Yueyang San Zui
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Guyin Zhengzong (1634) ToC   /   Zhu Changfang     Drinking 首頁
43. Thrice Drunk at Yueyang
Standard tuning, "shangjue mode"2 ( 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 )
岳陽三醉 1
Yueyang San Zui  
  Lü Dongbin Crossing Dongting Lake 3            
Qin handbooks have little commentary on this melody, which survives in at least eight handbooks from 1634 to 1946.4 Perhaps this is because, although the essentials of the literary references were probably quite well known, it was not clear how these related to the creation of the actual melody.

Yueyang, a city in Hunan province, is noted for its Yueyang Lou: Yueyang Tower.5 Accompanying Yueyang Tower are two pavilions, one of which is called San Zui Ting: Thrice Drunk Pavilion.6 The three buildings and their grounds actually form what is now a park on the eastern shore of Dongting Lake just where the Xiang River leaves it to join the Yangzi River. Yueyang Tower (also called Yueyang Pavilion) is said to date back to the third century CE, though it has subsequently been rebuilt several times. The Thrice Drunk Pavilion is said to have gotten its name because of a story that the famous 8th century scholar/poet Lü Dongbin, who eventually became known as one of the Eight Immortals, flew over Dongting Lake three times and each time got drunk by Yueyang Tower.7

Yueyang Lou is well known for the noted poets and other literati who were inspired to write about it after visiting. A number of these connect Yueyang Lou with drinking. This includes those concerning Lü Dongbin, as just related. Perhaps better known, though, are the stories of poets such as Li Bai meeting friends there to drink and create poetry.8

The famous Yuan dramatist Ma Zhiyuan (1260-1325) created a zaju (Yuan drama) called Lü Dongbin Gets Drunk Three Times in Yueyang Tower. In the drama Yueyang Lou serves also as first a tavern then a teashop. Lü himself visits there and at the end the entire group of Eight Immortals appears.9.

At least three interpretations of this melody were made during Zha Fuxi's research project of the 1950s.

Yueyang without wine Yueyang Pavilion: see Fan Zhongyan essay with image      
One of the most famous literary pieces about Yueyang is 范仲淹岳陽樓記 Memorial to Yueyang Pavilion by Fan Zhongyan (see translation). Although it does not mention drunkenness, it does mention wine. (Also, this closeup from the painting shows a wonderful depiction of a qin carrier.)

None in 1634

I have not yet reconstructed this melody.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. References to Yueyang San Zui 岳陽三醉
8195.42 has only 岳陽 Yueyang, a city in Hunan; 三醉 San zui 10.xxx.

As far as I can tell, the only handbook that comments on the significance of Yueyang or of being drunk three times is the last one, dated 1946. It says "昔人假託呂仙有三醉岳陽飛渡洞庭(湖)之句 People formerly concocted a story that Lü the Immortal (Lü Dongbin) three times when at Yueyang got drunk and flew over Dongting Lake". This story is present in the Yuan drama by Ma Zhiyuan outlined below, but it is not clear from where Ma got the idea for the story.

2. Shangjue mode (商角調 Shangjue diao)
For more on this mode see Shenpin Shangjue Yi as well as Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Image: The Daoist immortal Lü Dongbin crossing Lake Dongting See mid-right of full image  
For Lü see Wiki. The fan painting above, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is attributed to an anonymous Song dynasty painter. It shows Lü on his feet as he travels on clouds. It was copied here from Wikipedia.

The image at right is cropped from a larger scene called The Immortal Lü Dongbin Appearing over the Yueyang Tower. The full painting, also on a fan, shows Lu in the clouds by the tower at Yueyang, also known as the Thrice Drunk Pavilion. The original is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

4. Tracing Yueyang San Zui
Zha Guide 33/254/-- lists tablature (pu) as surviving in 11 handbooks from 1634 through 1946 but, as seen in the outline below, one of the 11 handbooks was not re-published in QQJC, and two more are not in the handbooks listed by Zha. All have 20 sections and all begin with harmonics. The eleven listed are as follows:

  1. 1634 (IX/365; see above)
    商角調 Shangjue mode; begins 5th string seventh hui (position marker) then 6th string seventh hui
  2. 1702 (XIII/284)
    商角調 Shangjue mode; starts the same as the first then becomes quite different
  3. 1744 (XVIII/223)
    黃鐘均 Huangzhong Jun mode. Begins 5th string seventh hui then 2nd string ninth hui (source of 1864?). Only this one and the last (XXIX/348) have commentary. 1744 mentions it being in 1702 (but not that its version is rather different), adding that 此羽化刪本 it was trimmed from Yu Hua, perhaps referring to #42, which has 30 sections but otherwise the connection is unclear (see also QSCB p.155, which says it was Xu Changyu, who compiled Xiangshantang Qinpu [<1700?] and perhaps Chengjiantang Qinpu [1689], who took #42 and "刪為 trimmed it" into the present melody).
  4. 1755 (XVI/xxx)
    ? Not in original ToC or in Zha Guide p.130/172
  5. 1820 (XX/193)
    徴調 Zhi mode; like 1744 throughout
  6. 1833 (XXIII/155)
    宮音 Gong mode; begins 4th string seventh hui then 6th string seventh hui
  7. 1864 (XXIV/331)
    宮音 Gong mode; almost same as 1744 and 1820; basis of the recording by Yue Ying
  8. 1868 (XXVI/xxx)
    ? Not in original ToC or in Zha Guide 167/209
  9. 1876 (XXV/346)
    徴音 Zhi mode; "From 1702" but first note is played on 1st string, not 5th
  10. late Qing (handbook missing)
    Commentary copied in Zha Guide
  11. 1946 (XXIX/348)
    徴音 Zhi mode; like 1702 throughout. Adds commentary to each section. General commentary is quoted above.


