Taoyuan Chunxiao (桃源春曉 Tao Yuan Chun Xiao)
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169. Spring Dawn at Peach Blossom Spring
- Qingyu mode 2: 2 3 5 6 1 2 3
桃源春曉 1
Taoyuan Chunxiao
From the Tianjin Museum 3 
The story told here to introduce this melody summarizes and quotes from Tao Yuanming's famous Peach Blossom Spring.4 The essay and poem tell of a fisherman who, one spring during the period 376-397, rowed upriver from his home in a place called Wuling (hence the opera version of this story, Wuling Spring [Wuling Chun]).5 Here he discovers a hidden valley in which people live in peace and know nothing of the outside world. After a pleasant stay the fisherman goes home. But although he tried to mark the path by which he had entered the valley, when he tries to find it again he cannot.

Even the approximate location of Tao Yuanming's utopia remains unknown, as is the reason Tao placed it near "Wuling".6 There are several places in China called Wuling, but the one mentioned by Tao is thought to be the one about 300 miles west of his home near Jiujiang. Today this Wuling is best known as a mountain range in northwest Hunan province. East of it is a Peach Blossom Spring (Taoyuan) district. This suggests that Tao Yuanming for an unknown reason set the original story in northwest Hunan province.7 However, other settings have also been theorized.8 And in addition, a similar story is told with the melody Tiantai Yin, but the setting for Tiantai Yin is in Zhejiang province.

The story connected to Tiantai Yin tells of two men, Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao, who come across the hidden paradise. When they leave and return to their home village they find that seven generations had passed. Although this hidden paradise may also be sometimes referred to as Peach Spring Grotto, and the stories are rather similar, there seems to be no other connection, melodic or otherwise, between Tiantai Yin and Taoyuan Chunxiao. In fact, the melody with the Zhejiang setting uses standard tuning, while the present one uses a raised fifth string tuning, often associated with melodies having a Chu theme.

The Peach Blossom Spring (or Peach Spring) story was later retold by a number of poets, including Wang Wei, 9 Han Yu and Wang Anshi. It is also the subject of numerous paintings.10

The melody written out here in Xilutang Qintong survives in no other handbooks. Nevertheless, there is evidence that it might be quite ancient.12 Other melodies in this handbook are clearly copied from earlier tablature. In addition, the tablature for Taoyuan Chunxiao employs a number of archaic fingerings, and the prevalence of notes played in harmonics is generally a characteristic of older surviving melodies.13

The present title should not be confused with that of another melody also called Taoyuan Chunxiao, but having the yuan meaning "garden" instead of "spring".14 Spring Dawn at the Peach Garden, as published in 1670, is a shortened version of the Zangchunwu Qinpu melody Dongtian Chunxiao; it uses standard tuning, has an explanation unrelated to those of the above melodies, and is attributed to the poet Pan Yue.15 That version was later recopied in 1876, where it is called Spring Dawn at Peach Spring.

In addition, a melody entitled Taoyuan Yin survives in 10 handbooks from 1596 to 1890, but it seems melodically unrelated and is perhaps also thematically unrelated to the present story.16

In addition to my own, there is a recording of this Taoyuan Chunxiao as reconstructed and played by 成公亮 Cheng Gongliang. Included on his CD 如是寧靜 Being Peaceful (2006), his interpretation uses metal strings and is quite a bit slower than my own.

There is also a recording by 楊葆元 Yang Baoyuan of what is said to be the 1876 version of Taoyuan Chunxiao, but there not only is the title confused with Spring Dawn at Peach Blossom Garden (as in 1670 [further comment]), it is actually a shortened version of Dongtian Chunxiao.

Original afterword 17

During the Taiyuan era of the Jin dynasty (376-397) a fisherman of Wuling while rowing his boat up a stream lost his way. He saw peach blossoms along the river bank, with fallen petals of many colors. He continued along the stream and entered a place of strange vistas, with mulberry trees, hemp plants and a small village with men and women living harmoniously. They struggled (with each other) to come and ask how he'd got there. They said they were people of the Qin dynasty who had come here to flee the disorders. They did not know there had been a Han dynasty, not to mention the Wei or Jin. Finally one day they saw him off and he returned home. Later he looked again for this place, but could not find it. And so there is this melody.

