Xiang Si Qu; Gu Qin Yin
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38. Melody of Mutual Love
Also called 古琴吟 Old Qin Melody;2 Shang mode 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 3
相思曲 1
Xiang Si Qu  
Earliest version: 1573 (expand) 4                      
The commentaries attached to the qin melodies of this title, as well to the later title, Gu Qin Yin, all tell a story involving Su Dongpo (1037 - 1101) and a female ghost5 who was formerly a "Skilled Woman", i.e., a skilled female entertainer.6 Prefaces to the earliest known versions tell of Su Dongpo meeting a Skilled Woman during his exile in Hainan island (1097 - 1100), here called by an older name, Qiongzhou.7 She dies of an illness, then her ghost appears during the following dynasty.

In later versions, however, the ghost appears in front of Su Dongpo himself by Hangzhou's West Lake.8 One evening he hears a woman playing outside his window, singing the lyrics of the present song. After relating the lyrics, the story ends with, "Opening the window to trace the sound, Su Shi saw a slender young woman, who vanished under the wall. The next day he dug there, and found an old qin."9

It should also be noted that, although the lyrics of the various surviving versions are always attributed to Su Dongpo, there is some variety within them, and none of them seems to have been included in the canonical collections of his work.10

"Xiang Si Qu" has long been a popular title for songs, the earliest known examples going back to the Yuefu Shiji (reference below), and the title is still in use today for popular songs, often part of a longer title;11 perhaps this is why the later qin setting of these lyrics changed the title to Gu Qin Yin. There seems to have been little if any overlap between the Xiang Si Qu lyrics and/or melodies outside the qin repertoire and those within it.

Based on data in Zha Fuxi's Guide to the qin repertoire, settings of these lyrics can be divided into two groups. The first five are all called Xiang Si Qu, while the latter three are all called Gu Qin Yin.12 The five early ones are dated as 1573, 1585, 1618, before 1676 (Japan, repeated in several later editions) and 1709.13 There is then a break until the three later ones called Gu Qin Yin and dated 1864, 1890 and 1894.

The five earlier settings of these lyrics are all associated with Nanjing. Yang Biaozheng, credited with the first two, was from Fujian but his handbooks were printed in Nanjing, sometimes said to have been the center of the Jiang tradition of qin play, emphasizing songs. The next version, published in 1618, also had a Nanjing connection. The one after this was published in Japan, but it was quite likely taken there from Nanjing by Jiang Xingchou.14 The last of these handbooks, dated 1709, says specifically that its melodies came from Nanjing. These five are clearly related to each other.

The three later entries in Zha's Guide, all called Gu Qin Yin but using versions of the same lyrics used for Xiang Si Qu, have music that seems more superficially related to the earlier ones. Where they are similar this is no doubt due in part to the fact that they have related lyrics and use the same pairing method for words and music.15 In fact, two of them have enough similarities (such as harmonics in exactly the same places) to show that the modern version must have originated either with someone familiar with the earlier tablature or with some oral version that was still current.

The Gu Qin Yin in the modern repertoire is almost identical to these two melodies, dated 1864 and 1894. However, it is not completely clear whether the melody as played today follows a linear tradition from 1864 (or earlier), or whether it disappeared and then was reconstructed later, in particular during the guqin project of the 1950s. Few performers today actually sing the lyrics as they play.16

The third Gu Qin Yin, dated 1890, stands apart from the rest.17 Though seemingly using the same lyrics, it has what seems to be a completely new melody. It also has a number of problems with the tablature, plus an origin that is something of a mystery.

Original Preface18

Formerly Master Su would take along with him a Skilled Woman who carried a qin, and they would often go to Hongfu Temple in Qiongzhou. But later the woman suddenly died of an illness, and was buried with her qin; they buried her behind the temple, west of a whitewashed wall. (Generations) later a provincial governor staying the night at this temple suddenly heard a woman choking with sobs and singing miserably; she continued for several hours. In the morning he tried to find out whether monks had been engaging in secret licentious behavior, but no one knew where this came from. (Then) and old monk responded to the command (for answers) by saying, "I heard that during a previous dynasty Master Su buried a Skilled Woman behind the temple: perhaps this could be the spirit of that woman. (The governor) having then ordered her coffin opened, he saw the woman embracing her qin, with the record of ci song lyrics; they were called Xiang Si Qu, and were the same as the song he had heard the previous evening. The temple monks then recited appropriate sutras. Although the melody was short, its message has a subtle beauty.  
Melody of Mutual Love (相思曲 Xiangsi Qu) Melody and Lyrics 19
The five available Xiang Si Qu settings plus the related 1864 Gu Qin Yin are listed here. All handbooks attribute the lyrics to Su Dongpo himself, but this attribution is questionable.
For these six follow the comment links for some short analysis plus further links to my recordings without the voice but with the original tablature plus transcripts into staff notation of my own reconstructions. The staff notation here uses relative pitch: whatever is written as "C" is actually the relative pitch "do".

