Ba Jiu Wen Yue 把酒問月
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18. Wine in Hand Asking the Moon
角音 Jue mode: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 2
把酒問月 1
Ba Jiu Wen Yue  
Calligraphy by Du Zhonggao3  
This melody, surviving only in Lixing Yuanya (1618),4 uses as lyrics a poem by the Tang dynasty's Li Bai (ca 705 - 762). His poem has as its structure eight lines of 7+7 characters each. This naturally lends itself to a structure having four segments that are each (7+7) x 2, and the music here also seems to lend itself to such a structure. However, as printed in 1618 it is organized into only two sections, with six of the eight lines in the first section. The pairing of words and music largely follows the common structure for qin songs of having one note for each right hand stroke on the qin.5

The creator of the music is not stated, but it is generally presumed to be Zhang Tingyu, compiler of the handbook.6


The preface in 1618 is very brief, saying only,

Old literary criticism says, Li Bai's character was bold and unconstrained; his writings were even more so.

There is no mention of the music.

Music and lyrics8 (see 五線譜 my transcription; timings follow my recording 聽錄音; with lyrics sung 唱歌詞 9)
The melody and lyrics are divided into two untitled sections. However, my understanding of the music gives it a natural break between each set of two couplets. Meanwhile the translation here is rather stilted as part of the melody reconstruction process I made it as much as possible word for word; for a smoother translations follow links in the footnote. The result is as follows:

00.00   Closing harmonics played as a prelude

00.12   第壹段 Section 1
Qīng tiān yǒu yuè lái jǐ shí? Wǒ jīn tíng bēi yī wèn zhī.
In blue sky having a moon: that comes about how often?
        So I now set down my cup and question it.

Rén pān míng yuè bù kě dé, yuè xíng què yǔ rén xiāng suí.
People grasp at the bright moon but cannot do so;
        the moon travels, though, going with us right along.

Jiǎo rú fēi jìng lín dān què; lǜ yān miè jǐn qīng huī fā.
Bright, like a flying mirror you approach cinnabar towers,
        green mist disappears as your clear brilliance emerges;

Dàn jiàn xiāo cóng hǎi shàng lái, níng zhī xiǎo xiàng yún jiān méi.
But seeing you at night from the sea rising,
        how do we know that at dawn you will emerge amongst the clouds, or not?

Yù tù dǎo yào qiū fù chūn, Héng'é gū qī yǔ sheí lián?
jade rabbit keeps pounding out elixers as autumn turns to spring,
        and Heng E by herself nests, with whom having sympathy?

Jīn rén bù jiàn gǔ shí yuè, jīn yuè céng jīng zhào gǔ rén.
Today's people do not see the ancient times' moon,
        (but) today's moon used to shine on the ancients.

01.50   第㒃段 Section 2
Gǔ rén jīn rén ruò liú shuǐ, gòng kàn míng yuè jiē rú cǐ;
Ancient peoples and people of today pass like flowing waters;
        (but) as we all view it, the bright moon has always been like this.

Wéi yuàn dāng gē duì jiǔ shí, yuè guāng cháng zhào jīn zūn lǐ.
I only hope that whenever we do sing along with wine,
        the moon's brightness will keep on shining down into our golden winecups.
02.32   曲終 End

See the footnote regarding some changed characters.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Ba Jiu Wen Yue 把酒問月 (QQJC VIII/241)
12125.23 is only 把酒 ba jiu. There are two entries:

  1. "把盞也;執酒盃也 grasp a bowl; hold a wine cup". The only reference given is to a poem by Li Bai's friend Meng Haoran (689 - 740), #128 in the collection of 300 Tang poems; "把酒 ba jiu" is in line 3 of the complete poem, which is as follows:


    There have been many translations, including online (e.g., here; #128).

  2. "猶祭酒也", suggesting grasping the cup in some sort of ritual context. The reference given is from "丹船總錄" (by 楊慎 Yang Shen [1488–1559; Wiki]). There it says, "南夷有酋長,羣夷有酒,必先酌之,謂之把酒". "酌" is "pour".

Nevertheless, modern translations seem to suggest raising the cup in toast, and modern images seem to favor the currently popular melodramatic depictions of a cup being raised.

This handbook has a one string melody with lyrics evoking similar feelings, Shui Diao Ge Tou (VIII/343; see preface); it has lyrics by Su Dongpo that begin "明月幾時有,把酒問青天....")

2. Jiao Mode (角音 Jiao Yin (5 6 1 2 3 5 6)
In this piece the mode seems to shift between being 6-3 (la-mi) and 1-5 (do-sol). In the former places the note jue (3, also called jue) has the feel of being a fifth above the tonal center, in the latter a third above; but in both cases it seems to be a significant tonal center. The beginning and ending notes of the phrases in the eight lines are as follows:

3-3,    1-5.
3-6,    5-2.
3-5,    2-3.
5-1,    2-1.
5-1/6, 6-5.
3-3,    6-2.
1-1,    6-3.
3-3,    6-1/3.

For more on jue mode see Shenpin Jiao Yi of 1425; for mode in general see Modality in early Ming qin tablature.

3. Calligraphy for 把酒問月 Ba Jiu Wen Yue 豐子愷扇子:把酒問月  
The calligraphy above, by 杜忠誥 Tu Chung-kao (Du Zhonggao 1948 - ), was copied from the internet, here. In fact, there are many online examples of calligraphy for Li Bai's poem Ba Jiu Wen Yue. Another example, together with an illustration, is on a scroll by Du Jin that also has a poem by Han Yu; that scroll can be seen with the introduction to the melody Ting Qin Yin, which sets the Han Yu poem to music.

The image at right, a fan by Zhejiang painter 豐子愷 Feng Zikai (1898 - 1975), was also copied from the internet, in this case an auction house site.

4. Trace Ba Jiu Wen Yue
Zha Guide lists it only here.

5. Note for note setting
More under Poetry and Song

6. Zhang Tingyu

7. Preface
The original is: 古文評云:李白氣豪,文更豪。

8. Music and Lyrics
There have been a number of English translations of Li Bai's poem. They include:

The text as it appears in 1618 is given above with transliteration and translation. Here is just the Chinese text by itself. Note that in several places it is different from the version on the scrolls. The places that I can recognize as different from the song text have the calligraphy versions put in parentheses to the right of the present lyrics. The most significant difference is perhaps the last character of row five, lian (pity) instead of 鄰 lin (neighbor).

The 1618 song text arrangement of the lyrics into two sections is follows:

皎如飛鏡臨丹闕。緑煙㓕盡清輝發。       (㓕 = 滅 = 灭)
玉兔搗藥秋復春,姮娥孤栖與誰憐?       (白兔搗藥秋復春,嫦娥孤棲與誰

唯願當歌對酒時,月光常照金樽裡。       (尊)

Translated above.

9. Recordings
The singing version linked above is double-tracked over the instrumental. The recording was made with a He Mingwei guqin with Marusan Hashimoto strings tuned to A.

In addition there are these video recordings:

The latter two recordings were made with DPA mics under the qin going into a computer.

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