Feng Lei
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21. Wind and Thunder
- Shang mode,2 standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6, but played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
風雷 1
Feng Lei    
  Ancient stone relief: Zhou Gong councils Cheng Wang 3      
On ancient lists (
example) as well as in the surviving repertoire this qin melody is commonly known as Feng Lei Yin. The accounts introducing versions of this melody connect it to various seemingly unrelated stories of wind and thunder, thus requiring the observer to wonder to what extent qin melodies can be considered as program music. Qin melodies, other than the modal preludes (diao yi), almost always have thematic titles. Clearly some have passages that can be described as "tone painting" ("word painting"), through music trying to imitate sounds or illustrate stories. However, the extent to which any specific melody can be understood as programatic is quite debatable. Indeed, if you would like the music to be programmatic, or need to know exactly what a melody is about, you will quite likely find the follow variety of explanations of Feng Lei Yin (or simply Feng Lei) frustrating.

It is thus probably more fruitful to enjoy this variety of explanations, for these reveal a richness of imagery quite in keeping with the general qin tradition, and showing one aspect of the connection between the qin tradition and the poetic tradition in general. The same words of a poem can create different impressions or images for different people. Likewise, a qin melody, even though titled and with commentary, allows a variety of interpretations. If, from your own background, you can add still further interpretations, that should make your appreciation of the melody that much the richer.

The Feng Lei Yin generally played today belongs to the Mei'an School and is quite popular. It appears first in the Mei'an Qinpu of 1931. Its actual age at that time is not known, but it was not included in what is generally considered the earliest known Mei'an predecessor, the Longyinguan Qinpu said to date from 1799. The preface in Mei'an Qinpu says that the melody depicts a summer storm. There are several modern transcriptions and recordings of this version, which uses a non-standard tuning (lowered third string).4

Before this, however, there was another very popular melody, usually also named Feng Lei Yin, that survives in at least 39 handbooks from 1525 to 1910.5 This earlier melody, which uses standard tuning and has no melodic relationship to the modern version of this title, has numerous variations, but all seem to remain musically related to each other.6 To my knowledge, other than my own there are no recordings of any of the versions of this older melody.7

The earliest surviving handbooks to have versions of this melody relate through their commentaries at least four different introductions to the theme of the melody.8

The earliest of these handbooks, Xilutang Qintong (1525), calls the melody simply Feng Lei, a title that does not appear again until 1812.9 The 1525 afterword connects the melody to a story from the Metal Bound Box (Jin Teng) section of the classic Book of Documents.10 The same story is told in Qin Cao in conjunction with Zhou Dynasty Metal Bound Box (Zhou Jin Teng), a melody title found in some Tang dynasty melody lists.11 The story tells of a bound metal box containing Zhou Gong's promise of loyal service to Cheng Wang, son of Wu Wang. This loyal service allowed Cheng Wang later to succeed when he came of age. The afterword and section titles in Xilutang Qintong all relate this story; in the translations below comments are added (in parentheses) to clarify this. There is also a related story that says Zhou Gong wrote a Zhou Gong's Lament, declaring his loyalty, and played this for Cheng Wang on a qin made by Yu Sui.

The second handbook with this melody, Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539), has no preface or section titles to suggest its theme.

Shortly after this, however, in Taiyin Chuanxi (1552 - 61), Feng Lei Yin appeared with a more general introduction and a prelude called Intonation of Increasing Abundance (Ziyi Yin12). Here the introduction, also repeated in several later handbooks, is as follows.13

The sages used good deeds and reform to change the situation so that there would be great abundance. Later people created the melodies Ziyi Yin and Feng Lei Yin to warn themselves that change through good deeds and reform could be like the strength of a wind or the swiftness of thunder. Hearing this sound, people today are filled with awe.

A third explanation, apparently first mentioned in Guyin Zhengzong (1634) then detailed in the preface to Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian (1670) but very commonly mentioned later, connects the melody to a story about He Yun of Lu (now part of Shandong province) and the qin he is said to have made, called Dragon's Jaws.14 The 1670 preface is as follows,15

According to Qin History (an expanded Ming dynasty edition of Qin Shi?), He Yun of Lu received this melody during a meeting with three supernatural beings. Its sound was expansively clear and far-reaching, a pervasive creation separate from these spirits.

