Liang's「胡地憑良馬」(the lyrics that begin his poem below) neatly state the attitude of someone longing to return." (Poem not yet translated; not mentioned in the 1511 preface.)

According to what the Qin Lun of Xie Xiyi (Xie Zhuang) 18 said:
"Jizi wrote Li Ju Cao." (Here the text is a bit different from what is in the 1511 preface.)

(Closing comment:)
This does not say that the Woman of Wei wrote it, and we cannot grasp the real story.

Yuefu Shiji then has the poem/lyrics attributed to Shi, followed by the two others with the same title. These other two are as follows,

Liu Xiaowei (496-549)

(Not yet translated)

Zhang Hu (8th c.)

(Not yet translated.)

Perhaps the most consistent conclusion one can draw from all of this is that the original melody concerned a woman of Wei, but then Shi Chong added lyrics about his own longing to return home. However, for this to apply here would require the melody to predate Shi Chong, and there is no evidence for this. So in the end we can only read all the stories, then use these to enrich our appreciation of the melody and lyrics rather than to feel frustrated at not knowing which explanations and stories, if any, are "correct".

As for the music itself, here it is interesting to compare the present 1511 setting with alternate interpretations as well as the setting of the same lyrics in 1585:

As can be seem, both the 1511 and 1585 settings are largely syllabic arrangements of the Yuefu Shiji poem by Shi Chong. The poem has 10 lines, all ending on the same rhyme ("..ang"). Although neither the poem nor either of the tablatures indicates separate sections, both melodies can be divided in two: the first part, which has four lines in harmonics, concerns returning home; the second part, written as six lines of stopped sounds, has the lyrics about the scene at home. However, in 1511 there seems to be a harmonic closing, though this is not directly indicated. In fact, it can be played in stopped sounds, and one might do that for effect, but it is quite awkward and may sound as though one is trying perhaps to be too clever.

Except for the second line, which is 3+5 characters, the lyric structure mixes lines of 3+3 with lines of 7 syllables. The 1585 version has no repeats, but in two places within the 1511 setting (indicated below by repeated punctuation marks) the tablature says, "再作 play again". There is no indication showing from where the repeat begins. There is also no indication as to whether the lyrics should be sung twice when the musical phrase is repeated. For this I have made two interpretations:

  1. My original interpretatation is that in each case the whole line should be repeated; the lyrics are not repeated.
  2. The second interpretation is that the first repeat is from the beginning of the piece but it serves as a sort of prelude, with a pause before it is repeated and the lyrics are sung only on the repeat; the second repeat only repeats the previous three notes, which are also not sung on the repeat.
  3. The third interpretation is again has the first repeat going back to the beginning of the piece and serves as a sort of prelude, while the second repeat goes back to the beginning of the stopped sounds section; in this case the second appearance of a repeated phrase is seen as a kind of prelude to that section; the lyrics are sung only on the repeats.

The 1585 version has no repeats and perhaps for that reason its structure seems more related to that of the second interpretation, where the initial occurrence of each repeated part, being treated as a sort of prelude, is not part of the melody itself. Thus, for example, with the 1585 version one could make it more similar to the second interpretation of the 1511 setting by simply repeating the first phrase of the piece and the first two phrases of the stoped sound sections (see my transcription, mm. 1-2 and 13-16).19

Such structures have definite implications for the rhythm, which is not directly indicated by the tablature (about which see further). This can be easily seen by listening to and comparing the recordings of the 1511 and 1585 versions, linked above. There the rhythms I have selected fit in with my personal understanding of which words might be emphasied in terms of beat and length if one is reading the lyrics in a rhythmic manner. In addition, with qin songs the lyrics are almost always paired one note for each right hand pluck, and they go from beginning to end without a break. Because of this, on my recordings I like to play a few notes before the song begins. I usually take these few notes from the closing harmonics. Note, however, in the 1585 recording I do this by playing the first line (6 notes) twice. That means the opening repeat is not part of the main melody (as with my 1511 version), but instead the pause before the repeat ensures that only the repeat is part of the main melody. This accounts for almost all of the rhythmic differences between the opening harmnic sections of the two version.

My experience working out such variations reinforces my belief that in the past there was a very active tradition qin songs that were not written down: how do you decide how to write down something which changes each time it is played? Especially if the convention was that required wherever there were notes there had to be words, a musician might feel the need to add notes (and not just embellishments) here and there.

As for mode, this is discussed further here.

The preface here follows the same basic outline as in Yuefu Shiji (q.v.), but omits the Yuefu Jieti comments and shortens some of the others.

