Xiangyang Song
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五音琴譜 Wuyin Qinpu (1579)     ToC See transcription with lyrics   首頁
27. Xiangyang Song
Zhi Mode:2 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
襄陽歌 1
Xiangyang Ge  
Tablature for Section 1 (1579 & 1618) 3    
Tablature for two qin melodies of this title survives, published respectively in 1579 (
Wuyin Qinpu) and 1618 (Lixing Yuanya).4 Although the present 1579 version included neither lyrics nor a preface, the melodically unrelated one from 1618 not only has both, with a few exceptions its lyrics can be paired to the 1579 version following the standard pairing method.5 The lyrics are the well-known poem of this title by Li Bai (ca. 705-762),6 presumably written while visiting the city of Xiangyang, located on or near a wide bend of the Han River in what is now northern Hubei province but with a history going back thousands of years.7 The poem once again expresses Li Bai's enjoyment of drinking wine.8

The 1618 melody, written for five-string qin, does use the standard pairing method to pair the melody and lyrics. And although the 1579 melody uses the standard seven-string qin and is otherwise unrelated, the fact that the words of the poem can likewise be paired in accordance with the same method strongly suggests that Xiangyang Ge is among the several qin songs published in Wuyin Qinpu without their lyrics.9 Consequently my reconstruction assumes the poem is to be sung (though not necessarily out loud), and it uses the preface (below) from 1618 to introduce the 1579 melody.

During the Zhou period (1046-256 BCE) Xiangyang emerged as an important city of the state of Chu, sometimes identified with its capital city, called Ying.10 For people headed to the Yangzi River from the Tang capital at Chang'an, Xiangyang was the first important city across the mountains. Travelers from Luoyang would also come here to catch a boat onwards. Because of its strategic location it was the site of several famous battles, most notably during the 3rd C. CE and 13th C. CE,11 and it continued as an important regional city right up to the present, when it was merged into Xiangfan.12 Reconstructed city walls suggest the city must have been impressive in the time of Li Bai. He would have come here a number of times - presumably visiting, whenever he could, his friend Meng Haoran.13

The two most specific connections the poem makes to Xiangyang are its mention in the first line of Mount Xian ("Steep Mountain"), apparently located south of the city;14 and, in the last couplet, of King Xiang, presumably the same person as King Qingxiang of Chu;15 the Chu capital, Ying, was sometimes identified with Xiangyang.

Lyrics that can accompany this melody (see transcription; not yet recorded)
My translation of Li Bai's original poem, Song of Xiangyang, is arranged according to the sectioning in Wuyin Qinpu:16

As the setting sun wishes to vanish west of Mount Xian,
(repeat musical phrase, but sing lyrics only once)
    Caps are turned around backwards and people lose themselves among the flowers.
The Xiangyang children clasp hands,
    Crowding the streets and jostling while singing "Baitongdi".17
Bystanders politely ask what is making them laugh,
    They are laughing themselves to death over Master Shan being as drunk as mud.18

2. (This section begins with a 20-note harmonic passage apparently having no lyrics; see comment)
Cormorant ladles! Parrot head cups!
For the 36,000 days of a centenarian,
    Each day he should guzzle three hundred cups.
Seen from afar the Han River's water is mallard-head green,
    Resembling grapes starting to ferment.
This river, if it could be turned into spring wine,
    Would pile up the lees and thereby construct a Mound of Dregs Terrace.

My steed worth 1,000 gold coins I'd exchange for a young maid,
    Seated drunkenly (or: laughing) in a carved saddle and singing "
Fallen Plums."
Beside the carriage hanging aslant a jug of wine,
    Phoenix sheng mouth organ and dragon guan pipes urging each other on.
In the Xianyang market (Li Si) sighed over his yellow dog:
    How could (going out into society) have been as good as staying under the moon draining golden wine goblets?

(1579 begins Section 3 here
You have not seen the
stone tablet of Lord Yang of the Jin dynasty,
    Its carved turtle head eroding and covered with moss?
Neither can my tears fall for him;
    Nor can my heart mourn for him.
(Who can be anxious about the body after death,
    about golden mallards and silver ducks buried as ashes of the dead.)
Clear breezes and a bright moon do not require even one coin,
Drunks fall down without assistance.
A Shuzhou ladle, a strongman warming vessel.19
    Li Bai will be with you in life and death.
King Xiang's clouds and rain, where are they now?
    The river waters eastward flow as gibbons cry in the evening.

The present melody occurs only here in Wuyin Qinpu. Although it is a purely instrumental melody (7-string qin), quite likely its title is intended to evoke the famous Li Bai poem.

