Zui Yu Chang Wan
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77. A Drunken Fisherman Sings in the Evening
- Zhi mode:2 standard tuning 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
Zui Yu Chang Wan 1
In front of Xisaishan 3      
The fisherman in the title is not a common working man but a scholarly ideal: a gentleman fisherman living an idyllic life, enjoying nature and the pleasures of companionship and wine. The original preface, below, has him living along the Song Jiang (river),4 which flows eastward from Tai Hu (the Great Lake5), passing south of Suzhou, then through the area which is today Shanghai.

This early version of Zui Yu Chang Wan is musically unrelated to the melody of this title played today. Zha Fuxi's Guide lists the title in 17 handbooks from 1525 to 1946.6 However, the updated list below shows 20 entries that can be sub-divided in three: two versions of the original melody, 15 later versions of this, and three versions of the modern melody. These are:

  1. The earliest surviving melody with this title, found in the first two handbooks: 1525 and 1557. These two are nearly identical: the 1557 preface gives a different attribution, but it also has 10 sections and the same section headings.
  2. Elaborations of the first melody; the earliest of these did not appear until over 100 years later, in Dahuange Qinpu (1673; X/387). It has 12 sections7 and is more elaborate; it seems to be the source of all the later versions up to Tianwenge Qinpu (1876).
  3. The modern version,8 the first surviving occurrence of which is also in the 1876 Tianwenge Qinpu, which attributes it to the Sichuan qin player Zhang Kongshan. This modern Zui Yu Chang Wan, one of the most popular pieces in the current active repertoire, generally has six or seven sections.

The compiler of Xilutang Qintong, Wang Zhi, places Zui Yu Chang Wan after the short Dongting Qiusi (Autumn Thoughts of Dongting Lake9). These two pieces were not commonly paired elsewhere, but there are several reasons to think that this was the intention here. First, Dongting Qiusi has no separate commentary, which in Xilutang Qintong usually means it shares commentary with the following piece. The shorthand for "tune ends"10 at the end of Dongting Qiusi also seems to indicate it was to be considered a prelude. In addition, it shares some musical material with Zui Yu Chang Wan.11 It might be noted that, although the commonly known Dongting Lake is in Hunan province, Dongting was also used to refer to Tai Hu, a lake in southern Jiangsu province.12

As with other early qin melodies in the zhi mode, early versions of both pieces use ti (7) regularly, with Zui Yu Chang Wan often and Dongting Qiusi usually flattening the 7.13 Later versions of these pieces eliminate the flattened 7s and often change the 7s to 1 (do).14

Wang Zhi's brief preface, which is perhaps intended also to apply to Dongting Qiusi, mentions two late Tang dynasty poets Lu Guimeng15 and Pi Rixiu.16 It then quotes part of a poem by another Tang poet, Zhang Zhihe (730-782).17

Lu Guimeng spent most of his life living in Fu Li,18 a village near Song Jiang. The qin handbook Qinshu Daquan19 includes several poems by Lu which praise the qin. One, called For the Old Man of Zixi, mentions a drunken fisherman.

Pi Rixiu, from Hubei province, came to the Suzhou area as an adult. Lu and Pi soon became very close friends; they wrote many poems together and also had a reputation for singing together. This, as well as their association with fishing and drinking, may be the reason for the attribution to this duo, rather than any specific melodic invention on their part.

Zhang Zhihe was an 8th century poet who quit his official position in the capital and retired to the countryside, living in seclusion by a river. He wrote a very well-known poem which goes,20

In front of Xisai mountain the white seagulls fly,
Peach blossoms flow in the water and the mandarin perch are fat.
In a blue bamboo hat and a green straw cloak,
with slanting winds and fine rain, there is no need to return (to public office).