According to Qin Cao, There was a virtuous woman of Wei. The king of Shao (Zhao) was betrothed to her, but before she arrived the king died. The heir apparent said, "I have heard that Duke Huan of Qi having Wei Ji (Wei as his concubine?) became all powerful. This woman of Wei is virtuous; I would like to keep her with me." His prime minister said, "This is impermissible. If she is virtuous it must be that she will not go along with what we say; if she goes along with what we say it must be that she is not so virtuous." The heir apparent went ahead and kept her, with the result that she was not obedient. She was detained deep inside the palace, where she played qin and created this (melody), then strangled herself and died.

Shi Chong of Jin said, "In ancient times there was a Si Gui Yin to be played on strings but without lyrics, so I have created lyrics for it." But these thoughts of returning (si gui) are to (his estate in) Heyang and so concern a different matter" (than the suicide of this girl, who could not go home),

Music and lyrics ;21 聽錄音 listen to:
        Recording 1 (played twice) with transcription
        Recording 2 (played once, repeat interpreted differently) and its own transcription
        Recording 3 (played once) with its own transcription
        Compare these with each other and this 1585 version
        (As yet none of the recordings includes singing)
These are largely syllabic settings of the Yuefu Shiji poem by Shi Chong. A repeated punctuation mark here means that the tablature says, "再作 play again". There is further comment on the musical structure above.

思歸引 Si Gui Yin; lyrics by 石崇 Shi Chong

(泛音起 harmonics begin)
Si gui yin, gui He Yang. ......
(My) Longing to Return Prelude, (refers to) my returning to

Jia yu yi, hong yan gao fei xiang.
It is as if I have wings, like the geese and cranes flying high around.

Jing Mang Fu, ji He liang.
Passing Mangfu (hills near Luoyang), crossing a bridge over the (Yellow) River,

Wang wo jiu guan xin yue kang.
On seeing my old house my heart is joyful.
(泛音止 Harmonics end)

Qing qu ji, yu pang huang.
Clear water overflows from canals, and fish frolic.

Yan jing su bo qun xiang jiang. .......
(Swimming) geese are startled as they struggle against the tide, the flock encouraging each other.

Zhong ri zhou lan le wu fang.
All day long I gaze around and my joy has no limit. (comment)

Deng yun ge, lie Ji Jiang
Climbing to the Chamber in the Clouds, I find an array (of exemplary women),

Fu si zhu, kou gong shang.
Tapping on string and bamboo instruments,
(harmonics begin           beating out musical notes.

Yan Yao Chi, zhuo yu shang.
And feasting at the Heavenly Pool, we fill our jade wine-cups.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. (QQJC I/307) Longing to Return Prelude (思歸引 Si Gui Yin)
Translating "引 yin" is problematic. "Yin" are generally short and there a a number of them that precede a clearly related longer melody. In most places, however, including there, there is no known longer melody. The story of Si Gui Yin says the lyrics were applied to an older melody, but that melody is not named and it is not possible to know if it was also intended as a prelude.

My understanding of the Shi Chong preface (序) and poem as well as its background was greatly assisted by "The Estate of Shi Chong", an article sent to me in November 2011 by David Knechtges and subsequently published, as "Estate Culture in Early Medieval China: The Case of Shi Chong", in Early Medieval China: a Sourcebook, Columbia University Press, 2012, edited by Wendy Swartz, Robert Ford Campany, Yang Lu and Jessey Choo.

10734.260 思歸引 Si Gui Yin says it is a qin melody also called Li Ju Cao (離拘操 Leave Detention Melody); there is no mention of a 離鸞操 Li Luan Cao. It quotes the Yuefu Shiji preface (which gave Li Ju Cao as an alternate title), Qin Cao, and another poem of this title said to be in the Old Yuefu. Si Gui Yin is in various melody lists, such as here, as well as being the fourth prelude in Qin Cao.

Variants on the title "Longing to Return" can be found elsewhere. References on this site include the phrase Confucius Longs to Return (仲尼思歸 Zhongni Si Gui) in Cai Yong's Rhapsody on the Qin (see further comment below). And Qinshu Daquan Folio 13 includes amongst its list of melodies quite a few with "Longing to Return" in the title. These are, in order:

  1. Si Gui Cao (思歸操)
  2. Si Gui Zuo (思歸作)
  3. Si Gui Yin (思歸引)
  4. Si Gui Tan (思歸彈)
  5. another Si Gui Cao
  6. another Si Gui Tan
  7. Ying Ke Si Gui (郢客思歸)

Some of these are also in the Qin Yuan Yao Lü . However, the only Longing to Return Intonation (思歸吟 Si Gui Yin) I have found is the melody mentioned below.