More detail on this story is provided in the introduction to He Yun in Qinshi Bu as well as with the commentary on Dragon's Jaws. It says that the three ancients arrived while he was playing, praised his qin, then taught him two pieces, Bright White Moon (Jiao Yue16) and Wind and Thunder (Feng Lei).

The second and third stories above are not necessarily in conflict with the specifics of the Metal Bound Box story, but there is still a fourth story to consider. At least one surviving handbook, Lü Hua 17 (1833), connects Feng Lei Yin with the ancient title Pili Yin18 (Thunderbolt Prelude), a title originally found and introduced in Qin Cao. This story tells of Chu Shang Liang encountering wind and thunder while walking in the marshes.

Yuefu Shiji has several lyrics for Pili Yin in the Qin Melody Lyrics Section.19 These add a new dimension to our appreciation of Feng Lei Yin, but there is no real evidence to suggest any melodic connection between the two.

On the other hand, Xu Jian, in Chapter 5B of his Outline History of the Qin, seems to justify including Feng Lei Yin as a Tang dynasty composition based largely on its connection to Pili Yin. His argument focuses on a poem called Pili Yin by the Tang dynasty's Shen Quanqi. He quotes Shen's poem, tells the story of Chu Shangliang, and suggests that this is evidence for the antiquity of the surviving qin melody.20

A musical analysis of the surviving early versions of Feng Lei Yin shows that, although clearly related (in particular, similar modal characteristics), they are all quite different.21 This suggests that the melody was actively played during the Ming dynasty. As for the origins of this version, whereas Pili Yin appears on many ancient melody lists, the only list that has Fenglei Yin seems to be the apparently Song dynasty one in Taiyin Daquanji, where it is grouped under gong mode titles. The surviving early versions are mostly placed in shang mode sections. With the first tablature for Fenglei Yin appearing first in 1525, there is no particular evidence to suggest that it can be dated back to before the Ming dynasty.

Xilutang Qintong gives its Feng Lei a prelude entitled Intonation on Lightning Flashes (Feidian Yin).22 The reconstruction of both melodies was hampered by a lack of punctuation, with Feng Lei also having a number of unusual sounds.23

Original Commentary
The afterword in Xilutang Qintong is as follows:

The Duke of Zhou (Zhou Gong) spent some time in the east because (slander from his brothers had meant) everywhere there were rumors (suggesting he was disloyal). Then heaven used a wind with great lightning and thunder to destroy all the grain and uproot great trees. King (Cheng) was then informed of the written statement (Zhou Gong had made and then put) in a Metal Bound Box, thus obtaining what Zhou Gong said about using his own body (to provide security for King Cheng) as a substitute for (the work formerly done by) King Wu, so (King Cheng) was moved to tears and welcomed the Duke back. As a result there is this melody.
Music of Feng Lei (compare the 1539 Feng Lei Yin).
8 sections, titled;25 (Timings follow my recording 聽錄音)
The parenthetical additions expand the titles in accord with the story told in the Metal Bound Box section of the Shang Shu.
In Xilutang Qintong this piece is preceded by the prelude Feidian Yin

00.00   1. The crops are fertile everywhere, (but Zhou Gong is often slandered; when he goes out on a military expedition it is said he will use the army to usurp the throne).
00.48   2. (Suddenly there is) a violent wind and heavy rain.
01.38   3. The rolling thunder is frightening.
02.19   4. Crops are knocked over and trees uprooted. (1539 splits this section in two)
03.12   5. (Suspecting this might be an omen of something, Cheng Wang orders) everyone to put on ceremonial garb, then they open a scroll (kept in a bound metal box). (泛音 harmonics)
03.42   6. (When Cheng Wang) grasps the scroll (and reads a vow Zhou Gong made years earlier to Wu Wang), he weeps at the realization (of Zhou Gong's unshakable loyalty).
04.22   7. Heavenly rain and seasonable breezes. ("入慢 Slow down.")
05.12   8. There is a prosperous year in Haojing, (the Zhou capital city). ("霹應聲 Sounds of thunder echoing.")
05.45 Closing harmonics
06.09 Melody ends

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Feng Lei 風雷
Fenglei Yin is the 21st piece in 西麓堂琴統, Xilutang Qintong, compiled by 汪芝 Wang Zhi. Zha Fuxi listed its publication date as 1549, however more recent evidence suggests 1525 as the more likely date.

