Xian Pei Ying Feng 仙珮迎風
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
XLTQT ToC     Jade Lady Mode     Daoist qin themes 聽 Listen   首頁
161. Fairy Jade in the Wind
- Yu Nü mode: 2 7 2 3 5 6 1 2
Xian Pei Ying Feng 1
The two river nymphs meet Jiaofu 3      
This melody and its modal prelude survive only in Xilutang Qintong (1525). The two share similarities that make it almost certain that the two were created together as a unit and thus should be played together.4

The legend of Jiaofu from Zheng5 meeting two river nymphs (Two River Concubines6) seems to have been quite popular at one time. Although there seems to be little further information on Jiaofu himself, other than that he lived during the Zhou dynasty, there is much commentary on this story and even more mention of the nymphs (though again with little specific detail). There are more elaborate versions of the story in the Liexian Zhuan (original text) as well as in other popular biographies, such as the one that included the image at right, and even in some local histories.7 In poetry there are also a number of references to the nymphs themselves, such as the one given below from a poem by Li Qingzhao (1084 - ca.1151).

River nymphs, a popular theme in folk stories, also appear in classical literature.8 In the qin repertoire, besides this melody concerning the two nymphs on the Han (or Yangtze?) River, there is the melody Xiang River Concubines relating their lament at the death of their husband, Emperor Shun.

The existing tablature for both Xian Pei Ying Fen and its prelude had no punctuation. In addition, the modality of both seems quite exceptional, with tonal centers often on re and mi, but then going to do before ending on la over mi (further comment). Non-pentatonic tones are ti (three times) and fa (once). The melody is also notable for being mostly in harmonics.

The text says,

Once when Jiaofu of Zheng was traveling by the Han River he met two lady river nymphs who looked very elegant and seductive, with pendant pearls and jade. Jiaofu appreciated (these items) and so he asked for them. The women gave them over (and walked with him for a while), but suddenly they couldn't be seen, and the jade had also disappeared. The melody's meaning is derived from this.  
Yünu Yi (Jade Lady Modal Prelude) has a main body then a coda, while Xian Pei Ying Feng has four titled sections then its own coda. Because of the special relationship between the two, each of the three recordings linked below combines the two. The three recordings were made 16 September 2015 using three different silk-string qins. Timings for each are as follows:

TKW = Tong Kin-Woon; WP = Wang Peng; ZJH = Zhang Jianhua
  00.00 00.00 00.00 Jade Lady Modal Prelude begins
  00.32 00.32 00.33 harmonic coda
        Xian Pei Ying Feng:
  00.50 00.49 00.48 Section 1: Cold ripples, a pair of silhouettes (all harmonics)
  01.20 01.22 01.19 Section 2: At the river's edge an unexpected encounter (two of three phrases in harmonics)
  01.51 01.53 01.50 Section 3: Solicitously bestowing a present (all harmonics)
  02.15 02.18 02.15 Section 4: On the far horizon a solitary cloud
  02.52 02.53 02.52 harmonic coda
  03.14 03.14 03.11 end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. References (QQJC III/269)
迎風 ying feng can also mean "welcoming the wind", "windward", "facing the wind", etc., hence "Fairy Jade Facing the Wind". The word "珮 pei" generally referred to some sort of pendant usually made of jade and hung from the waist. The word "仙 xian" is most commonly translated here as "immortal"; the ladies here are also called 妃 fei or 江妃 jiang fei (concubines or "concubines of the river", here "river nymphs"). Perhaps the title suggests that the jade of these nymphs has disappeared into the wind, and/or that just as the nymphs are referred to in the section title 1 as 影 silhouettes their jade was simply a sound in the wind (note that the music is in "jade woman mode"). (Compare title with that of "Tian Feng Huan Pei".)

仙珮迎風 391.xxx. Compare Han Gao Jie Pei (18531.178 漢皋解佩). "Xian pei ying feng" was apparently used as the name for a Ming dynasty qin.

2. Jade Woman Mode (玉女調 Yu Nü Diao
The melody here is prefaced by a modal prelude called Defining Jade Lady (Mode) (玉女意 Yu Nü Yi). The tuning called for requires lowering the first and third strings. However, with minor adjustments (no pitch or rhythmic changes: the five stopped notes assigned to the 1st string are played half a step higher while the three harmonics played on the first string are played instead on the third string) both the prelude and this melody can be played without lowering the first string.

The modality here seems quite exceptional with its shifting tonal centers, but determining this is complicated by the lack of punctuation in the surviving tablature: tonal centers in general seem to align with the ending notes of phrases, so the modality being atypical makes it more difficult to be sure one has selected the correct end note of a phrase. According to my own understanding of the phrasing, the modal prelude begins with a tonal center on re but then seems to shift to la before ending the main section on do; there is then a harmonic coda that ends on la over mi. Xian Pei Ying Feng has its tonal center on re until near the end of Section 2, where (after an unexpected note makes one wonder if this is connected to the title of this section) it shifts to do. The third section returns to re then shifts to mi, while the fourth sections goes from mi back to re, but then ends on do. The harmonic coda is the same as with the prelude, ending with la over mi.

