Liang Xiao Yin
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15. Peaceful Evening Prelude
- Jue mode,2 standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
良宵引 1
Liang Xiao Yin
Modern "liangxiao" images often show a couple 3 
Liangxiao Yin has been a very popular melody, surviving in over 40 handbooks from 1614 to 1914;4 two of these versions have lyrics.5 The melody has long been considered as a beginners' melody, and it remains very popular as such.6 At the same time it is a good example of how a melody that at first appears to be very simple can in fact be a great challenge to a player's technique if it is to be played in a way that brings out all its color and subtlety.7

There are two particularly interesting aspects of Liang Xiao Yin. First, its opening phrase is intriguingly similar to the opening phrase of the Shen Qi Mi Pu melody Wu Ye Ti. However, this may just be coincidental, as there seems to be very little other connection between the two.

Secondly, at least two of the first three versions of this melody were published around this time under different titles:

  1. Cangwu Yin (Cangwu Prelude) as printed in Wenhuitang Qinpu (1596; more details here)
  2. Zuiweng Yin (Old Toper's Chat) as printed in Taoshi Qinpu (late Ming; more details here).

Zuiweng Yin sets its version of the Liang Xiao Yin melody to lyrics. Cangwu Yin is also very similar to the Liangxiao Yin that first appears in 1614.8 The title Cangwu Prelude suggests it should be used as a prelude to the jue mode melody called Cangwu Yuan (Cangwu Lament), which is a lament on the death of Emperor Shun.10 However, the 1596 handbook has no Cangwu Yuan and its Cangwu Yin actually comes just before a version of Liezi Yu Feng, with which is has no apparent thematic connection.11 And although the second handbook to call this melody Liangxiao Yin (1647) does use it as a prelude to Cangwu Yuan, at least until 1722 it more commonly continued to precede Liezi Yu Feng or even the zhi mode melody Yu Hui Tushan.

Wenhuitang Qinpu has no commentary on any of its melodies, nor does Songxianguan Qinpu. It is thus difficult to say whether this melody called Cangwu Yin only in 1596 really did come first, and if so how it came to be called Liang Xiao Yin in 1614.12 And although seven later handbooks do have commentary on Liangxiao Yin,13 the earliest commentary is not until the sixth handbook (1692), and the only preface with specific claims about the melody's origin is one published 250 years later, in Tianwenge Qinpu (1876). Here it is attributed to a Sui dynasty general with literary talent, Heruo Bi.14 Presumably this attributation is due to the fact that Heruo Bi is said to have created a melody called Qingye Yin,15 which has the same meaning, but Tianwenge Qinpu itself does not specifically make a connection with that title.

Thus, because of the dual title and since none of the other prefaces makes any comment on the origin of the melody, one can only speculate as to what its original title might have been, or its age. As for its aim, early poetic references suggest there is no reason to think that it is anything other than simply to evoke the mood of a peaceful evening, either at home or in nature. However, later references might suggest a couple having such a peaceful evening, and the lyrics of the song versions suggest also someone in the quiet of an evening thinking of their separation from a loved one or loved ones.

Finally, as the chart below shows, in the Qing dynasty there were basically two versions, the original in two sections (the harmonic coda is sometimes written separately as though it is a separate section) and one dating from 1722 in three sections plus the harmonic coda. The modality of all the versions seems to be purely pentatonic, and the versions played today are all quite similar to the one published here in Songxianguan Qinpu (1614). Some of the differences appeared quite early. These can be seen by comparing transcriptions of the versions played today with my transcription of my own reconstruction of this earliest version.16 Thus, although Xu Jian, in discussing Liang Xiao Yin in his section on Qin melodies of the Ming dynasty, suggests that he is using examples from the Ming dynasty original, by comparing versions one can see that his examples come from a Qing dynasty handbook, specifically the reconstruction made by Guan Pinghu from Wuzhizhai Qinpu (1722) as published in Guqin Quji.17 And the transcription in Guqin Quji of the version played by Zhan Chengqiu, although it is said to come from 1614, clearly also comes from a later version.18

None in 1614: see 1692

Melody (see transcription; timings follow my recording 聽錄音)
Two sections, untitled20

(00.00)   1.
(01.05)   2.
(01.49)       Harmonics
(02.15)       End

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Peaceful Evening Prelude (良宵引 Liangxiao Yin) (QQJC VIII/114)
This title could also be given such translations as "clear evening" (see the comment with Qingye Yin), "lovely evening", "happy evening", "enjoyable evening" and so forth. With regard to the latter see the comments below concerning the illustration above.

