Stray Thoughts 偶成
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
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Stray Thoughts 1
Standard tuning: 商音 Shang mode (1 2 4 5 6 1 2)2
Ou Cheng  
  The poem by Chengzi3      
The poem at right, used as lyrics for this song, has the full title Stray Thoughts on an Autumn Day (秋日偶成 Qiuri Oucheng). The second line of the lyrics is mentioned in the preface to the melody Jing Guan Yin, dated 1609. However, although a version of Jing Guan Yin was evidently played at the same time in Japan, there does not seem to be any melodic connection between the two pieces.

The lyricist for Ou Cheng, Cheng Hao, was a neo-Confucian philosopher. Some say he was from Luoyang, others from elsewhere in Henan, still others from Hubei. He certainly lived a long time in Luoyang, as he was a high ranking government minister, in the conservative faction. His name occurs at the beginning of the Bright Virtue Prelude to a Confucian chant.

As for the melody, which survives only in Japan,4 it has clear stylistic resemblances to the previous melody, #20 Mei Hua. Not only are they in the same musical mode and the same poetic form ([7+7] x 4), they use some of the same musical phrases.

After the end of the tablature there is the comment, "東皋懶衲手技 Toko the Lazy Monk's hand technique". Because it is clearly in a qin idiom, and because of its clear similarities to Mei Hua, this perhaps suggests that Toko Etsu created the melody based on either that or a similar model; or perhaps it was a melody he remembered, and so wrote he it down for qin. On the other hand it could also mean that there was existing tablature but he revised it.


Original preface
None; in front it says only "
程明道 Cheng Mingdao", i.e., 程顥 Cheng Hao, author of the lyrics. 5

Melody and Lyrics (timings follow my audio recording; 聽錄音 listen with transcription) 6
Calligraphy for these lyrics is at right; select image to see original tablature

00.00 Closing harmonics as prelude
Xián lái wú shì bù cóng róng, shuì jué dōng chuāng rì yǐ hóng;
Leisure brings no worldly affairs to keep me from being calm;
  Though asleep I am aware that in the east window the sun is aleady red.

Wàn wù jìng guān jiē zì dé, sì shí jiā xìng yǔ rén tóng.
All things in a contemplative manner attain what they need;
  In all seasons their beauty flourishes, just as with people.

Dào tōng tiān dì yǒu xíng wài, sī rù fēng yún biàn tài zhōng;
The Dao fills the universe without having shape;
  My thoughts enter wind and clouds and assume their forms.

Fù guì bù yín pín jiàn lè, nán'ér dào cǐ shì háo xióng.
With riches and honor do not sink into lust, poverty, disdain or merrymaking;
  Men who arrive at this point are the truly heroic.
End: 01.30

This melody has been adapted into a very dramatic version with double stops throughout; it is currently available online in a video by Wu Wenguang.


Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Stray Thoughts (偶成 Ou Cheng)
Various other translations have been used for 偶成 Ou Cheng including "Extemporaneous Poems", "Occasional Poem", "Happenstance Verses", etc.

The tablature itself is in three available modern editions:

  1. Hewen Zhuyin Qinpu
    Edition used here
  2. Ohara Shiro's Toko Kinpu (1898; QQJC, XII/264)
    Same as here.
  3. 東皋琴譜正本 Donggao Qinpu Zhengben (facsimile, III/47)
    Recreation of a 1710 handbook?


2. Shang Mode (商音 Shang Yin)
There is further on the traditional use of shang mode during the Ming dynasty under Shenpin Shang Yi. Here, with the relative tuning considered as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 the main tonal center throughout is gong (1, do). Based on the first phrase and the penultimate phrase the secondary tonal center does seem to be shang (2, re).

3. Image: Calligraphy for Ou Cheng by Chengzi
This calligraphy, by 劉嘉雄 Liu Jiasong, was found on the Taiwan website It consists of Liu's calligraphy for the complete text of the Cheng Hao poem quoted above.

To see the original tablature select image. Normally as part of my reconstruction I first write it out in staff notation. In this case, however, and in part because the melody has a similar structure to that of #20 Mei Hua I played it directly from the original.

4. Tracing 偶成 Ou Cheng (XII/)
Zha Guide 35/--/507: only in Japan but for this it is in at least three editions (listed above)

5. Preface
程明道 Cheng Mingdao is 程顥 Cheng Hao", i.e., the lyrics are a poem by Cheng Hao; 1032 - 85; Bio/2313. 程明道 Cheng Mingdao is 程顥 Cheng Hao; 1032 - 85; Bio/2313.

6. Melody and lyrics
There are also other translations online, such as this one.

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