Regarding references, 44734.403 has only fenglei, with the following definitions.

  1. The Yi Jing hexagrams 巽 xun (doubled feng trigram) and 震 zhen (doubled lei trigram). The 益 yi hexagram commentary says, 象曰,風雷,益。君子以見善則遷。有過則改。 The translation of this in Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching (p.342) is:

    Wind and thunder support each other,
    An image of Increasing.
    In correspondence with this,
    The superior person follows the good when he sees it,
    And corrects his fault when he finds it.

  2. 烈風迅雷也。 Strong wind and swift thunder.
  3. Refers to loud sounds.
  4. Great fear.
  5. 勢盛 situation flourishes (?)
The first two definitions use some of the vocabulary in the preface given below for Taiyin Chuanxi, but I am not sure of the significance.

2. Shang mode (商調)
Note that in this earlier list Fenglei Yin is said to be gong mode. Perhaps when 1833 says there were then in existence two versions of this piece, one in 宮音 gong yin, one in 商音 shang yin, it was referring to such a listed ancient version.

For further information on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Ancient stone relief: 周公輔成王 Zhou Gong assists Cheng Wang
This and similar images can be found in various places on the internet but I have not figured out the location of the originals. Compare the image used with Cheng Wang.

4. Feng Lei Yin in Mei'an Qinpu
This piece, first published in the Mei'an Qinpu of 1931 (it is not in Longyinguan Qinpu) is totally unrelated to the earlier melody of this title. It uses "lowered third string" tuning: from standard tuning lower the third string a half tone, giving 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 . There are many recordings of this version, including silk string recordings by Guan Pinghu and Wu Zonghan. The original edition has no commentary, only a statement at the front that "賀雲作 He Yun created it"; later editions of Meian Qinpu drop this nonsensical attribution, but modern commentary often not only puts it back in but fails to point out that the Meian version is in fact a new piece.

Fredric Lieberman, A Chinese Zither Tutor, discusses the melody on pages 95 - 99. His translation of the 1959 edition preface begins and ends as follows,

"This composition is an excellent description of a summer thunderstorm. Much double-stop plucking strengthens the sounds.... Of Mei-an compositions, this is the most rhythmic; ideally, one should pay it through without a break."

In between it describes in detail how the playing technique describes the storm, but adds no historical information. None of the prefaces to the earlier Feng Lei Yin seems to mention summer, with the Bound Metal Box story in particular being associated with early autumn.

5. Tracing Feng Lei Yin
Zha's Guide 16/164/-- (see appendix below). 1833 says there were then in existence two versions of this piece, one in 宮音 gong yin, one in 商音 shang yin, but this is not a reference to an early version of the modern melody (see above). There is also no discussion of what this actually means in musical terms.

6. Comparing early surviving versions of Fenglei Yin (see appendix below)
The second version after the 1525 風雷 Feng Lei (QQJC III/84) is the 1539 風雷 Fenglei Yin (II/167). Both have 8 sections, but from about half way through section 2 they are rather different. 1539 breaks up 1525 Section 4 into Sections 4 and 5, so its Section 6 in harmonics is like Section 5 of 1525; it then has only 8 sections because it omits what is in 1525 Section 8.

1561 (II/528) and 1552 (IV/42) are also rather different from these two, as well as each other. This suggests that this melody was quite popular at that time.

As previously mentioned, these older versions of Feng Lei Yin are musically unrelated to the one from the Meian school played today.

7. Recordings of the early version of Feng Lei (Yin)
My own recording, from 1539, was made in 2006; it is available only online, as an MP3 (see link above or, with timings, here). However, presumably at least one was made of the 1525 version at the 2013 Xilutang Qintong Dapu conference.

8. Commentaries on Feng Lei Yin
Zha Guide, pp. 164-6 (408-410), copies the commentary from 14 handbooks (many are repetitions). Two (dated 1525 and 1634) have subtitles for each section.

9. Feng Lei in Xiaolan Qinpu (1812; XIX/433)
9 Sections; not particularly close to 1525 or 1539 (in chart).

10. 金縢 Jin Teng in 尚書 Shang Shu (The Metal Bound Box see also below)
41049.1157 (China Text Project [like many other sources] writes "縢" as "滕" for its 金滕 Jin Teng section of 尚書 Shang Shu (which includes Legge's translation [Metal-Bound Coffer). Text from the Shang Shu story is used above to expand on the 1525 section titles.

