Jie Yu Ge 接輿歌
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67. Song of Jie Yu
羽音 Yu mode: nine strings: 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 (?)2
接輿歌 1
Jie Yu Ge  
  Confucius tries to question Jie Yu (expand) 3        
Jie Yu, the "Madman of Chu", though mentioned only briefly in a few ancient texts, is still quite well known through the present story, in which he warns Confucius of the dangers of being useful. There have been any number of traditional illustrations of this story, such as the one at right, or paintings such as this one. More recent are popular graphic novel versions such as the one from Asiapac comics shown below.

Jie Yu was apparently a recluse in Chu, but nothing else seems to be known about him other than what can be learned through the story told in the present song, along with its introduction. Here it seems that, because Confucius in his day was known as someone who went around trying to give advice to rulers, on learning that Confucius was traveling in Chu, Jie Yu approached him and madly sang a song warning against getting involved in such matters at the present time. However, when Confucius tried to ask him about this he just ran away. The lyrics are presented in both a Daoist and a Confucian classic text. The Daoist text adds a narrative that seems to express agreement with Jie Yu's warning. The Confucian text presents it without comment, though elsewhere there is the suggestion that Jie Yu was referring in particular to the state of Chu, and it was for this reason that Confucius then left Chu to return home.

This melody survives only as the fifth and last of the five nine-string qin melodies in Lixing Yuanya (1618).4 According to accounts such as this one, the nine-string qin was created under the orders of the Song Taizong emperor. Taizong is said to have demanded its creation so he could be seen in the same light as Wen Wang and Wu Wang, who are said to have added the sixth and seventh strings to the original five string qin. His plan is said to have failed because his imperial guqin official showed that he could in fact play any of the nine-string melodies just as well if not better on a seven-string qin; one might argue that a better reason could be that no one used it to try to develop new music.

Lixing Yuanya makes no claim that this melody came from Song Taizong's time. And in fact, as can be seen from my tentative transcription and this comment, it could easily be played on a normal seven-string qin. The bottom two strings of the 9-string version are used in only two place; these are indicated by red marks on this copy of the original tablature as well as in the related places in this copy of my transcription. As to a method for playing this melody on a seven stringed qin, this could be as follows:

  1. Near the end of Section 1; the apparent note can in fact be played on the first string of a standard qin
  2. Near the beginning of Section 2: here there are two notes together, both with a slide; the first is too low to play on a standard qin so for my transcription I raised by an octave both of these two notes plus their slides.

Thus, discerning the intended notes in these two places allows the melody to be played on a normal 7-string qin. Red marks elsewhere on the copy show occurrences of non-pentatonic notes, basically in two paired phrases; these were most likely was intentional (see under mode). Note also the long passage in double stop harmonics near the end: a number of melodies in this section of the handbook seem to have this same characterstic.5

From all this it seems most likely that these pieces were newly created or revised to fit a hypothetical nine string qin rather than old melodies that had been passed down.

The specific lyrics for this Song of Jie Yu come from passages in the Analects and in the Book of Zhuangzi. These are included below. The music and words are paired in a way that their rhythms fit quite well, but the melody leaps about in a way that does not encourage singing out loud.6

The creator of the music is not stated, but it is generally presumed to be Zhang Tingyu, compiler of the handbook.7

The preface in 1618 seems to come mostly from the narrative in the Analects, as follows:

The madman of Chu, Jie Yu, had the proper name Lu Tong. As he was passing by Confucius he was singing this. Knowing this was the Sage (i.e., Confucius), (Jie Yu) ran away because he was different.

There is no mention of the music.

Music and lyrics10 (See 五線譜 tentative transcription; timings follow 聽 my recording
The melody and lyrics are divided into three untitled sections; each has a separate text; the original texts of the three (Analects 18 Weizi 5, plus Zhuangzi 4 The Human World, 8 and 9) are in this footnote. The translation here was adapted from some earlier ones to fit with my transcription.

  1. 00.01
    Oh phoenix, oh phoenix! How (your) virtue has declined!
    Past matters cannot be opposed; (but) future matters can still be pursued.
    Stop it already! Just stop! Today people in govenment are in peril indeed!

  2. 00.34
    Oh phoenix, oh phoenix! How your virtue has declined.
    The coming era can no longer be awaited; past eras can no longer be pursued.

    When the world has the Dao, sages can achied; when the world has no Dao, sages can only live out their lives.
    In the present times one is limited to avoiding punishment.

    Good fortune is lighter than a feather; (bu no one knows how to carry it.
    Misfortune is heavier than all the earth, (but) no one can avoid it.