As for references, 31289.112 says "良宵,良夜也 liangxiao means peaceful evening"; it gives four poetic references:

  1. 李嶠,餞駱詩 Li Jue (644-713):
  2. 李白,友人會宿詩 Li Bai (ca 705-762):
  3. 劉兼,海棠花詩 Liu Jian (8th c.?):
  4. 朱慶餘,湖中閑夜詩 Zhu Qingyu (b. 791 CE, a follower of Han Yu)
    釣艇同琴酒,良宵背水濱。 This is the poem's opening couplet:

    Fishing from a boat with qin and wine; a peaceful evening with our backs to the shore.

There are more references at 9/263, which says 良宵 liangxiao is a "景色美好的夜晚 happy and beautiful evening", then has quotations from

  1. 皇甫冉 Huangfu Ran (715-768)
  2. 段克己 Duan Keji (1196-1254),
  3. 李漁 Li Yu (1610—1680)
  4. 郭沫若 Guo Moruo (1892-1978).

9/263 also gives two further definitions for 良宵 liangxiao:
      "長夜,深夜 deep into the evening",
      "元宵節得夜晚 festival of the first full (moon) evening"; it cites two references:
Further regarding the latter, this festival, 元宵節 Yuanxiao Jie, occurs every year on the 15th day of the first lunar month (a full moon). This day is also known at the Lantern Festival and in places is also considered as "Chinese Valentine's Day".

2. Jue mode (角調 jue diao)
For more on jue mode see Shenpin Jue Yi and Modality in early Ming qin tablature.

3. Image: 高馬得,良宵圖 Gao Made (1917-2007): Peaceful Evening (1981)
For more on Gao Made see a relevant article. The above image was viewed cached in 2009 at, where it was for sale. An image search for "良宵圖" gave numerous hits showing famous couples out in public for a "peaceful evening". The early references above do not suggest this type of evening, but references from after 1600, when Liangxiao Yin first appeared, seem more mixed (see also the lyrics below).

4. Tracing Liang Xiao Yin (tracing chart)
Zha's Guide 30/236/443 lists Liangxiao Yin in 31 handbooks from 1614 to 1914, but as the chart below shows, it can actually be found in over 40 surviving handbooks: most of the extras are from 19th century handbooks not indexed in the Zha Guide. The Guide copies out the prefaces for one version (in 1876), afterwords for seven more (see list), and section titles for one (1730, q.v.). All versions have very similar music, whether in two sections or three ("+1" in the chart means the harmonic coda is written as a separate section, but this distinction is not made consistently). The 1596 Cangwu Yin (VI/226) is also very similar, its differences mentioned here).

5. Liangxiao Yin with lyrics
The two listed versions with lyrics are dated 1730 and 1894:

  1. Lixuezhai Qinpu (1730; XVIII/24 and Zha Guide [967] 443)




    In order to analyze how these 1730 lyrics might fit with the original 1614 tablature/melody I have made the following two pdf copies with specific red markings:

    • The original 1730 tablature
      To this tablature red numerals have been added corresponding with characters/lyrics in the text copy above (8 lines Section 1; 6 in section two; one for the harmonic coda)
    • My own transcription of the music as played above
      Red numerals have been added numbering the phrases in alignment with these characters/lyrics, and marks in red are added below the tablature showing where according to my understanding the characters might best be placed. If the mark corresponds to a note above it but with no tablature, then the mark may refer to a note indicated in the 1730 tablature.

