Yu Ge, standard tuning
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82. Fisherman's Song 漁歌 1
- Zhi mode, standard tuning:2   5 6 1 2 3 5 6 played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 Yu Ge
  Yu Ge illustration, from Kuian Qinpu 3
This (or the one printed in
1546) is the earliest publication of a Yu Ge using zhi mode (standard tuning; cadences on sol and re). In all it survives in over 30 handbooks from 1525 to 1910 (see chart 4). Most versions have 18 sections, the main exception being the second surviving version (1547, repeated 1561); in 10 sections, it is "also called Green Landscape"5 and said to have been "from the Meixuewo revision".6

Xilutang Qintong attributes the standard tuning Yu Ge to the late Song dynasty qin master Mao Minzhong, but this attribution is generally not repeated in later handbooks.

A musically unrelated version of Yu Ge, also generally having 18 sections but using ruibin (raised 5th) tuning, is found in about 40 handbooks from ca. 1491 to 1876. Over 10 handbooks have a version with each tuning, beginning with Xilutang Qintong, which calls the ruibin version Ao Ai.7 Ao Ai eventually became the common name for the ruibin version in later handbooks.

Ao Ai is often preceded by Yuge Diao, a short melody with lyrics by the famous Tang dynasty poet Liu Zongyuan. Based on this Xu Jian lists it as a Tang dynasty melody.8 Some handbooks also attribute Ao Ai to Liu, while a few later ones even attribute to him this zhi mode Yu Ge.

The afterword to Ao Ai Ge in Erxiang Qinpu (1833; 18 sections; ruibin tuning), begins by saying that it is commonly called the "northern Yu Ge"; the writer, perhaps thinking Ao Ai is pentatonic (5 tone scale) and Yu Ge is diatonic (7 tone scale), then suggests this is a mistake.9 In addition, whereas the only geographical reference in the standard tuning (zhi mode) Yu Ge is to the Songpu River, near lake Taihu (relatively northern),.10 the titles and introduction to Ao Ai have clear references to Hunan (southern). Also, several prefaces to later versions of #77 Zuiyu Chang Wan, also connected to the Taihu region, suggest it has melodic relations to the standard tuning version of Yu Ge. On the other hand, section titles of the ruibin version seem to connect it to Xiao Xiang Shui Yun, which also uses ruibin tuning and also is connected to Hunan province (see Chu).

There have been at least eight modern recordings of Yu Ge, perhaps the earliest being the one made by Zha Fuxi at the Library of Congress; all are related to descendants of the version in Xilutang Qintong.11

There are also at least 14 recordings of the unrelated Yu Ge now called Ao Ai; all are related to descendants of the one in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu.12

Original preface13

After the Qiwowen family took control (of China by capturing Hangzhou and initiating the Yuan dynasty in 1280), Mao Minzhong felt it was an insult to work for people with a barbarian surname, so he (resigned from office and) followed the winds and water, enjoying the Dao and escaping worldly affairs. He wrote this piece to attract others of similar intention. In a general way he imitated the idea of the Woodcutter's Song, but there are differences between the tone and melody of the newer and older pieces.  
18 Sections
14 (timings are from my recording 聽錄音)
Section titles correspond with the 18 images in this Illustrated Yu Ge Scroll

00.00     1. A secluded life along clear waters
00.30     2. Losing oneself in the misty waterscape
01.02     3. A carefree life beside rushing streams
01.46     4. Washing one's cap in the whirling waters
02.18     5. Rowing gently up the stream
03.01     6. Loudly sing a fisherman's song (harmonics)
03.39     7. The melody fills the cliffs and clouds
04.03     8. The sounds spread to the Songpu (river)
04.36     9. Striking the oars on a misty river
05.25   10. Hitting the side of the boat by a cloudy islet
05.57   11. Turning the boat to stop and extend the fishing net
06.37   12. Casting a net at the bend in a river
07.19   13. Having caught fish, buying some wine
07.36   14. Burning bamboo to boil the fresh fish
08.10   15. Drunkenly leaning on a boat window
08.33   16. Snoozing under the willows by the shoreline
09.16   17. Gathering people of similar intentions
09.56   18. No interest in an official position
10.20         harmonics
10.40         end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Yu Ge references
Early references are as follows:

Neither sheds any light on the origins of the present melody.

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

3. Kuian Qinpu illustration (QQJC XI/44)
The inscription in the upper left corner is not very clear. It begins, "順治庚子... Shunzhi (reign) 1660 (year)...."

More famous is the painting by Wu Zhen (1280-1354) called The Fisherman 吳鎮,漁父圖. The Illustrated Yu Ge Scroll on this website was adapted by Bai Yunli from the "original" in the Shanghai Museum (there is at least one other "original", in the Freer Gallery, Washington, D.C.). Currently this webpage has the copy shown below (expand) of the full painting from the Shanghai Museum, together with images from the painting in the Freer, adding commentary comparing the two.