"Sung except for ... prelude" refers to a prelude (not sung) of that length made from the closing harmonics of that version and added at the front. Note that the versions have some slight differences in lyrics, but all have the same syllable count (though see the second last line regarding the 1676 repeat, and the footnote having the 1864 lyrics), and so any set of lyrics could easily be sung with or adapted to any of the other settings (see further comment on the syllabic setting).

(Section 1: 第壹段負相思 Dì yī duàn: Fù xiāng sī)
(泛起 harmonics begin)
Yīn yīn yīn, rèn fù xīn, zhēn fù xīn.
Sounds, sounds, sounds, so heartless, truly heartless.

Gū fù ǎn, gū fù ǎn, dào rú jīn.
Ungrateful to me, ungrateful to me, even until today.

(泛止 harmonics end)
Jì dé dàng chū, dī dī chàng,
Remember how in the beginning I would quietly sing,

Qiǎn qiǎn zhēn, yī qū zhí qiān jīn.
Pour small cups, each song of mine worth thousands in gold.

(Section 2)
Rú jīn piē wǒ zài gǔ qiáng yīn.
But now you have discarded me under the shade of an old wall.

Qiū fēng suō cǎo bái yún shēn,
Autumn winds in the rushes, white clouds far off,

Liú shuǐ gāo shān * hé chù xún?             (* here the 1676 version repeats "Liú shuǐ gāo shān")
Flowing streams, high mountains, where can I find (you)?

(泛起 harmonics begin)
Bēi bēi qiè qiè, lěng lěng qīng qīng, jiào rén zěn jìn.
All is miserable, lonely and comfortless: tell (teach) me how to endure it.

The minor variations of text in the first four versions are outlined here.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Melody of Mutual Love (相思曲 Xiang Si Qu)
My original translation was Melody of Mutual Affection; other alternatives include Melody of Mutual Longing, Melody of Mutual Yearning, Melody of Mutual Pining, and so forth. On the other hand, if the emphasis is on yearning perhaps the "mutual" should be dropped, as today the ghost would be yearning on her own: Melody of Longing, Melody of Longing for my Beloved, Lovesick Melody, Melody of Pining (hence the online "Melody of Pine"!) and the like. "Melody of Mutual Love" is chosen here because what she is longing for is the time when they were mutually not just affectionate but in love.

23733.140 相思曲 says 樂府,清商曲辭 Yuefu (Music Bureau) Qingshang lyrics, also called 懊儂歌 Aonong Ge (Song of Vexation; see Section 6, Folio 46, p.667). Those poems are unrelated in both structure and content to the one here. Also unrelated is the Li Ye poem Xiang Si Yuan. (N.B. Xiangsi is or was also [part of] the name for a tree [not pine], a bush, a fruit, a bird, a sea, a river, etc.)

2. Old Qin Intonation (古琴吟 Gu Qin Yin)
3308.307 only guqin; not romanized Guqin Yin, as the title suggests an old melody, not an old instrument.

3. Mode: Shang (商調 shang diao)
The four early versions of Xiang Si Qu are modally quite similar: standard tuning with the main tonal center gong (1; do), equivalent to the open first string, hence a relative tuning played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2; the secondary tonal center is zhi (5; sol) and several phrases end with shang (2; re) leading down to gong. Presumably it is this last characteristic that led to placing the melody in shang mode in 1573 and 1585. As further information on shang mode shows, these shang characteristics are fairly weak.

On the other hand, both 1618 and 1676 say the mode is "yu", which does not seem to align with standard Ming dynasty modal practice (further under Shenpin Yu Yi). Ming dynasty yu mode melodies generally considered the relative tuning to be 5 6 1 2 3 5 6, with the main tonal center being yu (6; la), equivalent to the open second and seventh strings. The only way either of these fits into yu mode is that both versions suddenly end with a diad on 2 over 6 (the note 6 being played on the 5th string, called yu), but this sounds quite out of place.

