Gukou Yin
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
XLTQT   ToC   / Intonation on Balanced Vital Force 聽錄音 Listen to my recordings   首頁
07. Gukou Allure
Later called Gukou Intonation
- gong mode,2 standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
谷口引 1
Gukou Yin  
Location of Gukou during Han dynasty?3   
The afterword to this earliest of five publications of tablature for a melody entitled "Gukou Yin"4 indicates that the melody was inspired by a man, named Zheng Pu,5 whose conscience did not allow him to serve what he considered a corrupt government. His home in the valley of Gukou, in present-day Jingyang county, Shaanxi, was not far from the Han capital, then called Chang'an. During the reign of Emperor Cheng of Han (r. 32-7 BC) the Marshal of State Wang Feng, brother of the Empress Wang and regent 33-22 BC, came personally to request that he serve in government. Later a cousin of Empress Wang, Wang Mang, usurped the throne and from 9 to 23 tried to establish a new dynasty, the much-vilified Xin dynasty (AD 9-23). As a result anyone associated with the Wang family came to be viewed unfavorably.

Zheng Pu is described as follows in Alan Berkowitz, Patterns of Disengagement: 6

Zheng Pu (byname Zizhen) refused an official appointment and instead farmed the hills of Gukou (northeast of modern Xianyang, Shaanxi), "but his fame rocked the capital district." He taught that "loyalty and filiality, love and respect: these are the world's most exalted conduct. Seeing that supernatural phenomena accord with the five normal climatic manifestations (i.e., keeping good government so that there appear no corresponding signs of disorder in the natural world): this is the crux of the Way of Emperors and Kings." Zheng Pu was honored after his death by a monument and shrine, erected by the people of the area of his home, north of the capital; he later was incorporated into the Daoist pantheon, assuming jurisdiction over the fifth of the thiry-six Minor Grotto Heavens (xiao dongtian), at the northern sacred peak Heng shan (or Chang shan) in Shanxi.

To serve as a prelude, Xilutang Qintong has a short melody entitled Intonation on Balanced Vital Force (Chonghe Yin).7 Interpretation of both the main melody and its prelude are complicated by both having long sections with no apparent punctuation.8

Although, as mentioned, melodies called "Gukou Yin" survive in five qin handbooks, the present 1525 version is the only one using the title Gukou Yin meaning "Gukou Allure"; the latter four (dated 1552 [copied 1557] and 1647 [reprinted 1692]), are titled with the yin meaning "intonation", hence "Gukou Intonation".9 Also of note are the following differences:

  1. The 1525 version concerns Zheng Pu and Gukou in the title clearly refers to a specific valley named Gukou in what is now Shaanxi Province.
  2. The 1552/1557 and perhaps 1647/1692 versions connect the melody to Zuo Si and gukou, which itself literally means "valley mouth", does not seem to have any reference to a specific place.

It is the introductions to the Gukou Intonation of 1552 and 1557 that connect it to Zuo Si. Zuo Si, from what is today Shandong province and lived in the third century CE, is said also eventully to have refused office, instead living 深山 deep in the mountains. The commentary adds that "this melody must have been written while resting at a gukou",11 which I understand to mean simply a "valley entrance" rather than a specific one named Gukou. These two versions, which seem almost identical to each other musically, seem also to be not much different from the 1525 version.

As for the fourth and last published versions (1647, repeated 1692), they seem to be very similar or identical to each other, and also seem to be musically closer to the 1552 version than to the 1525 version. There is no commentary with either of them.

Original afterword12
Tentative translation

During the Western Han dynasty Zheng Zizhen lived as a recluse in Gukou, hunting and ploughing while enjoying the Dao. The great general Wang Feng entreated him with gifts but he did not rise to it, (after which) his name resonated throughout the world. People of former times said his restraint and encouragement of frugality had the character of people loyal to a preceding dynasty. As for this melody, for those with Balanced Vital Force and balanced elegance who hear it, it is sufficient to dissolve stingy vulgarity, and cause people not to understand the pleasures of wealth and high office, such is its spirituality.

Translation should not be quoted until it can be improved. Specifically it is not clear whether the prelude got its name because of its mention in this afterword, whether Balance Vital Force is mentioned here because of the title of the prelude, or whether there is another reason for this connection.

