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40. Unity of the Great Ming
- standard tuning: 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 (shang mode?2)
大明一統 1
Da Ming Yi Tong  
Da Ming Yi Tong had two versions 3      
Da Ming Yi Tong is a song (or hymn) in praise of the then-current dynasty; it is not divided into sections. The source of both the lyrics and the music are not clear. Phrases from the lyrics can be found in various contemporary sources,4 but the complete lyrics apparently survive only in two qin handbooks:5 one was published in 1539 by a Ming prince, Zhu Houjiao; the other was published in 1589 by a court eunuch, Zhang Jinchao. One might thus wonder whether the musical accompaniment for Da Ming Yi Tong had any connection to music of the court.6 The fact that the qin tablatures from 1539 and 1589 produce two entirely different melodies, neither connected with any other known melodies, complicates determining their source or signifance.

The two versions of Da Ming Yi Tong can be further outlined as follows:

  1. Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539)7
    Grouped with shang mode songs (#27-42). The handbook has no commentary but in his Guide Zha Fuxi attributes it to prince Zhu Houjiao himself, not specifying whether he means the words, the music or both. It is not clear on what basis Zha made this attribution.8
  2. Yuwu Qinpu (1589)9
    Grouped with melodies using guxian tuning, and the last melody in the handbook. The only commentary here says it was created by that dynasty's Liu Ji,10 with the tablature paired to it having come from "Yuwu" (Zhang Jinchao).11

Yuwu Qinpu omits the last line of the 1539 lyrics, otherwise the lyrics of both are the same; the music, though, is completely different.

With the attribution in Yuwu Qinpu it is also not clear whether this is referring to the words, the music, or both; on the other hand, one might assume that it refers to the music, since the words had been already been published fifty years earlier. In addition to being the last melody in that handbook, it is also the only one there not included 13 years later in Zangchunwu Qinpu

In early 2014 I wrote out transcriptions of both the 1539 and 1589 Da Ming Yi Tong and then made recordings of these reconstructions. However, until I have a better translation of the lyrics I consider both reconstruction quite tentative.12 This is particularly true of the latter: for my reconstruction of 1539 I can givea number of reasons for how I selected note values; for that of 1589, on the other hand, it is so far much more a matter of guesswork.13

In reconstructing these melodies as qin songs one must consider to what extent, if any, do the tones of the lyrics follow the contours of the melody. I have not yet seen such analysis for either of these two versions of Da Ming Yi Tong, but since their melodic contours are quite different from each other, if the tonal structure did fit one of the melodies, it is unlikely it would fit the other.

The stye and content of this melody is interestingly similar to that of the 1530 18 Scholars Ascend Yingzhou.

Original preface
In Fengxuan Xuanpin none of the melodies has accompanying commentary.

Music and lyrics:14
The lyrics here give a good account of then contemporary Chinese attitudes concerning the relative responsibilities of the ruler and those ruled. However, the present translation of the lyrics is still tentative and for general guidelines only. (See also the comment on mode.)

Regarding structure, the original is punctuated but otherwise no divisions are directly indicated. Here sections have been arranged according to rhyme scheme, with underlined numbers indicating divisions based on metrical structure; these can also be clearly seen in the Chinese lyrics).15

Da Ming Yi Tong timings below are based on my recording of the 1539 version (listen; see transcription; compare 1589 transcription and 1589 commentary);
 lyrics are paired to tablature largely by the traditional method that applies one character to each right hand stroke/pluck.