    Stop it! Stop leaning on people with your virtue.
    Danger! It is dangerous to draw lines (to divide the earth) as you go around.

    Sharp thorns, sharp thorns do not destroy my path.
    My path turns me back as it winds about; and I don't harm my feet.

  3. 01.54
    Mountains have trees they themselves damage (by erosion?); grease set on fire cook itself away.
    Cinnamon is edible so we cut down the tree; lacquer is useful so we cut up the tree.
    People all know that something usable can be used.
    But they don't seem to know the uselessness of being used.
    02.37 end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Song of Jie Yu (Jie Yu Ge 接輿歌 (QQJC VIII/338)
12479.116 接輿 Jie Yu says this was the nickname of a recluse in Chu named Lu Tong but that he was also known as the Madman of Chu (楚狂 Chu kuang). He is also mentioned in the Li Sao but there seems to be no more details about him beyond what is said with the present melody.

2. Tuning and mode (九絃琴曲、羽音 a 9-string qin melody in yu mode; pu at right) Original tablature, p. 1 (complete pdf); note the red marks    
Although the mode is said to be yu (羽音 Yu Yin), because the melody is set for nine string qin it is not clear what this means.


3. Image above: Confucius tries to question Jie Yu AsiaPac: Jie Yu on usefulness (中文版)    
In contrast to the image at top, which is one illustration from the story and accompanied by the original text in the Analects, the image to the right tells the story as in the book of Zhuangzi. It comes from The Sayings of Zhuangzi, which is the English edition of 莊子說 Zhuangzi Shuo, a modern Chinese language edition of The Sayings of Zhuangzi as told in an Asiapac graphic novel by 蔡志忠 Tsai Chih Chung; the English edition has only the second half of the story shown at right (see the Chinese original). On the other hand, the English language Asiapac edition of the same book translated its complete Xiaoyao You. Further details of such graphic novels can be found here.

Meanwhile, the image at top comes from Traces of the Sage Confucius. The accompanying text quoting verbatim the text in the Analects (see from this link) is as follows,

楚狂接輿歌而過孔子,曰,鳳兮,鳳兮,何德之衰?往者不可諫,來者猶可追。已而,已而!今之從政者殆而! 孔子下,欲與之言。趨而辟之,不得與之。

Such images were quite popular, thus assuring that Jie Yu would remain well-known. Another example is this one; also called "楚狂接輿 Madman of Chu, Jie Yu", it is copied from an article called "為什麼楚狂接輿稱孔子是墮落的鳳凰?" (Why does Jie Yu call Confucius a Fallen Phoenix?) on a website that seems to identify it only as "楚狂接輿(資料圖 圖源網絡)", i.e., from an internet archive.

4. Trace Jie Yu Ge (3; VIII/338)
Zha Guide lists it only here.

5. Played on 7-string qin
According to my examination there does seem to be a mistake in one of the two places: it seems unlikely that in one place the first string is stopped at position 11, then shortly afterwards it is stopped at position 10. Perhaps it was a problem of writing tablature for an unfamiliar arrangement of strings. On the other hand, two paired phrases have some non-pentatonic notes that seem actually to be intentional; these are discussed further above.

6. Unless madly?


9. Preface
Here the original is:


The last phrase is somewhat puzzling. The Analects have the same phrase except that it has "孔子 Kongzi" instead of "聖人 shengren" (sage), making it, "蓋知尊孔子而趣不同者也。" Assuming the latter is actually "the Sage", referring to Confucius, it still seems to mean that Jie Yu ran away because he knew Confucius was different and he didn't want to argue with him.

10. Music and Lyrics
The original lyrics are as follows (links to ctext)

  1. 鳳兮鳳兮,何德之衰?往者不可諫,來者猶可追。已而,已而!今之從政者殆而!" (論語,微子 The Analects, Weizi 5)
  2. 鳳兮鳳兮,何如德之衰?來也不可待,往世不可追也。天下有道,聖人成焉;天下無道,聖人生焉。方今之時,僅免刑焉。福輕乎羽,莫之知載;禍重乎地,莫之知避。已乎已乎,臨人以德!殆乎殆乎,畫地而趨!迷陽迷陽,無傷吾行!吾行卻曲,無傷吾足! (莊子,人間世 Zhuangzi 4, The Human World, 8)
  3. 山木自伐也,膏火自煎也。桂可食故伐之漆,可用故割之,人皆知有用之用,而不知無用之爲用也。 (莊子,人間世 Zhuangzi 4, The Human World, 9)

Translation above.

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