Yao Tian Sheng He
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096. Jade Sheng, Heavenly Crane
- Yu mode, 2 standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
瑤天笙鶴 1
Yao Tian Sheng He  
  Two depictions of Wangzi Qiao          
This melody, found only in Xilutang Qintong (1525), evokes the image of Wangzi Qiao (often read as Wang Ziqiao),3 usually depicted, as at right, riding on a crane while playing the sheng mouth organ.4 This is a Daoist image often seen in folk art, and the story of Wangzi Qiao is perhaps also the source for later poetic references to a jade sheng imitating the sound of a crane.5

As for Wangzi Qiao himself, he is said to have been the eldest son of King Ling of the Zhou dynasty6 (traditional reign period 571-544 BCE). He is furthermore said to have studied the Dao at Songshan7 in modern Henan province. One of China's five sacred mountain ranges, Songshan has long been famous as an ancient center of Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. Then from Goushi,8 now located as being just north of the Songshan range, he is said to have ascended into immortality.9

The earliest surviving biography of Wangzi Qiao, in the Biographies of Immortals (probably late Han), has details of this.10 The afterword here to Yao Tian Sheng He is largely a quote from the first half of his entry in this volume. The complete biography, which is quoted in the Yuefu Shiji,11 is as follows.

Wangzi Qiao, Zhou Ling Wang's eldest son, was named Jin. He was good at playing the sheng and could imitate the call of a phoenix. As he roamed in the area between the Yi and Luo rivers12 the Daoist Master Fuqiu (Fuqiu Gong13) drew him up to a high mountain in the Song mountain range. 30 years later he called (people?) to the mountain. Seeing (someone named) Huan Liang14 he said, "Tell my family to wait for me on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month at the top of Goushi Mountain." When that day arrived he mounted a white crane and stopped briefly on the mountaintop. People could see him but could not go near him. Raising his hands to bid farewell to his contemporaries, he left several days later (having become an immortal). A temple was established in his honor at the base of Goushi mountain, extending (?) a path high up to Songshan.

In some editions this is followed by a poem.15 Yuefu Shiji does not have this poem, but it does include five sets of lyrics about Wangzi Qiao.16 The second of these, by Jiang Yan (444-505) can be sung to the music of section 8 of the present melody. It is in fact quite remarkable that the pairing of lyrics to music almost but not quite fits the then-standard practice of one character for each right hand stroke or left hand pluck.17

The earliest known mention of Wangzi Qiao is perhaps in the Chu Ci (Chu Lyrics) poem Yuan You (also a qin melody), traditionally attributed to Song Yu (ca. 290- ca. 223). On line 54 the author speaks of "following Wang(zi) Qiao for pleasure", apparently suggesting a search for immortality; and on lines 61/2 he speaks of asking Wangzi "about the balance made by unifying essence."18

Modern scholarship suggests that the poem Yuan You was not written until well into the Han dynasty. Another Chu Ci poem, this one probably dating from the late Han dynasty, describes Wangzi Qiao and another immortal, Chisongzi, as playing the se 52-string zither.19

Since my own there has been at least one other recording of this melody.20

Original afterword21

Zhou Ling Wang's son Wang(zi) Qiao was good at playing the sheng and could imitate the call of a phoenix. He roamed in the area between the Yi and Luo rivers encompassing the Dao. The great Master Fuqiu drew him to Songliang Mountain, transmitting to him the Way of Long Life. As a result we have this melody.

Nine section, untitled; (see
transcription; timings follow my recording 聽錄音)

00.00   1.
00.49   2.
01.41   3.
02.09   4.
02.45   5.
03.30   6.
04.23   7.
04.52   8. (fitted lyrics are sung)
05.29   9.
06.10         Closing harmonics
06.25         End

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Jade Sheng, Heavenly Crane (瑤天笙鶴 Yao Tian Sheng He)
For 瑤天笙鶴 21646.xxx and 4/618xxx. For the separate parts:

Thus the title could be translated as, "An immortal crane in the abode of immortals". However, my understanding of the title is that the characters should actually be interpreted as 瑤笙 天鶴 Yaosheng Tianhe. Here references include the following:

Yao Tian Sheng He was also the name of an opera (雜劇 zaju) attributed to Zhu Quan, who is said to have written 12 such operas, all now lost. 姚品文 Yao Pinwen's 朱權研究 Study of Zhu Quan (Nanchang, 1993), pp.251-2, discusses them. Although the libretto is lost, it did relate something akin to the present story.