    This alignment is tentative, but it should be enough to show the places where the pairing fits according to the traditional pairing method, where it does not follow these rules but still seems appropriate to the notes, and where it requires some imagination to make it work.

    Proper pairing also requires understanding the lyrics, and these have not yet been translated. It should be noted that the 1730 melody/tablature is somewhat different from that of the common instrumental versions, in particular the one I play. As can be seen from the transcription provided, in some places the 1730 pairing is done by the traditional manner, but in others it is quite different. Several particularly problems in pairing include: inconsistent treatment of slides (the traditional pairing method does not assign words to slides, and Liang Xiao Yin has several slides of four or more notes); inconsistent pairing of lyrics to the technique called 對起 duiqi; and in Section 1, line 6, the technique 對起 poci, said to have 四声 four sounds instead of the usual two. In general the pairing in 1730 seems to have been done either by someone not fully familiar with how the tablature was to be played, or by someone not fully versed in the traditional manner of pairing. It is also possible that someone created the lyrics for a different version of the melody, and this was an attempt to adapt it for this specific tablature. I have tried to order the phrases above so they fit the musical phrasing, but to me it still seems quite awkward.

  2. Qinxue Chujin (1894; XXVIII/251 and Zha Guide [967] 443)




    收音 No lyrics? (see Zha Guide [231]189 and 1894 below)

    Also not yet translated. A casual glance suggests that these lyrics could not be paired with the same melody as the previous one. However, not having the actual 1876 tablature makes it difficult to assess the particulars of this, and I have not tried to see whether these lyrics (from the 1876 edition?) pair naturally to the tablature in the 1894 edition.

As can be seen, the lyrics of these two are completely different from each other.

6. Beginners' melody
Several of the afterwords comment on this as a beginners' melody, adding however that it is very elegant.

7. The difficulty of simplicity
My teacher Sun Yü-ch'in said that anyone can impress people with a flashy and/or complicated piece such as Liu Shui: you practice it a lot and then just play. What in fact were often the most difficult pieces had melodies that at first seemed the simplist. He said this specifically about Xiang Jiang Yuan, but from the commentary here it seems that this is said even more often about Liangxiao Yin.

8. Cangwu Prelude (蒼梧引 Cangwu Yin; Wenhuitang Qinpu, 1596; see QQJC, VI/226)
The main difference between Cangwu Prelude and the first Peaceful Evening Prelude is that the latter inserts extra notes and ornamentation throughout and also repeats the first stopped-sounds phrase in each section of the body. As for theme of this Cangwu Yin, although its title suggests that it should be a prelude to the melody Cangwu Yuan, as pointed out in a footnote under Cangwu Yuan, all but the first of the five entries called Cangwu Yin (see Zha's Guide 28/221/--) are in fact versions of Cangwu Yuan. This first one, from 1596, has no apparent musical relationship to Cangwu Yuan other than being in the same musical mode (jue); instead, for an unknown reason, it became a predecessor of Liangxiao Yin, to which as mentioned above it is closely related throughout. Here it might be mentioned that the old melody Yin De as modified in 1614 was given the new name Qiu Jiang Ye Bo.

Wenhuitang Qinpu (1596) has no commentary on individual melodies, and it places Cangwu Yin just before the melody called Liezi (a version of Liezi Yu Feng); it does not include a Cangwu Yuan. On the other hand, Songxianguan Qinpu does include a Cangwu Yuan, placed two entries earlier than Liangxiao Yin; only Huiyan Mizhi (1647) places Liangxiao Yin before the Cangwu Yuan melody. Neither of these two handbooks has commentary on individual melodies; and Songxianguan Qinpu does not follow the earlier custom of placing short melodies before related longer ones. However, the 1647 handbook does follow this custom, so it seems likely that its Liangxiao Yin was indeed intended a prelude to its a version of Cangwu Yuan - except that it calls its version Cangwu Yin (Cangwu Prelude)!

