Jiu Kuang: Wine Mad  
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sung in English; sung 中文 in Chinese          
Wine Mad : Qin song version
- Gong mode, standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6; English lyrics; 中文歌詞;
Jiu Kuang 1
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Jiu Kuang (Wine Mad) is here attributed, as it is with the other existing versions with this title, to the famous poet, drinker and recluse Ruan Ji (210-263).2 As the main introduction to this melody, in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425), explains, Jiu Kuang is one of the most popular melodies in the modern qin repertoire, available in over at least 20 recordings. However, for centuries before the 1950s it had gone out of the active repertoire: in written form it survives in only seven traditional handbooks, the earliest being Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425), the last being Lixing Yuanya (1618).3 Of these seven, the last three all have lyrics related to those discussed here. I play this 1589 version because to me it seems the most singable.

Today most people play a version of the 1425 Jiu Kuang using a triple rhythm. My original transcription, done before I had heard Yao's version, was in duple rhythm and, since qin tablature does not directly indicate rhythm, originally I transcribed this 1589 version in an attempt to understand more deeply the possible rhythms of the original version.4 The triple rhythm versions heard today are usually based on the reconstruction of the 1425 version made by the eminent qin player Yao Bingyan (1920 - 83) in the 1950s.5 Yao's reconstruction uses triple rhythms and it seems that today few players question this. To my knowledge, triple rhythms have never been confirmed elsewhere in traditional Chinese music, but since traditional qin tablature does not directly indicate rhythm, how much flexibility was there within the tradition?6 In fact, the triple rhythm versions can certainly be interesting and beautiful. So what is the chance that they have historical authenticity?

This question is particularly important because the great majority of qin players, believing that what they are doing is coming from the original score and hence from the original melody, follow these triple rhythms without question. Their performances have then, in turn, led a number of writers and even scholars to come up with some new theories about rhythm in early Chinese music. And this, in turn, has led further people to transpose the music onto other Chinese instruments, then play this music as if it were actual ancient music.7 These performers and writers seem either to be unaware that the idea of triple rhythms for Jiu Kuang came exclusively from one man in the 1950s, Yao Bingyan, or they don't care. Performers can do whatever they want to entertain; audiences can suspend disbelief whenever necessary. But writers should deal with facts.

According to what Yao Bingyan himself wrote in an article on this subject,8 when he originally reconstructed Jiu Kuang in the 1950s he used double rhythm; it was later that he changed this to triple rhythms. He knew that triple rhythms were not a known part of traditional Chinese music, but he observed that there were triple rhythms in poetry, the Tang qin master Chen Zhuo described music that could be played triple rhythm,9 and Jiu Kuang sounded good in triple rhythm. As a result, he concluded that a correct interpretation required triple rhythms. As mentioned, since then other players have almost exclusively followed this, though perhaps making the tempo irregular, so as to represent the idea of drunkenness.

Yao's reasoning is very interesting. Sometimes I have played Jiu Kuang that way and enjoyed the triple rhythms. However, I never found Yao's reasoning convincing enough to be comfortable with the fact that everyone was playing it that way. And in particular, if I was going to start using triple rhythms I wanted to find out whether they would work with the other surviving versions of Jiu Kuang.

As it turns out, it is difficult but not impossible to put the related melody Liu Shang into triple rhythms, but triple rhythms sound extremely strange when applied to the surviving sung versions. So without saying Yao is wrong, for my own recording of the 1425 version I used predominantly 4/4 rhythms.10

As for the sung versions, I found the 1589 version particularly interesting because to my mind it turns the SQMP melody into a quite singable drinking song. Its preface is somewhat different from those in SQMP and Xilutang Qintong, but it still concerns Ruan Ji and the other sages trying to stay away from the machinations of the Sima clan, who controlled the Jin dynasty. The lyrics can easily be sung in duple rhythm, but sound strange in triple rhythm. The basic theme of the lyrics is that we enjoy drink, but we drink in a refined manner because we are gentlemen; this is different from the way the vulgar masses drink. The section titles are also quite evocative.

As for the compiler of the 1589 version, Yang Lun, it is known that he was a recluse in Nanjing. Unfortunately, little else is known, and there are no records indicating how this or any of the sung versions of Jiu Kuang came about, or on what occasions they might have been sung. Since there are three surviving sung versions, the earliest dated 1585 and the last one dated 1618, one can speculate that at one time there were more versions, but that if they were written down, the tablature and/or lyrics did not survive. I have not been able to make the version of 1585 singable; the one from 1618 is very similar to 1589.