This seems to suggest either that Jiang Xingchou had the 1618 handbook in Japan, or that his version in the 1676 handbook was related to a separate version now lost that had followed the 1618 handbook.

4. Image (compare 1585 and see image of Su Shi with skilled lady)
Taken from an online copy of the original in the National Museum, Taiwan. This edition is much easier to read than the microfilm version from which I was able to make some copies during an earlier visit. In some cases the online version makes clear figures that are illegible in the microfilm copy, but it also must be noted that in some places it is clearly different from it. Specifically, a comparison here of the top two characters on the fourth column from the left on this copy of the same page of the 1573 Xiangsi Qu shows them to be "流水" there but "綠水" in the online facsimile edition; the corresponding finger symbols to their left also seem to be a bit different. My interpretation of the unclear figures is based to a certain extent on the versions in other handbooks.

5. Guqin and ghosts
There are many stories about ghosts and guqin; see, for example, the melody Gu Guan Yu Shen.

6. Skilled female entertainer
Chinese 妓 ji or 妓女 jinü; see further under Women and the Guqin.

7. 瓊州 Qiongzhou; this is also the name of the strait between Hainan and the mainland of China.

8. In Hangzhou Su Dongpo served as a minor official from 1071 - 74, then around 1089 he was briefly deputy governor there. He is locally credited for having built a causeway across West Lake

9. Later versions of the story of Su Shi and female ghost
The above later version is told in Van Gulik, Lore, pp. 159-60, from one of two Qing dynasty sources (he does not specify which one), either Qinglianfang Qinya (1641) or Tianwenge Qinpu (1876).

There are also be other versions of this story. One from 驚奇集 Jing Qi Ji in 解人頤 Jie Ren Yi by 錢德蒼 Qian Decang (18th c.; see CText) that is given the title "古琴化女" (Su Dongpo and a female ghost; 3308.xxx; 2614 only 化人) says that the event took place in a 靈隱山房 mountain hut at Lingyin, a hill by Hangzhou's West Lake.

10. Attribution of the lyrics
Although the various prefaces attribute the lyrics to Su Dongpo himself, in light of the stories recounted (as in the preface above), one must question whether the editors literally believed it was true (i.e., that Su Dongpo has really put these [or similar] lyrics in a tomb, and that they had actually survived until being unearthed in the next dynasty.)

11. Popularity of title
An internet search for images related to 相思曲 yields many transcriptions of many versions, often pop tunes that qualify the title, such as 月夜相思曲 Mutual Affection on a Moonlit Night.

12. Tracing 相思曲 Xiang Si Qu and 古琴吟 Gu Qin Yin (see above and the tracing chart)
Zha Guide 26/215/408 lists both titles together, with six tablatures from 1585. Zha did not see the 1573 edition of Yang Biaozheng's handbook, which is preserved in the National Library in Taiwan.

13. Early group
The first two of these are handbooks of music as played by Yang Biaozheng; often the versions in these two handbooks seem to be identical, but in this case they are somewhat different, particularly near the beginning.

14. 蔣興疇 Jiang Xingchou
Jiang's biographical notes tell of his Nanjing connection.

15. Similarities between Xiangsi Qu and Gu Qin Yin
There is naturally a similarity due to the syllabic pairing method used in all versions (one character for each right hand stroke, no characters on slides), discussed further here. In addition, the lyrics of all versions fall into a natural sectioning whereby eight lines of similar length are divided into two four line sections (in several cases the eighth line is extended). As for the music itself, in all cases the first two lines are played in harmonics as is the last line (perhaps extended; see the indications of harmoncis (泛起 and 泛止) in the text below).

16. Gu Qin Yin as played today
There are many online recordings. Of particular note is the one at www.peiyouqin.com, which includes the 1573 version as well as the one from 1864.

The most likely source of the modern tradition of this melody is the transcription into staff notation in Guqin Quji, I/196 (q.v.) of the melody as played by 陳堯廷 Chen Yaoting (1903 ~ 1968), a noted scholar and seal carver from Xi'an. However, it is still uncertain whether Chen was preserving an active tradition, or whether he (or someone he knew) had reconstructed it more recently from the 1864 tablature. In any case, this more recent setting can be found in a number of modern (say, post 1949) handbooks. For example, almost the same rhythms can be heard in the performance by Cai Deyun (Track 1), and the tablature in her handbooks is also the same.

