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97. Yearning for Spring (Spring Thoughts)
- Yu mode:2 standard tuning ( 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 )
春思 1
Chun Si  
  "Chun Si" as "Spring Yearning"3 (expand)              
The character for "Si" in the title commonly translates as "thoughts", but in poetry "si" often refers to "feelings" or "yearning". The commentary and preface with the present melody suggest it concerns either enjoyment of or yearning for spring; elsewhere, though, the sentiment associated with chun si seems more often to be "spring yearning", with implications that it is a yearning for love.4 Likewise, a casual glance at the painting at right might suggest it shows a woman enjoying a fine spring scene; however, the associated poem says that the scenery actually evokes a yearning for a lover (further comment).

In fact, a great many Chinese poems either have the title Chun Si (more often meaning "Spring Yearnings" rather than "Yearning for Spring"), or they include that phrase (see some examples). These poems often seem to be written from the point of view of a woman separated from her lover, and thus have a mood that is different from that of the present qin melody.

On the other hand, in this poem by Yang Weizhen, originally inscribed on a (now-lost?) painting by Zhao Qianli, "chun si" apparently lead to playing qin (with ruan). And in at least one case the chun si are by a man thinking of a woman - but in this case a goddess.5

Here, with the present melody, the afterword speaks only of people who seek solitude. Nevertheless, the way the section titles go into detail about various aspects of spring suggests someone in love, perhaps with nature but the imagery also suggests love. In this way the theme is rather similar to that of the more famous spring melody Yang Chun. Both melodies also seem quite upbeat.7

There are many melodies with themes related to spring, but the title "Chun Si" and its related melody survive only in Xilutang Qintong (1525).8

Chen Changlin in Beijing has also done a reconstruction of this melody.9


Original Afterword10

Knowledgeable people of elevated stature cherish living in solitude, feeling the harmony of a fragrant springtime. The stimulating scenery formed a song, and so here it is expressed on the qin, thereby displaying its effervescence. There are also the lingering sounds of living in harmony.

12 sections;
11 see transcription; timings follow my audio recording 聽錄音. (See also 看視頻 this video.12)

00.00     1. Flitting butterflies settle on a cluster of flowers (harmonics)
00.26     2. Flying off to a hidden valley
00.46     3. Dappled carp splash in the fragrant pond
01.14     4. Mandarin ducks bathe in the warm water
01.51     5. Willow blossoms fly across bamboo (harmonics)
02.12     6. Weeping willows hang down into the green waters
02.53     7. Coming out of the forest a pair of cranes dance
03.38     8. Wind and duckweed move in the middle of the pond (harmonics)
04.00     9. Bees suck honey from flower blossoms, then return
04.31   10. A red sun revolves across the sky (harmonics)
04.53   11. In a bamboo grove partridges call out
05.35   12. Swallows return to the decorated beams (of wealthy homes)
06.21         harmonic coda
06.36         end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 春思 Chun Si references
As with many of the poems called "Chun Si", "si" seems to suggest yearning thoughts. However, this is not necessarily yearning for spring; more often it is yearning for love brought about by spring. Such is the case with the following two poems, both of them included in the famous collection 300 Tang Poems (translations my own):

  1. Spring Emotions by Li Bai
    Here spring is associated with love, but in a negative way: the lover will leave when spring comes (hence "si" is translated "emotions" rather than "yearnings"). There have been a number of other translations of this poem.

    燕草如碧絲,     In Yan the grass is like blue-green silk,
    秦桑低綠枝。     in Qin the mulberry tree branches hang down green,
    當君懷歸日,     So soon your heart will turn to home,
    是妾斷腸時。     and that will be when my heart breaks.
    春風不相識,     Of spring winds I have no knowledge,
    何事入羅幃。     so what causes them to come through my bed curtain?

  2. Spring Yearnings by 皇甫冉 Huangfu Ran (715 - 768):
    Again there have been a number of other translations.

    鶯啼燕語報新年,     Oriole calls and swallow cries announce a new year,
    馬邑龍堆路幾千。     and (the frontier towns) Mayi and Longdui are several thousand li away by road.
    家住層城鄰漢苑,     My home is in Cengcheng, (in the Kunlun mountains) near the Han (Palace) Garden,
    心隨明月到胡天。     (so) my heart follows the bright moon into the nomad skies.
    機中錦字論長恨,     Taking this chance to write flowery words I express my everlasting grief,
    樓上花枝笑獨眠。     but here upstairs the flowers laugh at my lonely sleep.
    為問元戎竇車騎,     I wish to ask Marshall Dou (Wiki) as his chariots ride off,
    何時反旆勒燕然。     when he returns with pennants flying (whose names will be) engraved at Yanran.

