Old Toper's Melody 醉翁操
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
Guqin Handbooks Published in Japan   From QQJC   Correct Toko Kinpu   Japan Theme   Qinci 聽 listen with the lyrics   首頁  
Old Toper's Melody 1 醉翁操
Preserved in Japan (QQJC XII/190; "Correct Toko Kinpu" III/30) Opening of Zui Weng Yin as preserved in Japan2            
Compare the 醉翁吟 Zui Weng Yin of 1539 and 1571

The main page discussing guqin settings of these lyrics is the one connected to the melody Zui Weng Yin (Old Toper's Chant) in the 1539 handbook Fengxuan Xianpin. Japanese handbooks such as Hewen Zhuyin Qinpu and Donggao Qinpu (Toko Kinpu) have a Zui Weng Cao which says that "東皋三一山人手挍于曲肱軒 Donggao Three in One Mountain Man Personally Examined it in Qu Gong Xuan". The lyrics are almost the same as 1539 but the melody is completely different and it adds a section at the end (see lyrics).3

The punctuation of the lyrics in the Japanese handbooks follows that of the traditional form of the ci. However, in some places the tablature seems to suggest different phrasing (e.g., ending the first phrase on "誰彈 shei tan" instead of "清園 qing yuan", then ending the next phrase on "空山 kong shan" instead of "無言 wu yan". (Compare the 1549 and 1571 Zui Weng Yin, which is more ambivalent about the first phrase but also suggests the first line end after "空山 kong shan".) In general, based on my own reconstructions, the two earlier settings, though their melodies were completely different from each other, could easily be sung to the same rhythm. These settings also seemed quite naturally to follow rhythms that could have been used in reading the poem without music.

The tablature of the present setting, however, required holding syllables in ways that could be described either as more awkward or as showing (and/or requiring) greater artistic interpretation. A good example of this is the third line of the second section, where the lyrics are:

Shān yǒu shí ér tóng diān, shuǐ yǒu shí ér huí chuān,
Mountains sometimes collapse, (and) rivers sometimes reverse course,

The obvious parallel between the first and second half of the line (plus the fact that both halves end on the relative pitch 2 [re]) makes me want to give each half equal rhythm and length. Yet the first half has slides and other ornaments that suggest the lyrics will go slowly while the second half has fingering that suggests just the opposite.

Another counter-intuitive spot is the third line of Section 3, where to the lyrics "clear breeze, moon shows man is also an immortal" the melody consists of repeats of the relative pitch 5 (sol) in repeated octave leaps.

Overall the resulting melody comes out quite attractive, though the pitch intervals make it somewhat more complicated to sing.

Original preface
None; says only "Su Dongpo"

Melody and Lyrics (timings follow 聽錄音 my audio recording; see transcription) 5
Compare 1539 and 1571; those two do not divide the piece, but later versions have two untitled sections, in accord with the lyrics. For those versions there are also linked recordings and transcriptions on which I play and sing first the 1539 setting then play and sing the 1571 setting. With the 1539 setting the voice can closely follow the melody; with the 1571 setting the melody leaps around so I level the vocal line through octave transpositions.

  1. (00.11)
    Láng rán qīng yuán, sheí tán xiǎng kōng shān?
    Tinkling, pure and round, whose playing resounds in the empty mountains?

    Wú yán, wéi wēng zuì zhōng zhī qí tiān.
    There are no words, only an old man who when drunk knows of heaven.

    Yuè míng, fēng lù juān juān, rén wèi mián.
    The moon is bright, the wind (causes the) dew to shimmer, people are not yet asleep.

    Hé kuì guò shān qián,
    A carrier of baskets passing the front of the hill

    Yuē﹕yǒu xīn yě zāi cǐ xián.
    Says, "He has great feelings, does this worthy person."

  2. (00.55)
    Zuì wēng xiào yǒng, shēng hé liú quán.
    As the Old Toper whistles and sings, the sounds harmonize with the flowing streams.

