Xiuxi Yin
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
XLTQT  ToC / Spring theme / Lanting scroll Listen to my recording 聽錄音
03. Purification Ceremony Melody 修禊吟 1
- gong mode, standard tuning: 2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 Xiuxi Yin
- Here used as a prelude to Yang Chun; see also Liu Shang and Linhe Xiuxi Playing qin while observing a xiuxi through the window3  

In ancient times "xiuxi",4 like "fuxi",5 was a name given to a spring purification ritual. The original forms of these events both apparently went out of custom long ago, but the xiuxi survived (at least in some circles) in the form of a sort of elegant gatherings whereby, on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month, scholars would relax along a stream; as laden wine-cups floated by they were each expected to compose an appropriate poem; if they failed to do so their "penalty" was that they had to drink a rather large quantity of wine. This is described in further detail with the Xilutang Qintong melody #12, Floating Wine-Cups (Liu Shang; short for Qushui Liushang).6

The most famous of these xiuxi was one which took place at the beginning of spring of the year 353 at Lanting (Orchid Pavilion), secluded away in the Kuaiji Mountains a few miles south of modern Shaoxing.7 Its fame comes from the fact that it was immortalized by the famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi.8 The calligraphy of his Preface to the Lanting Poem Collection (set to music in the qin melody Lin He Xiuxi) is the most famous historical (if authentic) and influential (whether or not authentic) example of Chinese calligraphy.9 The xiuxi itself also became a theme or motif in many later paintings.10

Coming to the qin repertoire, a melody called Xiuxi Yin was attributed in some sources to Liu Juanzi, a person in ancient times also connected to the melodies Yang Chun and Bai Xue (see Qin Shi Bu #24). And Xiuxi Yin is indeed the title of at least eight surviving qin tablatures between 1525 and 1876.11 The earliest is here in Xilutang Qintong (1525), which often pairs short and long melodies; it uses Xiuxi Yin as a prelude to #4 Sunny Spring (Yang Chun). However, it has no commentary explaining the connection, and the other seven later versions all precede different melodies with other titles. None of these has an appended explanation.

There would seem to be a more natural connection between Xiuxi Yin and #12 Floating Wine-Cups (Liu Shang). All three melodies are in the gong mode, and the music of Xiuxi Yin sounds very appropriate as a prelude to Liu Shang as much as to Yang Chun; more to the point, though, the afterword to Liu Shang in Xilutang Qintong connects that melody with a xiuxi ceremony. However, neither Xilutang Qintong or any later handbook ever mentions a possible connection between these two melodies.

Liu Shang, which is not paired with any other melody, is in fact a version of the popular melody elsewhere entitled Jiu Kuang.12

The rationale for pairing Xiuxi Yin with Yang Chun is presumably due to the fact that a xiuxi was generally a spring event. But not only do none of the commentaries on any version of Yang Chun mentions a xiuxi, most of them, as with the one in Xilutang Qintong, relate the conventional stories on the origin of Yang Chun Bai Xue (Bright Spring, White Snow).13

Original afterword

None; because Xiuxi Yin serves as a prelude to Yang Chun it should share the same preface

Music of Xiuxi Yin
Three sections (untitled); see
transcription; timings follow my recording 聽錄音 14

00.00   1.
00.37   2. (harmonics)
00.52   3.
01.33       harmonics
01.53       end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Xiuxi Yin 修禊吟 (compare 祓禊吟 Fuxi Yin below)
805.226 is only 修禊 Xiuxi, discussed further below. There are no dictionary references for Xiuxi Yin.

2. Gong mode (宮調 Gong diao)
For more on gong mode see Shenpin Gong Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Observing a Xiuxi (also see Liu Shang in Art Illustrating Guqin Melodies) 彈琴        
The image above is a segment from the 唐岱、丁觀鵬,清院本十二令圖軸之三月 Third Month illustration in a set of Qing dynasty imperial illustrations of the 12 lunar months, by Tang Dai and Ding Guanpeng. The originals are in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. All 12 images can be found on many websites. Select the image at right for a closeup of the window showing the qin player.

4. 修禊 Xiuxi (Spring Purification Ceremonhy)
Xiuxi were (or are: the custom is being revived today) ceremonies that took place near the beginning of spring. The date is commonly given as 三月三日 the third day of the third lunar month (hence also the name 上巳節 Shang Si Jie), but the most famous Xiuxi, the one that occurred at the 蘭亭 Lanting Pavilion on the south side of 紹興 Shaoxing (see Riverside Purification Ceremony), is said to have taken place near the beginning of "暮春 muchun": the last third of the third lunar month (the traditional Chinese calendar divided months into three 10-day periods called "旬 xun").

805.226 修禊 Xiuxi says:

The people of ancient times had a custom whereby during the first third of the third month according to the agricultural calendar (after the Wei dynasty of the Warring Kingdoms it became fixed on the third day of the third month) they would go play/sport by waters' edge in order to eliminate anything inauspicious.

Zhongwen Dacidian also says that by the Song dynasty there are references to doing the same thing in the seventh month of the agricultural calendar. (See also the event described in an essay by Shi Chong.)

Internet searches will turn up considerable commentary and numerous images related to the Lanting gathering, including many exquisite images from Japan. Specific useful online English language references related to the Xiu Xi itself include:

There are further references below and with Lin He Xiuxi as well as with the page on the Lanting scrolls.