尚書 Shang Shu is a collection of pre-Han dynasty documents. 金 jin of 金縢 jin teng might be translated as "golden" and 縢 teng as "chord" (滕 would be "an ancient state in Shandong province; water bursting forth"; the significance of using this other character is not clear to me, presumably something about alternate text forms, such as from bamboo slips such as the 清華簡 Qīnghuá jiăn [Wiki]). Here, "jin teng" suggests something wrapped in very strong binding, hence jin teng is translated as "metal bound", referring to a box bound with a metal chord. This passage is translated by James Hart in Patricia Ebrey (ed.) under the title The Metal Bound Box, in Chinese Civilization, a Source Book, pp.6-7; see also Legge, The Shoo King, p. 350ff. Note that the storm takes place in autumn, just before the harvest.

11. 周金縢 Zhou Jin Teng (Metal Bound Box of Zhou)
Qin Cao, Hejian Zage, #6, lists this title and attributes it to Zhou Gong. Extant editions tell a longer version of the same story as that in Xilutang Qintong (see Qin Fu, 747-8), ending with "成王作思慕之歌 Cheng Wang wrote a simu zhi ge" (song of admiring thoughts). 3597.xxx 周金縢 (only 3597.308 周金).

12. 資益吟 Ziyi Yin
Ziyi Yin (Intonation of Increasing Abundance; 37605.xxx; 10/204 [ziyi]; 23/199/---). The title survives in only two handbooks, Taiyin Chuanxi and Taiyin Buyi. Both have three sections, have the same prefaces and are preludes to Feng Lei Yin. However, the melodies are completely different: the one in Taiyin Buyi seems to be loosely based on the old melody Tianfeng Huanpei (compare also Goudeng Yin); the one in Taiyin Chuanxi may be taken from another source or may be a new composition. Both prefaces to Ziyi Yin say,

The influence of wind and thunder mutually help bring abundance. Good deeds and reform work together in those who have achievements.

Neither melody has any apparent musical relationship to the other Fenglei Yin prelude, Feidian Yin.

13. Taiyin Chuanxi preface for Feng Lei Yin
The original text for this preface, dated 1552, is as follows:


See also the chart below.

14. Source of He Yun story
This is apparently first mentioned together with the melody in Guyin Zhengzong (1634); it is then detailed in the preface to Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian (1670), which recounts the story of He Yun and three ancients, saying it is in "Qin History". However, it is not in Zhu Changwen's Qin Shi. Zhou Qingyun in his Qin Shi Bu tells essentially the same story in his short biography of He Yun, #25, giving as his source the Ming dynasty compendium 廣博物志 Guangbowu Zhi. Zhou's preface to Qin Shi Bu mentions a Qin Shi published in the Ming dynasty; perhaps that book also had this story.

In case it is necessary to give a warning about the reliability of attributions in commentary on qin melodies, the completely new and musically unrelated version in the first edition of Meian Qinpu (XXIX/206) says at the front "賀雲作 created by He Yun". Later editions of Meian Qinpu, which add commentary, drop this attribution.

15. Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian preface for Feng Lei Yin
The original Chinese preface, dated 1670, is as follows:


See also the chart below.

16. Bright Moon (皎月 Jiao Yue)
23236.2xxx; Although this title is attributed to 賀雲 He Yun, it does not seem to be on any old melody lists.

17. Introduction to Feng Lei Yin in Lü Hua (1833; QQJC XXI/437; see in chart)
This version of the melody has 11 sections, calls the mode 無射商 Wuyi shang (standard tuning), adds note names and has extensive commentary both during the piece (in particular after sections 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 11, then a 釋 of 8 folio pages at the end. This extensive commentary almost exclusively concerns details of the melody ("律話 Lü Hua" means something like "talking about modality"). However, in the middle (XXI/443 there is something more specifically about the background of the title:


