Gao Shan Liu Shui 高山流水
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High Mountains, Flowing Streams 1 高山流水
Not instrumental:2 qin settings for the ci pattern of this name3
清角調 Qingjue (or Qingjiao) Mode 4
Gao Shan Liu Shui (Gaoshan Liushui)
1682 setting for qin of Gao Shan Liu Shui 5    

This page concerns a melody set to fit lyrics in the ci pattern (cipai) called "Gao Shan Liu Shui". Indeed, for most guqin players the titles "Gao Shan" and "Liu Shui" refer to two specific qin melodies, instrumental melodies that survive from antiquity (earliest surviving tablature is from the 1425 Gao Shan and Liu Shui). They may have evolved over the years, and there is sometimes the belief that there was originally one melody called Gao Shan Liu Shui, or Gaoshan Liushui, but in general little thought seems to go beyond these assumptions.

In fact, within the oral tradition there have been many melodies with these titles over the years, whether separately or together. And as this dictionary reference suggests, "Gao Shan Liu Shui" can simply refer to the concept of a beautiful melody.

In addition, as the same reference outlines, "Gao Shan Liu Shui" is also the name of an old poetic rhythm (cipai). In fact, most of the songs in the present handbook, Shuhuai Cao (1682), follow and are named after cipai (other examples).6

As for the present melody, its pattern (the first half, at least) does fit very closely into the cipai called Gao Shan Liu Shui, as can be see by comparison with the examples given here, beginning with one by the earliest poet connected to this pattern, the mid-13th century poet Wu Wenying.7

The image at right shows the way the handbook generally lays out these songs: rather than directly showing the pairing of lyrics and music, the lyrics are given first, then the tablature for the musical setting is written out. Regarding the actual title, sometimes, as here, this is simply the name of the ci pattern; in other cases there is a new title that is more directly related to actual lyrics of this rendition in that pattern. The actual arrangement of the lyrics and melody is discussed further below.

As for surviving melodic settings in this form, according to the Zha Guide qin music with the title Gaoshan Liushui survives only in the two above-mentioned song collections. They are nearly identical to each other and both are part of Songfengge Qinpu.8 The one shown at top is from Shu Huai Cao (1682); the one shown below is from Song Sheng Cao (1687). The lyrics of both, the same, are attributed to Zhou Zaidu (Yanke) of Daliang.9

Although the music of both is basically the same, the 1687 version does eliminate what seems to be some extraneous fingerings near the beginning, then it changes a few fingerings later. These are not necessarily corrections, though confirming this is complicated by the fact that the lyrics are stated first rather than being directly paired to the music. Both versions are attributed to the same person, Cheng Xiong, who apparently did the music for almost all the pieces in these two handbooks.10

As for the tuning/mode, although the 1682 version calls it 清角 qingjue (or qingjiao) while 1687 calls it simply 角 jue mode, their tuning is in fact both the same. In both cases it is clear that the tuning requires lowering the first, third and sixth strings (as with the Shen Qi Mi Pu Mangong mode). What is not clear is whether the few differences in fingering resulted from attempts by the latter to "correct" the former (it seems to have as many errors), or whether these are simply two differing interpretations of the same melody.

The non-standard tuning is interesting but seems unnecessary. Its tuning does emphasize that the melody has no connection with the more famous Gao Shan or Liu Shui, which both use standard tuning. However, except for one note this Gao Shan Liu Shui can easily be transposed into standard tuning. This is because the qingjue tuning results in the relative scale of the open strings being 3 5 6 1 2 3 5. As can be seen, if the first string is ignored, the tuning becomes 5 6 1 2 3 5, as with the first six strings in standard tuning. Here only one note (in the first phrase) is actually played on the first string. The result of this is that the whole melody is played in standard tuning, using only the first six strings. Each note is played on one string lower than is written and the seventh string is not used. The only note indicated on the first string is in the very first phrase. Instead of playing it as written in the tenth position it can be played down at the 外 wai position on the first string. This transposition to standard tuning would of course make it much more familiar to the average qin player.

This is still a temporary assessment, as both settings seem to have several mistaken finger positions and perhaps in punctuation, while the latter setting is not very clearly written and it lacks punctuation. Some of the problems I have marked in red in the online copies here (at top and below) of each:

  1. The copy of the original 1682 setting has the punctuation added in red.
  2. The tablature of the original 1687 setting has in red added one missing punctuation mark (corresponding to "紅 hong" in the lyics); and circled a mistake, next to it adding the correct figure meaning "begin harmonics".