There are several Xisai mountains in China, but one is near the southern end of the Great Lake.21

This is the only preface which mentions Lu and Pi. In contrast the nearly identical tablature of 155722 connects it to a poem by the early Song dynasty poet Zhang Yuangan.23 Later introductions do not mention specific people.24

Original Preface25

As Lu Luwang and Pi Ximei were floating in a boat on the Song River they saw an old fisherman drunkenly singing, and accordingly created this song. I think its flavor is as good as (that of Zhang Zhihe's famous poem which includes the lines,) "In front of Xisai Mountain...peach blossoms flow in the water."

10 sections (see
my transcription; timings follow my recording 26)

00.00   1. Rowing through rippling water
00.50   2. Pulling the oars
01.20   3. Knocking on the boat planks (to frighten the fish
02.01   4. Raising the nets (filled with fish; in harmonics)
02.35   5. The call of a fisherman: ao ai
03.43   6. (The boat settles in) the shallow water along the sandy shore
04.19   7. Forgetting society
04.45   8. A reed flute
05.50   9. Mourning antiquity
06.22 10. A mature man in retirement
06.57       Closing harmonics
07.12       End

Footnotes (Numbers refer to entries in Zhongwen Dacidian)

1. Zui Yu Chang Wan 醉漁唱晚
40778.101 has zuiyu only as a nickname; there is no mention of the melody by this or another version of the title, 醉漁晚唱 Zui Yu Wan Chang. (Return)

2. Zhi mode (徵調 zhi diao)
Standard tuning can also be considered as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6. For more information on zhi mode see Shenpin Zhi Yi. For modes in general see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Image: In front of Xisai Mountain
By 金蔚 Jin Wei; see details.

4. Song River (松江 Song Jiang) (Wiki)
This river is now generally called the 吳淞江 Wusong River. In English it may be called Suzhou Creek, though this was especially used for its last mile or two before joining the Huangpu River at the north end of Shanghai's Bund. The river is said to originate in Taihu (lake), but if that was once true, the exact location is lost. In fact, the whole area around Suzhou is dotted with streams and canals that have sometimes changed course.

Noteworthy areas near the current course of the Wusong include,

These are now well-developed tourist areas.

5. 太湖 "Lake Taihu"
"Tai Hu" literally means "Great Lake"; this not being immediately obvious to non-Chinese speakers, it is often called Lake Taihu.

6. Tracing Zui Yu Chang Wan (tracing chart)
The chart below is based mainly on Zha, Guide, 20/186/--. To sum up the information in the chart, none of the tablatures sets the melody to lyrics (though see 1946). All of the versions published before 1876, and at least three later ones, present the earlier version. However, no one other than myself seems to be playing any of the earlier versions. 古琴曲集 Guqin Quji Vols. 1 and 2 transcribe three performances of the new version (6 or 7 sections). The commentary says it appears earliest in 1525, and quotes the 1525 commentary, without mentioning that the melodies are musically unrelated.

It should be noted that people who have learned one of the versions of the Zui Yu Chang Wan commonly played today usually do so from recent copies of tablature not from any of the handbooks listed here.

7. Twelve Section versions
The two sections are added by dividing Sections 5 and 8 into two sections each, but there is also further expansion of the music.

8. 醉漁唱晚 Zui Yu Chang Wan, Modern Version (天問閣琴譜 Tianwenge Qinpu; QQJC XXV/360)
The modern version of Drunken Fisherman Sings in the Evening first survives from Folio 7 of Tianwenge Qinpu (1876; this handbook also has a version of the earlier melody at XXV/275.) There is no commentary with the new version other than that it is "by 張孔山 Zhang Kongshan". It is thus one of the handbook's eight melodies as played by the famous Sichuan qin player 張合修 Zhang Hexiu, better known as Zhang Kongshan (see Xu Jian's Qin History, Chapter 9 [p.174]). This new version quickly became one of the most popular melodies in the repertoire, with the effect that the musically unrelated earlier version soon disappeared and several varieties of the new version emerged. A recording of Zha Fuxi playing one of the modern versions can be heard on the website of Jim Binkley.

