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Mei Yaochen 梅堯臣

Mei Yaochen (1002 - 1060),1 style name 聖俞 Shengyu, was one of the Song dynasty's most influential writers. In particular, he, 歐陽修 Ouyang Xiu and 蘇舜欽 Su Shunqin are said to have been the most important of the early northern Song dynasty poets.

Ouyang Xiu, said to have been Mei Yaochen's closest friend, once sent him two poems called Seated at Night Playing the Qin. In return, Mei Yaochen wrote two poems for Ouyang Xiu. The first of Ouyang Xiu's poems, with translation by Jonathan Chaves, is included here. Prof. Chaves has also translated the first poem in Mei Yaochen's response (with matching rhyme) as follows:

Following the Rhyme Words and Harmonizing with
Yongshu's Two Poems, Sitting at Night and Playing the Qin (#1; neither this nor #2 seems to be included in Qinshu Daquan)

夜坐彈玉琴,     Sitting at night, you play your qin of jade,
琴韻與指隨。     The instrument’s tones following as fingers move.
不辭再三彈,     You do not decline to play again, a third time—
但恨世少知。     Only regretting so few now understand.
知公愛陶潛,     I know how you love Tao Qian,
全身衰弊時。     Especially with body in decline.
有琴不安弦,     Like him, your qin has no strings on it,
與俗異所為。     Different from the vulgar way to play.
寂然得真趣,     In silence, you get the truest essence,
乃至無言期。     And end where there are simply no words to say.

The lines at the end of Ouyang Xiu's poem alluded that their relationship could be compared to the famous relationship between Boya and Ziqi. This is also mentioned in another poem, with sketch, that Ouyang Xiu wrote for Mei, included in the footnote below.2 The portion, in the sketch at the end, mentioning Boya and Ziqi, is as follows:

Ouyang Xiu enjoyed very much playing qin, as did another friend of Mei's, Fan Zhongyan, an accomplished qin player as well as poet. From this, plus Ouyang Xiu's essay and other poems by Mei, one might assume that Mei Yaochen played as well, but I have not yet seen any specific details about this.

Some more of Mei Yaochen's own qin related writings are as follows (with reference to their inclusion in Qinshu Daquan):

There may be more.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 梅堯臣 Mei Yaochen
ICTCL 620; 15223.162 字聖俞 style name Shengyu; no other alternate names mentioned.

Nienhauser, Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, p.620.
Jonathan Chaves, Mei Yao-ch'en and the Developent of Early Sung Poetry, NY, Columbia University Press, 1976.

2. Ouyang Xiu writing about Mei Yaochen
The full text of this poem and sketch, as included in Qinshu Daquan, Folio 18, #85 (V/417), is as follows:

Jonathan Chaves has translated the third and fourth paragraphs in his book cited above (pp. 9 and 10 respectively).

The fifth paragraph is extracted above.

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