Music for Qingyu Modal Prelude and Spring Dawn at Peach Blossom Spring (see my transcription 看五線譜 18)

Qingyu Yi; see beginning of my transcription; timings follow my recording 聽錄音
00.00   1.
00.51   end

Tao Yuan Chun Xiao; see from p.2 of my transcription; timings follow my recording 聽錄音
00.00   1.
00.41   2.
01.32   3.
02.02   4.
02.24   5.
03.08   6.
03.55   7.
04.42       end

The final section of Tao Yuan Chun Xiao is all in harmonics, so there is no harmonic coda

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Spring Dawn at Peach Blossom Spring 桃源春曉
15099.129 桃源 Táoyuán (peach spring, or peach tree spring; mostly used for the names of various places) is not to be confused with 15099.136 桃園 táoyuán (peach garden; secondarily used for place names; see also below).

There is no entry for Taoyuan Chunxiao (Tao Yuan Chun Xiao).

2. Qingyu Mode
This "Pure Feather" mode (清羽調 18003.xxx; 6/1298xxx) uses the same tuning as 蕤賓調 ruibin mode in that you tighten the fifth string one position, making the fifth string do. In the ruibin melodies the tonal center generally remains la, sometimes shifting to mi. Tao Yuan Chun Xiao and its modal prelude also generally have a la and mi focus; the difference is that almost all of the sections end with the tonal center changing to do. For more on modes see Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Painting: Realm of Immortals in Peach Blossom Spring
This image is a section from a Ming dynasty scroll painting (color ink on silk) by 仇英 Qiu Ying. The Chinese title is 桃源仙境圖 Taoyuan xianjing tu. The original is in the collection of the Tianjin Museum; at present a copy of the painting does not seem to be on their webisite, but it can be found on several internet websites. Besides realm of immortals landscapes, another fantasy scene theme might be that of the Huaxu dream.

4. 桃花源記 Taohua Yuan Ji (桃花源詩 Taohua Yuan Shi is part of it?)
15099.80 says to see 15099.129 桃源 Táoyuán (first entry). The work begins with a lengthy narrative of the story of a Wuling fisherman stumbling on the idyllic world; it then has a poem about this experience. The poem is has 16 five-character couplets (16 x [5+5]).

There are a number of translations of Tao Yuanming's Poem Peach Blossom Spring. One by James Hightower is in An Anthology of Translations, Classical Chinese Literature, Vol.1, Columbia U. and Chinese U. Press, 2000; pp.515-7. And a translation by G. W. Robinson is at the end of the Penguin Classic Wang Wei (Robinson also translated Wang Wei's related poem, Tao Yuan Xing; see below).

5. Wuling and Wuling Springtime (武陵春 Wuling Chun)
16623.254 武陵 Wuling: name of mountains in Jiangxi, Hubei and Guizhou; body of water in Guangxi; 郡 district in Hunan and Jiangsu; county in Hubei and Hunan (常德 Changde). See also Wiki 武陵郡. In sum, Wuling does not seem to be or to have been a well-defined area.
16623.255 武陵春: 曲牌名 Wuling Chun is name of a qupai. LXS, pp.187-8, says the opera was by 許潮 Xu Chao (ca. 1600). It follows the story told by Tao Yuanming of the man from Wuling going into a hidden valley and meeting people who had been living there since the Qin dynasty (3rd c. BCE), unaware of the passage of time.

Wuling Chun was also the name of a lady during the Ming dynasty.