5. Yueyang Tower (岳陽樓 Yueyang Lou)
Wikipedia. There are poems in Yang Gang, 2001, pp.727-732

6. Thrice Drunk Pavilion (三醉亭 San Zui Ting)
Some sources seem to consider this as the name for the main pavilion. There are poems in Yang Gang, 2001, pp.732-3, that specifically use this name.

7. 呂洞賓 Lü Dongbin and Yueyang
Stories about Lü often take place during the Tang dynasty, but apparently he cannot be found in actual Tang dynasty historical records, so he may be a Song dynasty creation. There are quite likely further stories connecting him to Yueyang, in addition to those related in the stories and images shown here, but they are currently beyond the scope of this page.

8. Literary references to being drunk in Yueyang
Relevant poems include:

There are various further references to Yueyang and wine that might color our understanding of the background to this melody, but my own understanding of this is still very much incomplete. (See also the mention of drama below.)

9. 岳陽樓 Yueyang Lou by 馬致遠 Ma Zhiyuan (original text) Cropped image from the playscript        
This .pdf copy has the translation into English by Richard Yang Fu-sen, entitled Yueyang Tower (from Four Plays of the Yuan Drama, Taipei, China Post, 1972, pp. 47-96. This Yuan opera by Ma Zhiyuan (Wiki) has as its full title "Lü Dongbin Gets Drunk Three Times in Yueyang Tower" (呂洞賓三醉岳陽樓 Lü Dongbin San Zui Yueyang Lou). The shorter title, sometimes translated as "Yueyang Pavilion", is also commonly used in chinese. (Note that although an attempt is made here consistenly to translate "樓 lou" as "tower" and "亭 ting" as "pavilion", this distinction is somewhat artificial: in many circumstances there is no significant difference between a lou and a ting.) Yueyang Lou is also discussed above.

The play by Ma Zhiyuan has four acts plus an interlude:

  1. Lü Dongbin visits Yueyang Tower, which is described as a wineshop, has a discussion with the wineshop operator, then becomes drunk and falls asleep. The wineshop operator leaves and "Willow Spirit" (the spirit of a nearby tree) enters. They discuss the Dao, ending with Lü saying that a tree can never understand such things so he will arrange for the Willow Spirit to be reborn as a boy named Guo Ma-er and for the nearby Plum Spirit to be reborn as a girl in the He family, that they will eventually marry and 30 years later he (Lü) will return to educate him on the Dao.

  2. Thirty years later Lü returns; the wineshop is now a teashop operated by Guo, who is married to the former Plum Spirit reborn as He Lamei. Guo, who drank too much wine the night before, falls asleep and Lü enters with 徐神翁 Xu Shenweng, who was now one of the Eight Immortals. Lü, pretending to be drunk, wakes up Guo and tries to persuade him to learn the Dao and leave the world behind; as they engage in repartee Guo shows no interest, saying that Lü is crazy. Finally Lü departs in his boat having unsuccessfully tried to drag Guo along with him. (He shows no interest in Xu.)

    Lü accosts Guo in the street, gives him his sword and tells him to kill his wife and follow him out of this world. Lü mentions going to get drunk a third time at Yueyang Lou, then leaves. Guo tells himself he will use the sword to cut vegetables.

  3. Guo goes home and the next morning finds that someone has murdered his wife, He Lamei; he notices that the sword Lü gave him has the name "Dongbin" written on it together with an inscription (which is a version of the poem mentioned above). He reports all this to the local Head of Street. As they are talking Lü walks by singing the lyrics on his sword. Guo accuses him of murdering his wife and tries to have him arrested but Lü just speaks Daoist jargon incomprehensible to Guo, and apparently makes He Lamei appear in front of them, then disappear. Lü himself then walks off and the two men give chase.

  4. Guo catches up with Lü and takes him to the authorities, again accusing him of murdering his wife. Lü makes He Lamei appear again, then says that since Guo falsely accused him he must pay with his own life. He then asks Guo if he would like to be saved from this. Guo says yes, and the other immortals then appear, magically replacing the government officials. Guo then realizes that it was Lü who had him reborn and married to He Lamei. Because of this realization the leader of the immortals, Zhongli Quan, says that they can ride off on cranes into immortality. Guo and He then bow in gratitude.

The character "琴 qin" occurs three times in the play, none in a significant way:

  1. "梭頭琴樣....", for which the translation has, "Shaped like a shuttle's head or a lute....".
  2. "絳樹青琴左右立", for which the translation has, "Jiangshu (Red Tree) and Qingqin (Black Lute) stand there side by side" (a footnote says these are the names of two fairies in Daoism).
  3. "怎教鳳城春色典琴沽", for which the translation has, "How could I pawn my lute for wine in the city of phoenix in spring?"

Two other plays by Ma Zhiyuan are mentioned on this site: Yellow Millet Dream (here) and Han Gong Qiu.

Another version of the present story is the play by 谷字敬 Gu Zijing (ca. 1368-1391) called 呂洞賓三渡城南柳 Lü Dongbin San Du Chengnan Liu.

10. Commentary
None with the present version.

11. Music
I have not yet reconstructed this melody.

Return to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.