3. Image: The two nymphs meet Jiaofu
This image is from the National Palace Museum website, where the explanation is that it comes from Newly Carved Chronicles of Female Transcendents (新鐫仙媛紀事 Xinjuan xianyuan jishi, 1602) and that Li Qingzhao once referred to the story it tells in a poem. The poem is a ci called 多麗 Duo Li, translated in the Complete Poems, p. 15, as "The Beauty of White Chrysanthemums, to the tune 'Beauties'". The relevant phrase (in the original text only "漢皋解佩 Han shore get pendant") is translated with better detail than below by Andrew Grimes Griffin (q.v.) as, "the two fairy maidens who made a present of their belt pearls to Zheng Jiaofu at Han Gao")

The whole translation from Complete Poems is as follows: (characters in brackets added and romanization changed)

It is cold in my small pavilion.
All night my bed curtains sag with damp.
I hate the xiao xiao of the implacable wind and rain
That (comes at night and) twists and breaks your jade flesh.
Your face is not like Yang Guifei flushed with wine,
Nor like Sun Shou's worried brow.
You should not be compared to Jia Wu (賈午)
Who stole the imperial incense for her lover (韓壽 Han Shou),
Nor with the lewd Lady Xu (徐昭佩)
Who powdered only half her face
To make fun of her one-eyed husband, the Emperor. (梁元帝 Liang Emperor Yuan)
These comparisons are not apt.

After careful consideration,
I think your charm is that
Of the poets Qu Yuan and Tao Qian.
In the breeze your perfume is as
Subtle as the odor of blackberry blossoms.
In the slow end of autumn
You are white as the coming snow,
And frail as transparent jade.
Leaning, leaning toward people with
Congealed sorrow, like the ghost on the shore of the Han River,
Who gave her lover a jade pendant and vanished,
Or like the tears of the imperial concubine Lady Ban,
Who wrote a poem on a silk fan after she was deserted.
Clear, bright moon, pure wind, changes to thick mist, dark rain.
Heaven ordains you will wither
And your faint fragrance disappear.
No matter how much I love you
You will fade but be remembered in this poem.
You will not need to eny
The orchids gaterhed along the river bank by Qu Yuan
Or the chrysanthemums planted agains the east hedge by Tao Qian.

The original poem is as follows (the words cannot be matched to the tablature for the melody using the common pairing method):



The Museum website has some English commentary; it seems somewhat questionable to me (no mention of Li Qingzhao), but I have not yet looked into it carefully.

4. Relationship between Xian Pei Ying Feng and the Yu Nü modal prelude
The two titles are also paired in this melody list. In addition to sharing the same harmonic coda (something quite common at that time) Xian Pei Ying Feng repeats (sometimes with variation) several phrases from the prelude. This includes its opening phrase, which echoes the closing of the harmonic coda, and its final phrases before its harmonic coda, which are very similar to the same part of the prelude.

5. Jiaofu of Zheng (鄭交甫 Zheng Jiaofu)
40513.107 鄭交甫 Zheng Jiaofu gives no information about Jiao Fu himself, adding only that he was traveling from Chu to Han, and that the two nymphs traveled with him for about 10 paces before disappearing with the jewels. It gives as its source 尚友錄 Shang You Lu, #20. Bio/1579 has the same story, citing 列仙傳 Liexian Zhuan, adding only that Jiaofu lived during the Western Zhou.

6. Two River Concubines (江妃二女 Jiang Fei Er Nü)
17496.110 江妃 says Jiang Fei was 揚子江神女之名 the name of two immortal women from the Yangtze River (the name 揚子江 is particularly used in the area around 揚州 Yangzhou and below), giving as its references 列仙傳. However, Liexian Zhuan and the other references given (including 山海經 Shan Hai Jing plus poems by 左思 Zuo Si and 郭璞 Guo Pu in 文選 Wen Xuan>) all associate the stories with the Han River.

Some stories locate the event by the Hangao Mountains (漢皋山 Han Gao Shan) or Han Gao Terrace (漢皋臺 Han Gao Tai). 18531.177 漢皋 locates it in 襄陽 Xiangyang district of Hubei. 18531.178 漢皋解佩 Han Gao Jie Pei relates a similar version of the present story. At one time there were temples in honor of the two nymphs/goddesses, in particular one at Xiangyang.

Fei is here sometimes also translated as "princesses" as well as nymphs: consorts of the river god?

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has this image from a Japanese woodblock painting.

7. Ancient popularity of this story
Xi Zhuochi's 4th century local history of the Xiangyang area, along the Han River in northern Hubei, tries to give prominence to this local area by claiming this event took place there. (Unpublished paper by Andrew Chittick, 2000).

8. Other female river deities
The traditional stories I have encountered most seem to be those concerning the 洛神 17804.57 "Luo River Goddess" (associated with the 河洛/洛水/洛浦 Luo river [banks]); however, although she may have been mentioned in connection with some early qin melodies, none of them survives.

The Luo River goddess was said originally to have been Fu Fei, a daughter of Fu Xi. After she drowned in the Luo River (by, or as an offering to, 河伯 Hebo [Wiki]?) she came to be worshipped as the deity immortalized later in a poem by Cao Zhi. This name then also came to be associated with 甄洛 Zhen Luo, a wife or concubine of Cao Zhi's brother 曹丕 Cao Pi (187 - 226). In an earlier poem, Li Sao, she was connected to the 汨羅江 Miluo River.

The Lienü Zhuan has a story related to the Xiang River Concubines.

9. Afterword
The original text is:

10. Music
The original titles are:

  1. 凌波雙影 Líng bō shuāng yǐng
  2. 江濱邂逅 Jiāng bīn xiè hòu
  3. 慇勤解贈 Yīn qín jiě zèng
  4. 天際孤雲 Tiān jì gū yún

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