6. Source of the story
It is not clear whether Tao invented the story himself or first heard it from others.

7. Taoyuan 桃源 (and 桃花源 Taohuayuan) today Modern map of the region (expand)  
15099.129 桃源 Taoyuan town in Hunan province, about 300 miles west of Tao Yuanming's home in Jiujiang, is about 20 miles southwest of modern Changde city. Old maps may show Changde at the west end of Dongting Lake (with Yueyang on the east side), but it has shrunk greatly. Changde is near the east end of an area also called Wuling, as is the area around Taoyuan (Taoyuan County). Under "Tourist Attractions" in the current Wikipedia entry Taoyuan County there is mention of 桃源桃花源景區 Taoyuan's "Taohuayuan Scenic Area..., a park modelled after the Peach Blossom Spring fable...." and apparently a part of a 桃花源國家森林公園 Taohuayuan National Forest Park. This park is very close to Taoyuan city. However, there is also a scenic area of this name located about 150 miles to the west in 酉陽縣 Youyang County, which is still in Wuling Mountain Range (which also includes the famous 張家界 Zhangjiajie National Park and is also called 武陵源 Wuling Yuan [Wuling Spring]) but is actually in the southeast corner of the enlarged 重慶市 Chongqing Municipality. For further online details see sites such as:

The Taoyuan scenic area seems to have more historical claims, but perhaps someone seeking inspiration here might be just as well off trying to find their own grotto in a less developed region.

8. Other possible locations of 桃源 the Peach (Blossom) Spring
For example, in addition to the Peach Spring Grotto apparently sometimes connected to the Tiantai Yin story, one can elsewhere find suggestions that the setting was in the vicinity of 廬山 Lushan, a mountain range near Tao Yuanming's home town in Jiangxi province.

9. 王維桃源行 Wang Wei: Tao Yuan Xing (Traveling to Peach Blossom Spring)
There is a translation by G. W. Robinson of Wang Wei's poem in the the Penguin Classics Wang Wei (p. 34), as well as one of Tao Yuanming's original (at the end). There are also several online translations, such as this one (some others look like they were done by Google translate).

Wang Wei's original poem is as follows:


Commentary with the poem says Wang Wei was 18 or 19 years old when, inspired by Tao Yuanming's poem, he wrote this.

10. Some further examples are mentioned in connection with the exhibition Fantastic Mountains.

12. This point was discussed by 成公亮 Cheng Gongliang in online comments (no longer here). In 2006 he also made a recording.

13. Melodies with lengthy passages in harmonics
That this was a characteristic of early qin melodies is suggested by the fact that the first four melodies in Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio I, said to have the most ancient melodies, have longer passages in harmonics than can be found in the modern repertoire in general; these four are Dunshi Cao, Guangling San, Huaxu Yin and Gufeng Cao. The argument that this characteristic suggests that a melody is much older than its printing day may also be used with other melodies published in the Ming dynasty, such as the Feng Lei Yin first surviving from 1525.

14. Spring Dawn at the Peach Spring vs. Spring Dawn at the Peach Garden (桃源春曉 / 桃園春曉)
Zha Fuxi's Guide 23/198/-- combines 桃源春曉 Taoyuan Chunxiao (Spring Dawn at the Peach Spring) with 桃園春曉 Taoyuan Chunxiao (Spring Dawn at the Peach Garden), but the latter refers to a different melody. The pronunciation is the same, but yuan in the former means "spring" and in the latter means "garden". Tao means "peach" but it is also used in such contexts for "peach tree" or "peach blossoms". Zha's Guide has three entries (1525 [spring], 1670 [garden] and 1876 [garden]), but the latter two are in fact a version of the melody Dongtian Chunxiao, as discussed further here.

Note that there seems to be no connection made between the Peach Garden melody and the Peach Garden famously associated with Liu Bei and his Peach Garden Oath.

15. 潘岳 Pan Yue (247 - 300)
Moved here

16. Taoyuan Yin 桃源吟
For Taoyuan Yin see the earliest surviving version, in Wenhuitang Qinpu (QQJC, VI, p. 217)

17. Chinese afterword
The original text of the afterword is as follows:


Translated above.

18. Music
Recording made July 2011

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