或曰,風雷引相傳魯國賀雲遇神人,授以皎月、風雷二引。而琴談載賀雲夜靜彈琴於淮泗,有三人來,自稱商之三賢,授以皎月、風雷。然則魯奉周正朔,而所授又商朝之賢,此又安得用唐人之律而律之耶?曰:相傳之偽也。故造出商朝所謂商三賢者,果何人也?蓋賀氏當唐之世,琴名最盛。世傳賀若調至宋不絕,蘇東坡謂賀若調乃若水人名也。又賜緋調亦賀氏對帝鼓琴,帝悅賜緋調之名。竅謂此操乃賀氏法開元遺音所制,欲神奇此譜,故嫁其名於伊祖以為古音,恐人議其周無商音,復捏出商三賢來以自實之耳。然此操世傳有二種。一作宮音,按其節奏,惟此譜音律完善,有合唐宋作曲之例,雖手人刪改,亦為善本也。.... (Copied from qiuyuetan.com.)

In antiquity there was Pili Yin, created by 楚商梁 Chu Shang Liang. Going out to the waters of the nine marshbanks he encountered wind and thunder (fenglei) and thunderbolts (pili). Being afraid, he retreated, then created this prelude. Today this piece is called Wind and Thunder Prelude. It must have been created by a person of the Tang dynasty thinking of antiquity.

It is also that Fenglei Yin is traditionally attributed to He Yun of Lu meeting an immortal and receiving the pieces 皎月 Jiao Yue and Feng Lei.... (translation incomplete)

This commentary actually covers a number of points. After the stories of Chu Shang Liang (compare in YFSJ) and He Yun it tells of three sages appearing and teaching both, etc. It also says there were two versions: one in 宮音 gong yin and one in 商音 shang yin.

18. Pili Yin
43433.5 霹靂引 Pili Yin: qin melody name; only reference is to Yuefu Shiji, which it quotes. Zha's Guide does not give Pili Yin as an alternative title to Feng Lei Yin but as a separate melody (35/261/508) found only in the Japanese handbook 和文注琴譜 Hewenzhu Qinpu (QQJC XII, pp. 206 and 266. The melody is totally unrelated, setting to music the YFSJ lyrics by Shen Quanqi.

19. Pili Yin in Yuefu Shiji
YFJS, Folio 57, #11 (the qin lyrics section), has two conflicting commentaries on Pili Yin:

  1. 謝希逸《琴論》曰:「夏禹作《霹靂引》。」
    Qin Lun by Xie Xiyi says, "Xia Yu wrote Pili Yin."

  2. 《樂府解題》曰:「楚商梁遊於雷澤,霹靂下,乃授琴而作之,名《霹靂引》。」
    Yuefu Jieti says, "When Chu Shang Liang was traveling in 雷澤 Thunder Marsh, thunder rolled down. So he played his qin and created this, calling it Pili Yin."

Guo Maoqian adds, "未知孰是 It is not known which is correct." There are then three sets of lyrics, as follows,

  1. Emperor Jianwen of Liang


  2. Xin Deyuan


  3. Shen Quanqi


    *** 故知此也。

              ** Here the closing harmonics begin
            *** added by
    Hewenzhu Qinpu

20. Connecting Feng Lei Yin to Pili Yin
Xu Jian makes this connection in an account taken perhaps from Qin History (琴史,卷二,楚商梁 Qin Shi, folio 2, #4; folio 2 has people of the Warring States Period). He quotes the biography there of Chu Shang Liang. That biography, which is fairly long, gives 琴操 Qin Cao as its source. For the story as related in a late edition of Qin Cao (the earliest is attributed to Cai Yong of the Han Dynasty) see Tong Kin-Woon, Qin Fu, pp.744-5.

For the melody itself, though Xu Jian presents it as a Tang dynasty melody, he discusses the version in Wuzhizhai Qinpu (1722). That version, though musically related to the one in Fengxuan Xuanpin, is has many differences. The preface in Wuzhizhai Qinpu mentions only the story about He Yun of Lu.

The only support Xu Jian gives for including it with Tang dynasty melodies is the statement to that effect in Lü Hua (1833), as well as the connection made there (via a poem by Shen Quanqi) between Feng Lei Yin and the Pili Yin story rather than the Metal Bound Box story (also see Zhou Jin Teng above).