14146.217 春思 says "猶言春情 refers in particular to feelings of spring", to which 5/645 adds "春日的思緒 thoughts of a spring day". Altogether these two entries have four poetic references, none given a musical connection:

  1. 沈佺期,送陸侍御餘慶北使詩
    Shen Quanqi: Seeing off Attendant Censor Lu Yuqing sent north

    朔途際遼海,春思繞轘轅。 (chun si)

  2. 元稹 Yuan Zhen, 上楊白真人詩

    天寶年中花鳥使,撩花狎鳥含春思。 (chun si)
    良人顧妾心死別,小女呼爺血垂淚。 (The whole poem is [7+7] x 16)

  3. 曹唐 Cao Tang (9th c.; Bio/2127), 小游仙詩九十八首 #59
    The whole poem consists of 98 sets of 7x4. Below is #59


  4. 歐陽修 Ouyang Xiu, 病中代書奉寄聖俞二十五兄
    Whole poem is 21 couplets of 7+7 each; this is the 7th couplet


A net search will turn up many more poems entitled Spring Yearnings/Thoughts. As yet I have not found one that would give it a particular connection to the present melody, or to the qin in general.

2. Yu mode (羽調 yu diao)
See Shenpin Yu Yi.

3. Image: 玉樓春思圖 Yu Lou Chun Si Tu (遼寧省博物館 Liaoning Provincial Museum?)
The original is a round silk fan. The title has various translations, including Thoughts of Love in a Jade Pavilion, and Meditation in a Jade Pavilion in the Spring. It was at one time erroneously attributed to the early Song painter Wáng Shēn (ca. 1036 - ca. 1093; Wiki), but is now credited to an anonymous Southern Song painter.

There are many Chinese paintings that seem to celebrate nature, perhaps nature in springtime. However, it is very difficult to find classical paintings to which the characters "春思 Chun Si" have been attached that seem purely to celebrate nature, or that do not involve women interpreted as waiting for men. In other words, the focus of these old chun si images all seem to be on the woman herself more than on the nature around her. The commentary with the present melody, however, suggests a man (an "elevated scholar"), or at least a woman praised for her thoughts rather than her beauty. And the section titles suggest enjoyment of nature, calling more for a landscape than a portrait.

For this reason I originally selected this image to accompany the melody because just from looking at it one can imagine that the woman (in white), gazing out from the bottom floor of the pavilion, is also simply enjoying the spring scenery (or a scene of impending spring). The inscription on the top of the image, however, suggests that she is in fact looking for an absent lover.

Regarding the inscription (q.v.) Jonathan Chaves has provided the following:

The inscription is 魚遊春水雙調八十九字 an anonymous 89-character ci poem on the pattern "Fish Swim in Spring Waters".


秦樓東風裏,             燕子還來尋舊壘。     (the inscription has "冬風")
餘寒猶峭,                 紅日薄侵羅綺。
嫩草方抽碧玉茵,     媚柳輕窣黃金縷。
鶯囀上林,                 魚遊春水。

幾曲闌干遍倚,         又是一番新桃李。
佳人應怪歸遲,         梅妝淚洗。
鳳簫聲絕沈孤雁,     望斷清波無雙鯉。
雲山萬重,                 寸心千里。

Anon. "Fish Swim in Spring Waters"

A tower of Qin, in the eastern wind (suggesting spring);
      The swallows return, seeking the old fort.
Lingering cold still bitter;
      Red sunlight, thin, invades gauze windows.
Delicate plants just burgeoning--emerald-jade cushions;
      Seductive willows light and crisp, yellow-gold threads.
Warblers sing in the upper forest (or Upper Forest, the ancient Imperial hunting park);
      Fish swim in spring waters.

Leaning everywhere along several zigzags of the balustrade:
      Again, a time of young apricot and plum blossoms.
The beauty must be resentful he’s so late returning!
      "Plum-style" makeup smeared by tears,
Sound of wind soughing—cut off, as a single goose swoops down.
      She gazes as far as she can over pure sign of "double carp"!
Cloudy mountains, 10,000 layers,
      Her inch-square heart, 1,000 miles away. . . .

Prof. Chaves also provided a JSTOR link to an article (The Theme of the Neglected Wife in the Poetry of Ts`ao Chih, David T. Roy) that is the "seminal study of the theme of the 'abandoned wife' in Chinese literature, a classic in its own right."

