Jiang Yue Bai
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41. White Moon over the River
- Shang mode:2 standard tuning  1 2 4 5 6 1 2
江月白 1
Jiang Yue Bai  
  Bo Ya plays qin (as here, on a boat; by Ding Guanpeng) 3  
Jiang Yue Bai, in nine sections, comes after the earliest published version of a melody in three sections called Clear Evening Intonation (Qingye Yin4). Two or three related versions of Qingye Yin survive from later handbooks. The later versions of Qing Ye Yin seem to be independent of the melodies around them, but here the version includes several specific music passages that link it to Jiang Yue Bai, for which it is clearly a prelude.5

In the present version, Jiang Yue Bai is associated with the story of Bo Ya (here called Yu Duan) and Zhong Ziqi (here simply called Zhong6; today he is usually described as a woodcutter). Their meeting has been connected with a variety of places, perhaps most commonly Shandong Province (as here), but the accounts that have Boya and Ziqi meeting by a riverbank seem most commonly to be associated with the Han river in what is today the city of Wuhan (see Yu Boya of Chu).

The melody Jiang Yue Bai survives only here and in 1559.7 Although the present version has lyrics in two of its nine sections while the 1559 has ten sections and no lyrics, the two versions are closely related musically. Both commentaries also describe a clear moon shining over a river, with no mention of high mountains or flowing streams. Meanwhile, whereas the 1559 introduction adds some extra description, it does not mention any personal names.

A number of surviving guqin melodies are connected to the story of Boya and Ziqi.8 The most famous of these melodies are the two called High Mountains and Flowing Streams. Introductions to those melodies do not usually describe the setting for the story. On the other hand, the early prefaces that do not specifically mention High Mountains and Flowing Streams also tend to suggest that the meeting took place on a moonlit night, perhaps on a clear river. These are also the melodies that associate Bo Ya with Chu and perhaps give him the surname Yu (see, e.g., Ting Qin Fu and Shuixian Qu).9

The last sentence in the afterword in 1525 could be suggesting that this melody was created by Bo Ya himself, here called Yu Duan. However, nowhere else is such a title connected to him. More likely the commentator is claiming that this melody was inspired by the story of Bo Ya and Ziqi.

As for the lyrics of the 1525 Jiang Yue Bai, they occur in Sections 4 and 5.10 According to my understanding, the lyrics of Section 4 compare following the Confucian Way (studying for exams in order to get a government position) with silkworms making cocoons and moths seeking a flame, adding that it is better to be like Tao Yuanming and just return home.11 The lyrics of Section 5 then describe an idyllic landscape.12

Section 4 lyrics (中文; compare 1511 Section 2 translation)

Bitter thoughts and bitter toil weary the spirit.13
   More words and more speaking destroy the truth.
Like silkworms making cocoons, we bind ourselves up;14
   Like moths rushing to the lamp, we destroy our own bodies.
The Master's Way:15 it is not sufficient16 just to value it.17
   My education: that is what the Master honored.18
(But) this is not as good as returning home, leaving the riverbank (where one follows Confucius).19

Section 5 lyrics (compare 1511 Section 3)

The willows hanging down are green, sunny and dense;
   Peach blossoms are half open,20 the bright sun is red.
Fragrant grass grows thick, spread out in elegant colors;
   Decorated bridges have carts and horses, serving east and west.
Small butterflies flit around, going into the flowering shrubs;
   A wanderer dances drunkenly amongst jade green cliffs.21

Original afterword22

One night Yu Duan moored along a clear river. Seeing that the color of the moon came through with perfect clarity, he took his qin and described this (in music). Quite unexpectedly Zhong (Ziqi) met him, and so their relationship was fixed. As a result there is this melody.

