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31. Inscription on a Crude Dwelling
- shang mode,2 standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2  
陋室銘 1
Loushi Ming  
Calligraphy for this has been very popular 3 
From 1539 to 1878 at least 12 qin handbooks survive with musical settings of Loushi Ming, a poem by Liu Yuxi (772 - 842) proclaiming the nobility of rustic living.4 The traditional method of pairing lyrics to qin tablature (word-intensive with no purely musical interludes5) ensures that they all have a similar music structure to that of this earliest surviving version, in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539). Regarding the actual melodies, though, three of the first four melodies are very different from each other, while the other eight are all related to that fourth one.6 Some have commentary simply attributing the piece to Lou Yuxi, as though he also created the melody; others make it clear that their musical settings came later.

Liu Yuxi was a poet noted for his "folk-style poems" (see Wikipedia), and the earliest surviving preface to this melody, in the 1609 setting,7 emphasizes Liu Yuxi's respect for the simple life. Although the 1609 melody is very different from that of 1539, one might presume that the intention was the same, and so here the 1609 preface is used as a substitute preface for the present melody.

Further regarding the sentiments expressed in the Liu Yuxi lyrics, the sixth line is worthy of special mention for its Buddhist connection:

One can play unadorned qin music, or read the Diamond Sutra.

Although here "Jin Jing" does not necessarily refer to the famous Buddhist sutra as we know it, it most likely does refer to reading Buddhist texts. Liu Yuxi in his youth studied with two renowned Buddhis poets in the Shaoxing area, 靈澈 Lingche (746-816) and 皎然 Jiaoran (730-799), and his later works often reflected this Buddhist sensibility (Wiki). Here one can also imagine the reclusive literatus combining the two, meditating on sacred texts while playing qin, perhaps even creating melodies that in their minds fit the texts.

This indeed may be what was done later by the people who made and/or played the Heart Sutra setting.8

This 1539 setting is completely syllabic; there are no slides and few indications of other ornaments. It is said to be a shang mode melody presumably on the basis that the main tonal center is a note equivalent to the open second string (called the shang string). However, unlike most early Ming shang mode melodies its other main tonal center is yu (la) rather than gong (do). It is perhaps significant that the otherwise related 1590 version changes this, putting more emphasis on do.9

Original preface10
None, but the 1609 commentary can serve quite as well. My very tentative translation is as follows:

The person who created "Inscription on a Crude Dwelling" was Liu Yuxi of the Tang dynasty. How can a noble person hate living in a splendid abode, gaining fame in a crude dwelling? Destined for what in those days were the best luxuries, struggle to engrave something artful, and so create this literary intonation, be considered as a enjoying esteem in a crude alley, in a humble home nesting as a gentleman, enriched in body but not enriched by objects. I sympathize with the simply stated sincerity of (Liu Yuxi's) words, and so have matched them to music, so that people who later take their qins and play it, observing the words and taking nourishment from the virtue, will also not be ashamed if their own dwellings are crude, that's all."

Music and lyrics (II/151)11 (transcription; timings follow 錄音 my recording.
One Section, set to lyrics by Liu Yuxi. The structure of these lyrics suggests the melody might be divided into three parts, as shown. Note that the last line of the current version includes a phrase not in the most common version of the melody.

00.00 (Instrumental prelude adapted from the closing harmonics)

00.17 ([4+4] x 3)

Shān bù zài gāo, yǒu xian zé míng.
Mountains are not only about height: they only have fame if immortals live there.

Shuǐ bù zài shēn, yǒu lóng zé líng.
Waters are not only about depth: they only have spirit if a dragon lives in them.

Sī shì lòu shì, wéi wú dé xīn.
Thus is my simple hut, with only the fragrance of my own virtue.

00.44 ([5+5] + [5+5] + [5+3] + [6+6]

Tāi hén shàng jiē lǜ, cǎo sè rù lián qīng.
Green lichen is coming up the steps, the color of grass comes through the neutral window screen.

