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127. Yueshang Melody 1 越裳操
        - can also be pronounced "Yuechang"; "also called Autumn Waters Melody" Yueshang Cao
        - with Yueshang Yin;2   jiazhong mode: 3  6 1 2 3 5 6 1 Homeland of the Yueshang (Jiaozhi)? 4    

The Yueshang are said to have been a people living in an area called Jiaozhi,5 identified as a part of or partly in what is today Vietnam: the map at right shows them in the Hanoi region during the Western Han dynasty, but it is not clear where they might have been earlier.6 In surviving qin tablature there are several different melodies with "Yueshang" in the title; all are attributed to the Duke of Zhou (Zhou Gong), the younger brother of the Civil King (Wu Wang), the first ruler of the Zhou dynasty (1122-249) and later regent for King Cheng (Cheng Wang), Wu Wang's son.7 According to the History of the Latter Han dynasty, during the six years that the Duke of Zhou was regent for King Cheng he acted properly and made music; the world was at peace, (so) the Yueshang sent tribute.

Although there is no reason to connect the surviving Yueshang Cao with Zhou Gong himself, it is an ancient qin melody title, being one of the entries in the Qin Cao melody list said to have been compiled by Cai Yong (133-192).8 In addition, the Song dynasty's Monk Ju Yue (Seng Juyue) includes a Yueshang Cao in his list of "most ancient" qin tablature.9

As for surviving versions, several melodies on the Yueshang theme can be found in qin tablature dating from 1511 to 1840.10 These can be broadly divided in two:

  1. Songs in one section and standard tuning; beginning with the one in 1511, discussed separately, at least three different versions all set to music the lyrics written by Han Yu.11
  2. The 10-section Yueshang Cao in jiazhong (guxian) tuning, found only in 1525
    "Also called Qiushui Nong",12 it was published together with a modal prelude and a 3-section melodic prelude.

The lyrics by Han Yu (768-824), in the voice of the Duke of Zhou, are also found under this title in Yuefu Shiji. These lyrics are discussed under the earliest surviving setting of them for qin, in the Taigu Yiyin of 1511. These lyrics are also used for the settings in handbooks dated 1539, 1585 and 1802 (see guide).

The melody of this title here in Xilutang Qintong (1525) has no lyrics; the comment that it is "also called Autumn Waters Melody" comes under the title. Although neither this melody nor its prelude is musically related to the other Yueshang melodies, the 1525 afterword still connects it to this Zhou Gong story. Versions of its jiazhong modal prelude are found elsewhere, and it is difficult to determine whether either it or the melodic prelude called Yueshang Yin was specifically created in connection with this Yueshang Cao. In addition, although published 138 years later than the earliest Yueshang Cao song, it is not necessarily a later melody: Xilutang Qintong has a number of melodies apparently copied from earlier tabalture.

Yueshang Cao in jiazhong (guxian) tuning is actually a set of three related entries. These melodies all survive only in Xilutang Qintong (1525), and also are the only ones on this theme to use this tuning. These three, in order, are:

  1. Yueshang Intonation (Yueshang Yin)
    Guide: only here.
  2. Jiazhong Modal Prelude (Jiazhong Yi)
    Guide says only here, but see guxian chart: very similar to 1546 Qingshang (copied in 1561), 1551 Guxian, and 1589 Qingshang.
  3. Yueshang Melody (Yueshang Cao)
    Guide has 5 other entries with this title but they are all unrelated); "Alternate title Qiushui Nong"

The 1525 afterword tells a similar story to that of the other Yueshang melodies, including the preface to the 1511 version, with lyrics. However, none of the song versions is musically related to the present ones.

The first in this set of three entries, the jiazhong modal prelude (Jiazhong Yi), is in one section; its similarity to modal preludes in other handbooks suggests that it was not specifically created for these Yueshang melodies. Its last note might have been changed from 6 to 1 to suggest the ambivalence of these two notes as tonal centers, but more likely the 6 is a mistake.

The first of the two Yueshang titles, Yueshang Intonation (Yueshang Yin), is a prelude in three sections, none titled. The second section is in harmonics. The harmonic coda is identical to that of Jiazhong Yi except that the last note is 1. It works nicely with the longer melody following it, but the two do not seem to share musical motifs.

Yueshang Melody (Yueshang Cao) is divided into 10 sections, again none titled. Its opening phrase is reminiscent of the opening of Qiu Hong; otherwise it seems to have little melodic connection to other melodies using this tuning.