Nine titled sections,
23 with lyrics in sections 4 and 5
  (should follow the prelude Qing Ye Yin; timings follow my recording (聽錄音); see transcription of both)

00.00   1. On a clear river mooring a boat (harmonics)
00.43   2. The skies are crystal clear and sounds are hushed
01.26   3. Playing a qin to express emotions
02.15   4. On a clear night, a chance encounter (lyrics)
03.20   5. Having goblets of wine, speaking one's feelings (lyrics)
04.08   6. Just met, but already understanding each other
04.49   7. The setting moon through an overgrown window
05.38   8. A bell rings from a temple enshrouded in mist
06.23   9. Flying geese leave behind only tracks in the snow
07.01       harmonics
07.17       end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. White Moon over the River (江月白 Jiang Yue Bai; III/110)
江月白 17496.49 only jiang yue. See also .50 江月不隨流水去 (The moon over a river does not flow away like the water) to .53 江月照我心 (reference to Su Shi). Qinshu Daquan includes a poem that has this phrase (see Qin Poems, IIA, #21), but none of these reference make any connection to a qin melody or to Bo Ya.

2. Shang mode (商調 shang diao)
Standard tuning is usually considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6. For further information on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Boya plays the qin on a boat Folk image on same topic as above    
The woodblock print at right (expand) is an anonymous work whose origin is not identified in the online source, which accompanies it with an expanded version of the Boya/Ziqi story, also of unknown origin.

The source of the image above, though, is known: it was by Ding Guanpeng (丁觀鵬 1736 - 1795; Bio/xxxx), a professional painter in the Qianlong court at the same time as Giuseppi Castiglioni. Ding was noted for painting Daoist and Buddhist images in the style of 丁雲鵬 Ding Yunpeng (1547- ca. 1628). I saw an image of this handscroll, 61 x 23 cm, as Lot #186 from a now deleted online auction page from an auction in Hong Kong dated 2 March 2002.

4. Clear Evening Intonation (清夜吟 Qingye Yin; III/110)
This title, which could also be translated as "Peaceful Evening Intonation", first appears as the seventh of the Ten Melodies in Gong Mode attributed to Heruo Bi. However, there is no reason to suspect that the present melody has any melodic connection to the ancient title. It also has no musical connection with Liangxiao Yin (Peaceful Evening Prelude).

An examination of the surviving versions of Qingye Yin, as well as their publication dates, suggest that Qingye Yin began as a prelude to Jiang Yue Bai, then had a short life as an independent melody. Four versions are listed in the Zha Guide 19/--/-- :

  1. Here, but not in 1559, which has the other Jiang Yue Bai
  2. 1614 (VIII/94); related to 1525 but no section titles; precedes Zhong Qiu Yue
  3. 1647 (X/71); very close to 1614, but second section is much shorter; again no section titles (this version was recorded in the 1950s by 汪孟舒 Wang Mengshu)
  4. 1692: identical to 1647

    The text accompanying Ting Qin Fu mentions a Qing Jiang Yin. There seems to be no further connection with that title. Likewise, Hearing a Bell on a Clear Evening (清夜聞鐘 Qing Ye Wen Zhong) seems to have no musical relationship to Qing Ye Yin, though it does seem to share some musical material with Jiang Yue Bai (see further).

Music of Qing Ye Yin.
The melody is in three sections (the Guide does not mention the section titles used in 1525; timings follow
my recording; see also the beginning of my transcription):

See also this video, where I have paired my recording of 清夜吟 Clear Evening Intonation to the painting 項聖謨,秋林讀書 Reading in an Autumn Forest, by Xiang Shengmo (1597–1658; Wiki). The original painting is in the British Museum, and their website says they maintain the copyright, adding that the image may not be copied if it is for commercial purposes: see here and here. Their video has infact been copied in many places on the internet, often with music (Googleb "秋林讀書" and select "Videos"). Most likely if the person depicted in the painting himself played music, in this setting it would be silk string guqin music. Thus, none of the other settings I have heard have had music that to my ears is appropriate.