17. Gu Qin Yin of 1890 (希韶閣琴瑟合譜 Xishaoge Qinse Hepu; jpg of pu; XXVI/433)
The mode given is gong yin; it is not in the 1878 Xishaoge Qinpu. Here the melody is written in one folio sheet (two pages, comprising the two sections). On the first page there are five columns for each vertical line of music; one column has the lyrics, one column has the se tablature, then there are three columns for the actual qin melody, with one column each for right hand strokes, the string number, and the left hand positions; the second page is missing the lyrics. There is a brief preface saying the first of the three columns for the qin music has "獅山女史琴譜右手指法 tablature showing the right hand finger techniques of 'Lion Mountain Cultivated Lady'". Except for the lyrics the music seems unrelated to all the other versions. For example, unlike all the others Section 1 begins with stopped sounds then has harmonics. There are also a number of textual issues. For starters, there is no Section 1 indicated, but Section 2 is indicated as starting at the beginning of the second half of the folio page, even though the first word of Section 2 lyrics, "如 ru", comes at the end of the first half of the folio page. Section 1 has lyrics similar to those of Gu Qin Yin through "千金 qian jin" but it is missing the repeat of "爾負心 er fu xin". Then the second folio page, with the music of Section 2 after the first note, has no lyrics it all. Based on right hand stroke count it seems also to be missing the last phrase: is there a missing page? The Zha Fuxi Guide p.408 gives lyrics for Section 2, but says the last line of lyrics is missing (suggesting he had a different edition but it was also missing a page). In XXVI/iv it says the original book is "竹紙巾箱", which I understand to mean a box with individual sheets of bamboo paper; and each page is numbered individually, making it less surprising that a page could get lost. In addition, the way the piece ends on a slide seems somewhat odd. However, although it thus seems likely there was another edition with the lyrics, but that it too is missing the ending, it may also be possible that Zha had a copy of the same edition but on which someone wrote in the lyrics based on the right hand stroke count, but that this was incorrect, and either the pairing was actually intended to be done in a different way, or as with Section 1 it was also missing or intended to repeat an internal phrase (perhaps the last one, which is also a repeat).

18. Original 1585 preface
The original preface is as follows (words are changed from 1573 but it is essentially the same):

昔蘇子攜妓抱琴,常遊瓊州紅拂寺。而後妓忽染疾亡,即以琴殉,葬之寺後粉牆西。後州守夜宿茲寺,忽聞女子哽咽悲歌,便次不去。曉,乃究僧隱淫之罪,眾莫知其由。老僧稟曰﹕“聞前朝蘇學士攜葬一妓於寺後,想此妓之魂歟?”遂命發棺,見女抱琴,誌詞一闋,名曰【相思曲】,與夜歌相同。寺僧方釋。其曲雖小,寓意亦妙而微也。 Qiongzhou is an old name for Hainan as well as of the strait between Hainan and the mainland of China; no further information on "Hongfu Temple". A full translation is above. The 1618 Preface is related, beginning "是曲蘇東坡攜妓抱琴....", then is the same as above until the end, where "其曲雖小,寓意亦妙而微也" is instead, "有文無譜,後人因入拍法補焉。 It had text but no tablature, so someone later put it into rhythmic indications to supplement this".

As for the later Guqin Yin, 1864 has an afterword that says,


Then the 1894 afterword begins as follows:


Rest not yet online or translated.

19. Music and Lyrics
The original 1585 Chinese lyrics by themselves are as follows (in brackets are some of the variations in later versions of Xiang Si Qu)

(第壹段負相思) (This section title not elsewhere, including 1573)
  (泛起)音音音,恁負心,真負心。 (1676 has "真負心,恁負心"; and compare 1864 below)
  辜負俺,辜負俺,到如今。(泛止) (compare 1864 below)
  記得當初,低低唱, (1676 has "當初也")
  如今撇我在古牆陰。 (compare 1864 below)
  秋風蓑草白雲深, (compare 1864 below)
  流水高山何處尋? (1676 repeats "流水高山" then adds "也"; compare 1864)
  (泛起)悲悲切切,冷冷清清,叫人怎禁。(泛止) (compare 1864)

Melody of an Old Qin (古琴吟 Gu Qin Yin; 1864) (listen to my recording in a separate window)
Comparison with the recordings of the earlier Xiangsi Qu reveals a number of similarities (further comment above), but the differences in the lyrics are sufficient that they are given here separately (further comment; listen w/out lyrics):

00.00 (Closing harmonics played solo as a prelude)
00.24   (泛起 in harmonics)
音音音,爾負心,爾負心。                           (earlier: ....恁負心,真負心。)
Yīn yīn yīn, ěr fù xīn, ěr fù xīn.
Sounds, sounds, sounds, you are heartless, you are heartless.

