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Spring Dawn from a Jade Tower 玉樓春曉 1
Also called Spring Chamber Lament (Chun Gui Yuan); raised fifth tuning (called zhonglü:2 2 3 5 6 1 2 3 ) Yulou Chunxiao  
  Illustrations for two poems on the theme of Spring Chamber (Chun Gui)3    
This melody, widely played today as a beginners' melody and not confined to one school, is generally said to come from the Mei An Qin Pu (1931),4 handbook of the Meian qin school, an offshoot of the Zhucheng school of Shandong province.5 However, although the earliest surviving version of the title Yulou Chunxiao is in fact in the 1931 handbook, its tablature is almost identical that of a melody included in the hand-copied Longyinguan Qinpu (1799?), where it is called Chun Gui Yuan (Spring Chamber Lament).6 And although Longyinguan Qinpu is said to be an early Zhucheng school handbook, if the date 1799 is correct it actually precedes any of the known early Zhucheng players.

There is no commentary with any of the melodies in Longyinguan Qinpu, nor is there any with melodies in the early editions of the Mei'an Qinpu. However, such commentary was added by Xu Lisun in afterwords to the melodies in the 1959 edition of Meian Qinpu. The afterword to Yulou Chunxiao, while not connecting the melody to any particular story, gives Spring Chamber Lament as an alternate title of the piece; there is no mention of it as an earlier title. As for the two titles, although "Yulou Chunxiao" does not seem to have any significant early literary references, "Chun Gui Yuan" is commonly found in early poetry.7

Mei'an Qinpu also has a melody called Long Autumn Night, with the alternative title Autumn Chamber Lament.8 This melody is said to have been adapted for the qin from the pipa repertoire, and indeed it does have some characteristics similar to pipa idiom (finger rolls in particular). Although Spring Chamber Lament does not have such characteristics, one can speculate that its melody originally existed outside the qin repertoire. On the other hand, its many octaves and unisons are particularly indicative of the qin idiom.

There is an unrelated earlier melody called Spring at Jade Tower, with lyrics.9

Original afterword:10
translation from Lieberman, A Chinese Zither Tutor 11

This composition is also known as "Spring Chamber Lament." The melodic quality is light and flowing, really quite out of the ordinary. Its significance is the dream-like, intoxicated state of first awakening from spring sleep. The third phrase of the third section, after the shuang-yin (double-vibrato) technique, is just like stretching after awakening - a lifelike, masterful portrayal. The extraordinarily clear harmonics in the coda are most amazing.

The "double-vibrato" mentioned here is in Longyin Guan Qinpu written as 爰急吟; since in this context 爰 usually means 緩 slow, this rather confusingly should be translated as "slow fast vibrato". In my transcription this occurs in m.23, just as the melody is beginning to rise to its highest pitch.

The "春閨怨
Chun Gui Yuan" in Longyinguan Qinpu; three sections plus a harmonic coda (transcription; timings follow my recording 聽錄音)

00.00   1.
00.31   2.
00.56   3.
01.25      (reprise)
01.48       harmonic coda
02.05       end

(The recording was made on 5 October 2013 using a guqin newly made by Tong Kin-Woon and silk strings by Marusan Hashimoto that had been strung on 24 September. Open first string = B flat. Compare the video linked here)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Spring Dawn from a Jade Tower (Yulou Chunxiao 玉樓春曉); QQJC XXIX/206)
21296.683 玉樓春 Yu Lou Chun (Spring in a Jade Tower) concerns the cipai of this name (set for qin in 1682; in addition to these and those below there are also lyrics by Li Qingzhao), quoting the 詞譜 Ci Pu; it also discusses qupai and opera names. 4/510 has only 玉樓 yulou, which it defines variously as a beautiful tower, abode of a deity, 妓樓 tower of a "skilled lady", in Daoist religious terminology the shoulders, and 玉樓子 a kind of peony. "Lou" by itself also means "upper story", etc. 21296.684 玉樓春曉 says only that it is 菊花之一種 a type of chrysanthemum, nothing about music and no poetry references. It has no musical connection to Chun Xiao Yin or any of the other chun xiao melodies (see Zha Guide). Lieberman translates the title Spring Dawn at Jade Tower. Elsewhere one can find Spring Dawn under the Jade Pavilion, etc.

2. Tuning and mode
See further comment under 蕤賓 ruibin diao.

3. Two illustrations for ci lyrics on the theme of Spring Chamber (春閨 Chun Gui)
The illustrations above are from 宋詞畫譜上 Song Ci Huapu, Vol. 1, pp. 33 and 65. Each illustrates the theme of Chun Gui (Returning Spring) in conjunction with a ci poem by 秦少遊 Qin Shaoyou (秦觀 Qin Guan, 1049 - c.1100). The poems follow two different ci patterns

  1. The one with the illustration on the left follows the ci form called 阮郎歸 Ruan Lang Gui, as follows: 春風吹雨繞殘枝,落花無可飛。

  2. The one with the illustration on the right follows the ci form called 鷓鴣天 Zhe Gu Tian, as follows (compare the lyrics by Li Qingzhao):



Not yet translated. See also below.