2. Yu mode (羽調 yu diao)
For more on yu mode (standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 ) see Shenpin Yu Yi as well as Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

The yu modal prelude could first be played here, and I have on occasion used He Wu Dong Tian as a prelude.

3. 王子喬 Wangzi Qiao (see images)
21295.39/1 王子喬 says Wangzi Qiao is the name of a melody (q.v.), then it quotes a passage from the 古今樂錄 Gujin Yuelu. /2 has his biography. It says his name was 晉 Jin (Wangzi Jin), his original surname was 姬 Ji (same surname given the Yellow Emperor), and he became a commoner. It then relates basically the same information given in Liexian Zhuan (see below). It also has an illustration of Wangzi Qiao on a crane. Giles 2240 has mostly the same information. (He is also mentioned in the section titles of Yuan You.) And his nickname 桐柏真人 Tongbo Zhenren associates him with the Tongbo Palace in the Tiantai Mountains.

Wang Ziqiao (?)
This is almost certainly incorrect, although Yuefu Shiji does sometimes write of him as 子喬 Ziqiao. 21295.23/1 says 王子 wangzi means "son of a king"; /2 says it is a double surname. Early sources may also refer to him as 王子 Wangzi or 王喬 Wang Qiao (see the 楚辭 Chu Ci),

4. Sheng
Some other references that have sheng together with crane and/or qin include:

Many more.

5. Jade sheng imitating the sound of a crane
This is perhaps related to the potentially raucus sound of the sheng but I have not yet found a proper explanation.

6. 周靈王 Zhou Ling Wang
3597.904 does not mention a surname.

7. 嵩山 Song Shan (Wikipedia)
Songshan, in Henan province south of Luoyang, is one of the "Five Sacred Mountains". It is connected to a number of melodies and people on this website.

8. Goushi Mountain (緱氏 Goushi) On Goushi Mountain?  
28328.3 緱氏 says Goushi is 山名 the name of a mountain in Henan province 40 li south of 偃師縣 Yanshi district town; it is also called Fufu Dui (覆釜堆 or 撫父堆). It adds that according to Liexian Zhuan this is the place where the son of King Ling of Zhou (i.e., Wangzi Qiao) ascended on a white crane. It also mentions Goushi as an ancient town name.

Apparently during the Tang dynasty Goushi was quite a popular spot. Baidu places it in 偃師縣府店鎮 Fudian Town of Yanshi County, adding that it was the 60th of 72 Famous Daoist Site; before the Tang dynasty there were magnificent buildings here, and even later it had fame as beautiful pilgrimage spot.

As for the marker at right, I have not been able to find out when it was built. It was copied from an article in EpochTimes written by 牟梅 Mou Mei and entitled, "緱氏山—太子升仙處 Goushi Mountain - where the heir apparent ascended into immortality." The text added that the marker is in 河南省 Henan Province 洛陽東南40公里 40 km southeast of Luoyang, 處偃師市府店鎮南 placed south of Fudian Zhen in Yanshi township, and that the elevation of Goushi Shan is only 308 meters above sea level. On maps Fudian Zhen seems to be in a relatively flat area midway between Luoyang and Zhengzhou, north of Songshan. Thus a quote added to the online text seems quite appropriate: "山不在高,有仙則名 Mountains are not only about height: they are only famous if immortals live there." This quote, from a poem by 劉禹錫 Liu Yuxi, is also used as lyrics for the melody Loushi Ming.

9. Ascending into immortality
Alan Berkowitz, Patterns of Disengagement, p. 50, says the aim of an immortal was "existence beyond that which mortal men could normally expect. This goal eventually is reached either by leaving the world behind and joining the empyreal ranks of the godlike, or by staying in the world and achieving the state in which the body also becomes divinely transcendent....Chisongzi and Wangzi Qiao (are examples) of the former."

Further regarding 赤松子 Chisongzi, see Wikipedia 雨師 Yu Shi (Rain Master, also known as 赤松子 Master Red Pine). According to Giles Chisongzi was, "A being who controlled the rain and wind in the legendary age of Shen Nung. Among other feats, he was able to pass unharmed through fire." (See also 37843.105). According to Yü Ying-Shih, "Life and Immortality in the Mind of Han China." Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 25 (1964-5), pp.80-122, immortality cults became very important after the Qin unified China and many 方士 fangshi came to the capital. Gradually the emphasis was placed on extending life in the present world.