(On the recording the harmonic coda is also played here at the front16 )
([4+4] x 14 : ) The Great Ming is united, may the emperor live myriad years!           (看中文   bilingual pdf)
His decrees are sent from above, (but) allow people to voice (their opinions) directly.
The ruler's capacity is magnanimous, his sacred virtue brightening the firmament.
Rewarding the good while punishing the bad, giving reprimands while rewarding the worthy.
Venerating Confucian thought and examining history, strengthening the country with gentle power.
A pure heart with few desires, adding years to lives full and strong.
00.52 Having ascending the throne he recalls the bitterness (that preceded it), (and thus) wishes to be lenient with common folk,
When spending he is careful and frugal, accumulations bringing prosperity.
Defending the frontier, drilling skilled soldiers,
Clear and just principles, spreading the clarion call of peace.
Heaven and earth will last forever, with seas calm and rivers clear.
01.19 All the people have trust (in him), all countries rely on what is correct.
Having virtuous imperial wisdom, he does not distress his assistants (e.g., magistrates).
In a hundred affairs all are devoted, in plain words counseling (what is right).
01.46 ([7+6] x 4 : ) Living in thatched homes what can one use for rewards? (We can) gaze at the Golden Gate17 but it is hard to enter.
(So we) express sincere feelings through the silk and wood (of the qin); and expand emotions with elegant taste.
02.04 The phoenix soars to the Milky Way, gazing at brilliant shining virtue while residing there.
Unicorns are seen in remote marshes, meeting sacred personages as they collect there.
02.22 ([7+5] x 3 : ) Alas! Alas! O ancient sacrificial dress: at my level how can (my clothing) compare?
We cherish the country and fondly think of its leaders, (even people living in) the wild think the same.
Having used plain words to give advice with loyalty and righteousness, how could this heart forget you?
([7+7] x 2 : ) High Mountains and Flowing Streams: the aim is here; White Snow and Sunny Spring: pleased to hide in retirement.
03.03 The Great Ming uniform rule is called out in the qin's name, through all eternity is the sacred Ming rule.
(7x1 :   harmonic coda) To the emperor: long life! Long long life!

Many thanks to Juni Yeung for assistance on this translation (mistakes remain my own).

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Unity of the Great Ming (大明一統 Da Ming Yi Tong)
Literally, "Great Ming One Rule", it could also be translated as Unified Great Ming, or, Uniform Rule of the Great Ming. The only dictionary references seem to be unrelated to the song title:

There is no mention of music.

2. Shang Mode (商調 shang diao)?
Shenpin Shang Yi has detailed information about the shang mode, including detail as to why the tuning is considered as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 rather than 5 6 1 2 3 5 6, while Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature has general information about all the musical modes as played on the qin during the Ming dynasty. The information there shows that in qin tablature during the Ming dynasty, in order to get the most consistent results in grouping melodies by mode it is generally necessary to group them based on their tonal centers, these being determined by the final notes of phrases, sections and melodies. In this way it will be seen that shang mode melodies almost always have gong (do) as their main tonal center, with shang (re) and zhi (sol) as secondary centers. It should be emphasized that this is my own observation based on playing hundreds of Ming dynasty melodies - this analysis cannot be found in contemporary theoretical documents. If one tries to use the opening note of phrases to determine modes, instead of the closing notes, then there is not the same consistency between the names given to the modes and their modal characteristics.

The 1539 version of Da Ming Yi Tong may provide an exception to this rule. This melody should be analyzed based on a structure in which its lyrics consist of 23 couplets plus a final 7-character line that in addition to not being a couplet is also not included in the text of the 1589 Da Ming Yi Tong. In 1539 the final 7-character phrase is set to a harmonic coda ending on do; as for the 23 couplets, only two end on do, one ends on la, and all the others end either on sol or re (similarly, for the first phrase of each couplet, two end on do, two on la, the rest on sol or re). To give the prominence to do that is normally given to it in shang mode melodies, one must consider the opening notes of phrases as much as the closing ones: here in fact more than half the 23 couplets begin on the note do. Nevertheless, it does seem that the presenmt melody may have been considered to be in shang mode mainly because the relative note shang (played on the open string called shang) was considered as the primary tonal center.

Except for the fact of the final coda ending on do and what seems to be a prominence of re over sol, this modal structure is more characteristic of the zhi mode, which generally has the open 4th string (called zhi) as its main tonal center. This makes its coda ending on do sound quite detached from the rest of the melody (see also the comment above: could the fact that the 1589 version omits the final seven characters suggest that they had been tacked on inappropriately?).

There are, in addition, several non-pentatonic notes, mostly fa but also ti and, most startlingly, sharpened fa. As for the sharpened fa, its use as the first note of lines 7 and 11 helps show that the structure of lines 5 to 8 is parallel to that of lines 9 to 12, thus not following the poem's rhyme scheme (see in the Chinese lyrics below).

3. Image: Tablature for two versions of Da Ming Yi Tong (also see map)
The tablature here shows the title and first line of the 1539 (right) and 1589 (left) tablatures for Da Ming Yi Tong. For the music itself each line has two columns, the right hand with the lyrics, the left with the tablature to which it is paired.