Commentary 13 (III/222)
The afterword to the 1525 Yueshang Cao serves for all three entries listed above. As mentioned, it clearly tells a story similar to that of the other Yueshang melodies (compare 1511 as well as a Vietnamese account):

Zhou Gong supported Cheng Wang; while standing on the eastern slope of the imperial ancestral temple on the occasion of (Cheng Wang's) ascending the throne (Mathews), he offered sacrices for the great rule of all under heaven. As a result the Yueshang clan presented a white pheasant, coming to the court with three interpreters (since no one understood their language), and so (Zhou) Gong created this melody. Now it is 100 generations later but one can still visualize the flourishing concord and spendor of such universal harmony.

As suggested
above, this should be seen as a suite of three pieces: modal prelude, prelude in 3 sections, main melody in 10 sections, as follows. One might also play (and sing) here the 1511 qin song Yueshang Cao; this is made easier if adjustments are made to the tuning.14.

Timings follow my recordings:

Jiazhong Modal Prelude (listen 聽「夾鍾意」錄音)

00.00   begin
00.36   harmonic coda
00.52   end

Yueshang Yin (3 sections, untitled; listen 聽「越裳吟」錄音)

00.00   1.
00.34   2.
01.02   3.
01.49   harmonic coda
02.06   end

Yueshang Cao (re-arranged as 12 sections, untitled; listen 聽「越裳操」錄音)

00.00   1.
00.37   2.
01.34   3.
02.23   4.
03.09   5.
03.32   6.
03.53   7. (1547 tablature has Section 6 begin here)
04.24   8.
04.40       (tablature has Section 7 begin here)
04.50   9.
05.16   10. (tablature calls this Section 8)
05.42   11. (tablature calls this Section 9)
06.48   12. (tablature calls this Section 10)
07.35       harmonic coda
08.06       end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Yueshang Cao 越裳操 (Qinqu Jicheng III/220-222)
The title could also be pronounced "Yuechang Cao": not only can 裳 itself be pronounced "chang", but historical sources also write the name as 越常 or 越嘗, both of which would normally be pronounced Yuechang. However, Loewe uses "Yueshang" (p.323) in mentioning their presenting one white and one black pheasant to the Han court around the year 1 BCE. Perhaps there is a connection between this and the story of the Yueshang sending Zhou Gong a white pheasant.

37943.130 Yueshang says it is 古國名,故地當在今越南南部 the name of an old nationality, its former area being in what is today southern Vietnam. It then gives as its earliest reference the History of the Latter Han, which says,

To the south of Jiaozhi is the country of the Yueshang. Zhou Gong, 居攝 acting as regent for six years, controlled the rites and created music with the result that the world under heaven was at peace. So the Yueshang 以三象重譯 used three interpreters for repeated translation and offered white pheasants.

9/1115 越裳 gives 越常 [Yuechang] and 越嘗 [same] as alternates and adds several more references. Elsewhere yet another reference given as 尚書大傳卷四 Folio 4 of Shangshu Dachuan, but 7654.71 says this is a fragmentary work from the Han, perhaps no earlier than History of the Latter Han.

37943.131 Yueshang Cao identifies this as lyrics in the qin melody section of Yuefu; this is discussed further above. Yuefu Shiji and Hanyu Dacidian, IX, P.1115 give no mention of Yueshang outside of the context of the Zhou Gong story. Keith Weller Taylor, The Birth of Vietnam (Berkeley, U. California Press, 1983), mentions the story on p.186. Sometimes the Yue people are called 越常 Yuechang (Yue Chang), as in the 文選 Wen Xuan poem 東京 賦 Eastern Metropolis Rhapsody by 張衡 Zhang Heng. Knechtges' translation, Vol. 1, p.178, refers to a translation by Hightower of 韓詩外傳 Han Shi Wai Zhuan.

Other 37943 越 Yue entries include Yue Song (37943.126 越歌 Yue Ge, mentioned in the Han History) and Yue Mode/Melody (37943.134 越調 Yue Diao). 越操 Yue Cao 37943.xxx.

On an internet website called Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog I read the following (Việt Thường refers to Yue Shang), A White Pheasant and the Sino-Vietnamese Tributary Relationship
This is another story from the Arrayed Tales of Selected Oddities from South of the Passes (Lĩnh Nam chích quái liệt truyện). This story is clearly the invention of a medieval scholar. Mention of the Việt Thường clan exists in Chinese sources. It is not clear in Chinese sources, however, where they were from, other than that it was someplace far to the south. What they stand for in Chinese sources is the power of the Chinese emperor. These people supposedly arrived from far away to present tribute (a white pheasant) to the emperor because they had seen signs in the natural world which indicated to them that there was "a sage in the Middle Kingdom." This surprised the Chinese as they had never heard of the Việt Thường clan and did not know that the emperor’s moral virtue reached so far away that it could lead such distant peoples to make the journey to present tribute....Their words could not be understood, so Zhou Gong [the king’s main assistant] had an emissary make multiple translations and they were finally understood...."

The page goes on with more detail and analysis of this story.