Original preface 20
None here, but just as the lyrics of 1618 can be matched to the music here, the 1618 introduction can be used here:

Xiangyang Song was written by Li Bai. Bai's thoughts focused on wine, and so there was nothing he saw that didn't involve wine. If spring wine was not filling up the river, it would not be sufficient to fulfil his desire to "write 100 verses with wine."  
Three Sections, untitled

Can be sung to the Li Bai lyrics.  
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Xiangyang Song (襄陽歌 Xiangyang Ge) (Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. IV/233)
35354.63 quotes the Li Bai poem. The Wiki entry does not mention the poem.

2. Zhi mode (徴調 Zhi Diao)
For further information on zhi mode see Shenpin Zhi Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Xiangyang Ge: Tablature for Section 1 (1579 & 1618)
From Qinqu Jicheng, Vols. IV/233 and VIII/307. A close examination will show that although the upper tablature (1579) has no lyrics, it has almost the same number of right hand strokes (not counting 散歷七至三 the open string run from the 7th to 3rd strings added between the first phrase and its repeat) and phrasing as does the lower tablature (1618; see further qualifying comment below). Therefore, although the melodies are different, the lyrics from 1618 can be applied to the 1579 tablature/melody. (See also further comment.)

4. Publications of Xiangyang Ge
Zha Guide 25/211/463 lists two:

  1. Wuyin Qinpu (1579; Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. IV/233)
  2. Lixing Yuanya (1618; Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. VIII/307)

The 1579 version has no preface or lyrics; 1618, which is arranged for for 5-string qin, has both.

5. Matching lyrics to music in Xiangyang Ge
There seem to be four places where the
standard pairing method does not seem to be followed. These are of two types.

The fact that the words and music do pair so well suggests it might have been common for such songs to circulate without ever being published (further comment below).

6. Xiangyang Ge by Li Bai (李白,襄陽歌)
There are a number of translations of the poem. Three that I have consulted are,

Joseph J. Lee, Sunflower Splendour, p. 102.
Su Yu, Li Po - A New Translation; Commercial Press, 1982, p. 256.
By Elling Eide in Classical Chinese Literature, p.728.

All the translations include some explanatory notes, but mainly on specific terms or phrases.

7. Xiangyang 襄陽
35354.62 襄陽 has it still as a county in the Republican period. .63 is Xiangyang Ge while .64 is 襄陽樂 Xiangyang Yue (Xiangyang music), with references to the 樂府 Yue Fu. Online one can find many pictures that show apparently reconstructed ancient city walls.

There is an interesting account of the Xiangyang region in Andrew Chittick, Patronage and Community in Medieval China: The Xiangyang Garrison, 400-600 CE (SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture, 2010). Of interest to the qin is Chittick's account of people such as Liu Shilong going to Jiankang (Nanjing) and becoming gentrified.

Longhu Qinpu was published here in 1571. The area is also famous for the retreat of Zhuge Liang, supposedly near here at Longzhong.

8. Li Bai drinking references
There are several references to Xiangyang Ge in the qin song Jiu Kuang.

9. No lyrics in Wuyin Qinpu
Wuyin Qinpu, which has no commentary with any of its 36 melodies, also has at least three other melodies from which the lyrics have clearly been omitted, Si Xian Cao, Yang Guan and Gui Qu Lai Ce. These other three have clearly been copied from another source, though without the lyrics. This suggests that, although no other tablature has been found for the present melody (the version in Lixing Yuanya [1618] for 5-string qin is musically unrelated), the present song was probably also originally published elsewhere.

This is a qin song with the lyrics not copied out: the title is the same as that of Li Bai's poem, and these lyrics easily match the tablature here according to the common pairing method (though note that some versions omit one couplet).16 Wuyin Qinpu, which has no commentary with any of its 36 melodies, also has at least three other melodies from which the lyrics have clearly been omitted, Si Xian Cao, Yang Guan and Gui Qu Lai Ce. These other three have clearly been copied from another source, though without the lyrics. This suggests that, although no other tablature has been found for the present melody (the version in Lixing Yuanya [1618] for 5-string qin is musically unrelated), the present song was probably also originally published elsewhere.

10. Ying 郢
The location of Ying is still debated and it may refer to more than one place (the capital moving but historical references not changing the name). It is sometimes said to have been close to 襄陽 Xiangyang (see modern 襄樊
Xiangfan), on the 漢水 Han River, but apparently today is most often said to have been near modern 荊州 Jingzhou (also mentioned in connection with Fan Ji), which is on the Yangzi river over 200 km south of Xiangyang.