10. The Biographies of Immortals (列仙傳 Liexian Zhuan)
This book was traditionally attributed to 劉向 Liu Xiang (ca.79-ca.06 BCE); modern scholarship suggests that it was probably written one or two centuries later. See Nienhauser, Companion, p.566. The biography is in Liexian Zhuan, A.1, A.23-24.

11. Wangzi Qiao entry in Liexian Zhuan
This biography of Wangzi Qiao from Liexian Zhuan is also included in 樂府詩集 Yuefu Shiji, Folio 29, p.437. Here it quotes the original as follows:

王子喬者,周靈王太子晉也。好吹笙作鳳(凰)鳴,遊伊、洛之間,道士浮丘公接以上嵩高山。三十餘年後,求之於山上,見桓良,曰:「告我家,七月七日,待我於緱氏山巔。至時,果乘白鶴駐山頭。」至時,果乘白鶴駐山頭,望之不得到,舉手謝時人,數日而去。為立祠於緱氏山下及嵩高之首焉。 亦稱為王喬、王子晉。

In Liexian Zhuan this is followed by a poem (below), but in Yuefu Shiji it is followed instead by different lyrics, by five people (also below).

12. The 伊 Yi and 洛 Luo rivers join just east of Luoyang, then flow into the Yellow River. (Return)

13. Master Fuqiu (see also Pei Lan) Master Fuqiu (right) with Wangzi Qiao (expand)      
The Master of the Drifting Mound (Fuqiu Gong 浮丘公 17924.37) is mentioned in various ancient sources. These have him living in different periods, beginning with the time of the Yellow Emperor. Several other names are said to refer to the same person, such as 壺丘子 Huqiuzi in Liezi. The Liexian Zhuan biography of Wangzi Qiao mentions Fuqiu Gong. And like Wangzi Qiao, Fuqiu Gong is sometimes said to have played a sheng mouth organ while riding a crane at Songshan. Fuqiu is also mentioned in connection with the melody Pei Lan. For further information on Fuqiu Gong see Robert Hymes, Way and Byway: Taoism, Local Religion and Models of Divinity in Sung and Modern China, pp.59-60.

The brick at right shows Fuqiu Gong at right greeting Wangzi Qiao, who plays a sheng mouth organ. Replicas of the original, a 5th-6th brick unearthed east of Nanyang City, Henan (河南鄧縣學莊 Henan, Deng County, Xue village), are displayed for sale on the internet.

The same scene is also depicted on a very similar tile belonging to the Henan Museum, Zhengzhou. It was photographed while on display at MIM, the Music Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, as part of a special exhibition called Ancient Treasures from Central China: Harmony of the Ancients from the Henan Museum. There the commentary identified it as basically from the same site as the brick: "Tile relief of fenghuang attracted by sheng; Southern Dynasties, 420-489 CE; excavated from a Southern dynasties tomb in Xuezhuang, Dengxian County, 1957." It then added,

"According to Zhou dynasty legend, Prince Qiao celebrated his epiphany of learning the true meaning of Daoism by playing the sheng mouth organ, thus attracting a fenghuang, or mythical phoenix bird, to dance before him. The sheng's bamboo pipes are designed to resemble the fenghuangs wing feathers."

(I played Jade Sheng Heavenly Crane in my programs related to Henan and winged beings).

14. Huan Liang 桓良
15061.xxx. I have not yet found any other references to him.

15. Poem at the end of the Liexian Zhuan entry for Wangzi Qiao
The poem with my tentative translation is as follows,

Miào zāi Wángzǐ, shén yóu qì shuǎng.
Marvelous Wangzi (Qiao), a spirit roaming cool and refreshed.

Shēng gē Yī Luò, nǐ yīn fèng xiǎng.
Mouth organ singing over the Yi and Luo, echoing the sound of a phoenix.

Fúqiū gǎn yìng, jiē shǒu jù shàng.
(Master) Fuqiu is moved to respond, hand in hand they both ascend.

Huī cè qīng yá, jiǎ hàn dú wǎng.
Waving their riding crops above green cliffs, as if on feather quills (i..e., a crane) they go alone.