2. Yueshang Intonation (越裳吟 Yueshang Yin)
Only here; precedes Yueshang Cao.

3. Jiazhong Modal Prelude and tuning (夾鍾意 Jiazhong Yi)
This tuning, 6 1 2 3 5 6, is achieved by lowering the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 6th strings a half step each.

The overall tonal center is the equivalent of the open seventh string (do), with the modal interest largely coming from changing the primary-secondary tonal centers from do - sol to la - mi (1 - 5 to 6 - 3; for more on this see Modality in early Ming qin tablature and as well as the comment below about aligning the 1511 and 1525 tonalities. For all three the music is largely pentatonic (1 2 3 5 6). In Yueshang Cao a non-pentatonic 7 occurs quite frequently, almost always when the tonal center has shifted to 6, and/or as a transition between 6 and 1; its other non-pentatonic notes are flatted 3s and sharpened 4s (there is one sharpened 1, but that seems to be a mistake). While Jiazhong Yi and Yueshang Yin each has a flatted 3, the latter also has two flatted 7s and two 4s. These all seem quite natural, adding modal coloring. Thus, the tablature seems to have been written quite carefully, with almost no obvious errors.

Problems in interpreting the tablature
The main problem interpreting notes here has been interpreting some finger positions in Yueshang Cao: as with other tablature using the
old system the transcriber seems to have had trouble distinguishing between what in the modern system would be 5.9 and 6.2, 6.2 and 6.4, plus 4.8 and 5.0.

A bigger problem I have had in interpreting the tablature has come from its punctuation and sectioning. Most important has been trying to understand a number of quite long unpunctuated passages. Although this punctuation may suggest long musical phrases, another possibility is that the tablature was actually copied from an earlier edition with no punctuation, with the 1525 copyist adding punctuation only where sure of the correct location. Yet another possibility is that the copyist was working from an actual performance but did not get sufficient information in certain places. In any case, in order to give the music a structure that I find convincing enough to enable me to memorize it, in writing out my own transcription I have had to assume some inconsistencies in the original punctuation, in some cases making long unpunctuated phrases into shorter phrases, and in at least two places moving the existing punctuation marks.

Sectioning the melody is also related to this problem of interpreting the phrasing suggested in the original tablature. Of particular importance here is my understanding of a phrase in harmonics that first appears at the end of Section 3 in Yueshang Cao. Almost the exact phrase also appears again at the end of Section 8. Thus when it also appears at the beginning of Section 7 one must consider the possibility that it actually belongs at the end of Section 6; and according to my own musical understanding it does fit better there, with the copyist apparently having made a false assumption based on the fact that Section 7 is itself in harmonics. This also suggests that where versions occur in the middle of Section 5 and Section 6 this could also mark the end of a section, meaning the whole melody should have 12 sections instead of 10; or it should at least mark a pause in these sections and, once again, this accords with my own musical understanding now. Timings for my recording show the new sectioning.

In 2011 I revised the transcriptions I had done of the 1525 versions a number of years earlier then set aside because I could not make musical sense of them. By revising the phrasing and sectioning as discussed here, then having played the entire composition a number of times, it now fits into my understanding of other melodies I have played from this handbook. However, since I have still not yet learned to play this version from memory, I am still quite tentative with these conclusions.

4. Image: Homeland of the Yueshang (Jiaozhi)?
This map, showing the Jiaozhi Commandery (交趾郡 Jiaozhi Jun) during the Western Han dynasty as being in the Red River Delta (including modern Hanoi) of Vietnam, is part of Jiaozhi Prefectural Governor's Region (交趾刺史部 Jiaozhi Cishi Bu), a map in Volume 2 of the Historical Atlas of China.

5. Jiaozhi 交趾 (also Jiao Zhi)
244.165 交趾 says it is in the Tongkin area, which is in the north of Vietnam; it has nothing about Yueshang. Keith Taylor, op.cit., p.26, says the term (in Vietnamese Giao-chi) means "intertwined feet", referring to a group sleeping custom of some peoples of the region, but not the Vietnamese. See also next.

6. Connection to Vietnam?
In the context of this melody, connecting this story to Vietnam is probably anachronistic. The kingdom/people referred to in the story may well have been living in southern China: during the Han dynasty there was a Kingdom of Nanyue (Southern Yue; Wiki) that included part of what are today northern Vietnam plus Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. The important thing to note here is that the Yueshang are treated here as foreign peoples on China's southern border; accounts specifically tell of interpreters being needed (the mention of three interpreters may suggest such obscurity that intermediate translation was necessary), as the Yueshang speak a language not understood by the Zhou rulers.

7. 周公 Zhou Gong is also mentioned in two other melodies from 1511, #4 Qishan Cao and #9 Wen Wang Qu.