As with other qin songs, Jiu Kuang is very word intensive: the lyrics are attached to the music throughout, the Chinese characters (syllables) applied to the music following the traditional pairing method that largely requires one character for each right hand stroke, plus for certain left hand plucks. So to give the voice a break during the seven sections, when I created my own version of the Jiu Kuang song I decided to add an instrumental interlude between each section. These instrumental interludes come entirely from the 1425 version.

Although the 1425 version of Jiu Kuang was divided into only four sections, the fourth section was by far the longest. So sub-dividing the fourth section into four separate sections allowed the 1425 SQMP to have seven sections, just as does the 1589 version; both add a coda. This combined version begins with 1425 Section 1, then playing 1589 section 1; it continues like this, ending with the 1589 coda. Because the 1589 sections are sung but the 1425 sections are not, simply by listening one can clearly distinguish between the two versions, thereby gaining a basic understanding of the relationship between them.

This also makes it possible to assess more deeply the appropriateness of using triple rhythms for Jiu Kuang.

Jiu Kuang lyrics (1589; lyrics alone; 看五線譜 transcription; listen to my recordings: either 聽中文 Chinese 11 or 聽英文 English.12)
  - A performance by David Badagnani and members of the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble is currently available on YouTube.

1. Enjoying wine and forgetting troubles
Fleet worldly matters: I laugh at the strain. Quiet, sad feelings are wasted pain.
How to cure sadness: call for wine!
13 When drunk all day bad manners are fine.
Each day of my whole life through, I should drink great pots of brew.14
It is such bliss, to cruise the Land of Booze;15
Sober, then drunk; drunk and wild as I choose.
Once in the hills I forget big news.

2. Drunkenly dancing like a flying immortal
The sky has a wine star, earth a wine spring; from my cane top many coins swing.
A pool of lees17 would greatly please; I'd dance tipsily,
Feeling like I'm growing wings, growing wings, becoming divine;18
Gaining the Way happily with wine.

3. Singing loudly to earth and heaven
For wine fancy fur coats we'll swap; drinking with friends and all pain can stop.
Cups of fine wine and we loosen our gowns; one great song and we go to town.
For worldly bliss, wine can beat the rest;
Wine's special kiss: it is just the best.
We'll even treat our rulers in jest.20

4. Loving wine and forgetting the body
Fat crabs in strong wine begin to stew; friends called together then drink their due.
While enjoying hills and streams, we ignore the world,
Reason or chaos alike; reason or chaos, peace or risk.
Drunks fall down without assist.

5. Dashing off calligraphy on art paper (see Fengxuan Xuanpin)22
Once drunk more wine brings fine verse, in great brush strokes that could be worse.
A Chang An pub, let Li Bai sleep the night.
Called by the court, he said, "Go fly a kite.
As for me, I transcend while tight!"

6. Bending over to exhale (SQMP: The immortal exhales)
Calmly the rustic exhales his wine;23 for fame and wealth he does not pine.
Liu Ling, Bi Zhuo and Tao Qian24 all were good and pure.
They did not submit, not submit to government control.
Being like them: that should be our goal.25

7. Holding the wine and roaming drunk
The whole world's drunk, all except me.
Give me a brew, and from danger I'm free.
How could I really be just a drunk, nothing more!
Of old many great ones had no fame, only drinkers left their name.
Old toper's aims do not end with wine.27


Jiu Kuang Preface of 1589 : (compare the 1425 preface) 28

It is said that this melody was originally created by someone like the Jin dynasty clansman Ruan Ji, one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.... (translation incomplete)  
Seven sections, titled, plus a coda (compare the
1425 version) 29 (The timings below refer to my recordings of the combined 1425 and 1589 versions of Jiu Kuang;
these MP3 files have both Chinese 酒狂﹕聽中文 and English 酒狂﹕聽英文 versions.)

(00.00)   1a. (1425, Section 1)
(00.30)   1b. Enjoying wine and forgetting troubles
(01.04)   2a. (1425, Section 2)
(01.25)   2b. Drunkenly dancing like a flying immortal
(01.51)   3a. (1425, Section 3)
(02.12)   3b. Singing loudly to earth and heaven)
(02.38)   4a. (1425, Section 4a)
(02.59)   4b. Loving wine and forgetting the body
(03.24)   5a. (1425, Section 4b)
(03.45)   5b. Dashing off calligraphy on art paper
(04.05)   6a. (1425, Section 4c)
(04.21)   6b. Bending over to exhale wine
(04.50)   7a. (1425, Section 4d)
(05.02)   7b. Hold up wine and feign madness
(05.34)         1425 Coda: Sound of the immortal exhaling his wine.
(05.50)         1589 Coda
(06.05)         End

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Jiu Kuang (QQJC VII/65)
40655.70 酒狂 mentions drunken madness in Han Shu and Bo Juyi, but nothing on music.

