Cherish Antiquity: Huai Gu Yin
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32. Cherish Antiquity Intonation 懷古吟 1
  a.k.a. Yikuang Yin and Si Gui Yin
  Shang mode: standard tuning:2 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
Huai Gu Yin  
Confucius longs for antiquity while playing qin 3        
It is often said that, at least until modern times, Chinese culture always valued the old over the new, with this being much more pervasive an attitude than "longing for the good old days" in other cultures.4 As for the present melody, it can probably be best understood as a general expression of this attitude rather than as referring to a specific event: although several of the surviving versions allude to specific stories from the past, most have either no commentary or only indirect allusions.

Where there is commentary the most common theme (as in the earliest preface, from 15525) seems to be to connect it with a story of Confucius longing for the good old days: while returning to his home state of Lu, having failed to be hired by various rulers, he found an orchid alone in a field of weeds; while playing qin he compared himself to that beautiful but neglected orchid. Confucius was also said to have complained that rulers of his day were not as righteous and wise as those of the past. Although this story is only mentioned in two prefaces, the early publications of the melody most commonly used it as a prelude to Yi Lan, which tells exactly this story.6

Other stories concern different people but they have a similar feeling. For example, in some handbooks the melody is said to have been created by the virtuous King Wen (Wen Wang),7 while a later comment mentions the idyllic period of the legendary emperors Tang (Yao) and Yu (Shun).8

The title Huai Gu Yin can be found as a gong mode melody in at least one melody list said to date from the Song dynasty.9 Then, from examining handbooks indexed in Zha Fuxi's Guide and also consulting other early handbooks he was not able to index, it seems that between 1546 and 1894 there were over 20 publications of this melody.10 However, the melody had several different names, and to find all the published versions one must look at these three separate titles in the Guide:

Although 22 handbooks between 1546 and 1894 is a relative large number, it is not clear that this melody retained its popularity during the Qing dynasty. The first 16 were published between 1546 and 1670 (which tended to copy old tablature). After this there was a long gap before another one, which might be called the the modern version, appeared.

Modern Huaigu Yin 11
The first known version after 1670 is the one published in Wuxue Shangfang Qinpu (1836), said to be an early handbook of the Lingnan School. That melody, although called simply Huai Gu, is clearly related to the earlier Huai Gu Yin. It was then picked up by several other late 19th century handbooks, some of them also said to be Lingnan style. These 19th century versions seem to be the basis for the several available modern recordings; though they usually used the title Huai Gu Yin, they identify their version as from the Lingnan School. These include recordings by Xie Daoxiu and Li Kongyuan (both on nylon metal strings; after a version played by Rong Tianqi). They seem to be somewhat more elaborate than the version I have worked on, the present one from 1525.12

None; earliest is from 1552

Music 14
Three sections (timings below follow the first recording listed 聽錄音 below)

00.00   1.
00.44   2. (harmonics)
01.08   3.
02.27       Harmonic coda
02.41       Ending

On 16 October 2013 I made five recordings of Huaigu Yin, with the aim of comparing strings and instruments. The recordings are as follows:

  1. Qin by Tong Kin-Woon with Marusan Hashimoto strings (listen 聽錄音 while following the timings above)
  2. Qin by Tong Kin-Woon with strings made ca. 1980 by Fang Yuting or a student of his (2.30; listen 聽錄音)
  3. Qin by He Mingwei with Taigu strings from Wong Shu-Chee (2.30; listen 聽錄音)
  4. Qin by He Mingwei with Huqiu strings from Suzhou (2.26; listen 聽錄音)
  5. Qin by Wang Peng with unidentified strings - perhaps a mix (2.28; listen 聽錄音)

Of course, to do a proper comparison it would be necessary to switch the strings around - 25 recordings in all!

