Mei Hua  
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Plum Blossoms
Standard tuning: Shang mode (1 2 4 5 6 1 2)2
梅花 1
Hewen Zhuyin Qinpu tablature (1676) 3      

The present piece is set to the well-known poem Small Plum Tree in a Garden in the Hills (Shan Yuan Xiao Mei), here entitled How Plum Flowers Embarrass a Garden.4 The poem, by Lin Bu, has what seem to be interesting allusions to earlier poetry, such as that of Jiang Kui.5

Mei Hua occurs identically here and in Toko Kinpu (see transcription);6 both are given the subtitle Pure Fragrant Prelude (瑤芳引 Yaofang Yin).7 Although published only in Japan,8 the melody was quite likely brought there in 1676 by Jiang Xingchou (Shin Etsu), though perhaps it could also have been created or modified by him after arriving there.

Further regarding the music here, there have been other interpretations said to be of the present melody in addition to my own. For example, at there is an online version of Mei Hua said to be a transcription of the version in Toko Kinpu, but there are a number of puzzling aspects to it. I have copied it here (.jpg or .pdf), adding in red my own interpretation in number notation of the Toko Kinpu tablature. The web page includes it under 笛簫譜 di xiao flute notation, but this does not account for the differences. A comment at the bottom of the transcription says that they changed the mode from the shang mode of the original to 夾鐘均 jiazhong mode. There is no mention of this mode with the original tablature, and if they are referring to the traditional jiazhong tuning (follow links from Jiazhong Yi) this does not seem to work, let alone explain their interpretation. (A specific example: in the transcription the first and last notes are the same, but this is not a possible interpretation of the existing Toko Kinpu tablature.) Unfortunately does not seem to have any information on where their transcription was originally published.

Connection to the melody Mei Shao Yue?

When I play the melody Moon Atop a Plum Tree (Meishao Yue) from the handbook Xilutang Qintong (1525) I often use the present song Mei Hua as a prelude to it. As is clear from the 1525 afterword, the theme of Lin Bu's poem is also appropriate to that melody; in addition, both Mei Shao Yue and Mei Hua are in shang mode (in contrast to Meihua Sannong, which is in gong mode and also has no melody connection). Thus, although the words cannot be paired to the Mei Shao Yue tablature using any version of the traditional pairing method and the two melodies have no direct musical relationship, Mei Hua and its lyrics do fit nicely as a prelude to Meishao Yue.

Music and lyrics
Except for a few slides the setting here is one note per syllable
聽我的錄音 listen; 看五線譜 see transcription)

山園小梅 Shan Yuan Xiao Mei (How Plum Flowers Embarrass a Garden)
    (translation by Red Pine)
(Prelude created from the closing harmonics)
00.20 眾芳搖落獨鮮妍,佔斷風情向小園。 (鮮 elsewhere 暄 xuān; 斷 elsewhere 盡 jǐn
Zhòng fāng yáo luò dú xiān yán, zhàn duàn fēng qíng xiàng xiǎo yuán..
When everything has faded they alone shine forth
      encroaching on the charms of smaller gardens
00.35 疏影橫斜水清淺,暗香浮動月黃昏。
Shū yǐng héng xié shuǐ qīng qiǎn, àn xiāng fú dòng yuè huáng hūn..
their scattered shadows fall lightly on clear water
      their subtle scent pervades the moonlit dusk
00.48 霜禽欲下先偷眼,粉蝶如知合斷魂。
Shuāng qín yù xià xiān tōu yǎn, fěn dié rú zhī hé duàn hún..
snowbirds look again before they land
      butterflies would faint if they but knew
01.01 幸有微吟可相狎,不須檀板共金尊。
Xìng yǒu wēi yín kě xiāng xiá, bù xū tán bǎn gòng jīn zūn..
thankfully I can flirt in whispered verse
      I don't need a sounding board or winecup
01.25 (曲終 End)
(Listen also to Mei Shao Yue)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a
separate page)

1. 梅花 Mei Hua (QQJC XII/203)
15223.77 has nothing about a melody of this title.

2. Mode: 商音 Shang Yin?
Further information under Shenpin Shang Yi.

3. Image: Original tablature
Copied from QQJC XII/203.

4. 山園小梅 Shan Yuan Xiao Mei
"How Plum Flowers Embarrass a Garden" is the title of the translation by Red Pine. The more literal "Small Plum Tree in a Garden in the Hills" is used for the translation by Ronald Egan included together with a discussion in Zong-qi Cai (蔡宗齊 Cai Zongqi), How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology, p.309 (see also the related Workbook, p.145).

5. Poetic references
In line 2 the lyrics make reference to 疏影 Shu ying and 暗香 an xiang; these were eventually combined as the expression 暗香疏影 an xiang shu ying. Regarding these ZWDCD says:

Jiang Kui's two poems were lyrics for two of his 17 ci songs. Further details on the two poems are here,

Then in line 4 the lyrics make reference to 檀板 tan ban, translated by Red Pine as "sounding board". These are literally "hardwood clappers", a percussion instrument also called 拍板 paiban (Wiki). 15975.26 gives as its earliest reference for this 太真外傳 The Unofficial Biography of Taizhen, i.e., Yang Guifei, written in the 10th century by 樂史 Yue Shi.

6. Identical versions?
Although the two Japanese versions are virtually identical to each other, it is interesting to note that there seem to be some differences in a few of the Japanese indications (in kana) of the Chinese pronunciation. (Online there seems to be a version with quite a different interpretation.)

7. Pure Fragant Prelude (瑤芳引 Yao Fang Yin)
Regarding this alternate title,, and 4/619 have only 瑤芳 yaofang, a kind of flower.

8. Trace Mei Hua
Zha Guide 35/--/507: only in Japan, as follows:

  1. ca. 1676 (present page; QQJC XII/199) and
  2. 1709 (QQJC XII/258).

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