4. Thoughts or Yearnings?
Of course, one might also say that it depends on what was in the mind of the person who created the melody, but then one would also have to consider what was in the mind of the person who reconstructed it, or of the player while playing it. Perhaps better, then, is simply to call the piece "Chun Si".

5. Chun Si for a goddess
Jonathan Chaves sent me the following poem by Pi Rixiu (c. 834-883), with translation and commentary, as further inspiration for the guqin melody Chun Si:

皮日休 Pi Rixiu and 陸龜蒙 Lu Guimeng were one of the most famous pairs of "poetry friends," exchanging countless numbers of poems back and forth. In this case, Pi sent a gift to Lu of a really fine letter-paper, highly treasured as one of the Four Treasures of the Scholar's Studio (along with ink, inkstone, and brush). This particular type of paper was known as "fish stationary," as fish were considered to be carriers of letters

Lu responded with a poem to Pi, then Pi answered with the poem shown below. After elaborate, almost Baroque imagery evoking the special nature of the paper, Pi basically suggests it is best suited for writing a message of "spring thoughts," here meaning love for sure, but only to a goddess! This had never been done before.

Pi Rixiu (c. 834-883)
Responding to an Answer Received from Luwang to my Gift of Fine Letter Paper

Delicate, slight embossments,
      smooth as rice cake,
Aside from mermaid-crafted silk,
      few products can compare!
What would one write upon it?
      Perhaps a proclamation from the Yellow River god!
Try doing paper cuts? It would seem
      the robe of a water-nymph.
As if: the tip of your brush still moist
      from this white otter-marrow!
Or: beneath your fingers, frozen silkworms,
      just about to fly off!
But, if you do use it, please,
      not for some trivial purpose!
Best to inscribe your springtime feelings,
      And send them to your River Goddess!



The central, parallel couplets (ll.s 3-4, 5-6) are all descriptive of the paper’s lucency, texture, and appearance. It is so magically beautiful that it seems like the proper vehicle for an official announcement from Hebo, the god of the Yellow River (also with reference to the "fish" character in the name of the paper); in texture it is so fine and yet strong that it could be a goddess’s dress. White otter-marrow is regarded as a precious, effectual medicinal substance for several purposes; here it is used to capture the rich white lustre of the paper. Ice is purposely placed over silkworms to produce desired variations in the color of their silk. The embossments on the paper make one think of the silkworms, frozen, and yet somehow vibrant with life.

7. Comparing melodies of Chun Si and Yang Chun
The 1525 Yang Chun is in gong mode, its relative scale being 1 2 3 5 6; it could thus be considered as a pentatonic major scae. The 1525 Chun Si is in yu mode, its relative scale being 6 1 2 3 5; it could thus be considered as a pentatonic minor scale. It is very difficult to know how these two differing modes may affected the mood of the two pieces in the minds of 16th century Chinese listeners.

8. Tracing Chun Si
Zha Guide 21/190/-- has only this one entry. The melody Pear Cloud Spring Yearnings (梨雲春思 Li Yun Chun Si) is not related.

9. Other recordings
The online video version skips sections 3 and 4 and most of 11 and 12. Perhaps the presentation limited the amount of time Chen could use. The metal strings, close miking and recording levels combine to give the qin a rather odd sound.

10. Original afterword
The preface in Chinese is:
達人高士懷寶幽棲。感芳春之和,觸景成曲,故被之徽絃,以宣其沖暢。亦考盤("drumming and dancing"; "enjoying virtue"? See 詩經 #56)之餘音也夫。

11. Original section titles
The section titles in Chinese are:

  1. 飛蝶下花叢
  2. 遷鶯出幽谷
  3. 錦鯉躍芳池
  4. 水暖浴鴛鴦
  5. 柳花飛度竹
  6. 垂楊蘸綠水
  7. 出林雙鶴舞
  8. 風約半池萍
  9. 蜂蜜採花歸
  10. 紅日轉闌干
  11. 竹林鷓鴣啼
  12. 燕子歸畫梁

12. Video recording of Thoughts of Spring (春思 Chun Si)
The above video, from the online Spring Festival meeting of the New York Qin Society, 26 January 2023, used the melody Spring Dawn Intonation (春曉吟 Chun Xiao Yin, linked here) as a prelude to Thoughts of Spring. At that meeting the two were played together, as follows (Thoughts of Spring begins at 02.05.):

春曉吟 Chun Xiao Yin and 春思 Chun Si

The qin, by Tong Kin-Woon, was strung with silk strings by Lawrence Kaster. The clothing worn on this occasion is discussed here.

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