21. Brief musical analysis of surviving versions of Feng Lei Yin
See the appendix below and note that the versions published in 1525, 1539, 1561, 1557, 1589 and 1602 all have eight sections. 1589 and 1602 seem to be structured like 1539, but 1525, 1557 and 1561 all combine sections 4 and 5 from 1539, then add a new section at the end; this new concluding section seems to be related to the first half of 1539 Section 2. The versions of 1552, 1557, 1579, 1590 and 1596 all have 9 or 10 sections, but the added ending passage can be found only in 1596, where it forms the second half of Section 9; Section 10 is harmonics. None of these versions seems to have the specific features mentioned by Xu Jian in his analysis of the 1722 version.

Other than 1525, the only version with subtitles is 1634 (see IX/291). There the 10 subtitles are: 一、起蘋生浪;二、出地發天;三、偃草鳴條;四、發萌驚蟄;五、倒海掀江;六、破山送雨;七、播盪乾坤;八、宣揚號令;九、八節吹噓;十、萬物作解;十一、尾聲。 These subtitles seem to have no specific theme. The 10th section, which can be translated as "All things are liberated", seems to be like that of 1552 in that its last section seems to have the material of 1525 section 7 and then 8. The only commentary is a brief note under the title saying He Yun received the melody from three 神人 supernatural beings.

Section 7 of the 1525 Feng Lei seems to be musically related to the last section of the 1525 Jiang Yue Bai.

22. Intonation on Lightning Flashes (飛電吟 Feidian Yin) (III/86)
Shang mode; 3 sections. According to the Zha Guide, this prelude to Feng Lei survives only in Xilutang Qintong (1525). It has no apparent musical relationship to other Fenglei Yin preludes such as Ziyi Yin. As with most shang mode pieces of that time, the minor third (flatted mi) is an important characteristic of the melody.

Original Commentary:
Shared with Feng Lei.

Music of Feidian Yin
Three sections (timings are from
my recording 聽飛電吟)

00.00   1.
00.30   2.
01.07   3.
01.52       Closing harmonics
02.09       End

As for references in ZWDCD, 44974.192 飛電 gives only a simple definition of feidian: "閃電也 same as lightning flashes", with no references to music or to the present story. Its earliest literary reference is to 潘岳 Pan Yue, Rhapsody on Firefly Glow (螢火賦 Yinghuo Fu), as follows:

熲若飛電之宵逝, 彗似移星之雲流。
(No translation found.)

The absence of any commentary with Feidian Yin makes it clear that it is intended as a prelude to the following melody, Feng Lei. As yet, other than mode, I have not yet found a strong melodic connection. However, both have a more than usual number of non-pentatonic notes, especially 5 (fa) as well as b3, b7, and 7; and both make extensive use of slides paired with a series of plucks (see, e.g., the third line from the end of Feidian Yin as well as perhaps the opening, discussed further in the following paragraph).
  See full  
As for reconstructing Feidian Yin (as of early 2013 I had written out a transcription and played it through a number of times, but not yet learned to play it from memory), reliable accuracy is made difficult by several factors, most obviously the apparent omission of most punctuation and an inconsistent and at times unclear use of "巾" (帶), which some times seems to mean "巾上 slide upwards", other times to mean "巾巳 left hand pluck". It also has some possibly garbled passages, one of the most striking seeming to be the opening phrase, shown at right. It begins with a double pluck on the open first string, then the left middle finger first "covers" (presses down on with no pluck) the string at position wai (13.1), then apparently has a five note upwards slide (1+1+3); as written this should indicate the notes 1 1 2 b3 4 5 6 1̇ (the 5 and 6 are actually guesses, as their position is specified only as "三弓上七 slide up thrice to the 1̇") followed by the character 合 he, which typically means that the note 1̇ should be played together with the note 5 written after it (open 4th string); this 1̇ over 5, though elsewhere perhaps natural, here seems to me not at all idiomatic. My first instinct was to assume the he to be a mistake and omit it; nevertheless, I did work out some playable versions incorporating the 1̇ over 5, but as yet none of them seems convincing to me. It then occurred to me that the he might make more sense if one assumed two other errors: the fifth note in the passage just quoted above, instead of 4 (in any case an unlikely non-pentatonic note said to be played by stopping the 1st string in the 10th position), should actually be 5 (1st string stopped in 9th position), then the he would naturally apply to this note, but then also to the following three; so then the slide instead of three up would be two up (to 7.9 then 6.4) then one down (back to 7.0), sequentially played in unison with the indicated plucked open strings 5 then 7 then 6. This actually sounds both idiomatic (I have seen such a slide before, for example, near the end of the fourth section of the Xiao Xiang Shui Yun in Shen Qi Mi Pu) and good (if the qin is sensitive enough to allow the slides to be audible).