Comments here are particularly tentative. Although I have completed a tentative transcription, and started playing from that, I do not understand the lyrics very well and some crucial areas am finding problems. Of course, it would be very interesting if one could find a passage in either of the two famous instrumental melodies that had the same pattern as the lyrics here, so that it could be sung to that music. But this is very unlikely, and it also seems unlikely that the music could have any connection at all to the instrumental Gao Shan or Liu Shui. Thus, although in his preface to Gao Shan in Shen Qi Mi Pu, Zhu Quan stated that Gao Shan Liu Shui was originally a single melody, he is referring to an ancient and lost instrumental tradition, not to any surviving melody.

Xu Jian's Outline History, p. 177, discusses Gao Shan and Liu Shui separately, focusing on the 19th century version of Liu Shui attributed to 張孔山 Zhang Kongshan of Sichuan.

The setting for the present lyrics, as with almost all qin songs, is done one note per character except for the extra notes that come from certain left hand techniques such as slides. Here 搯起 taoqi occurs three times but is paired once; yan occurs once, unpaired.

When reciting seven character phrases it seems quite commeon to give each syllable almost equal duration but then pause one beat at the end of each line so the 7 syllables become 8 beats per line. Likewise, at least here, it seems natural to adjust the length of notes with the lyrics so that they can be recited or sung with a similar rhythm.

Preface (XII/358)
None, only the brief comments translated
above. See also the further comment regarding the tuning and overall arrangement.

Melody and lyrics for the 1682 and 1687 Gao Shan Liu Shui11 (tentative transcription)
Singers should transpose octaves to fit their vocal range
Note that the word patterns of two lines differ from this standard form 1)

揮 絃 ,   一 曲 幾 曾 終 。
Huī xián, yī qū jǐ céng zhōng
Control the strings, how often can a melody end?

歷 山 邊 ,   猶 起 薰 風 。
Lì shān biān, yóu qǐ xūn fēng.
And yet at Mount Li, the breezes continue to blow.

門 外 客 攜 琹 ,   依 稀 太 古 重 逢 。
Mén wài kè xié qín, yī xī tài gǔ chóng féng.
Outside my gate guests carry qin, rarely would such antiquities regularly meet.

髙 仾 處 ,   落 雁 驚 鴻 。
Gāo dī chù, luò yàn jīng hóng.
From high places, descending wild geese startle the swan-geese.

怕 彈 指 。
Pà tán zhǐ
Startled by the snap of fingers

喚 醒 美 人 邜 睡 ,         客 子 春 濃 。
Huàn xǐng měi rén xī shuì, kè zi chūn nóng.
The beauty wakes from her sleep,   guests in spring are lethargic.

任 閒 愁 千 縷 ,         也 不 觧 踈 慵 。
Rèn xián chóu qiān lǚ, yě bù jiě shū yōng.
Though busy with a thousand matters   there is no feeling of carelessness.

焦 桐 ,   非 中 郎 靑 眼 ,
Jiāo tóng, fēi zhōng láng qīng yǎn,
A scorched tail (qin), Cai Yong with his good graces.

徒 沉 埋           爨 下 殘 紅 。
Tú chén mái    cuàn xià cán hóng.
Simply deeply buried, below the (bronze) cauldron a dim red.

休 慮 卻 , 調 高 和 寡 ,   換 徵 移 宮 。             (11 字; compare 5+6 below)
Xiū lǜ què, diào gāo hè guǎ, huàn zhǐ yí gōng.

一 簾 秋       水 月 溶 溶 ,       (play this line in harmonics)
Yī lián qiū    shuǐ yuè róng róng,

酒 樽 空 。
Jiǔ zūn kōng.

懶 聽 琵 琶 江 上 ,           淚 濕 芙 蓉 。
Lǎn tīng pí pá jiāng shàng, lèi shī fú róng.

盼 何 時 ,     鍾 期         再 遇 野 航 中 。               (10 字; compare 4+3+3 here and 5+5 here; last three notes are harmonics)
Pàn hé shí,   Zhōng Qī     zài yù yě háng zhōng.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. References for High Mountains Flowing Streams (高山流水 Gaoshan Liushui)
46302.32 has two descriptions,

  1. "樂曲高妙 A masterful melody." Its example is the basic story of the qin melody as related in 列子湯問 Liezi Questions of Tang, 12 (see the preface to Gao Shan as well as Liezi, Yellow Emperor 5 and 13 [ctext]).
  2. "詞牌 The name of a cipai." It then quotes 詞譜 Ci Pu as saying, "調見「夢窗詞」,吳文英自度曲。贈丁基仲妾作。妾善琴,故以高山流水為調名. For the melody see "Ci on a Window of Dreams", a piece by Wu Wenying. Presented to Ding Jizhong's wife (to create a melody?). She excelled at qin so the melody name given was Gaoshan Liushui." An alternate name for the melody is "錦瑟清商引".