4. Sources for Da Ming Yi Tong Daming Yitong Fu by Mo Dan  
Professor Ulrich Theobald of the University of Tübingen, whose website China Knowledge includes the page on Da Ming Yi Tong Zhi linked above, wrote to me that

A lot of the phrases in this qin setting are standard expressions used in documents of official use, like memorials or semi-official letters. The text of the Da-Ming Yitong might therefore be seen as a hymn using standard phrases used and known by many courtiers, and thus easy to understand and to memorize.

He also mentions several references to a specific Da Ming Yi Tong Rhapsody (大明一統賦); some, such as the one on the right attributed to 莫旦 Mo Dan, are still extant; I have not yet seen one that includes text also found with the qin melody lyrics.

5. Tracing Da Ming Yi Tong
Zha Guide 16/164/362. I am not aware of either the lyrics or music existing separate from the qin repertoire. On p.16 of his Guide Zha makes his attribution of this piece to 朱厚爝 Zhu Houjiao himself; could this have been simply because of the nature of the lyrics combined with Zhu Houjiao being a prince?

6. Possible connections between Da Ming Yi Tong and court music
Earlier I have speculated on possible connections between early qin music and Tang dynasty court music as preserved in the earliest texts in the Japanese Togaku tradition (if one could find any melodies or even melodic fragments in common this would be of considerable signifance in efforts to reconstruct both). To my knowledge all the scholars in that field say the qin tradition is completely divorced from the court tradition and so they have not yet explored any possible connections.

Melodies in the surviving qin repertoire that might seem to have a logical connection to court ritual melodies are very few in number. One might speculate, for example, that Zheng Qi Ge or Sheng De Song would make appropriate texts for court music. However, there seems to be no specific evidence for any such connections.

The lack of information about Da Ming Yi Tong complicates determining its purpose. Is is a meditation? A hymn? Or might it have been intended to serve as what today would be called a National Anthem (see, for example, Strengthen our Golden Realm [鞏金甌 Gong Jin Ou; Wiki], composed at the end of the Qing dynasty in an attempt to provide China with such an anthem)? IN this regard it is interesting to imagine how the former might sound if given a the sort of grandiose treatment applied to the latter (a number of renditions exist on YouTube), just as it would be interesting to hear how the latter might sound if played solo on the qin.

7. Daming Yitong from 1539 (QQJC, II/164)
This particular version of the melody does not seem to occur anywhere else (compare 1589 below).

8. Attribution by Zha Fuxi
The Zha Guide lists 17 melodies as appearing for the first time in Fengxuan Xuanpin, but because its dating of Xilutang Qintong was apparently incorrect, only eight melodies here cannot be traced to earlier sources. Of these (or any other melody), Da Ming Yi Tong is the only one attributed to the compiler of the handbook, Zhu Houjiao. The others either copy an attribution given elsewhere (Fengxuan Xuanpin itself has no commentary on individual melodies) or say simply "明代以前 pre-Ming" or "明代民間 from the people of the Ming dynasty".

9. Daming Yitong from 1589 (QQJC, VI/105) 聽錄音 Listen to my recording (3.39)
Guxian mode (tighten 2nd/5th/7th strings: 6 1 2 3 5 6 1 )
The attached recording of my reconstruction from the 1589 tablature for Da Ming Yi Tong is quite tentative. This is is because I am not yet confident of my understanding of the structure - further details on the problems of structure are included later in this footnote. These issues have so far made it much more difficult to memorize the 1589 version than the 1539 one. Accordingly, the tentative recording attached here had to be done in segments, as I have not yet memorized the entire piece.

The inclusion of this version as the last melody in Yuwu Qinpu (plus the fact that it is the only melody in this handbook not included also in Zangchunwu Qinpu) at first suggested it might have been tacked on here and might use standard tuning, as did its 1539 predecessor. However, playing it with standard tuning did not lead to coherent results. Here it is placed after three melodies using guxian tuning melodies, and only if it is played using this tuning does it conform to the standard Chinese pentatonic scale, 1 2 3 5 6 1 . As with many melodies using this tuning, the tonal centers shift between la with mi and do with so.

As with the 1539 version, the melody here is not divided into sections. In addition, some of its punctuation seems to be missing, plus its use of "八上" (above 8) in addition to "七八" (between 7 and 8) to indicate finger position causes some problems of note interpretation. For example, in some places following the pentatonic scale requires "above 8" to mean 7.9, while in other places it requires 7.6; however, while sometimes the non-pentatonic note seems clearly inappropriate, in other places it seems more interesting than the pentatonic note.