4. Tracing Yu Ge and Ao Ai
For details see appendix under Ruibin Yu Ge. The numbers are tentative, as many of the handbooks after 1802 have not yet been reprinted. For prefaces and further information of versions using both tunings see Zha 11/117/200 and 21/190/376. Zha generally puts all the Yu Ge together, even those using ruibin tuning.

5. Green Landscape (山水綠 Shanshui Lü; 8043.xxx)
Underneath the title "Yu Ge" the second and third surviving handbooks with only the standard tuning version of this melody (Wugang Qinpu [I, p.412] and Qinpu Zhengchuan [II, p.505]) write, "即山水綠 also called Shanshui Lü"; they have no separate commentary (but see next footnote). Identical to each other, these two identical versions have 10 titled sections but no preface or afterword. Their music is very similar to that of the 1525 standard tuning version, but some sections are combined. Most later versions have 18 sections, so one might suspect this 10 section version to be earlier, but its actual tablature seems to have more problems, making comparisons more difficult.

The words "山水綠 Shanshui Lü are in the fourth line of Liu Zongyuan's poem The Old Fishermen, where it says, "In the green landscape his paddles splash "Ao Ai". These lyrics (欸乃一聲山水[的那]綠) accompany the ruibin tuning melody Yu Ge Diao,

6. 梅雪窩刪製 Meixuewo Shanzhi
The full note under the title in the second and third surviving editions of the standard tuning 漁歌 Yu Ge (see previous footnote) says, "即山水綠,歲庚戊九日 (月?)梅學窩刪製 also called Shanshui Lü, gengwu 9th day (month?), Meixuewo revision." This is applied only to the two aforementioned handbooks, variously dated between 1546 and 1561 (?), and both handbooks clearly write the date in the "heavenly stem-earthly branch" 60-year cycle system (more) as "庚戊 gengwu", so this must be a mistake: "戊" is a "heavenly stem", not an "earthly branch". This suggests that the year indication must be 庚戌 gengxu (1370/1430/1490/1550 etc), but this is also a problem as 1550 seems too late and 1490 rather early. As for Meixuewo and its connection to Xu Shen, see QSCM, #163 and QSCB, Chapter 7.A.1.

7. The 1525 version of 欸乃 Ao Ai is actually quite different from the other Ao Ai; see in the chart. (Return)

8. Qinshi Chubian, p.75 (Return)

9. Zha p. 191 (435) and Erxiang Qinpu, facsimile edition, IV, p.28. See also the comments/footnote with the ruibin version of Yu Ge (Return)

10. Songpu River reference
See Section 8 聲分淞浦 as well as the Zuiyu Chang Wan afterword. As yet I have not found any specific geographical references in other standard tuning versions of Fisherman's Song (Zha [361] 117ff and 190 [434] ff).

11. Modern recordings and transcription of Yu Ge
Guqin Quji has transcriptions of three versions of the standard tuning Yu Ge:

After the beginning, all are quite different from 1525; none of the recordings is clear about where or how the player learned them.

Chou Wen-chung (Wiki) captures the flavor of Yu Ge in a lovely composition called Yü Ko (1965); the connection to the original melody can best be heard at the beginning, which is based on the first section of the qin melody.

12. Yu Ge/Ao Ai recordings
For recordings and transcriptions of the ruibin tuning Yu Ge see under that page.

13. Original Chinese afterword from 1525
Regarding 奇握溫, 6013.156 says 奇渥溫:元代帝室之姓,清代改作欲特氏。
(Qiwowen: Yuan dynasty royal name; during the Qing dynasty changed to Yuteshi.)
The original Chinese here is:


14. Original Chinese titles
These are as follows:

1. 遯蹟滄浪
2. 放情煙水
3. 洗耳清湍
4. 濯纓迴漵
5. 緩棹溯遊
6. 高歌欸乃
7. 響遏巖雲
8. 聲分淞浦
9. 擊遠疝江
10. 扣舷雲渚
11. 施罛橫渡
12. 撒網絕流
13. 得魚沽酒
14. 燃竹烹鮮
15. 醉倚蓬窗
16. 閒眠柳岸
17. 蠡和同志
18. 軒無軒冕

Compare the section titles from 1546, which has only 10 sections:

  1. 遯迹滄浪
  2. 放情象外
  3. 欸乃風傳
  4. 口舷谷應
  5. 響遂岩雲
  6. 聲分湘浦
  7. 趣同櫂歌
  8. 蠡和合志
  9. 烟波自如
  10. 漚盟壽世

The latter are not yet translated.

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