Wumei Yi
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
XLTQT / ToC Listen to my recording 聽錄音 / 首頁
153. Defining Wumei Mode
- Wumei tuning:1 4 5 6 1 2 3 5
- Connected to #154 Lingqiong Yin and #155 Feng Qiu Huang
Wumei Yi
This tuning, in which the third and sixth strings are each lowered one pitch, is known to be used with only four melodies, all of them together here in Xilutang Qintong (1525):

In fact, original tablature for these four melodies survives only here in Xilutang Qintong (1525).3 Modally they are similar but not identical. For example, the wumei modal prelude is purely pentatonic, with the main tonal center mostly la (with mi), but at the end changing to do (with sol). Linqiong Yin and Feng Qiu Huang both utilize fa, while rarely ti; Gu Guan Yu Shen has quite a few of both fa and ti. The other non-pentatonic note also found here is a sharped do (once in Feng Qiu Huang; several times in Gu Guan Yu Shen). The latter three are also mostly la - mi modes, but they sometimes change to do - sol. Linqiong Yin ends on sol - do; Feng Qiu Huang on la - mi; Gu Guan Yu Shen apparently on do: no closing harmonic coda is indicated.

As for the phrase "wu mei", it means "no (marriage) go-between", and so it seems likely that this modal prelude is intended specifically for the two melodies that follow it, #154 and #155 above.

The name Wumei Diao is also used for the mode of the surviving version of a melody called Baitou Yin, which continues the story of Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun. However, that tuning and melody are both completely different.4

Original preface


Music: one section (untitled; see transcription; timing follows my recording 聽錄音)

00.00     begin
00.44     closing harmonics
01.00           end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Wumei Tuning (Wumei Diao 無媒調)
Lowering the 3rd and 6th strings from standard tuning gives 1 2 3 5 6 7 1 (or 5 6 7 2 3 4 6); transposing the relative pitch names (not the pitches themselves) gives 4 5 6 1 2 3 5.

19580.502 and 7/141 wumei both give early reference to what happens when there is no go-between; also can refer to no one to give a general recommendation; nothing about music. (Taiyin Daquanji, Folio 5, #9 (QQJC I, p.83) lists Wumei twice, in the first instance saying to lower the 3rd and 6th strings, in the second saying to lower the 2nd and 6th string. Note that the wumei tuning for Baitou Yin (see below) calls for raising the 2nd and 6th strings.

3. Tracing Wumei Diao
Zha Fuxi's guide (22/-/-) has it only in Xilutang Qintong, but see next footnote.

4. Wumei mode as used in Baitou Yin
Baitou Yin, surviving only in 1618 (QQJC VIII/298) has a tuning that is also named Wumei, but it calls for tightening the second and sixth strings (compare above), giving 1 3 4 5 6 2 2, though according to my understanding of the melody this should be transposed to 2 4 5 6 7 3 3. By this reckoning, the tonal centers are 6 and 3, with a heavy emphasis also on 7. The melody altogether has about 229 notes, with 164 (71%) of them being 6, 3 or 7 (this counts as singles the doubled notes, all of which are unisons and almost all of which are on 3 but are secondarily on 7). There are 60 occurrences of 6, 48 of 3 and 56 of 7, resulting in a rather open sound, with the melody making many leaps of a fourth or a fifth. I have written out a transcription, but have not yet been able to make it into what I would consider a natural melody. It is a song throughout, the lyrics being Stanza 1 of the short form, then stanzas 2 - 4 of the long form of a poem in the Yuefu Shiji attributed in Zhuo Wenjun, said to have been written when Sima Xiangru was about to take a concubine.

This second wumei tuning is rather puzzling, as it seems unnecessarily to put a strain on the 6th string. Since the sixth string is never played by itself, the melody can be played without raising the 6th string by changing all the 跳/踢 tiao and ti outward strokes on the seventh and sixth string together into 雙彈 shuangtan outwards double strokes on seven, and changing the 勾 gou inward strokes on the sixth and seventh together into 蠲 juan inwards double strokes on seven. This would mean the sixth string was completely unplayed. It also suggests there may have been some philosophical rather than musical reason for using this tuning.

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