The main problem, however, is finding the structure. Whereas the 1539 version has what seems to me much phrasing suggestive of its overall structure (see analysis below), the 1589 version does not. For example, the 1539 versions have lines that seem clearly intended to parallel each other: bringing out these parallels suggests certain rhythms. For example, the 1539 version tends to put certain ornaments in fixed places, 1589 does not. And the 1539 often used the same finger patterns at the beginnning of related lines, whereas 1589 did not.

The 1589 preface here is very short, saying only,

By the current dynasty's Liu Ji (next footnote); Yuwu inserted the tablature.

"Inserted" may suggest Yuwu took an existing melody and applied it to these lyrics. More likely, though, it suggests he created the melody to fit the lyrics. As with the 1539 version, it pairs lyrics and melody according to the standard formula for qin songs.

10. Possible connection to 劉基 Liu Ji
See previous footnote for the original comment. Liu Ji (1311 - 1375) was a noted critic of the Yuan and early supporter of the Ming. His place in popular culture is discussed under another qin melody sometimes associated with him, Ke Chuang Yehua. He is said to have written a book of prophesies called Flatbread Song Complete Text (燒餅歌全文 Shaobin Ge Quanwen), related to which there is a Flatbread Song (燒餅歌 Shaobin Ge) in three short verses (each [7+7] x 2).

Joseph Lam, State Sacrifices, pp.6-7, quotes a "eulogy" by Liu Ji of an early Ming state sacrifice.

11. "玉梧閏譜 Yuwu inserted the tablature"
Yuwu was a nickname for Zhang Jinchao, who compiled Yuwu Qinpu.

12. Dapu of the 1539 Da Ming Yi Tong
The tablature is easily transcribed into staff notation, with the phrasing clearly indicated and only a few questionable notes. However, selecting rhythms that make the notes gel into convincing musical expression is more problematic. Reasons for this include the following:

  1. The pattern of the fingering has so far suggested to me regular rhythms, but this leads to too much repetitiveness.
  2. Trying to get variety by forming sections in accord with either the metric structure or the rhyme scheme has so far seemed too artificial.
  3. Using a free rhythm may make the melody more interesting, but it seems at odd with my (quite incomplete) understanding of the intention of the lyrics, which suggest to me rather grandiose aims.
  4. The modality throughout the piece is different from all other Ming melodies I have reconstructed, but then the closing phrase is quite standard; as a result it seems more like a jarring transition that like a closing.

Related to the issue of regular rhythms is the use of 對起 duiqi and 搯起 taoqi. For most of the melody there is precisely one duiqi or taoqi in each couplet (excepting those written in harmonics). On the other hand, many qin songs have the custom of pairing one character (or two) to each duiqi but none to taoqi. Here no such distinction is made; at the beginning and end of the melody no characters are assigned to either, but there is a section in the middle where for four consecutive occurences one is assigned to each.

Further in connection with the modality and possible mistaken notes, the music with the penultimate phrase (萬古千秋明聖治) includes two notes played at position 6 (5.9) on the seventh string - with the first string as C (do) this is an F#. The identical musical phrase appears in the middle of the piece, paired to "托情悃於絲桐兮". This sounds very interesting on the first appearance, and it would also work if interpreted as 6.2, i.e., F. However, where it appears at the end of the piece the effect of either of these completely clashes with the closing harmonics: here it would be better to interpret the 6 as 5.6, which would be G. Or perhaps better, either change or omit the closing harmonics (unless the strange musical clash is intended to emphasize the phrase "Long live the Emperor".)

The other passage with a problem concerning the actual pitches is the one near the end paired to "懷九州而想君兮,草莽俱同一". The note on 君 should presumably be the open second string instead of the open first, while my current assumption on the notes paired to 草 and 莽 (which as written say "ninth position then return to ninth position") should each have slides from the ninth position to the 10th, then returns to the ninth.

13. Dapu of the 1589 Da Ming Yi Tong
As yet my examination of the Yuwu Qinpu version has not provided any help in understanding the 1539 version, or vice versa. In particular, it does not seem that the later melody was a variation of the earlier one, or that it was intended to be played or sung with the same rhythms as the earlier version.

The 1589 Da Ming Yi Tong is analyzed further above, together with a linked recording.