8. 蔡邕琴操 Cai Yong's Qin Cao
Qin Cao does not survive directly. The versions in 琴苑要彔 Qinyuan Yaolu (Yuan dynasty, Beijing reprint), where the melody is called 越嘗操 Yuechang Cao (37943.xx; chang = taste), and in 琴學叢書 Qinxue Congshu (1910; see Tong Kin-Woon's Qin Fu, pp.741-2) have almost identical introductions which quote the short poem attributed to Zhou Gong. The commentary and text are included under 1511.

9. Early listings
The list attributed to 僧居月 Seng Juyue, which includes 越裳操 Yueshang Cao, has no related commentary.

10. Tracing the Yueshang melodies
Zha Guide has three Yueshang entries:

  1. 13/134/241 越裳操 Yueshang Cao: Six listed:

    All but 1525 have one section; 1525 has 10 (see Yueshang Yin)

  2. 22/--/-- 越裳吟 Yueshang Yin (only here in 1525)

  3. 39/--/-- 越裳歌 Yueshang Ge (only in 1745)

    This seems unrelated to the others (except 1840 which copies only its music), and is perhaps not actually a real melody: it sets the Zhou Gong lyrics (13 characters) to a 13-note melody that seems to consist of only gong and shang; the afterword begins "是宮商合調,乃專用二音正少" (1840 above said same); attributed to Zhou Gong.

11. Yueshang Cao song settings
A handbook from 1745 seems to have made an attempt to set to music the lyrics actually attributed to Zhou Gong himself; see above.

12. Autumn Waters Melody (秋水弄 Qiushui Nong; also Qiu Shui Nong)
Qiushui Nong, in addition to being an alternate title for the 1525 Yueshang Cao, has also been used as an alternate title for the musically unrelated 1589 version of Dao Yi (the one using guxian tuning, not the version using standard tuning). Only the 1525 makes this connection, and there seems to be more justification for this as an alternate title there than here, as the words 秋水 qiu shui can be found both in introductions and lyrics for Dao Yi, but I have not found any similar connections with Yueshang.

25505.27 秋水 qiu shui has many meanings but none related to the theme here; there is also no mention of the surviving qin melody of this name, discussed here under Shenhua Yin. 25505.28 to .36 also seem to have no connection.

13. Original Chinese commentary
The original text from 1525 is:

周公輔成王,踐阼天下大治。越裳氏乃献白雉,重三譯而來朝,公作是操。百世而下猷可想(相?)見雍熙太和之盛也。 The translation above is tentative. Thanks to 孫小青 Sun Xiaoqing for helping read the original text, which was not included in the Zha Guide.

14. Playing together the 1511 and 1525 versions of Yueshang Cao
The 1511 and 1525 versions of Yueshang Cao are not only musically unrelated, they are modally unrelated, with the former using standard tuning considered as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 , and the latter using the very different jiazhong (i.e., guxian) tuning: 6 1 2 3 5 6 1.

If one should wish to play the two sequentially this might be considered a problem (perhaps not a major problem as I seem to be the only person who plays any of these melodies). My own solution for playing them together is to play the 1511 song on a qin re-tuned from standard tuning to jiazhong tuning, so that they can be played together without stopping to re-tune. In fact, though, they still do not sound quite natural together, as in the 1511 song (whatever the tuning) the main tonal center is so (5, zhi), while in the 1525 melody the main tonal center is do (1, gong). To make the transition from the song to the melody more smooth I change the last note at the end of the 1511 version so that, instead of ending on a re and so diad it ends on do, the main note of the 1525 melodies. These changes are done as follows:

The 1511 Yueshang Cao tablature uses only the second to seventh strings: the first string is not used at all. This means that the whole melody can instead be played on the first to sixth strings if the instrument is retuned so that those strings had the same relative relationship as do the first to the sixth strings. Presumably it is coincidental that these exact relationships can be attained by using for the 1511 melody the jiazhong tuning of the 1525 Yueshang Cao, i.e., 6 1 2 3 5 6 1 , achieved by lowering the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 6th strings a half step each. The 1511 melody can then be played on the first to sixth strings by transposing the whole tablature down one string (for example, the first note becomes a harmonic played in the ninth position on the third string instead of on the fourth string). The 1511 and 1525 still do not fit together modally: with this jiazhong tuning and the just-mentioned transposition, the scale of the 1511 melody becomes 5 6 7 2 3, with the main note 5 and the ending on 2. Meanwhile, the scale of the 1525 melodies is 1 2 3 5 6, with the tonal centers being 1 (secondarily 5) shifting back and forth with 6 (secondarily 3). As for making the transition from the 1511 song to the 1525 melodies smoother, this can be done by changing the last note of the former (as transposed, the third plus first strings played together) to the open second string (or the second string played as a harmonic on the seventh position).

It must be added here that the 1525 melodies seem much more musically developed than does the short and simple 1511 melody.

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