5. Fuxi 祓禊 and Fuxi Yin 祓禊吟 (compare the definition of 修禊 Xiuxi above)
The Lanting rubbing shown here also mentions at the beginning a 脩祓禊 Xiufuxi, but I have no further information on that (修祓禊 805.xxx).

Old melody titles include a Fuxi Yin, but there are no dictionary references for that title.

25227.4 祓禊 identifies fu xi as the name of an ancient festival, as follows:

Name of an old festival in which people wash at the water's edge in order to get rid of their bad luck

The earliest reference at 25227.4 is 廣雅 Guang Ya, 釋天 Explaining Days: 褸臘祓禊,祭也 soiled from winter cleansing and purification, a festival. The second, 晉書,禮志 Annals of Jin, Accounts of Rituals: 漢儀,季春上巳 a Han ceremony, during the third lunar month "shangsi".

上巳 Shangsi and 上巳節 Shang Si Jie
Further regarding "上巳 shangsi", another name for the xiuxi seems to have been 上巳節 Shang Si Jie (Festival on Shangsi), presumably referring to its original date in a solar/lunar calendar. However, the Chinese traditional calendar systems are extremely complicated and there seems to be some confusion or ambivalence here. (For example, by my current misunderstanding 上 is 上旬, the first 10 day period in a month; but 巳, presumably 巳日 the sixth day, does not seem to be used this way in the systems I can find, only for the sixth month, starting around May.)


上巳節 Shang Si Jie: 17.xxx; also 1/266 xxx
Note, however, that this term is mentioned under 三月三 and 三月三日 in both dictionaries.

上巳日 Shang Si Ri: (Day of Shangsi) "陰曆三月三日,(荆楚歲時記)上巳日、取漆麵,和菜作羹,以厭時炁...."
This seems to be an unrelated agricultural reference but note that a poem under
Duan Keji mentions both 上巳日 Shang Si Ri and qin.

上巳   Shangsi 17.10 has the most relevant information, as follows:

In the lunar calendar the sixth (?) day of the first 10 day period of the third month; called shangsi, from ancient times it was a common name for the xiuxi. After the Jin and Wei periods, though, they used the third day of the third lunar month and did not go back to using the sixth day"....

17.10 also includes an excerpt from a preface (三月上巳祓禊序 Preface to a Fuxi on the shangsi of the third month) written by the poet 王勃 Wang Bo (649-676) about one such event (於是 攜旨酒,列芳筵,先祓禊於長洲,卻申交於促席。).

Although fuxi and xiuxi thus appear to occur at the same time (shangsi), I have not yet found reference showing what relationship they may have had with each other. (The term "shangsi" is not used in Wang Xizhi's preface. Instead he refers to what is apparently a later date called "暮春 muchun" (see above as well as here and here.)

6. 曲水流觴 Qushui Liushang (Floating Wine-cups on a Winding Stream)
See further under the melody Liu Shang

7. Orchid Pavilion (蘭亭 Lan Ting)
Now a public park.

8. Wang Xizhi (王羲之)
See in Qin Shi. For orchids see Guqin and Orchids (orchids are mentioned in two poems, those by 陳郡袁嶠之 Yuan Qiaozhi and 行參軍徐豐之 Xu Fengzhi).

9. Lanting Calligraphy by Wang Xizhi
Wang Xizhi's Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Collection (蘭亭集序 Lantingji Xu), also called 蘭亭詩記 Lantingshi Ji, describes the famous xiuxi that took place there in 353 CE. English translations include:

There are further references above to online sources.

10. Later paintings of Xiuxi
It seems to have been a particularly popular theme in Japan. See, for example, Kazuko Kameda-Madar, Japanese Art and the Orchid Pavilion Gathering (review by Yan Yang).

11. Tracing Xiuxi Yin
Zha Guide lists it in nine handbooks. These can be grouped as follows:

Its greatest popularity thus seems to have been between 1614 and 1722. See also the chart below.

12. Jiu Kuang
40655.70 酒狂 mentions drunken madness in Han Shu and Bo Juyi, but nothing on music.

13. Commentary on Yang Chun
Commentary on melodies cannot be simply accepted at face value. For example, the version of Yang Chun in Shen Qi Mi Pu has no musical relationship at all to the version of Yang Chun here, and yet both melodies have the same conventional explanation of their origins.

14. Music of Xiuxi Yin
I am not sure how the third note of the melody got cut from the recording.

Appendix: Chart Tracing 修禊吟 Xiuxi Yin
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. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/63)
3; precedes Yang Chun
  2. 松絃館琴譜
      (1614; VIII/89)
3; precedes Gujiao Xing; Sec. 1 almost same as 1525; Sec. 2 (harmonics) quite different; Sec. 3 has many of same passages but mixes in new material
  3. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/65)
3; precedes Yi Lan; elaborated from 1614
  4. 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; X/xxx)
Presumably identical to 1647
  5. 大還閣琴譜
      (1673; X/351)
4; precedes Ting Quan Yin; divides 1614 Section 3 into two sections
  6. 澄鑒堂琴譜
      (1689; XIV/215)
3; precedes Shuang He Ting Quan; related most closely to 1614
  7. 琴譜析微
      (1692; XIII/517)
4; precedes Ting Quan Yin; basically same as 1673
  8. 臥雲樓琴譜
      (1722; XV/36)
4; precedes Ting Quan Yin; basically same as 1673
  9. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/187)
4; precedes Wu Tang Ye Yu; "copied from 1673"

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