16. 樂府詩集 Yuefu Shiji, pp. 437 - 439, after the biography of Wangzi Qiao from Liexian Zhuan, has five Wangzi Qiao poems, ordered chronologically:

  1. 古辭 "Ancient Lyrics", said to have accompanied 魏、晉樂所奏 music played in the Wei and Jin period (see biography above)
  2. 梁江淹 Jiang Yan of the Liang (these fit Section 8 of the melody; see below)
  3. 高允生 Gao Yunsheng (see below)
  4. 後魏高允 Gao Yun of the Latter Wei (see below)
  5. 唐宋之問 Song Zhiwen of the Tang (see below)

Details of these five Wangzi Qiao poems are as follow:

  1. 古辭 "Ancient Lyrics", said to have accompanied 魏、晉 奏 music played in the Wei and Jin period (thanks to 朱元虎 Zhu Yuanhu for translation assistance).


    Wangzi Qiao rode a white deer up to the heavens.
    He rode the white deer up to the heavens, then came down alongside a river.
    Wangzi Qiao rode a white deer up to the heavens, wandering and enjoying himself.
    He wandered through Buyin and Guangli, in the near mountains visiting the palaces of immortals.
    He passed by the three platforms, the four seas and the five peaks, on to Penglai and Ziyuntai.
    It was not necessary to visit the three kings and five emperors (of antiquity):
        our own saintly ruler has brought great peace.
    He takes care of the people just as he takes care of his own son and attends to his father;
        we hope that he lives a long life and with in good health.
    Jade Maiden is seated playing the flute, thrumming immortals fly at will,
        (cranes) call out blessings as they fly about the palace
    We wish that our saintly emperor will live forever. With great feeling I sing this, wishing the emperor a long life.

  2. 梁江淹 Jiang Yan of the Liang
    These lyrics, which fit Section 8 of the melody, form four couplets, the structure being (5+5) x 4. The stroke count of section eight of Yao Tian Sheng He is 5+5, 7+4, 5+6, 8+5. By using more than one stroke per character in three of the phrases, and pairing one character to a slide in another phrase, I was able to match the melody and lyrics quite musically. The lyrics and my translation are as follows:

    Zi Qiao hao qing ju, bu dai lian yin dan.
    Ziqiao loved soaring, no need for elixers.

    Kong he qu yao tiao, xue feng dui cuan wan.
    Riding a crane he roamed the skies, on phoenix faced high peaks.

    Shan wu yi chun cao, gu you qian nian lan.
    Hills don't have just one spring with grass, dales have immortal blooms.

    雲衣不躑躅,龍駕何時還?                   (corrected by 朱元虎 from "下躑躅")
    Yun yi bu zhi zhu, long jia he shi huan?
    Clothed in clouds he'll never stop roaming, on a dragon when would he return?

    Meanwhile my translation above was aimed at having a syllabic count that allows it to be paired to the music as much as possible in the traditional manner, and so far has succeeded well enough that the song can easily be sung in English.

    Note that the translation with my transcription is more literal.

  3. 高允生 Gao Yunsheng

    仙化非常道,其義出自然。   (Becoming immortal is not a common path, righteousness comes from nature....)

  4. 後魏高允 Gao Yun of the Latter Wei

    王少卿,王少卿,超升飛龍翔天庭。   (Wangzi Qiao, Wangzi Qiao, astride a dragon flew to heaven....)

  5. 唐宋之問 Song Zhiwen of the Tang 王子喬,愛神仙,七月七日上寅天。   (Wangzi Qiao cherished immortality, on the Double 7th [!?] he ascended heaven....)
To my knowledge the third, fourth and fifth have not been translated.

17. The lyrics do not quite fit
For another example of this see here.

What does it mean that the the lyrics are quite singable but do not quite fit the then-standard practice of one character for each right hand stroke or left hand pluck? Was there an earlier version that had these lyrics, but these were then left out because they didn't pair properly according to the official way? To me the lyrics were clearly begging to be sung: should I try to ignore that when selecting note values?

18. Earliest mention of Wangzi Qiao ?
See David Hawkes, Songs of the South, pp. 195 and 200. Hawkes says Wangzi Qiao is not mentioned in any pre-Han source.

19. Playing se
See Sorrow for Troth Betrayed (惜誓 Xi Shi) in David Hawkes, Songs of the South, p.240. His translation says, "the two Masters held zithers tuned in perfect concord (while he) sang the Qing Shang air". For Chisongzi, see footnote above.

20. Recordings
Since mine several nylon-metal string recordings have been made, such as this one by 廖艾斯 and this one, both on YouTube.

21. 瑤天笙鶴,西麓堂琴統解題 (English)
西麓堂琴統,瑤天笙鶴解題 (The original Chinese for the introduction is as follows):



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