Lyrics on Window of Dreams (夢窗詞 Meng Chuang Ci)

2. The instrumental melody High Mountains Flowing Streams (高山流水 Gaoshan Liushui, i.e., Gao Shan Liu Shui)
Although this is an ancient title, generally referred to in a way that assumes it to have been an insrumental melody, the Guide by Zha Fuxi does not list any instrumental melodies called Gaoshan Liushui. And although there is actually at least one surviving qin instrumental melody of this title that Zha did not know about, it is clearly not an ancient melody. First published in Qinxue Chujin (1894; QQJC XXVII/245), it has 15 sections; the first eight are a version of the existing qin melody Gao Shan while the last seven are related to existing Liu Shui.

Although I have not yet found any existing recordings of this melody, there are a few old recordings of instrumental pieces that are claimed to be melodies called Gao Shan Liu Shui. Examples mentioned on this site include recordings by
      Guan Pinghu     (Gao Shan of 1802 + Liu Shui of 1876 [Zhang Kongshan version ])
      Hou Zuowu       (1st half of the Gao Shan of 1876 + 2nd half of its Liu Shui)
      Xu Yuanbai #1  (Gao Shan of 1744 [no Liu Shui]; did Yao Bingyan also play this?).
Follow the links for more on why these are incorrect or misleading titles.

3. Ci form "High Mountains Flowing Streams"
Other than what is mentioned in the preceding footnote, the surviving melodies of this title are all song settings with lyrics that seem to be related to the ci form of this title. The actual 平仄 pingze structure of the cipai called Gao Shan Liu Shui is said to be as follows (sources: A and B). Note the parallel word count between sections A and B except for the last line. The classic (first?) example of this is said to be the poem by Wu Wenying that directly follows.

仄平    仄仄仄平平。


The poem by Wu Wenying (ca.1207 - ca.1269) has been given the full title, "Ci on a Window of Dreams" (夢窗詞 Meng Chuang Ci), "to (a version of the tune) Gaoshan Liushui". The text below shows how it fits with the pingze outline above. It begins, though, with the following preface:

The "side chamber" (i.e., concubine) of Ding Jizhong (丁宥 Ding You) is skilled at qin and intoning lyrics; she is also familiar with the structure of music and is ready to sing and dance beautifully.

The poem itself, perhaps presented by Wu Wenying to Ding You, is then as follows:

素絃    一一起秋風。                           ("The unadorned strings one by one evoke autumn breezes.
寫柔情、多在春葱。                              Depicting sensous feelings, much like spring onions [i.e., slender fingers of a lover].
徽外斷腸聲,霜霄暗落驚鴻。              From beyond the qin come wrenching sounds, frosty skies darken startling wild geese.
低顰處、翦綠裁紅。                              Leaning over and frowning, cut foliage green and red....")
似名花並蒂,日日醉春濃。               ("春濃 spring's lushness")

吳中。空傳有西子,                           (西子 = 西施)
蘭蕙滿襟懷,唾碧總噴花茸。           (11 字; compare 3 + 4 + 4 in qin song)
恁風流也,稱金屋、貯嬌慵。           (10 字; only verse ending 4+3+3; compare 3+7 in qin song and 5+5 below)

汪元量 Wang Yuanliang (1241?-1318?) is usually credited as the creator of another Gaoshan Liushui poem (sometimes it is apparently also attributed to Wu Wenying). Its subtitle seems to be "Qingshang Melody Brocade Zither (錦瑟清商引 Jin Se Qingshang Yin; see above). As can be seen below it has the same line-by-line character count as Wu Wenying's first poem, but individual phrases have different word counts.

玉窗    夜靜月流光。

爐香    簾櫳正清灑,

Other poems in this form in addition to the one here (and here) attributed to 周在都 Zhou Zaidu (17th c.?) include ones by 屈大均 Qu Dajun (1630—1696) and other Qing dynasty poets.

4. Qingjue mode (清角調 Qingjue diao) (3 5 6 1 2 3 5)
Lower 1st, 3rd and 6th strings a half tone each; see under mangong mode. However, my reconstruction uses standard tuning: see the comment above about how to do this. The main results of doing this.281 is that it shifts all the pitches down a note and so perhaps favors a voice with a lower register, and it becomes a piece that can still be played if the seventh string suddenly breaks.