11. Battles at Xiangyang
In 191 CE there was a battle between Sun Jian and Liu Biao (
Wiki) in the build up to the War of the Three Kingdoms. Then from 1267 to 1273 the invading Yuan forces gained access to central China by defeating the Southern Song forces here (again Wiki).

12. Xiangfan 襄樊
35354.xxx. It was formed in 1949 by combining the ancient cities of
Xiangyang and 樊城 Fancheng.

13. Li Bai's connection with Xiangyang
I have not yet seen any discussion of why Li Bai selected Xiangyang as the topic of this poem.

14. Mount Xian (峴山 Xianshan: lit. "Steep Mountain)
峴山 8287.1 mentions a Xianshan in six locations, the last being the one in the south of Xiangyang District. It was famous for having a 峴山碑 stone tablet (in the shape of a turtle) commemorating 晉羊祜 General Yang Hu of Jin (190-278;
Wiki) and his aim to unite China under Jin emperor Wudi mainly by carrying out beneficial government policies, as a result of which, "The people of Xiangyang built a monument for Yang on Mount Xian (峴山), and ever after Yang's death, visitors to the monument often wept at the monument in memory of his benevolent governance, and so the monument became known as the 'Monument of Tears' (墮淚碑)." (Wiki).

15. King Xiang 襄王
Near the end the poem speaks of "襄王雲雨 King Xiang's clouds and rain" (
q.v.). Does this refer to the King Qingxiang of Chu (楚頃襄王 Chu Qingxiang Wang; 35354.108: a son of 楚懷王 King Huai of Chu; named 橫 Heng) discussed in Annal 40 of the 史記 Shi Ji, a general chapter on Chu? (He is #41 on the current list of rulers given with the Wiki article, which does not suggest any other possibilities.)

35354.5 King Xiang (襄王 Xiang Wang) has various King Xiangs but no King Xiang of Chu (楚襄王 Chu Xiang Wang). For the latter 15473.165 says it is the same as King Qingxiang of Chu. Qingxiang ruled from 298 to 263 BCE. In 278 BCE, i.e., during his rule, the 秦 Qin captured and sacked his capital, 郢 Ying, the location of which is debated (see above).

Chu Xiang Wang is also the title on a Song dynasty melody list (q.v.)

16. Chinese text of 李白,襄陽歌 Li Bai, Xiangyang Ge
The original text of Xiangyang Ge is as follows. Elsewhere it generally is written without section breaks. Here breaks are given to correspond with the 3 sections of the 1579 melody.
Note also that to make the lyrics fit, the repeat of the first musical phrase either has no lyrics or repeats the lyrics of the opening phrase; and the 20 notes of the harmonic passage opening the second section either have no lyrics or use as lyrics those from the following passage, which are then repeated. Other published qin songs have also occasionally had such a construction; see, e.g., Gu Yuan.

(1579 第二行: 再作指法,但不用歌詞。)
旁人借問笑何事,笑殺山公醉似泥。   (公一作翁)

2. (泛起 - 3 + 3 + 7 + 7 泛止;這機句沒有歌詞。)

千金駿馬換小妾,醉坐雕鞍歌「落梅」。   (小一作少。醉一作笑)

君不見晉朝羊公一片石,龜頭剝落生莓苔。   (龜一作龍; 1618:第三段)
襄王雲雨今安在?江水東流猿夜聲。   (安一作何)

Some other available translations are mentioned above.

17. White Copper Leathery (白銅鞮 Bai Tong Di)
23191.962 A song attributed to 梁武帝 Emperor Wu of Liang, who associated it with Xiangyang. The entry seems to suggest it was the name of a type of horse.

18. Master Shan (山公 Shan Gong)
8043.63 says this could be either 山濤
Shan Tao or his 幼子 son 8043.931 山簡 Shan Jian, another drunkard; more likely it is the latter, as there was once a children's song about his drinking.

19. Suzhou ladle and strongman warming vessel (舒州杓,力士鐺)
舒州 30988.17 says Shuzhou is/was another name for 徐州 Xuzhou in Shandong province, but was also a town in Anhui's 懷寧 Huaining district. There is no indication as to why a 杓 shao (dipper) from there might be remarkable. As for "strong man warming vessel" (力士鐺 lishicheng) 2324.9 says it is a kind of 鍋 wok, giving the present poem as its first example. Presumably both were used for drinking.

20. Original preface
See comments in the text above. The original Chinese for the preface in 1618 is as follows:


For the quote at end see also under Jiu Kuang.

21. Music
I have written out a transciption with my reconstruction of the 1579 version, but have not learned to play (or sing) it from memory.

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