(See a transcription comparing these two interpretations of the opening)

If this was in fact the error in the tablature, is there a logical explanation for it? When I first reconstructed Xilutang Qintong melodies I chose ones that were punctuated or, in its absence, ones that had other versions available which could help determine the punctuation. In late 2012, having decided to reconstruct all of the melodies that have their earliest known publication in Xilutang Qintong folios 6 to 8 (because of an upcoming conference), I have had to deal more extensively with the issue of lack of punctuation. While doing this, relying heavily on my modal understanding of Ming dynasty melodies (details), it has often seemed to me that in some cases obvious passages are punctuated while obscure ones are not. This, in turn, suggests that perhaps someone (the Xilutang Qintong editor or someone earlier?) was trying to add punctuation to an unpunctuated old manuscript of a melody not in the active tradition, but only dared add punctuation when feeling pretty sure it was correct. If this was the case, it might also help explain how a passage such as just described might become garbled (this editor could not play it), but yet have a logical and satisfying resolution (the original transcriber perhaps considered it obvious that, in light of the he, the "three slides up to seven" does not necessarily mean all three slides have to be upwards).

As for the punctuation, note a comment by Zhu Quan in his Shen Qi Mi Pu preface expressing even greater reluctance to add it without being certain.

23. Problems in reconstructing the Feng Lei in Xilutang Qintong
In addition to the lack of punctuation, there are a number of non-pentatonic notes that at first seemed out of place. This may have been because I initially tried too hard to make the melody from 1525 match that of the 1539 Feng Lei Yin, which I had reconstructed earlier.