2. Ruan Ji 阮籍 himself is also said to have played the qin, though some sources apparently say it was the zheng zither.

3. Tracing Jiu Kuang
Zha Fuxi's Guide, 3/31/36 and 19/180/--; see also the appendix with the 1425 introduction. In sum, the seven versions are musically related. 1552 is a copy of 1425, but otherwise no two are identical. The 1539 and 1525 versions have more differences from SQMP (1425) than do their versions of most pieces from SQMP Folio I. The last three all have lyrics, but none of these can be matched to the SQMP music.

4. It was also for the same reason that I learned Liu Shang. (Return)

5. 姚丙炎 Yao Bingyan. There are many recordings by Yao and others, all with metal strings (see my comments under silk strings. Bell Yong, Celestial Airs of Antiquity, 1997, has a transcription and some discussion, but there is no mention of the metal strings or of the oddity of the triple rhythm.

Xu Jian, QSCB, Chapter 3.B. (pp.36-7) mentions the triple rhythms as though they are an inherent part of the melody, rather than Yao Bingyan's interpretation from the 1950s.

6. By tradition qin melodies are learned from a teacher, not from tablature. If a melody does not change through several tablatures this may be evidence that it was played from the tablature. There is some discussion of this in the article Historically Informed Performance (see in particular the section Traditional Chinese HIP?).

7. Importance of Correct Rhythm
Doubling down on the misrepresentations, such melodies might, for example, be played on ancient bronze bells. Once again, this might be entertaining. From a historical standpoint, however, it is at a minimum highly problematic.

8. Yao Bingyan's own justification for triple rhythms in Jiu Kuang
See 音樂藝術 Yinyue Yishu, 1981 #5; this and some other related articles by Yao are listed in the bibliography.

9. Chen Zhuo article suggests triple rhythm?
See further under the 1425 Jiu Kuang entry

10. Possibility of triple rhythms during the Tang or Song dynasty
Partly due to Chinese conservatory influence the modern triple rhythm version has been so popular that almost everyone follows it. There have even been attempts to adapt the Ming dynasty lyrics to the triple rhythm version. Significantly, though, in order to do this the lyrics have been changed and/or the traditional pairing method is not followed.

Thus the way these lyrics have been adapted to force it into triple rhythm, plus the fact that no one who has played Liu Shang has ever suggested it should have triple rhythm, an argument that triple rhythms are historically appropriate for the 1425 Jiu Kuang would probably have to center on the fact that its tablature is in SQMP, Folio I, melodies for which Zhu Quan said he could find no players. Thus one cannot completely rule out the possibility that at some time prior to the Ming dynasty the melody truly was played in triple rhythms, and the double rhythms used in the Ming dynasty were their incorrect interpretation.

However, I do not know of anyone who has made this argument, nor of any specific evidence to support it.

11. Original Jiu Kuang song lyrics (no apparent connection to those of the opera)
    (楊掄太古遺音酒狂小標題、歌辭﹕ 錄音又有中文唱, 又有英文唱)
The original Chinese section titles and lyrics from Yang Lun Taigu Yiyin are as follows listen

1. 天地鴻茫

2. 醉舞飛仙

3. 浩歌天地

4. 嗜酒形骸

5. 花牋草掃

6. 低低吐酒

7. 托酒徉(佯?)狂

12. (The Chinese and English lyrics also available as a .pdf file). Tong Kin-Woon helped with a literal translation of these lyrics; this literal translation has been published in Charles A. Coulombe, ed., The Muse in the Bottle; New York, Citadel Press, 2002 (more at Kensington Books). The poem has numerous literary references. For example, *"a pool of lees" refers to the story mentioned below; **Liu Ling, Bi Zhuo and Tao Qian were all famous drinkers.

I subsequently modified the English lyrics here so that they could be sung along with the 1589 melody. Although the 1589 melody has lyrics all the way through, instrumental interludes can be added by alternating the 7 sections into which the SQMP version is here divided with the 7 sections of the sung 1589 version, below. This is what I do in my recording, linked below. (In fact the first three lines here can be sung with the opening of the SQMP version.)