談笑有鴻儒,往來無白丁。 (quoted)
Tán xiào yǒu hóng rú, wǎng lái wú bái dīng.
Talk and laughter have erudition, no ignorant people pass to and fro.

Kě yǐ diào sù qín, yuè jīn jīng.
One can play unadorned qin music, examine the Diamond Sutra.

Wú sī zhú zhī luàn ěr, wú àn dú zhī láo xíng.
There is not the jarring sound of common music, no straining over work files.

01.27 (harmonics [5+5], then closing [3+4+4; written as stopped sounds but the 4+4 has fingering suggestive of harmonics])

Nányáng Zhūgé lú, xi shǔ zi yún tíng.
Nanyang had the cottage of Zhuge Liang, Western Sichuan had the pavilion of Yang Xiong.

Kǒngzǐ yún, (jūnzǐ jū zhī,) hé lòu zhī yǒu.
Confucius said, (Since it was gentlemen living there,) how could such places be crude?

02.01 (end)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Loushi Ming References
42549.14 gives two references, as follows:

42549.13 said 陋室 Lou Shi was the name of the home of Liu Yuxi.

2. Shang Mode (商調 shangdiao)
For further information on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Calligraphy for Loushi Ming
The above calligraphy, attributed to Zhao Mengfu, was copied from here; the original is apparently in the Guangdong Provincial Museum.

4. Tracing Loushi Ming
Zha's Guide 15/162/355 has this title in 12 handbooks (missing 1709), as follows,

1539 (II/151)
1585 (IV/345; new melody)
1590 (V/494; closely related to 1539 [comment])
1609 (VII/199; new melody; "徵音 zhiyin")
1611 (VII/466; like 1609)
late Ming (IX/475; "羽音 yu yin", but like 1609)
1709 (XIII/501; mode not indicated but same as 1609; attrib. Liu Yuxi)
1738 (XV/380; "商音 shang yin", but like 1609)
1739 (XVIII/186; "羽音 yu yin" & "元伯新譜 pu of Yuan Boxin" but like 1609)
1802 (XVII/533; "商音 shang yin", but like 1609)
1828 (XX/433; mode not state; like 1609)
1876 (XXV/217; "from 1802")
1878 (XXVI/--- [see XXVI/276: missing)

5. Pairing lyrics
Almost all qin songs have one Chinese character for each right hand stroke and left hand pluck; no words paired to slides. Further detail is given here.

6. Later versions
My examination of the latter versions has only been somewhat cursory.

7. Liu Yuxi

8. Expressing Buddhist sentiment through qin
Heart Sutra setting is said to have been made by a qin player for a friend who liked to recite the sutra (further on this aim).

9. Comparing the 1590 setting
I have played through the 1590 version but not recorded it. It was not uncommon for early Ming melodies to have non-pentatonic notes that later were changed to fit into the pentatonic system.

10. Original text of the introduction to the 1609 Loushi Ming
The original text in 楊掄伯牙心法 Yang Lun, Boya Xinfa, is as follows:


The translation above is quite tentative.

11. Music
The setting is almost completely syllabic.

A note on the translation
The poem has been translated by Herbert Giles as My Humble Home. It is included in Minford and Lau, Classical Chinese Literature, Vol. I, p. 1009. I consulted this in my own translation, presented
above. Giles' translation uses a prose structure and skips the lines about ignorant people and the qin.

The original poem by Liu Yuxi

劉禹錫﹕陋室銘 (聽錄音):


00.44 苔痕上階綠,草色入簾青。
談笑有鴻儒,往來無白丁。 (quoted)
01.27 南陽諸葛廬,西蜀子雲亭。
02.01 (完 end)

In the last line of Liu Yuxi's poem he omitted "君子居之" from the passage in Lun Yu which said, "君子居之,何陋之有。".

Return to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.