24. Xilutang Qintong commentary on Feng Lei
The original Chinese afterword is as follows:


25. Xilutang Qintong Music
The original Chinese subtitles (compare 1634) are:
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Appendix: Chart Tracing Feng Lei Yin
Based mainly on Zha Fuxi's
Guide, 16/164/--.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information   (see also the brief musical analysis)
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/88)
8T; shang mode; called Feng Lei; has prelude called Feidian Yin. Afterword relates Zhou Gong story; section titles reflect this; little punctuation; Section 5 and coda are in harmonics (recording)
  2. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/169)
8; shang mode; Section 6 and coda are in harmonics (latter are shorter than in 1525); no commentary
  3. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/518)
8; mode not indicated; no commentary; not in 1546;
Sectioning and music seem more like that of 1525 than 1539, but music seems less elaborate (further comment)
  5. 太音傳習
      (1552; IV/42)
10; gong mode! (purely for historical reasons?); Also has prelude: Ziyi Yin
Preface makes no specific attribution; harmonics are in #7 and at end of #10
  4. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; fac/#13)
10; shang mode; no commentary; variant of 1552?
  6. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/332)
8; grouped with shang mode but same preface as 1552 although music is different: seems to be same as 1561
Also has as prelude a different Ziyi Yin
  7. 五音琴譜
      (1579; IV/215)
9; shang mode; no commentary; harmonics in #7; version again quite different
  8. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/31)
8; shang mode; same preface as 1552; closer to 1539 (e.g., harmonics in #6, etc
  9. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/484)
9; shang mode; no commentary; harmonics for #7 and #9
10. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/224)
10; shang mode; no commentary; harmonics for #7 and #10
11. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/341)
8; shang mode; same preface as 1552; compare 1539
12. 松絃館琴譜
      (1614; VIII/94)
9; shang; no commentary; more variations: harmonics in #6 and end of #9
Should be 嚴澂 Yan Cheng's own arrangement, but see first 1755 below
13. 古音正宗
      (1634; IX/297)
10T; 商音 shang mode; section titles are included only here and in 1525, but they are completely different. A short note at the front says "賀雲得授於神人 He Yun obtained this melody from a celestial"; from 1670 this was often repeated.
14. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; IX/423)
10; shang mode (see IX/407)
15. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/97)
9; shang mode
16. 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; fac/)
9; same as 1647?
17. 友聲社琴譜
      (early Qing; XI/189)
9; shang; only commentary, at front, says, 嚴譜,鄭改 Zheng Fang revision of tablature of Yan Cheng (1614)
this book not indexed in Zha Guide
18. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/347)
11; shang mode; preface connects the piece with Qin History story of He Yun Lu meeting a spirit:
19. 大還閣琴譜
      (1673; X/360)
9; shang mode
20. 澄鑒堂琴譜
      (1689; XIV/223)
10; shang mode
21. 德音堂琴譜
      (1691; XII/521)
9; shang mode
22. 琴譜析微
      (1692; XIII/69)
9; shang mode; Zha guide has only part of the afterword
23. 五知齋琴譜
      (1722; XIV/441)
10; shang mode; at front: "蜀熟二曲此蜀 Sichuan and Yushan versions, this is Sichuan"
preface tells of He Yun (see 1670); afterword tells of others playing it
24. 臥雲樓琴譜
      (1722; XV/47)
9; shang mode; no commentary
also: facsimile folio 2 #3  
25. 琴劍合譜
      (1749; XVIII/310)
10; shang mode; no commentary
26. 蘭田館琴譜
      (1755; XVI/212)
9; shang mode; harmonics in #6 and end of #9: seems same as 1614
"徐青山譜 tablature of Xu Qingshan" (徐谼 Xu Hong)
27. 琴香堂琴譜
      (1760; XVII/51)
10; shang mode
28. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/338)
10; 徵音 zhi mode, but music is similar to earlier versions
staff notation of Guan Pinghu's reconstruction is in Guqin Quji, p.82ff
29. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/227)
10; shang mode; 蜀派 Sichuan school "1722 version"; has afterword
30. 小蘭琴譜
      (1812; XIX/433)
9; "奇品 special piece"; "商音 shang mode"; called Feng Lei; afterword mentions two stories: that of Zhou Gong, then that of a person in ancient times having a dream (He Yun?)
31. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/410)
10; shang mode; "by He Yun"
32. 律話
      (1833; XXI/437)
11; 無射商 Wuyi shang mode; "written by a person of the Tang dynasty who was longing for the past"
Long and detailed commentary: see further details above (compares the melody with Pili Yin)
33. 槐蔭書屋琴譜
      (1840; XXI/437)
10; 黃鐘調商音; afterword has no specifics
very extensive commentary on the music in antiquity  
34. 張鞠田琴譜
      (1844; XXIII/315)
10; 徵調商音 zhi diao, shang yin; has 工尺譜 gongche notation; brief opening comment; afterword relates He Yun of Lu story
35. 蕉庵琴譜
      (1868; XXVI/45)
10; 徵音 zhi mode; He Yun story; same as 1722, but with added comment at end
36. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/351)
10; 徵音 zhi mode; from 1802
37. 響雪齋琴譜
      (1876; ?)
9; this handbook does not seem to be in QQJC
38. 希韶閣琴譜
      (1878; XXVI/missing)
10; 商音 shang mode; not in QQJC, so the source of the Zha Guide info at 223/181 is not clear: it says that this version relates the He Yun story, that there used to be two versions, 蜀 Sichuan and 熟 Yushan, and that the Sichuan version is used here (these are the same comments as with 1722 above).
39. 枯木禪琴譜
      (1893; XXVIII/55)
10; 商音 shang mode; relates He Yun story
40. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/318)
10+1; 黃林調, 宮音 huanglin diao, gong yin (?); preface relates He Yun of Lu story
41. 琴學叢書
      (1910; XXX/251; 琴府/1024)
10; same as 1802; rhythm indicated; its comment: "1802 block print; original annotation says 宮調徴音 gongdiao zhiyin, standard tuning without changing tuning change to raising the fifth string one position 徵調商音 zhidiao shangyin. If the positions don't fit, correct them." This makes no sense to me (e.g. my edition of 1802 says only zhiyin).
42. 梅庵琴譜
      (1931; XXIX/206)
7; 林鐘調,宮音 (compare 1525 linzhong mode); new melody but still attributed to He Yun!
Commentary says it describes a summer storm: other commentaries do not mention summer
43. 夏一峰傳譜
古琴曲彙編 Guqinqu Huibian #14 is based on the old version
#16 is the Mei'an version
44. 愔愔室琴譜
"By He Yun"; 慢角調 lowered third string tuning (Mei'an)

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