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Cherish Antiquity Intonation (懷古吟 Huai Gu Yin)
Also translated as, "Thinking of the Past", etc. For related title references one must examine at least six separate titles (further below under Tracing Huai Gu Yin):

  1. Cherish Antiquity (懷古 Huai Gu; see 1836)
    7/786 and 11716.18 懷古: "cherish antiquity"; also a nickname for some people, but no musical reference.
  2. Cherish Antiquity Intonation (懷古吟 Huai Gu Yin, sometimes written Huaigu Yin; most common early title)
    neither 7/786 nor 11716.18 懷古 mentions an "吟" yin or has any musical reference.
  3. Cherish Antiquity Prelude (懷古引 Huai Gu Yin, also sometimes written Huaigu Yin; see 1670)
    neither 7/786 nor 11716.18 懷古 mentions an "引" yin or has any musical reference.
  4. Cherish Antiquity Melody (懷古曲 Huai Gu Qu; only 1693)
    neither 7/786 nor 11716.18 懷古 mentions a "曲" qu or has any musical reference; this melody is unrelated to any of the Huaigu Yin
  5. Calmly Expansive Intonation (夷曠吟 Yikuang Yin; see 1546)
    5977.156 夷曠 says yikuang means "平易開朗也 amiable optimism"; 2/1501 adds "平和曠達 calmly expansive", "閑适放達 leisure-hurry-unorthodox" (?) and "平坦而寬闊 smooth and expansive"; no yin and no references to it as the title of a music piece. However, the definition 平和曠達 uses as one example a reference connecting the term to Xi Kang: "宋何薳《春渚紀聞,叔夜有道之士》 '(Xi Kang) was a gentleman of the Dao', from Chunzhu Jiwen (quoted) by He Wei of the Song dynasty, 「余觀嵇中散被譖就刑,寃痛甚矣,而叔夜乃更神色夷曠,援琴終曲,重嘆《廣陵》之不傳。」" In other words, before Xi Kang played Guanging San one last time on the execution ground, he seemed calmly expansive.
  6. Longing to Return Intonation (思歸吟 Si Gui Yin; see 1557)
    10734.260 only 思歸引 (prelude, q.v.), no 思歸吟 (yin here is "intonation" or simply "melody")

The Jiangnan Sizu" melody Huai Gu seems to be unrelated. "Huai gu" being quite a popular expression, one also finds it as titles of or in titles (e.g. 赤壁懷古 Chibi Huai Gu) of many other melodies outside the qin repertoire. To my knowledge no melodic connections have yet been found.

2. Shang mode (商調 Shang Diao)
Standard tuning can also be considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6. For more on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi

3. Image
Suitable image not yet found.

4. Longing for the good old days
As yet this longing for the past has not led to a movement for Historically informed qin performance.

5. Earliest Preface, from Taiyin Chuanxi (1552)
The original text here is,

The Friend of Mountains says, "Confucius saw that the Dao was not being carried on. Mourning the present while thinking of the past, when he saw an orchid he created a song while playing the qin.

Precedes Yi Lan, which has a similar preface (begins, "山考譜曰,孔子傷世不見用。見蘭獨茂,..."). Note that "蘭 lan" as used at that time may not have referred to the flowers we know today as orchids.

6. Originally a prelude?
Huai Gu Yin does not seem to share musical motifs with Yi Lan, and one can only speculate as to whether the two pieces were paired from the beginning, whether Huai Gu Yin was created to accompany Yi Lan, or whether Huai Gu Yin was originally an independent melody later attached to Yi Lan but then once again separated from it.

7. Association with King Wen (Zhou Wen Wang)
This connection is made with the versions in these three handbooks:

  1. 1589: commentary says only, "此吟廼周文王所作 this piece was created by Zhou Wen Wang".

  2. 1670: longer commentary: "按是曲,文王作也。其趣澹遠沉靜,回古風於指下,孑孑然若遺世獨立,於無何有之鄕也。鼓之者,撫今追昔,興懷乎一唱三歎之間,有遺音者矣。"

  3. 1876: commentary only says the piece is the same as 1670.