10. Further comment on a possible connection between Cangwu Yin and Cangwu Yuan
In the notes (Chinese only) for Liang Xiao Yin on her double CD 嘯樂琴韻 Qin Sounds Calling to the Moon, 李楓 Li Feng mentions the connection between Liangxiao Yin and Cangwu Yin, adding her opinion that Cangwu Yin quite likely originated as a prelude to Cangwu Yuan. Compare my comments above.
(Li Feng's comments were pointed out to me by Julian Joseph.)

11. Positioning Cangwu Yin and Liangxiao Yin
Although Wenhuitang Qinpu does seem to try to pair melodies with apparent prefaces (see its ToC), there is no apparent connection between Liezi and the Cangwu region. As for Liangxiao Yin, although it also has no apparent conection to Liezi, the early versions (listed in the appendix) still generally precede Liezi Yu Feng (alternatively: Yu Hui Tushan). Later it is more rare to find handbooks arranged so that melodies are preceded by preludes.

12. Which version came first?
The dates 1596 and 1614 are close enough that it is possible the title Liang Xiao Yin actually came first, but the fact that the 1596 version (which was attributed to Hu Wenhuan of Hangzhou) is simpler also supports the likelihood that its version earlier.

13. Commentary on Liangxiao Yin
The commentaries quoted at Zha Guide 236-7 are generally quite late:

  1. Qinpu Xiwei (1692; XIII/83; q.v.)
  2. Shuangqin Shuwu Qinpu Jicheng (1884)
  3. Luqi Qingyun (1884)
  4. Qinxue Chujin #1 (1894)
  5. Qinxue Chujin #2 (1894)
  6. Yazhai Qinpu Zongji (20th c.)
  7. Shimengzhai Qinpu (1914)

An internet search for "Liangxiao Yin", "Liang Xiao Yin", will show various other commentaries as well as recordings.

14. 賀若弼 Heruo Bi (544 - 607)
See separate biography.

15. Peaceful Evening Intonation (Qingye Yin 清夜吟)
"Qing" can also mean "clear". Although this title is the seventh entry in the Heruo Bi melody list, there is no reason to think there is any melodic connection. There was also a melodically unrelated Qingye Yin published in 1525.

16. Similarity of modern version with the one in Songxianguan Qinpu 松絃館琴譜
Most melodies as actively played over the years as Liangxiao Yin undergo gradual, often considerable, change. Some such melodies in the modern repertoire have reverted to earlier forms as a result of studying the original tablature, but a preliminary examination of earlier tablature for Liangxiao Yin in fact suggests that it has changed over the years it relatively minor ways. Because Songxianguan Qinpu is attributed to 嚴澂 Yan Cheng, also known as 嚴天池 Yan Tianchi, and he is considered to be the founder of the famous Yushan school, one can speculate that it was due to respect for Yan Tianchi, perhaps combined with the fact that it was treated as a beginners' melody, that Liang Xiao Yin did not change very much despite its popularity.

17. Xu Jian's discussion of Liang Xiao Yin
Xu Jian's three examples are in Qinshi Chubian, Chapter 7.B.5. (p. 143); they correspond with the transcriptions on the first, then second and third, then sixth lines of Guqin Quji, Vol. 1, p. 226. In addition, his first corresponds with measures 1-6 of mine; his second corresponds with my measures 7-14; his third corresponds with my measures 26-28. Note that the other transcriptions consider the open first string as C while, because I consider the open third string to be do, C is played on the open third string.

18. Version by 詹澄秋 Zhan Chengqiu
The transcription is in Guqin Quji, Vol. 1, p. 226. It is not stated whether the tablature was made to follow Zhan, or whether it is copied from a handbook and Zhan was following that handbook. In any case, it is not, as stated, from Songxianguan Qinpu.

19. Preface
The earliest preface does not come until the sixth handbook, dating from 1692 (see Tracing chart). It goes as follows,

This melody, although it only has two sections, has harmonious sounds that are highly elegant, with the charm of softly lingering while reaching up to the clouds. Players who pay it special attention perceive this intuitively, and with confidence in it have a happy and calm mind, not considering this composition as lacking and thus disdaining it.