Music of Gukou Yin and its prelude, Chonghe Yin

Intonation on Balanced Vital Force (Chonghe Yin)
(Timings follow my recording 聽冲和吟錄音  
Three sections, untitled

00.00     1.
00.57     2.
01.34     3.
02.33         Closing harmonics
02.55         End

Gukou Allure (Gukou Yin)
(Timings follow
my recording 聽谷口引錄音  
Thirteen sections, titled13

00.00     1. Seek ideals amiably
00.39         (1552 begins section 2 here)
01.08     2. Imperial plowing along a hilly path (?; 1552 Section 3; later it combines sections 7 & 8)
01.58     3. Tall bamboo myriad moments
02.50     4. Strong trees thousands of feet high
03.34     5. Empty reedpipes transmit sound
04.28     6. Pattering sounds echo
05.23     7. Sunbeams glittering white
06.13     8. A secluded bird calls out
07.01     9. On the grassy plain hoeing and plowing
07.53   10. Yellow clouds over the ripe grain (becoming slow)
09.00   11. Alone in a cart, not paying calls (slow)
09.37   12. Singing while strolling contentedly
10.08   13. Plainly adorned (as a recluse) in hills and gardens 14
10.58         Closing harmonics
11.26         End

Translations not finalized.


Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 谷口引、谷口吟 Gukou Yin references Today's Jing River (compare historical map)  
References suggest that the Gukou of this story was thought to be near the mouth of the valley where the Jing River emerges from the mountains. If such was the case, then it was just upriver from where "Jing River" is written on the map to the right - i.e., about 20 miles north of the old Xianyang. However, the terrain map shows a range of hills continuing downstream along the Jing river, bringing it even closer.

谷口 37022.5 first says it refers to the mouth of a valley, then it gives it as both 地名 the name of an area and 縣名 the name of a district, both in what is today Shaanxi province.

Gukou is also given as the name of a mountain near Luoyang, again with no personal names mentioned.

Maps in Vol. 2 of my historical atlas vaguely show Gukou, but modern tourist maps do not, even those with detail of Jingyang county. Footnote 110 to the above quote by Berkowitz says that a shrine erected there in Zheng Pu's own day was still there at the time of 皇甫謐 Huangfu Mi (215 - 282).

2. Gong mode (宮調 gongdiao)
For more information on gong mode see Shenpin Gong Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature. In this case the music the mostly pentatonic, with tonal centers on do (equivalent of the open third string) and sol, but there are also a number of occurrences of flatted thirds and, with one passage in Chonghe Yin, flatted sixths and sevenths (compare the Western minor scale). In almost all cases the 1552 tablature either omits the non-pentatonic notes, or changes them to pentatonic.

3. Gukou in Historical Atlas
Copied from Vol. 2 of an historical atlas of China; compare modern map.

4. Tracing Gukou Yin
Zha Guide 19/180/--. The known publications of this melody are as follows (all have 13 sections):

  1. 1525 (III/67 [here]) 谷口引 Gukou Prelude; 13 sections, titled
    Has a prelude called Intonation on Balanced Vital Force (冲和吟 Chonghe Yin; see further below).
  2. 1552 (IV/45); 谷口吟 Valley Entrance Intonation; 13 sections, untitled
    Quite similar to 1525 but divides 1525 #1 into #1 & #2; combines #7 & #8 to make #8; prelude is Jia Dun Yin
  3. 1557 (III/323); 谷口吟 Valley Entrance Intonation;
    Seems to be same as 1552, including same prelude
  4. 1647 (X/40); 谷口吟 Valley Entrance Intonation
    Very similar to 1552 but no prelude
  5. 1692 (facs.); 谷口吟 Valley Entrance Intonation
    Presumably a reprint of 1647, again no prelude

As noted, the 1552/1557 and 1647/1892 versions are very similar to each other. Their differences with the 1525 version are somewhat greater, but I have not yet studied this in detail.

5. 鄭樸 Zheng Pu (also: 鄭朴)
40513.14 鄭子真 says 漢,褒中人,名樸 Zheng Zizhen was from Baozhong and his original name was 鄭樸 Zheng Pu (I don't know why Zheng Zizhen is the main entry). Loewe has Zheng Pu 鄭樸, style Zichen 子眞; I have also seen style Zichen 子傎. An early reference is in 揚子法言, 問神卷第五 #25. As for the referenced valley, it is now thought to have been north or northwest of present day Xi'an (see map at top).

6. Account in Berkowitz
See pp. 92-93; the footnote credits Fa Yan 8.12b and Han Shu 72.3056-57. I am not sure what sources place Gukou northeast of Xianyang (now a western suburb of Xi'an).