It does not relate a specific episode from the life from Wen Wang.

8. Association with Tang (Yao) and Yu (Shun)
The idyllic period of the legendary emperors is mentioned in the afterword to the Huai Gu Yin of 1875, as follows,


Zha Guide 170 [212] calls this melody Huai Gu and indicates no commentary, but on 417 [173] it calls it Yi Kuang Yin

9. 懷古吟 Huai Gu Yin on Song dynasty list
Yin is Intonation; see in Taiyin Daquanji, Folio 5. The fact that it is listed as a gong mode melody suggests it might be unrelated to shang mode melodies published from the 16th century.

10. Tracing 懷古吟 Huai Gu Yin (a.k.a. 思歸吟 Si Gui Yin and 夷曠吟 Yikuang Yin; see appendix)
References for these three titles are given above; compare the musically unrelated 1511 Longing to Return Prelude (思歸引 Si Gui Yin (there 引 yin means "prelude" rather than 吟 "intonation").

Zha Fuxi's Guide seems to have been somewhat confused by the fact that versions of this melody are published under three separate titles, not to mention that at least one of the Huai Gu melodies is musically unrelated. Entries in the Guide are as follows:

  1. Cherish Antiquity Intonation (懷古吟 Huai Gu Yin)
    Zha Guide (17)/218/570 also gives this a separate listing, with references to commentary and lyrics, but it lists no handbooks, saying to see the details under Yikuang Yin; "570" should go with the unrelated Huaigu Qu; none of the Huaigu Yin melodies has lyrics.
  2. Calmly Expansive Intonation (夷曠吟 Yikuang Yin)
    Zha Guide 17/173/-- lists this separately but only the 1546 and 1561 handbooks use this title: the other 16 are called either 懷古吟 Huai Gu Yin (intonation), 懷古引 Huai Gu Yin (prelude), or simply 懷古Huai Gu.
  3. Longing to Return Intonation (思歸吟 Si Gui Yin)
    Zha Guide 23/199/-- gives this a separate entry, but lists it only in one handbook, Taiyin Buyi (1557).

By examining the details with these three entries one can find altogether about 21 occurrences from 1546 through 1884; most are known as Huai Gu Yin.

11. Huai Gu Yin during the Qing dynasty
It is interesting to speculate as to why, since after 1670 this title does not appear again until 1836, when it reappeared it was very similar to the earlier versions (I haven't found whether it is connected to one earlier version in particular). The subsequent ones called Huai Gu (1876 and 1884) seem particularly close to each other.

12. Modern recordings of Huai Gu (Yin) from the Lingnan School
The recordings I have heard, all using nylon metal stringed qins, include ones by 謝導秀 Xie Daoxiu and 李孔元 Li Kongyuan. Both are titled "Huai Gu" and say that they follow a version played by 容天圻 Rong Tianqi, 1936—1994 (Lingnan School master; sometimes Romanized Rong Tianji). However, I do not know whether Rong Tianqi learned this melody through the oral tradition, or whether he consulted/followed the version of 1836.

13. Perhaps a later preface will eventually be translated here.

14. Music
The recordings were made using a Roland R-26 Portable Recorder with its built in microphone.

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Appendix: Chart Tracing the Huai Gu Yin melody
Based mainly on examining three related melodies listed in Zha Fuxi's
Huai Gu Yin (懷古吟 (17)/173/570), Yi Kuang Yin (夷曠吟 17/218/--) and Si Gui Yin (思歸吟 23/199/--)