真負俺,辜負我,到於今。                           (earlier: 辜負俺,辜負俺....)
Zhēn fù ǎn, gū fù wǒ, dào yú jīn.
Ungrateful to me, ungrateful to me, even up to today.

(泛止 harmonics end)
記得當年,低低唱,                                        (earlier: 記得當初....)
Jì dé dàng nián, dī dī chàng,
Remember how during that year I would quietly sing,

Qiǎn qiǎn zhēn, yī qū zhí qiān jīn.
Pour small cups, each song of mine worth thousands in gold.

(Section 2)
如今拋我古牆陰。                                             (earlier: 如今撇我在古牆陰。)
Rú jīn pāo wǒ (zài?) gǔ qiáng yīn.
But now you have discarded me (under the) shade of an old wall.

秋風荒草白雲(泛起)深(泛止)。             (earlier: 秋風蓑草....)
Qiū fēng huāng cǎo bái yún (harmonics) shēn (end harmonics).
Autumn winds and weeds, white clouds far off.

斷橋流水,無故人。                                         (earlier: 高山流水,何處尋?)
Duàn qiáo liú shuǐ, wú gù rén.
A broken bridge (under a) flowing stream, no more old friend(s).

01.33(泛起 in harmonics)
Qī qī qiè qiè, lěng lěng qīng qīng,
Sorrowful and miserable, lonely and comfortless;

淒淒切切,冷冷清清。                                       (earlier: 叫人怎禁。)
Qī qī qiè qiè, lěng lěng qīng qīng.
Sorrowful and miserable, lonely and comfortless.

01.58 (end)

The Chinese lyrics by themselves are as follows:




Chart Tracing 相思曲 Xiangsi Qu and 古琴吟 Gu Qin Yin

Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 26/215/408
Recordings linked below include a prelude but are not sung; sung versions are linked above

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #25)
Listen; jpg of pu; pdf of transcription. Shang mode; ends in octave on 1; not in QQJC
Several figures and characters are uncertain; lyrics begin "音音音,恁負心,真負心...."
  2. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/382 [here])
Listen; jpg of pu; pdf of transcription. Shang mode; same lyrics and ending but earlier the music is somewhat different.
After preface it says, "第壹段負相思 Section 1, Fu Xiang Si, but there is only 1 section
  3. 理性元雅
      (1618; VIII/255)
Listen; jpg of pu; pdf of transcription. "Yu mode", with last note apparently changed accordingly to 2 over 6.
Another preface; lyrics almost same as above; music is related but again is different
  4. 和文注音琴譜
      (<1676; XII/221)
Listen; jpg of pu; pdf of transcription. Japan; "yu mode"; music most closely related to 1618, including ending on 2 over 6.
Lyrics begin 音音音,真負心,恁負心....; repeats "流水高山" near end; no commentary
  5. 一峰園琴譜
      (1709; XIII/515)
Listen; jpg of pu; pdf of transcription. Called 古相思曲 Old Xiangsi Qu as the 2nd part of a piece entitled Changchang Ci (first part is a 秋風曲 Qiu Feng Qu). Mode not indicated; ends on do; related to the earlier versions of this title but does not seem identical to any
  6. 琴學入門
      (1864; XXIV/310;
Listen; jpg of pu; pdf of transcription. "古琴吟 Gu Qin Yin"; earliest with this title. Lyrics have a number of significant differences from Xiangsi Qu; lyrics not in Zha Guide (because placed after the tablature instead of paired to it? But it gives them for 1890 even though they are missing from the QQJC edition). 後記 Afterword; GQQJ I/96 has a transcription (q.v.) into staff notation, while the conservatory syllabus has it in number notation (Vol.1 #1). There are also recordings (e.g., by Cai Deyun [Track 1], where the music is almost the same as in the transcription from GQQJ I)
  7. 希韶閣琴瑟合譜
      (1890; XXVI/433)
Jpg of pu. Guqin Yin; gong yin; not in 1878. Music seems unrelated to all the earlier versions
There are detailed comments above
  8. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/311)
Gu Qin Yin; same as 1864 - lyrics again at end and not in Zha Guide
  9. 愔愔室琴譜
      (2000; p. 29)
"from 1864"; lyrics are paired in the tablature but not sung on the recording

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