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115. Wander Afar
- Yize mode: 23 5 6 1 2 3 5
遠遊 1
Yuan You
View illustrations 3   
Tablature for Yuan You (Travel Afar), its prelude Chu Tai Yin (Dwell at the Source) and their modal prelude Yize Yi survive only in Xilutang Qintong (1525).4 However, there is good evidence that a number of melodies in the 1525 handbook were copied from Song dynasty tablature.5 Several factors suggest that Yuan You might be one of these,6 including the fact that there is record of Yuan You Yin (Travel Afar Intonation) as an ancient title.7

The titles Chu Tai Yin8 and Yuan You (as well as its eight section titles) connect the melodies to a poem called Yuan You, one of the Chu Ci (Songs of the South); the poem is traditionally attributed to Qu Yuan (340? - 278 BCE).9 When not attributed to him it is usually said to be a Han imitation in his style. In the introduction to his translation,10 David Hawkes suggests that this theory has led to a number of misinterpretations of the poem (presumably including the one expressed in preface to the melody, translated below).

In fact, writes Hawkes, the poem is probably an original work, one which Sima Xiangru used as the basis for his poem Da Ren Fu (The Mighty Man),11 and a "Taoist's answer to (Qu Yuan's) Li Sao". In Yuan You the narrator, as in Li Sao, travels the heavens visiting various deities or immortals. But instead of ending in despair he finds fulfillment through his arrival at the Source (Tai Chu).

The section titles mention stops on the journey. Wangzi Qiao was a famous immortal who is usually depicted in art riding on a crane while playing the sheng mouth organ.12 Following him presumably means, like him, fleeing society and becoming a recluse; asking him about balancing ones basic essence refers to the concept that men can lose this essence while asleep. The Palace of Heaven (Tai Yi)13 was the abode of the deity that at the time some considered supreme, Great Unity (Tai Yi). Tai Hao was deity of the Eastern Sky, Ru Shou was the deity of the Western Sky, Huo Di (the Fiery God) was in the south (Zhu Rong was his attendant14), while Zhuan Xu15 was god of the north (Xuan Ming was his attendant).

The titles of the eight sections of the qin melody Yuan You correspond to eight lines of the poem of that title, in order.16 Bai Yunli has drawn illustrations of these eight section titles.17

There are no available recordings of Yuan You.


When Qu Yuan was slandered and dismissed from office, he expressed his will in his essay Yuan You. He gave rein to his passions and regarded worldly affairs with contempt. In spirit he wandered beyond the physical world. As a gentleman avoiding the world he wrote this to proclaim that he was grief and turmoil. The prince received this blessing, and sighed deeply.

Eight sections; titles correspond with lines of the original poem
19 (timings follow my recording 聽錄音; hear also the prelude)

00.00   1. Following Wangzi Qiao for pleasure (line 54)
00.47   2. Asking (Wangzi Qiao) about balancing ones basic essence (62)
01.23   3. Setting off from the Palace of Heaven (93)
02.01   4. Turning right (in the realm of) Tai Hao (lord of the eastern sky) (107; harmonics)
02.31   5. Meeting (Ru Shou) in the western realm (114)
02.57   6. Going directly (south) to the Fiery God (139)
03.56   7. The rough (northern) paths of Xuan Ming (159)
04.41   8. Into the neighborhood of the Great Source (172; Tai Chu Wei Lin - compare Chu Tai Yin)
05.30       harmonics (like diao yi coda from 05.35)
05.58       end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Yuan You references (QQJC III/207)
39908.203 遠遊 Yuan You

2. Yize Yi 夷則意
modal prelude.

3. Illustration
Bai Yunli; see details.

4. Zha Fuxi's index 21/192/-- .

5. For example, the 1525 afterword to #54 Cangwu Yuan says it was revised and corrected by the Song dynasty's Yang Zuan.

6. Dating Yuan You Old zhifa?    
In addition to Yuan You Yin being on ancient melody lists (see next footnote), other factors suggesting its antiquity include its tuning, modal qualities, and some archaic zhifa (fingering indications). One example of this latter is given at right, from Section 7 (QQJC III/208 lower left quadrant, bottom of third column from right plus top of next column). This looks as though it could be a left over from an old longhand form of tablature (wenzipu); the meaning of the first two symbols (before 用) is not clear, so a transcriber would not have been able to put it into the standard shorthand notation. In addition, although this melody and title occurs only in the present handbook, the melody itself is quite well-developed; this combination may suggest that at the time of its publication it was not actively performed, simply copied from earlier tablature.

7. Yuan You Yin 遠遊吟
See 僧居月,琴曲目錄,中古 Seng, Qin Melody Index, moderately ancient #26.

8. Chu Tai Yin
處泰 Chu Tai is short for 處泰初 Chu Taichu, as in the last line of Yuan You, 與泰初而為鄰 "went into the area of the Great Beginning." For 泰初 Taichu see 17716.48 "= 太始 great beginning". See also the title of Yuan You Section 8.

9. 屈原 Qu Yuan (340? - 278 BCE)
Qu Yuan, a native of 楚國 the ancient state of Chu (in southwest China, roughly corresponding with today's Hunan province), is here referred to as 楚三閭 Chu Sanlü, short for 楚三閭大夫 Chu Sanlü Daifu (10.1633: one of the three top ministers of Chu, meaning something like "region").

10. David Hawkes, The Songs of the South, pp.191-203.

11. Daren Fu 大人賦
Translated in Stephen Owen, An Anthology of Chinese Literature, pp.181-184 ("The Great One"). When Sima Xiangru was young he lived at the Liang court at what is today 商丘 Shangqiu in eastern Henan province.

12. 王子喬 Wangzi Qiao
For 21295.39 王子喬 Wangzi Qiao see also Xilutang Qintong #96 Yao Tian Sheng He. His biography in Liexian Zhuan (attrib. 1st c. BCE, but perhaps late Han) says he played 笙 sheng. Were the 排簫 paixiao panpipes ever confused with them?

13. 太儀 Palace of Heaven and 太一 Great Unity
Hawkes, op.cit., says this puts the narrator's journey outside our universe.

14. For 祝融 Zhu Rong see in Shen Qi Mi Pu #64, Qiu Hong.

15. 顓頊 Zhuan Xu

16. Titles in lines from the original poem Yuan You
The original text can be found online, e.g., in Wikisource. The section titles here correspond to text in (half-)lines 54, 62, 93, 107, 114, 139, 159 and 172.

17. Chu Ci Illustrations.
See details in the footnote with the separate page on
Chu Ci Illustrations.

18. Original preface:

19. Original Chinese section titles
The original section titles are:

1. 從喬娛戲
2. 審氣和德
3. 發軔大義
4. 太皓右轉
5. 遇乎西皇
6. 炎帝直馳
7. 玄冥邪徑
8. 泰初為鄰

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