    醉翁去後,空有朝禽、夜猿。                 (Japan: ...朝唫、夜怨 zhao jin ye yuan)
    Zuì wēng qù hòu, kōng yǒu zhāo qín, yè yuán.
    After the Old Toper leaves,
      the void is filled with (sounds of) morning birds and evening monkeys.

    山有時而童顛,水有時而回川,                 (for 回川 huichuan 1539 has 回笑 huixiao)
    Shān yǒu shí ér tóng diān, shuǐ yǒu shí ér huí chuān,
    Mountains sometimes collapse, (and) rivers sometimes reverse course,

    Sī wēng wú suì nián.
    (but) I think the Old (Toper) is completely ageless.

    Wēng jīn wéi fēi xiān, cǐ yì zài rénjiān﹕
    The Old (Toper) now being an airborne immortal, this thought should be with people:

    Shì tīng huī wài sān liǎng xián.
    Try to listen to listen (to the ethereal resonances) beyond sounds (defined by) finger positions and strings.

  3. (01.52)
    Qín zài shǒu, yuè zài tiān; tán qín zhāo míng yuè,
    Qín at hand, moon in the sky; play qín as the moon shines bright.

    Míng yuè luò wǒ xián; qīng fēng yuè míng rén yì xiān.
    Moonlight on my strings; clear breeze, moon shows man is also an immortal.

    Qū bà yuè luò fēng zì rán,
    The song ends, the moon sets to the natural breezes.

    Qū bà yuè luò fēng zì rán.
    The song ends, the moon sets to the natural breezes.

    (02.46 終 end)

As yet I have been unable to find either a source for the lyrics of Section 3, or an explanation as to why they were included here.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Old Toper's Melody (醉翁操 Zuiweng Cao)
40778.68 醉翁操 zui weng cao: originally a qin melody, then later the name of a 詞牌 cipai poetic rhythm; it quotes the story given here. For calligraphy of the lyrics see this page; the structure of the ci form can be seen by examining the original lyrics under the 1539 setting.

"Zuiweng Cao" might also be translated as "Old Toper's Lament" just as "Zuiweng Yin" might also be translated as "Old Toper's Intonation". Zui Weng Cao is the title used in the Japanese handbooks. The tablature is in three available modern editions:

  1. Hewen Zhuyin Qinpu
    Edition used here
  2. Ohara Shiro's Toko Kinpu (1898; QQJC, XII/269)
    大原止郎本東皋琴譜 Dayuan Zhilang ben Donggao Qinpu
  3. 東皋琴譜正本 Donggao Qinpu Zhengben (facsimile, III/30)
    Recreation of a 1710 handbook?

This melody is not related to: 瑞鶴仙 Rui He Xian; subtitle: 醉翁亭 Zui Weng Ting (Old Toper's Pavilion; XII/194)
Zha Guide 35/--/505: only here; Ruihe Xian (21606.133) is a cipai from a Northern Song poem by 周邦彥 Zhou Bangyan (compare Qiliang Fan as well as Ruilong Yin).
The lyrics here are by 黃山谷 Huang Shan'gu (i.e., Huang Tingjian), retelling Ouyang Xiu's 醉翁亭記 Record of the Old Toper's Pavilion


Although it reads like a narrative, it does follow a version of the ci pattern.

2. Image: Zui Weng Yin as preserved in Japan
From QQJC XII/168,

3. Tracing 醉翁操 Zui Weng Cao (XII/190)
Zha Guide 16/--/362 醉翁亭 (also 醉翁吟, e.g, 1539) lists various versions with differing music and sometimes differing lyrics (details)
The lyrics of Sections 1 and 2 are, as in 1539, by Su Dongpo; Section 3

Nothing further to add.

5. Melody
The piece has also been transcribed in Wang Di, #46 (pp.111-2).

Return to the Guqin ToC