14. 大明一統歌詞 Da Ming Yi Tong lyrics
Although the original tablature indicates no divisions, the metrical structure shows that the 23 couplets (plus in 1539 the closing line) can be divided as follows:

(4 + 4) x 14
(7 + 6) x 4
(7 + 5) x 3
(7 + 7) x 2
7 [closing harmonics])

Here the original lyrics are separated by rhyme scheme, which is a bit different from the metrical structure:

See English translation
尾聲 added from end [comment])
崇儒鑒史,固國輕權。   (line 5: see comment above on lines 5 to 12 [崇 to 貞] in 1539)
00.52 踐祚念苦,欲民從輕。   (1539: 踐 is written as fa sharp)
天長地久,海晏河清。   (1539: 天 is written as fa sharp)
01.19 兆民賴之,萬邦以貞。   (These three lines do not seem to have a rhyme scheme)
百事具忠,直言諫勸。   (Pause)
01.46 居草茅以何酬兮,瞻金門而難入。
托情悃於絲桐兮,聊申懷於雅趣。   情 slides up to fa sharp
02.04 鳳凰翔於霄漢兮,覽德輝而斯寓。   This line and the next, though not rhyming, clearly form a pair.
02.22 吁嗟吁嗟黼黻兮,我曹何能及。
03.04 大明一統號琴名,萬古千秋明聖治。   (1539: 古 slides up to fa sharp)
皇帝萬歲萬萬歲。 (This coda is omitted from the version in Yuwu Qinpu)

15. Structure of Da Ming Yi Tong
Part of doing the musical reconstruction is determining to what extent, if any, the music can/should vary based on the rhyme scheme or metrical structure. Here sometimes the structure of the music, the metrical structure and the rhyme scheme seem to be in conflict. For example, the two lines about phoenixes and unicorns are clearly a couplet, both by meaning and by musical structure, but instead of rhyming they seem to be in different rhyming sections.

Other factors in reconstruction are left hand ornamentation and right hand stroke patterns. In the 1539 version there a generally no characters paired with left hand ornaments (the only exceptions are the two duiqi in lines 17 and 18; these are also the only duiqi that don't follow the second stroke of a phrase: here they follow the third stroke). As for right hand stroke patterns, certain sequences seem to be repeated in particular places, thereby suggesting certain rhythmic patterns (see, for example, the fingering of the first phrase in each of lines 1 and 2, then lines 3 and 4).

As for the overall musical structure of the 1539 Da Ming Yi Tong, according to my understanding of the tablature the 23+1 lines of poetry are divided into two sections plus an ending with coda. (Timings follow my recording.)

00.00 (In my recording I use the closing harmonics as a prelude
00.13 Lines 1 and 2 are paralleled by lines 3 and 4 (lines 1 to 14 form one unit: [4+4]x14)
00.41 Lines 5 to 8 are paralleled by lines 9 to 12 (lines 7 and 11 are musically identical, both beginning on fa#)
Lines 13 and 14 naturally suggest slowing to a pause.
01.46 Second section; longer lines ([7+6]x4 then [7+5]x2); Lines 15 and 16 are a unit, if not quite parallel
02.04 Lines 17 and 18 not rhymed but an obvious pair (each has a repeat on first two words)
02.22 Lines 19 and 20 are paired (compare rhythm)
Lines 21 and 22 are paired (slow to a pause; though line 21 is 7+5 and line 22 is 7+7, the music of the first half of each is identical)
03.04 Line 23 (7+7): ending; music of line 23 second half repeats that of line 16 first half.
Line 24 (7): harmonic coda bringing the melody back to do (gong)

The rhythmic aspects of any reconstruction are particularly subjective: I believe that I fixed my rhythms to a large extent based on my understanding of what was implied by the phrasing and fingering, but someone else doing a dapu of this piece might interpret it quite differently. In the interests of understanding better early qin music that other people do separate attempts at reconstructing such melodies, accompanied by their own analysis of how they fixed their rhythms.

As yet I have not found as many parallel structures in the 1589 version, thus my recording of that is even more tentative.

16. Playing the coda also as a prelude
This is my own method, not something indicated in the tablature.

17. Golden Gate (金門 Jinmen)
41049.325 says first that 金門 Jinmen is "謂門飾以黃金者。天子之門 A gate adorned with gold; gate of the 'son of heaven'": i.e., the emperor's gate". 11/1153 adds that it can refer to gates at the homes of the wealthy. It can also be short for Golden Horse Gate (金馬門 Jinma Men), which was 學士待詔之處 Xueshi daizhao zhi men, the place where people who had passed the imperial examinations would await their imperial audience or commissions. "Jin Men" is also mentioned in the melody titles Jinmen Daizhao and 謁金門 Ye Jinmen.

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