00.00   1. 一輪秋色   A full moon in autumn colors
00.44   2. 四顧寂寥   Looking around in quiet solitude
01.14   3. 東方既白   To the east it is getting light
01.54   泛音 Harmonics
02.08   調終 Melody ends

Go directly to Jiang Yue Bai.

5. For example, compare the beginning of Qingye Yin, Section 3, with the beginning of Jiang Yue Bai, Section 2. (Return)

6. 鍾 Zhong
The original Chinese text is 鍾會 Zhong hui, here translated as "Zhong met him". 鍾會 could also be Zhong Hui, the name of a well-known scholar-official of the 3rd c. CE (see under Guangling San). However, there is no conceivable way he could be connected to this story.

7. Comparing the two versions of Jiang Yue Bai
Zha Guide 19/182/372 lists only two versions. The present one has 9 titled sections, with lyrics in sections 4 and 5; the second, published in 1559 (III/434), though musically quite similar, has 10 untitled sections and no lyrics. The sections of 1525 with lyrics are very plain and thus clearly need to be sung; the corresponding sections of 1559 have some ornamentation which allows them better to stand alone. Nevertheless, the lyrics of 1525 Section 4 do fit 1559 Section 4 quite well; and those of 1525 Section 5 can go with 1559 Section 5, but the latter adds several more harmonic phrases at the end. As for the differing number of sections, 1559 redoes 1525's sections 6 and 7 into its own sections 6 - 8. Jiang Yue Bai in 1559 is preceded by an Intonation of Sunken Jade (沉璧吟 Chen Bi Yin; 2 sections) that is melodically unrelated to Qingye Yin.

The original commentary for the Jiang Yue Bai in 1559 is as follows:


Comparison with Qing Ye Wen Zhong
Parts of Jiang Yue Bai seem to have a musical relationship to parts of Hearing a Bell on a Clear Evening (清夜聞鐘 Qing Ye Wen Zhong, which is quite an old qin melody title. Note also that the title of Jiang Yue Bai, Section 8, mentions a bell ringing. I have not yet found a similar connection between Qing Ye Wen Zhong and Qing Ye Yin. Qing Ye Wen Zhong survives in 15 handbooks from the version in 1559 (where it is called Qi Lin Bei Feng and has commentary connecting it to the same story as in Huo Lin) to one published in 1878.

8. Guqin melodies connected to the story of Boya and Ziqi
In addition to Jiang Yue Bai these include:

  1. High Mountains,
  2. Flowing Streams,
  3. Rhapsody on Listening to the Qin
  4. Shuixian Qu
  5. Bo Ya Mourns Ziqi.

Old melody lists include others, such as Huailing Cao.

9. Boya and Ziqi meet on a boat
For a detailed account of this version of the story, see Yu Boya of Chu.

10. Original Chinese lyrics (see III/111)
The original lyrics, with 1511 (I/290) lyrics for comparison, are as follows:

  1525 Section 4 (第四段):

如蠶作繭兮自纏其体 ( = 體? 笨?),

1511 Section 2 (第二段):


  1525 Section 5 (第五段):


1511 Section 3 (第三段):



11. Lyrics of 1511 Section 2 (中文)
The lyrics here in Section 4 are almost identical to those of Section 2 of Ting Qin Fu, a different melody on this same story. Individual differences between these two are indicated above via footnotes. Note that "return from" in the last line could also be translated as "return to", but to me this does not make sense within the context of the whole poem. My translation of the lyrics for Section 2 of 1511 is as follows,

Bitter thoughts and weary toil weary the spirit;
   More words and more speaking destroy the truth.
Like silkworms making cocoons, binding themselves up;
   Like moths rushing to the lamp, destroying their own bodies.
The Confucian Way: it is not sufficient just to utilize it;
   Confucian teaching: it is not sufficient just to venerate it.
These are not as good as returning from the Si Stream riverbank (where Confucius taught)