4. Tracing Yulou Chunxiao
Zha Guide 44/--/-- lists Yulou Chunxiao as only in Meian Qinpu; Zha Fuxi in the 1950s was apparently not aware of the earlier Zhucheng school handbooks (see below). His Guide also does not have the afterword, as that was not included in the handbook until its 1959 edition.

5. Zhucheng school qin handbooks
These are included in a list of early Zhucheng handbooks. Of these I have only seen Longyinguan Qinpu, so do not know whether the others also they include the present melody.

6. Spring Chamber Lament (春閨怨 Chun Gui Yuan; recording)
This is the title for Yu Lou Chun Xiao as published in 龍吟館琴譜 Longyinguan Qinpu (1799?); it is unrelated to the earlier Chun Gui, which was related to Chang Xiang Si. Longyinguan Qinpu is said to be the earliest known handbook of the 諸城 Zhucheng school, which originated in Shandong. The Mei'an school was an offshoot of Zhucheng.

5/653 春閨 Chun Gui says it refers to women's quarters as well as to the women themselves. One of the references it gives is from Volume 3 of Story of the Western Wing (西廂記 Xi Xiang Ji). This is the scene following the one in which Student Zhang plays Feng Qiu Huang in an effort to seduce Oriole. In this next scene Oriole sings,

只因午夜調琴手,   Because of a zither-playing hand at midnight,
引起春閨愛月心。   A moon-loving heart has been aroused in spring chambers.
(See West and Idema, The Moon and the Zither, University of California Press, 1991, p. 279.)

14146.569 春閨怨 Chun Gui Yuan says only "曲牌名 name of qupai" (opera lyric type). The melody does not seem like a lament, suggesting that the title Spring Dawn from a Jade Tower is more appropriate than the older Spring Chamber Lament; perhaps earlier name came from the qu structure rather than the mood of the melody. However, the pattern of the melody does not fit the lyrics as found in any surviving poems of that title (see below).

The online translation of the title Chun Gui Yuan is commonly Lament of the Spring Boudoir, specifying that the viewpoint is that of a lady. As explained above, this indeed seems most likely.

7. Poetry with the title 春閨怨 Chun Gui Yuan (see also above)
曲牌 Qupai patterns for Chun Gui Yuan can be seen in this Chun Gui Yuan by 喬吉 Qiao Ji (喬吉甫 Qiao Jifu ca. 1280-1345), sometimes said to be 元曲三百,首雙調,春閨怨 one of the 300 Yuan lyrics (though it is not in my hard copy edition) and in a song tune or mode called shuangdiao (n.f.i.). This particular poem seems to be in three sections, each with its own rhyme. I do not know the significance of the structural similarities and differences between the three. As found online the lyrics are:


    不系雕鞍門前柳,玉容寂寞見花羞。     (for 系 there is sometimes 係 or 繫)


Here is another, apparently modern (by 柳夢雲煙 ?); it has almost the same pattern:


In addition New Songs from a Jade Terrace (玉泰新詠 Yutai Xinyong) has one of this title by a 6th century poet named 吳孜 Wu Zi. The translation is by Anne Birrell from her Penguin edition of the above title (Penguin edition, p. 267).

春閨怨               Spring Bedroom Despair

玉關信使斷,   Jade Gate Pass messengers have ceased,
借問不相諳。   May I ask, Don't you know me?
春光太無意,   Spring sunshine so indifferent
窺窗來見參。   Peeps through my window to visit.
久與光音絕,   Long cut off from your news and image,
忽值日東南。   Suddenly I find the sun veers south-east.
柳枝皆嬲燕,   Willow silk strands all tease the swallows,
桑葉復催蠶。   Mulberry leaves hurry on the silkworms.
物色頓如此,   Nature's glory in a flash is like this:
孀居自不堪。   A widowhood I can't bear.

None of these poetic structures aligns with the qin melody structure.

8. Autumn Chamber Lament (秋閨怨 Qiu Gui Yuan)
25505.502 only 秋閨 qiu gui: 秋季之閨房 women's quarters in autumn. The title of this melody is clearly parallel to that of Chun Gui Yuan, which is also in Longyinguan Qinpu (1799). The version in Mei'an Qinpu is again nearly identical to that of 1799, though again with a different title: Long Autumn Night (秋夜長 Qiu Ye Chang). The 1959 commentary, after mentioning the alternate title, says it was arranged from a pipa lute melody.

An interesting aspect of this 1959 commentary is that it says the transcription may have been done by the earlier Mei'an master 王燕卿 Wang Yanqing, who lived 1867-1921. If the 1799 date of Longyinguan Qinpu is correct, clearly this statement is incorrect.

9. Spring at Jade Tower (玉樓春 Yulou Chun)
21296.683: name of a 詞牌 cipai, 曲牌 qupai, 劇曲 juqu and the most famous type of peony.
Zha Guide 36/--/526: only in 1682 (XII/364) and 1687 (XII/395; same lyrics, completely different music).

The lyrics of both qin melodies called Yulou Chun are as follows:


The lyrics seem to have been newly written: I have not found them elsewhere.

10. Original afterword
The original Chinese is as follows:


11. Fredric Lieberman, A Chinese Zither Tutor
This book, pp. 92-94, in addition to translating the afterword, has a transcription of the melody (without the tablature) plus further commentary.

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