7. Intonation on Balanced Vital Force (沖和吟 Chonghe Yin) (listen to my recording 聽谷口引錄音; III/66)
沖和 17565.22 says "沖虛和平也" 晉書,阮譫轉 the Jin History biography of Ruan Zhan. There are no references to music, Zheng Pu or Zuo Si. (冲 1647 = 沖)

The following list of occurrences of this title is largely based on the Zha Guide (which did not include 1552):

  1. 1525 (III/66); present version; no separate commentary; precedes Gukou Yin.
  2. 1552 (IV/29); 3 sections; not in Zha Guide; related to previous, especially Section 1. However, although there is a Gukou Yin both here (see #11) and in 1557 (see #8), their Chonghe Yin comes instead before Yang Chun (the one related to the 1525 version). Preface mentions Lü Cai as well as Yang Chun, as follows,
  3. 1557 (III/317); 3; almost identical to 1552, but preface expands on it, including mention of (Xiao) Luan as well as Yang Chun, as follows:

  4. 1589 #1 (VII/160); 3; gong mode, but the melody seems unrelated to the previous ones; although its preface begins, "陽春之引首也 Prelude to Yang Chun", it comes before Jishan Qiu Yue (which is in jue mode!).
  5. 1589 #2 (VI/12); here it is a prelude to Yang Chun; melody is related to 1589 #1
  6. 1602 (VI/312); identical to 1589 #2; prelude to Yang Chun
  7. 1634 (IX/292); related to 1589 versions; precedes Yi Qiao Jin Lü

  8. 1647 (X/35); might be related to 1589 versions but has 6 sections; precedes Gao Shan
  9. 1694 (not in QQJC); presumably identical to 1647
  10. End of Qing (not in QQJC; presumably a copy of one of the earlier version, but says, "據宋筠館本 based on the Songyun Guan volume" (? Not in Songxian Guan)

Zha Guide also lists it in 1623 (QQJC VIII), but this seems to be a mistake.

Although the Zha Guide lists this title in 10 handbooks, only the second (1552) and third (1557) are musically related to this earliest version of the title. All of these have three sections, but whereas the present version has no commentary, emphasizing its function as a prelude to Gukou Yin, the 1552 and 1557 versions do have prefaces - connecting them to Yang Chun. The later 3 section melody of this title, although it seems to be musically unrelated, still seems to have been considered a prelude to Yang Chuan. In the 1647 version it seems most likely to have been considered as an independent melody.

According to my interpretation the 1525 melody has nine occurrences of non-pentatonic notes, one of them probably a mistake. These nine can be grouped as follows:

1552 and 1557 change all of these notes (though they seem to have some non-pentatonic notes elsewhere). In addition 1525 has the symbol 巾 five times; 1557 plays the second and fifth of these as 方合 (a left hand pluck), omitting the others. In 1525, however, although the first four seem to mean 帶起 (also left hand pluck), the fifth may refer a slide ("合巾" in the text thus meaning "the following note ("跳散四") will be played together with this slide". Since the other 巾 also all come between upwards slides and open string plucks, this causes some uncertainty in interpretation. Two other problems are that some punctuation seems to be missing from 1525; and in 1552 and 1557 three or four notes that in 1525 are at the end of Section 2 are instead placed (incorrectly by my understanding) at the beginning of Section 3.

The versions of Gukou Yin in 1552 and 1557 have a different prelude in three sections; called Intonation on Commendable Obscurity (嘉遯吟 Jiadun Yin IV/42), they seem to be musically unrelated to any of the Chonghe Yin melodies mentioned above.

There is no explanation of why the main piece of the two is called "prelude", while the actual prelude is called an "intonation". In fact, many of these preludes are called intonations.

8. Lack of punctuation
In my copy of the tablature some punctuation is clear but some is barefly visible. This suggests that perhaps in the original copy there was punctuation that was not picked up in the reproduction. Otherwise it re-inforces the oral nature of the tradition: the music was not written out as a composition, but was a description by someone (perhaps a student) of how a master played a melody. The melody was learned by copying a performance; the melody was easier to remember than the fingering, so it was not so necessary to write down details such as rhythm and phrasing.

9. Differing characters for "yin": 引 and 吟
The yin of the 1525 谷口引 Gukou Yin could also be translated as "prelude", making "Gukou Prelude", but a lengthy melody such as this one would not normally be considered a prelude so the translation used here is "Gukou Allure".

11. 此曲盖憇谷口所作

12. Original Commentary
The original afterword in 1525 is as follows:


Taiyin Buyi has a rather different preface, mentioning Zuo Si (see above).

13. Original Section Titles
Translations above are tentative. The original Chinese section titles are:

  1. 求志窈藹
  2. 躬耕阿隧
  3. 脩竹萬頃
  4. 偉木千尋
  5. 虛籟傳聲 (虗籟?)
  6. 跫然應響
  7. 白駒皎皎
  8. 幽鳥嚶嚶
  9. 綠野鋤犂
  10. 黃雲頴栗(漸慢)
  11. 安車不拜(入慢)
  12. 行吟自適
  13. 白賁丘園

Advice on translation appreciated.

14. Plainly adorned (as a recluse) in hills and gardens
This section ends (10.52 on the recording) with a sound produced by a technique called "snap" (捻 nian), intended to imitate the sound of a string breaking.

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