2. Tuning and mode
Taigu Yiyin does not group pieces by mode. My transcription treats the first string as do (1). This makes melody largely pentatonic (using the notes do re mi so la, i.e., 1 2 3 5 6), though fa (4) occurs 3 times. Most phrases end on 5 or 2, making these the primary tonal centers. The mode closest to having these characteristics is zhi diao (the pitch of the tonal center is that of the open fourth string, called zhi). One might point out that in the closing harmonics the tonal center angles towards 1 and the melody ends on 5 over 1. Other melodies have this same characteristic: being in a different mode throughout then suddently ending on 1, 5 over 1, or 1 over 5.

Note, however, that the 1585 version of the melody not only has the same modal characteristics throughout, it also ends on 5 (i.e., it does not change to 1 in the last phrase). It, however, is grouped with shang mode melodies. The only way I can understand that grouping is that if the tuning were to be considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 then the open fourth string would be the note shang (2, re) instead of zhi (sol). However, in standard Ming dynasty practice shang mode melodies all use 1 2 4 5 6 as their relative tuning.

3. Shi Chong at Jingu? (full scroll)
The image, taken from an online auction site, identifies it as 白色緞顧繡石崇金谷園圖軸 清嘉慶 (1796-1821) an anonymous early 19th century painting of Shi Chong at Jin Gu, his more famous estate. There have been many paintings of Shi Chong's estate.

4. Tracing Si Gui Yin (see tracing chart)
Zha's Guide 14/146/253 lists this only here and in 1585, but it is also used as the title of at least one version of Huai Gu Yin (next).

5. Longing to Return Intonation (思歸吟 Si Gui Yin
This piece is better known as Cherish Antiquity Intonation (懷古吟 Huai Gu Yin), though in its earliest known publication it was called Calmly Expansive Intonation (夷曠吟 Yikuang Yin). It is discussed here under the Huai Gu Yin of 1525.

6. 衛女 Woman of Wei
衛女 34896.8 Young woman from Wei 衛賢女 34896.xxx (Virtuous Woman of Wei). In my commentary on the entry in Qin Shi #52 I have not been able completely to clarify her details.

7. 石崇《思歸引序》 Shi Chong's Preface to Si Gui Yin
See the Haixiao Chubanshiye edition of Wen Xuan, pp. 2187-9. This is the most complete version of the preface. The Yuefu Shiji preface attributed to Shi Chong, is much shorter.

It is not clear to me why the poem itself was not included in Wen Xuan. Both the poem and this preface have been translated by David Knechtges in his "Estate Culture in Early Medieval China: The Case of Shi Chong" (see above). Shi Chong actually had two estates. This preface describes the estate was at 河陽 Heyang, north of the Yellow River; the other preface concerns a literary getherating at his other, more famous estate at 金谷 Jin Gu.

The original text of the preface in Wen Xuan is as follows:


Note that, in addition to enjoying qin and books, Shi Chong wrote that he was also fond of "服食嚥氣 ingesting elixirs and performing breathing exercises".

8. Date of the Si Gui Yin preface and lyrics
I have not seen a date assigned to the preface, but it seems to have dated from around the time of the Jin Gu gathering. As for the lyrics, Knechtges says only that it "has been transmitted under Shi Chong’s name". Thus, although the inclusion of the lyrics in the Yuefu Shiji guarantees a certain degree of antiquity, it does not guarantee they were written by Shi Chong himself.

9. Execution of Shi Chong
Shi Chong was executed in the year 300 together with his friend, the poet Pan Yue. Shishuo Xinyu (36/1; p.526) wrote that at the execution ground they recalled that they had always said to each other, "白首同所歸 As our hair turns white we will return to a common fate". This puts an additional dimension to the title of the lyrics sung here (though it should also be noted that Shi Chong himself was said to have been quite bloodthirsty).

11. Jingu Estate Preface
Shi Chong, said to have been one of the wealthiest men of his day, actually had two famous villas, one in 金谷 Jin Gu for luxurious banquets, and a more personal one at 河陽 Heyang (north of the Yellow River). His preface to the gather at the Jin Gu estate has also been translated by David Knechtges in his "Estate Culture" essay listed above, as well as by Richard Mather in his translation of Shishuo Xinyu 9/47 (p.284 footnote 1).