Thanks to Chang Peiyou for help with translating the final part.

20. Subtitles
The only version Zha lists with subtitles is Lixuezhai Qinpu (1730), as follows:

  1. 籟靜窗虛 Peaceful music at an empty window
  2. 懷人不見 Thinking of an absent friend
  3. 尾聲:兩鬢秋霜 (Harmonic) coda: Sideburns like autumn frost

The melody, which also has lyrics, is still quite similar to the original, though the lyrics do not pair well according a strict interpretation of the traditional pairing method.

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Appendix: Chart Tracing 良宵引 Liang Xiao Yin
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 30/236/443.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1. 文會堂琴譜
      (1596; VI/232)
2; jue mode; called 蒼梧引 Cangwu Yin; see further above
Precedes Liezi Yu Feng: used as a prelude to it?
  2. 松絃館琴譜
      (1614; VIII/118)
2; jue mode; very similar to previous
  3. 陶氏琴譜
      (late Ming; IX/474)
2; jue mode; called Zui Weng Yin but clearly a version of Liang Xiao Yin
Has lyrics ("世道如何,看那世道如何?....") by 呂雲藻 Lü Yunzao of 臨晉 Linjin in 山西 Shanxi
  4. 徽言秘旨
      (1647; X/111)
2; jue yin; called 良宵吟 Peaceful Evening Intonation, but almost same melody;
Followed by (prelude to?) Cangwu Yin!)
  5. 徽言秘旨訂
      (1692; fac/)
Should be same as 1647
  6. 大還閣琴譜
      (1673; X/382)
2; jue yin;
  7. 德音堂琴譜
      (1691; XII/549)
2; jue yin;
  8. 琴譜析微
      (1692; XIII/87)
2; jue yin; afterword [earliest commentary])
  9. 蓼懷堂琴譜
      (1702; XIII/237)
2; jue yin;
  10. 一峰園琴譜
      (1709; XIII/516)
2; jue yin; "汪簡心 by Wang Jianxin"; no other commentary
11. 五知齋琴譜
      (1722; XIV/479)
3; jue yin; "熟派 Shu School"; no other commentary (unusual for this handbook). This is basically same melody as in 1614 but it is divided differently, with several notes near the end of its Section 2 changed to become doublestops.
12. 臥雲樓琴譜
      (1722; XV/66)
2; jue yin; afterword same as Qinpu Xiwei)
13. 存古堂琴譜
      (1726; XV/___)
2; jue yin, but missing from QQJC (see XV/250-1: pp.9-10 are missing)
14. 光裕堂琴譜
      (~1726; XV/329)
2; jue yin
15. 立雪齋琴譜
      (1730; XVIII/24)
2+1T; jue yin; only version with section subtitles,
the first version with lyrics (other is 1894)
    . 琴劍合譜
      (1749; XVIII/___)
? ToC XVIII/299-300 does not list it amongst its 23 melodies,
so it is not clear why Zha Guide 30 (30) does so
16. 蘭田館琴譜
      (1755; XVI/236)
2; jue yin; "歷下金子陵授"
17. 琴香堂琴譜
      (1760; XVII/69)
3; jue yin; compare 1722
18. 酣古齋琴譜
      (n.d.; XVIII/401)
2; jue yin
19. 自遠堂琴譜
      (1802; XVII/478)
3; jue yin; compare 1722
20. 琴譜諧聲
      (1820; XX/160)
3; jue yin; like 1722
21. 指法匯參確解
      (1821; XX/279)
2; jue yin
22. 峰抱樓琴譜
      (1825; XX/323)
2; jue yin
23a. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/392)
3; gong yin
Badly copied and very hard to read
23b. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/392)
3; jue yin; like 1722
24. 鄰鶴齋琴譜
      (1830; XXI/34)
2; mode not mentioned
25. 二香琴譜