9. Dongting Qiu Si 洞庭秋思
See further commentary in the main entry. 17777.56 and the following entries have nothing about "autumn thoughts" or the people mentioned here. This is the earliest surviving version of this title. Dongting Qiusi only precedes Zui Yu Changwan in the 1525 and 1689 handbooks.

10. Tune ends
調終 "diao zhong" is often used with these short pieces; 曲終 "qu zhong" was generally used for the longer ones.

11. Melodic connections between Dongting Qiu Si and Zui Yu Chang Wan
For example, in my transcriptions compare m. 30-32 and 42-3 of Dongting Qiu Si with m.266-8 and 315-8 of Zui Yu Chang Wan.

12. 洞庭 Dong Ting
Near the southern end of the lake there are two hills/islands that on older maps were still called, respectively, either 東洞庭山 East Dongtingshan and 西洞庭山 West Dongtingshan, or 洞庭東山 Dongting East Mountain and 洞庭西山 Dongting WestMountain; these maps may also still show 洞庭 Dongting as a name for that end of the lake. However, modern maps generally shorten the names of the two hills/islands to East Mountain (東山 Dong Shan) and West Mountain (西山 Xi Shan). In addition, the islands seem to have been considerably enlarged through landfill.

13. Since the fundamental note of the zhi mode is sol (5), the flattened 7s are similar to the flattened thirds in the shang mode, which has do (1) as the fundamental note. (Return)

14. The changes can already be seen in Dahuange Qinpu (1673), which has edition #3 of Zui Yu Chang Wan and #5 of Dongting Qiusi; they also can be easily heard in the performances by Zha Fuxi and others of Dongting Qiusi. (Return)

15. Lu Guimeng 陸龜蒙 (d. c.881; see separate entry)
Lu Guimeng (42620.407 陸龜蒙, 字魯望,號江湖散人, 等; also Giles and Nienhauser), literary name Luwang, nickname Jianghu Sanren, etc., was a 9th century poet who abstained from fine food, alcohol, festivities, etc., instead floating on a boat with his books, fishing tackle and equipment for making tea. He was from 長洲 Changzhou, now part of Suzhou, but after retirement is said to have3 made his home in Fuli (see below).

16. Pi Rixiu 皮日休 (c.834 - c.883)
A famous poet and scholar, Pi Rixiu (3340.12 皮日休 , 字襲美), literary name Ximei, obtained his jinshi in 867 then became a high official at the Court of Sacrificial Worship in Chang'an. When the rebel Huang Chao overran Chang'an in 880 he tried to force Pi to write prophecies, but these read like criticisms of Huang, so Huang had Pi put to death. His works mentioned elsewhere on this site include:


17. Zhang Zhihe 張志和 (730-782)
A friend of Pi Rixiu, Zhang Zhihe (10026.366) was also a famous poet; the poem quoted here (see 100 Tang and Song Ci Poems, #5) was popular even in Japan. Tales of Immortals (Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 2000), p.93, tells a story about him. It says he was a fine scholar, legendary drinker, master of qigong and an excellent painter of plants, animals and landscapes, especially fantastic scenery.

18. Fu Li 甫立
The modern name of Fu Li is 甪直 Luzhi (Wiki; see also Song River above). One of the nicknames for Lu Guimeng was 甫立先生 Mr. Fuli.

19. 琴書大全 (1593); see pp. 427, 443 and 451 (For the Old Man of Zixi [near Hangzhou?] 與紫耤溪翁). (Return)

20. Original text of "In front of Xisai Mountain
The original poem, 漁歌子 The Fisherman Singing, is as follows:


This poem was particularly popular in Japan.