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
01. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/100)
Huai Gu Yin; 3; 商調 shang mode; no commentary;
No separate preface, so clearly here a prelude to Yi Lan
02. 梧岡琴譜
      (1546; I/423)
Yikuang Yin; 3; Zha Guide did not index this handbook; "神品,即懷古吟,商調 celestial air, same as Huaigu Yin, shang mode"; no other commentary; last piece in shang mode, so not a prelude
03. 太音傳習
      (1552; IV/61)
Huai Gu Yin; 3+1; also not in Zha Guide; earliest preface, which connects the melody to Confucius, when not feeling utilized, seeing an orchid and singing and playing qin about this (precedes Yi Lan).
04. 步虛僊琴譜
      (1556; III/---)
Huai Gu Yin; 3; not in QQJC or the Zha Guide; facsimile edition #7: Folio 2 #2;
no commentary; no closing harmonics; again used as prelude to Yi Lan
05. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/328)
思歸吟 Si Gui Yin; 3; new title but melody identical to 1546/1561, preface ("杏庄老人曰,孔子道不行,思歸。欲正魯之狂簡,適見蘭作歌鼓琴時也。") like 1552 and still precedes Yi Lan; no relation to the short song 思歸引 Si Gui Yin
06. 琴譜正傳
      (1561; II/429)
Yikuang Yin; 3; a copy of 1546
07. 五音琴譜
      (1579; IV/212)
Huai Gu Yin; 3; no commentary but comes before Yi Lan; very similar to 1551 (but see Section 3)
08. 玉梧琴譜
      (1589; VI/22)
Huai Gu Yin; 3; only commentary attributes the melody to Zhou Wen Wang;
not a prelude; comes before Bai Xue
09. 琴書大全
      (1590; V/478)
Huai Gu Yin; 3; no commentary;
by this date preludes are generally no longer used
10. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/209)
Huai Gu Yin; 4 sections; no commentary
11. 藏春塢琴譜
      (1602; VI/314)
Huai Gu Yin; identical to 1589
12. 陽春堂琴譜
      (1611; VII/389)
Huai Gu Yin; 4 sections; no commentary
13. 樂仙琴譜
      (1623; VIII/401)
Huai Gu Yin; expanded: 4 sections; no commentary
14. 古音正宗
      (1634; IX/308)
Huai Gu Yin; 4 sections plus closing harmonics; no commentary.
15. 義軒琴經
      (late Ming; IX/422)
Huai Gu Yin; 3; no commentary
16. 琴苑新傳全編
      (1670; XI/335)
Huai Gu Yin ("懷古引 prelude", but not used as one here); 3+1;
preface attributes Wen Wang, as did 1589, but music much closer to 1551; also has afterword
17. 悟雪山房琴譜
      (1836; XXII/263)
Huai Gu; 4 sections, with 4th "connected to previous"; 黃鐘均宮音; "古岡遺譜 Gugang YipuGugang Yipu";
No commentary; clearly related to previous; the Lingnan School version is said to be based on this.
18. 以六正五之齋琴學秘書
      (1875; XXVI/235)
Huai Gu; 4; 商音 shangyin; also "Gugang Yipu"; has an afterword that mentions the legendary emperors Tang (Yao) and Yu (Shun); further above
19. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/228)
懷古引 Huai Gu Yin; 商音 shangyin, 徵調 zhidiao; 3+1;
"1670 version"; no other commentary
20. 天籟閣琴譜
      (1876; XXI/112)
懷古吟 Huai Gu Yin; 商音 shangyin; 4+1;
no commentary; related to earlier versions (copied from one?)
21. 雙琴書屋琴譜集成
      (1884; XXVII/286)
Huai Gu; 黃鐘均宮音; 4 Sections; like 1836 except for comments: "金陵派 Jinling School"; "古岡黃煟南先生遺譜 bequeathed notation from Huang Weinan of Gugang"; etc.
22. 枯木禪琴譜
      (1893; XXVIII/133)
懷古曲 Huai Gu Qu; 7 sections; unrelated to previous; afterword says Shi Kongchen composed it himself; only version with lyrics (Zha Guide 570), but do they fit the music? Called 懷古詞 Huai Gu Ci ("弔古懷吟豪情....") they are attached at end, not paired.

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