13. The Chinese says 杜康 "Du Kang", the name of a famous wine maker of the 4th c. BCE.

14. References to 襄陽歌 Xiangyang Ge
Xiangyang Ge is a poem by 李白 Li Bai (701 -762), by Li Bai, famous as a drinker as well as as a poet. The poem includes several references to drinking. The present example is:
which is a paraphrase of the line "百年三萬六千日,一日須傾三百杯。" in 襄陽歌 Xiangyang Ge.

The lyrics of Li Bai's poem are set for qin in at least two handbooks, dated 1579 and 1618; the two versions are melodically unrelated. The 襄陽歌 lyrics are included here with the former.

15. 王績 Wang Ji (585 - 644) wrote a Land of Wine Annal (醉鄉記 Zui Xiang Ji).

16. Money was usually carried in 貫錢 strings of cash.

17. A pool of lees
This refers to the story that the last two Shang dynasty kings (the last one was Jie Gui) had a wine pool made by using wine lees (sediment) to make the pool's retaining walls. The size of the pool was thus partially a reflection of how much wine they had drunk.

18. Daoist immortals were sometimes called "feather men" (羽人 yuren)

19. See Li Bai's 獎金酒 Jiang Jin Jiu

20. Unjust rulers, of course.

21. Drunks fall down without assist
The original is, 玉山自倒非人推. 玉山 Jade Mountain was 嵇康 "Xi Kang, known for stumbling when drunk. So the passage is literally, "Xi Kang could fall down without anyone pushing him". This line is also from Xiangyang Ge.

22. Calligraphy and drunken verse
The title of this verse, 花牋草掃, literally means "elegant paper and grass (script) painting", while "龍蛇" in the first line, literally "dragons and snakes", is also a calligraphy reference. Li Bai was said to have been an excellent calligrapher (especially when inebriated), and the whole passage refers to well-known stories about Li Bai, quoting in particular some lines in a long poem by Du Fu, 飲中八仙歌 Song of the Eight Drinking Immortals, which tell of him passing out in a bar and so missing an audience with the emperor:


(These two lines followed a couplet about Su Jin, "蘇晉長齋繡佛前,醉中往往愛逃禪。")

23. Exhaling wine
Commonly translated "Retching wine".
My translation of "吐 tu" as "exhaling" connects it to a Daoist practice of exhaling bad energies from the body. The expression comes up both as a section title and in the lyrics, as follows:

低地吐酒 Didi tu jiu (Bending over to exhale wine)
吐酒山翁聲款款 Tu jiu shanweng sheng "kuan kuan" (Calmly the rustic exhales his wine)
仙人吐酒聲 Xianren Tujiu Sheng (Sound of the Immortal Exhaling his Wine)

For didi 539.18 says low sound, quoting 西廂記 Xi Xiang Ji. Tu jiu can also mean "retch wine" (嘔 ou), but my interpretation of "tu" here comes from 3359.39 吐納 tu na, a Daoist 修煉 ascetic skill by which people expell impurities (bad qi) inside themselves; there is an example in Qinshu Daquan, Folio 17, #53. Another idea is that this tu might resemble the way Daoist priests spray wine from their mouths during religious ceremonies.

24. Liu Ling: 3rd C. sage; Bi Zhuo: 3rd/4th c. drinker; Tao Qian: 4th c. poet.

25. 相與枕藉共留連
Alternate translation: "remaining together in all circumstances, relying on each other."
For 枕藉 zhen jie the earliest references are 桓寬 Huan Kuan (1st C BCE), 鹽鐵論 Discussion on Salt and Iron, Chapter 21 殊路 How Ways Diverge; 漢 班固 《西都賦》:「禽相鎮壓,獸相枕藉。」; and 唐 杜甫 Du Fu《八哀詩·故秘書少監武功蘇公源明》:「前後百卷文,枕藉皆禁臠。」.

26. Again see Li Bai's Jiang Jin Jiu.

27. They are more concerned with achieving an elevated state!

28. Original 1589 preface
The original preface here is as follows,


29. Original 1589 section titles
The original Chinese section titles here are:

  1. 天地鴻茫
  2. 醉舞飛仙
  3. 浩歌天地
  4. 嗜酒形骸
  5. 花牋草掃
  6. 低低吐酒
  7. 托酒徉(佯?)狂
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