5. Tablature for Gao Shan Liu Shui (1682; XII/380-81) 1687 Gao Shan Liu Shui (compare 1682)            
Compare the 1687 version at right (XII/399) with the 1682 version above: both write out the melody and lyrics on separate pages. The accompanying explanations are as follows:

The 1682 version also has some mistakes. Corrections are further discussed above.

The arrangement of the version in Song Sheng Cao (1687), shown at right, is somewhat different. First there are the lyrics, on the right side, then the tablature, on the left. Here,

  1. Under the title to the lyrics part the mode is given as "Jue Yin" then below that it has the "Zhou Zaidu, Yan guest" without saying what he did.
  2. The title of the lyrics is "Jue Yin". Under that "Gaoshan Liushui" is given as a subtitle; then below that is the name "Cheng Xiong, 隱菴 secluded in his hut".

Again, in the 1682 version corrections have been made in red, as discussed above. Note also that in 1687 the quality of printing is also not very good, making some characters difficult to read.

6. Ci poems in Shu Huai Cao
Most of the poems in this handbook apparently were written in honor of, perhaps praising, Cheng Xiong (bio). Many, if not most, also use a ci form (玉樓春 Yu Lou Chun, 風入松 Feng Ru Song, 高山流水 Gao Shan Liu Shui, 水調歌頭 Shui Diao Ge Tou, 千秋歲引 Qian Qiu Sui Yin, 滿江紅 Man Jiang Hong, etc.). For more on this, search an outside link such as the following: 讀古詩詞網.

7. 吳文英 Wu Wenying (ca.1207 - ca.1269; Chinese Wiki)
From the Ningbo region but lived mostly in Hangzhou and Suzhou. Prolific but heavily criticized for his association with the faction trying to appease the Mongols to the north.

Two poems by Wu Wenying are said to be in the form Gao Shan Liu Shui, though I have been unable to find one, and the phrasing of the other is somewhat different.

8. Tracing Gao Shan Liu Shui
Zha Guide 36/--/527, in writing out the text of the two sources, makes some very useful corrections or explanations of characters, such as 琴 for 琹, 低 for 仾, 卯 for 邜. Details of the two editions are as follows:

  1. Shu Huai Cao (#37, QQJC XII/380 [lyrics]/381 [music]; 1682; original tablature at top)
  2. Song Sheng Cao   (#23, QQJC XII/399; again lyrics then music; 1687; [original tablature below]).

The lyrics of both are the same, attributed to Zhou Zaidu (Yanke) of Daliang (see next).

9. 大梁周在都(燕客)Zhou Zaidu (Yanke) of Daliang
No further information yet on this person. "燕客 Yan Ke" may mean he was a house guest of Cheng Xiong (of Yanshan). 大梁 Daliang was an old name for 開封 Kaifeng in Henan but could also refer to other places.

10. Source of the music for Gao Shan Liu Shui
Although the commentary with the tablature says Cheng Xiong "paired the lyrics with tablature", this does not necessarily mean he created the music himself. Also, the structure of the melody should allow it to be used for any any lyrics in the ci pattern Gao Shan Liu Shui, but to my knowledge this has never actually been tested.

11. Music and lyrics for the qin song Gao Shan Liu Shui
The lyrics are arranged here without pinyin to show the comparative structure between the first and second half more clearly. The numbers below show my division of each half into four lines (eight in total). In my transcription these eight sections are similar in length, following my feeling for the music as having four lines in each section, as follows:

  1. 揮弦    一曲幾曾終。
  2. 門外客攜琹,依稀太古重逢。           (11 字; compare 3 + 4 + 4 in part B; 琹 is an old form of 琴)
  3. 怕彈指。
  4. 任閒愁,千縷也不觧踈慵。               (Use 5+6 of this form? Compare classic form; also compare the last line below.)
  5. 焦桐,非中郞靑眼,
        徒沉埋    爨下殘紅。
  6. 休慮卻,調高和寡,換徵移宮。       (11 字; compare 5 + 6 in part A as well as in the classic form)
        一簾秋    水月溶溶,                           (play this line in harmonics)
  7. 酒樽空。
  8. 盼何時,鍾期再遇野航中。               (10 字; Use 5+6 of this form? Compare 4 + 3 + 3 in the classic form; play the last three notes in harmonics)

Note that here the last line of each section is 3+7 whereas in the classic form the last lines are different (5+6 for first, 3+4+4 for second. The classic form is discussed further above. It is not yet clear whether there are other Gao Shang Liu Shui using other variants.

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