      (1833; XXIII/147)
2; afterword
26. 梅花仙館琴譜
      (n.d.; XXII/10)
2; jue yin
27. 樂山堂琴譜
      (n.d.; XXIII/19)
2; jue yin
28. 琴譜正律
      (~1839; XXIII/46)
2; huangzhongdiao gongyin but basically same
29. 行有恒堂錄存琴譜
      (1840; XXIII/190)
2; mode not mentioned
    . 稚雲琴譜
      (1849; XXIII/___)
???; 1876 says its version is from here but it is not in QQJC and the Zha Guide does not list it as here;
There is also no Qingye Yin here
30. 荻灰館琴譜
      (n.d.; XXIV/127)
3; shangjue (?); middle page missing
31. 琴學尊聞
      (1864; XXIV/222)
3; gongyin gongdiao; compare 1722
32. 青箱齋琴譜
      (~1866; XXIV/381)
2; jue yin; short afterword
33. 白菡萏香館琴譜;
      (1871; XXIV/434)
2; 角意 jue yi
34. 蕉庵琴譜
      (1868; XXVI/88)
3; jue yin; compare 1722
35. 琴瑟合譜
      (1870; XXVI/150)
3; mode not mentioned; compare 1722
"by Qing Rui", presumably referring to the se part
36. 以六正五之齋琴學秘書
      (1875; XXVI/251)
3; jue yin; compare 1722
37. 天聞閣琴譜
      (1876; XXV/314)
3; jue yin; attrib. Heruo Bi!;
Zhiyun" (1849) but is not in the existing copy of that handbook
38. 希韶閣琴譜
      (1878; XXVI/348)
3; jue yin; like 1722
39. 枕經葄史山房雜抄
      (>1881; XXVII/123)
2; mode not stated
40. 雙琴書屋琴譜集成
      (1884; XXVII/300)
3; jue yin; 熟派 Shu pai; "see 1722"
41. 綠綺清韻
      (1884; XXVII/395)
3; jue yin
Afterword says from 1802 but almost same as 1722
    . 琴旨申邱
      (1889; ???)
???; compare 1722
42. 枯木禪琴譜
      (1893; XXVIII/71)
3; jue yin; compare 1722
Handbook not in QQJC
43a. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/251)
3+1 (compare 1722); 黃鐘均宮音 huangzhong jun gongyin (compare ~1839). The version in QQJC has no lyrics but Zha Guide (231) 189 suggests an edition dated 1876 had two versions, the other having lyrics (see next); afterword says its melody is from 1802
43b. 琴學初津
      (1894; XXVIII/___)
3+1 (compare 1722); title: 良宵母律 Liangxiao Mulü; 黃鐘均宮音 huangzhong jun gongyin (compare ~1839); lyrics completely different from 1730 (the only other version with lyrics). There is no melody called Liangxiao Mulü in QQJC. The afterword here is also different from those in the Guide (481) 237. Zha Guide (967) 443 has the lyrics, saying they are from the 1876 edition; (231) 189 says they are attached to Liangxiao Yin. Does this mean that the 1876 edition had only a Liangxiao Yin with no lyrics and placed next to it (i.e., not paired) a Liangxiao Mulü with lyrics but no melody?
44. 雅齋琴譜叢集
      (n.d.; ???)
Not indexed, not mentioned in Guide at (239)197ff and not in Qinqu Jicheng;
But the Guide p.237 has commentary it says comes from an afterword in a 硯田山房琴譜 (?)
45. 詩夢齋琴譜
Zha Guide says here, but it is not indexed and not in Qinqu Jicheng
46. 研易習琴齋琴譜
      (1961; F3#4)
3; zhonglüjun gongyin; not in Qinqu Jicheng
Afterword quotes "晝短苦夜長,何不秉燭遊!" (Waley: "When days are short and the dull nights long, Why not take a lamp and wander forth?") from 生年不滿百, the 15th of the 古詩十九首 19 Old Poems

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