21. Xisai Mountain (西塞山 Xisai Shan
35587.587 西塞山 says it is in the southwest of 吳興縣 Wuxing county, placing it near the southern end of Taihu. Although there seems to be some mention of Xisai Mountain in local tourist literature, it does not appear on modern maps. Google maps, for example, put it on the south bank of the Yangzi River just downstream from 黃石 Huangshi (midway between Wuhan and Jiujiang), a local tourist literature there claim that Zhang Zhihe's poetic reference is to here.

The Metropolitan Museum of New York has a painting by 李結 Li Jie (ca.1124-1191) called Fisherman's Lodge at Mount Xisai (西塞漁舍圖 Xixai Yushe Tu; online)

There was an opera called 西塞山漁翁封拜 by 楊潮觀 Yang Chaoguan (Qing dynasty).

22. Version in Taiyin Buyi (太音補遺 1557)
Although the melody is almost the same as that of 1525, the preface here introduces the piece as follows:

As for this piece, it is based on the meaning of a poem by Zhang Zhongzong which says,
    The moon and the universe shine as one,
    The floating population living on boats fear the time from dusk to dawn;
    Sleepy from drink they look vacantly at the morning village noise.
    The mist and ripples (mountain and river scenery) are ancient.
    In such tranquillity, who could have earthly worries?'"


The poem is actually the second verse of one of several poems by Zhang set to a ci rhythm called The Fisherman's Pride (漁家傲 Yujia Ao; 18586.47 詞牌名; see also below); the first verse is


The second verse (明月太虛....) is commonly quoted on the internet, usually in connection with Zui Yu Chang Wan, but not mentioning that the old melody is unrelated to the modern one. The verse is also mentioned in connection with Evening Song from a Fisherman's Boat (漁舟唱晚 Yuzhou Chang Wan), a melody found in the repertoire of the guzheng and perhaps other Chinese stringed instruments (18586.22 has only 漁舟).

Note that 17924.99 traces the phrase 浮家泛宅 to a biography of Zhang Zhihe, saying he was asked to serve the government, but preferred doing this.

The Fisherman's Pride (漁家傲 Yujia Ao)
In addition to being the name of the cipai of the lyrics just mentioned, Yu Jia Ao is also the title of at least two qin songs, both of which follow this cipai. They are in these handbooks:

  1. Shu Huai Cao (QQJC XII/362; 1682), which says the melody is in 商調 shang mode, with lyrics added by the well known poet and scholar-official 新城王士禎,字阮亭 Wang Shizhen, style name Ruanting, from Xincheng in Shandong province (1634 - 1711). His collected poems were published under his nickname as 漁洋山人精華錄箋注 Annotation of selected works of Yuyang Shanren (details). His "Three poems on Hearing Master Liu Play Qin" is quoted under the entry on his friend, Liu Tiren. The lyrics for his poem in the ci form Yu Jia Ao are,



    As can be seen, they follow the same ci structure as with the poem quoted in the preface above.

  2. Song Sheng Cao (QQJC XII/406; 1687); same lyrics but a different tuning and melody.

A third version of Yu Jia Ao, in Ziyuantang Qinpu (XVII/544; 1802), has the same lyrics (also attributing them to 王阮亭 Wang Shizhen) and music as 1682, but it incorrectly says the mode is 徵 zhi. Perhaps this is because Zui Yu Chang Wan is in zhi mode, but to my ears this Yu Jia Ao does not seem modally related, at least to the early versions of Zui Yu Chang Wan.

23. Zhang Yuangan 張元幹 (1091-1161)
Zhang Yuangan (10026.117 張元幹,字仲宗), literary name Zhongzong, was from 長樂 Chang Le, of which there are many, though none by Tai Hu. As with Lu and Pi, Zhang is not mentioned in any later introductions. Some of his poems in the Complete Song Ci (全宋詞,中華書局,卷二 , pp.1072-1104) mention drinking and fishing, but he is perhaps better known for his patriotic verse at a time when north China was being taken over by the Jin. His poem cited with the introduction to Zui Yu Chang Wan in 1557 is quoted above.