12. Comparing calligraphy commemorating the gatherings at Jingu and Lanting
In the image above, Asiapac retells from Shishuo Xinyu 16/3 (p.344) how Wang Xizhi was pleased whenever his calligraphy for the Lanting Preface was compared to that by Shi Chong for the Jin Gu Poems. The original text in Shishuo Xinyu says, "王右軍得人以蘭亭集序方金谷詩序, 又以已敵石崇,甚有欣色。 ". "詩 Shi" is translated as "poems" instead of 'poem" because it refers to poems that were written by various people at the event. Only one of those poems (by Pan Yue) has survived. As for surviving 石崇書法 calligraphy by Shi Chong, although I have not found any examples, I am not an expert in this area.

Further regarding Xiu Xi, see Xiuxi Yin as well as Liu Shang.

13. Yuefu Shiji Chinese edition p. 838

14. Leave Detention Melody (離拘操 Li Ju Cao)
43079.xxx. The 拘 ju in the title is the same word used to describe the Woman of Wei's situation in the palace: 拘於深宮 she was detained deep inside it. Presumably, having played "Longing to Return (Home)" on the qin she left this detention by hanging herself. This title can be found in some melody lists, e.g., here, but it is not in Qin Cao and there is no reason to assume it had any melodic connection to the present Si Gui Yin,

15. Qin Cao Preface in Yuefu Shiji
Si Gui Yin is one of the Nine Preludes in the Qin Cao attributed to Cai Yong. The preface in the Qin Cao as included in TKW Qin Fu, p. 744, is almost the same, adding at the front "衛女之所作也 it was created by Wei Nü" (see Qin Shi #52.); a double column commentary then says, "一曰離物操。案古交苑蔡邕琴賦注琴操有離鸞。離物疑即離鸞之譌。", i.e., that it was also called Li Wu Cao but that Liwu was a mistake for Li Luan. Li Luan is actually a title listed in Qin Li as well as in an alternate list of Qin Cao.

The Qin Cao preface as copied in Yuefu Shiji is:

16. Shi Chong Preface in Yuefu Shiji
This begins with the Shi Chong preface as included with 1511 tablature for the melody, as follows:
To this is added: 但思歸河陽別業,與《琴操》異也。

17. Yuefu Jieti comment in Yuefu Shiji
The original Chinese is:

18. Xie Xiyi comment in Yuefu Shiji
For Li Ju Cao see above.
The original Chinese here is:
To this is added: 不言衛女作,未知孰是。

19. Comparing settings from 1511 and 1585
The fact that the stopped sound portions of both versions use the same lyrics suggests a connection. The fact that the 1511 version seems to add harmonics at the end, though this is not spelled out, while the 1585 ending clearly can not be played in harmonics, could suggest that whoever made the 1585 setting was familiar with the 1511 tablature but not with the way that tablature was actually played.

20. Original preface
The original Chinese preface in Taigu Yiyin consists of abridgments from three of the Yuefu Shiji comments (see above). The full 1511 text is as follows:


As can be seen, the preface quotes only part of Shi Chong's preface in Yuefu Shiji, which in turn was much shorter than Shi Chong's original preface as included in Wen Xuan.

21. Original lyrics
Regarding the arrangement of the lines after the present one, the overall rhythming pattern of these lyrics suggests that the last six phrases of the melody should considered as [3+3] x 3 . By tying this with the previous 7-character phrase it is possible to arrange the musical rhythm so that the melody ends with a neat 4-line passage that follows the rhyme, as follows:
However, the musical phrasing in the 1511 tablature, with the last three phrases played in 泛音 harmonics, the tonal center changing there to do, and the fingering paralleling that of the three previous phrases, suggests that 終日周覽樂無方 was intended to connect musically with the previous line, and then the melody should end with two lines arranged as [3+3+3] x 2 , as follows:
Qin tablature indicates only how to play the notes, thereby specifying pitch but not directly indicating note values (rhythm), which would have been learned from the teacher. Based largely on my own understanding of the lyrics (there is more flexibility in interpreting the music) my tendency is to prefer the former interpretation.

Regarding the "exemplary women" (列姬姜 lie Ji Jiang), this is stated by referring to two famous women mentioned in the Biographies of Exemplary Women (列女傳 Lienü Zhuan): 莊樊姬 Fan Ji wife of King Zhuang of Chu and 姜后 Queen Jiang, wife of the King of Zhou.

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Appendix: Chart Tracing 思歸引 Si Gui Yin
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 14/146/253

    (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
18. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/328)
3; 思歸吟 Si Gui Yin (different yin; no lyrics);
This melody, found only here, is actually a version of Huai Gu Yin
    . 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #36)
Earlier version of 1585 (pdf)
  2. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/411)
1; consult the recording and transcription as well as this comparison with the 1511 tablature.

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