12. Lyrics of 1511 Section 3 (中文)
Though rather different from those of 1525 Section 5, the lyrics of 1511 Section 3 have almost the same meaning. Individual differences between these two are indicated above via footnotes. The lyrics for 1511 Section 3 might be translated as follows,

Yang essence fuses, willows twist gold; (? 陽氣和融兮柳搖金。)
   Peach blossoms are half open, the bright sun is red.
Fragrant grass grows luxuriantly, spreading out in elegant colors;
   Decorated bridges have carts and horses, serving east and west.
Playful butterflies flit around, tiny outside the wall;
   Two wanderers dance, east of a decorated tower.

13. Literally: "A bitter heart bitterly toils, weary is the spirit." 1511 had "A bitter heart wearily toils, weary is the spirit." (Return)

14. For the last character in the original, 体 (ben or ti), both Zha and 1511 have 體 ti, but 体 can also be used for 笨 ben, thus rhyming with the other lines. 499/A says, "儜劣,與笨同 timid/inferior, the same as clumsy/stupid". This usage would make the phrase 自纏其体 mean something like, "wrapping themselves in this primitive manner." However, it should be noted that it is quite common for such a line not to rhyme with the surrounding lines, as in line three of the second verse (Section 5).

I have not yet found the origin of this silkworm and cocoon phrase or the following one regarding moths and a flame. An internet search does show regular occurrences of three phrases of this type:

  1. 如魚吞鉤,不知其患;             Like a fish swallowing a hook, unaware of the calamity;
  2. 如蠶作繭,自纏自縛;             Like a silkworm making its cocoon, wrapping and binding itself;
  3. 如蛾撲燈(火),自燒自爛。    Like a moth hitting a candle (fire), burning itself in a blaze.

All the sites seem to have Buddhist orientation. The related comments suggest that giving in to ones desires can lead to just this sort of result, but none calls the desire 笨 stupid.

15. In 子之道兮不足貴, "子 zi" could mean either "your" or "Confucius". 1511 specifically has "丘" here, i.e., Confucius. However, the next line in 1525 has "my" (我 wo). Thus, it might be better to translate this line, "Your way: it is not sufficient just to follow it." (Return)

16. The literal meaning of 不足 buzu should be "not sufficient", and this best fits my understanding of this line. However, some dictionaries say it means "not worth" (e.g., deFrancis), and in the example given at 1/414 不足道 buzu dao, from 陶潛,桃花源記, it seems to mean "no need to...". (Return)

17. 1525 貴 gui was in 1511 用 yong. (Return)

18. 1525 has 遵 zun "observe, obey" while 1511 had 尊 zun "honor"; and 1511 again has 丘 instead of 子. The whole line in 1511 is "丘之教兮不足尊 Confucius' teachings: it is not enough just to venerate them." (Return)

19. 1511 had, "不如歸去兮泗水濱 They are not as good as returning from the bank of the Si river" (i.e., leaving Confucian learning behind? 泗水濱 17681.11 in Qufu; 離水43079.xxx). (Return)

20. The original has "关", which dictionaries identify as an old way of writing 笑 xiao, which usually means "laugh" (like "夭"). For 笑 VIII/1108-6 says "比喻花朵開放 an analogy to flower buds opening." IV/978 says "桃 peach" can also mean "桃花 peach blossom". (Return)

21. For 翠屏 cuiping (literally "kingfisher screen/tablet") 29376.126 gives three definitions: in addition to "碧色山巖 jade green cliffs" there is "standing blue-green screen" and "kingfisher-colored stone partition".

22. 江月白 解題
The original Chinese afterword is:


23. The original Chinese section titles are:

  1. 澄江艤棹
  2. 瑤空籟寂
  3. 鳴琴遣興
  4. 清宵以邂逅
  5. 尊酒論心
  6. 傾蓋相知
  7. 蓬窗月落
  8. 煙寺鐘鳴
  9. 飛鴻雪跡

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