24. Some later prefaces to Zui Yu Chang Wan
Wuzhizhai Qinpu (1722) begins by saying, "醉漁唱晚為後世隱流所作。亦古調也 Zui Yu Chang Wan was created by a recluse of recent generations; it is also an old melody...." This and several other handbooks claim that it has a musical affinity with (the standard tuning version of) The Fisherman's Song (Yu Ge [徵調]漁歌 ), which appears first in Wugang Qinpu / Qinpu Zhenchuan (1546/7); the second occurrence, in Xilutang Qintong, seems to be a more accurate version.

25. Original 1525 afterword (醉漁唱晚:西麓堂琴統後序; English)
The original Chinese text is:

26. Original 1525 section titles (醉漁唱晚:西麓堂琴統小標題; English)
The original Chinese section titles are as follows (

00.00   1. 揚波
00.50   2. 鼓 (木+曳 = 枻)
01.20   3. 鳴榔
02.01   4. 舉網
02.35   5. 欸乃
03.43   6. 流灘
04.19   7. 忘世
04.45   8. 筦龠
05.50   9. 弔古
06.22 10. 逸老
06.57       泛音
07.12       曲終

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Appendix: Chart Tracing 醉漁唱晚 Zui Yu Chang Wan
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 20/186/--.

    (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/159 [further])
10 Sections; 徵調 zhi mode
  2. 太音補遺
      (1557; III/168)
10; 徴; very similar to previous; see comment
Then skip 116 years    
  3. 大還閣琴譜
      (1673; X/393)
12; 徴音; longer and in later parts (completely?) different
Not in 1614
  4. 松風閣琴譜
      (1677/82; XII/324)
12; 徴 zhi; 陳山民譜 tablature of Chen Shanmin; similar to 1674;
Adds comment saying it was lost, then preserved only in Yushan tradition
  5. 澄鑒堂琴譜
      (1689; XIV/277)
12; 徴音
  6. 蓼懷堂琴譜
      (1702; XIII/257)
12T; 醉漁 Zui Yu; 徴音 zhi yin
  7. 誠一堂琴譜
      (1705; XIII/)
12; 徴音
  8. 五知齋琴譜
      (1722; XIV/505)
12; 徴音
  9. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/407)
12; 商音
10. 裛露軒琴譜
      (>1802; XIX/262)
12T; zhi yin; "吳官心譜 tablature of Wu Guanxin"
11. 悟雪山房琴譜
      (1836; XXII/350)
12; 中呂均商音 ZLJSY; afterword
12. 以六正五之齋琴學秘書
      (1875; XXVI/261)
12; zhiyin; "compared versions of 徐青山 (1673) & 尹芝仙 (1647!!!)"
13. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/275)
12T; "商音 shang yin 羽調 yu diao" but "= 1702"
Begins, "無名十注勾四猱,帶起散跳七同...."
1 (new). 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/360)
6; zhiyin; earliest modern version, attributed to Zhang Kongshan
Begins, "散跳六、四,中九卓勾一退復推出...."
14. 天籟閣琴譜
      (1876; XXI/173)
12T; zhiyin
15. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/344)
12; 黃太調宮音 huangtaidiao gongyin; old version;
2 (new). 山西育才館雅樂講義
6; presumably the new version, but not in QQJC
16. 沙堰琴編
      (1946; XXIX/336)
12; shangyin; has lyrics but they do not seem to fit the tablature;
Old version; preface says not known who created it
3 (new). 研易習琴齋琴譜
      (1961; F1#6)
6; ZLJZY; new version; afterword
17. 絲桐神品
      (1955 recording)
47631.181 鳳鳴朝陽 Feng Ming Zhaoyang: a good omen for the country (lit.: "phoenix calls to the rising sun")
Unrelated old melody title given by Ma Shouluo for his recording of Zui Yu Chang Wang; unrelated to 鳴鳳朝陽 Ming Feng Zhaoyang

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