Tai Wang; Gu Gong Danfu
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Tai Wang 1
- Qin Shi #5 2
琴史 #5
  "Mausoleum" of Zhou Taiwang at Qishan3          
Although Taiwang's grandson Wen Wang is said to have been the first emperor of Zhou, Wen Wang's lineage was commonly traced back about 15 generations through Taiwang to an "Emperor Ku". According to this tradition Emperor Ku's son Houji built up the prosperity of the clan by settling in agricultural lands, Houji's son Buku (Bu-Ku) moved them back to lands occupied by the "barbarian" 戎 Rong and 狄 Di. Buku's grandson Gong Liu (Duke Liu) returned them to agriculture in Bin (located variously in modern Gansu or Shaanxi provinces).4 Then nine generations later came Tai Wang, also called 古公亶父 old Duke Danfu. Taiwang was father of 季歷 Jili (King Ji) and grandfather of 昌 Chang (Wen Wang).

Taiwang's connection to the qin seems to be through his mention in two qin melodies:

  1. Under the name Gugong Danfu he is featured in the qin melody Songs of King Wen (Wen Wang Qu, 1511), in particular in the section Major Odes (大雅 Da Ya), where it sets to music the lyrics of "Spreading" (Book of Songs #237).
  2. The qin melody Qishan Cao concerns Danfu's role in making the area of Bin called Qishan (Mount Qi) into the Zhou clan homeland. The Qin Shi entry first credits it to Taiwang, then mentions the poem of this name by Han Yu.5 However, it does not include Han Yu's lyrics (which Han Yu credited to the Duke of Zhou), instead copying lyrics from #237 (Book of) Songs and from the Qishan Cao that is included as one of the twelve cao in the Qin Cao attributed to Cai Yong (133 - 192).

The original entry in Qin Shi (complete text below6) translates as follows7 (it begins by quoting Mencius then the Book of Songs).

Taiwang inherited (Zhou rule) from (his father) Houji, who had inherited it from Duke Liu.

While living in Bin, when the Di (tribe) attacked he tried to manage this by providing leather and silk as tribute, but without success, or by providing dogs and horses but without success, and by providing pearls and jade but without success. So (Tai Wang) gathered his elders and spoke to them saying, "What the Di want is our land. I have heard as follows, Virtuous men do not use what they have nurtured to destroy others. How would a few followers be hurt if they had no sovereign? I will (leave)." Thus he went from Bin, crossing Mount Liang, making a city below Mount Qi as a place to live. The people of Bin said, "This is a virtuous person, we must not lose him." So they followed him and settled down.

Of old, although this is how the old tales recorded the event, the (Book of) Songs does not say that. (Instead it says),

Of old Duke Danfu arrived early, galloping on his horse.
Leading (us) westward along the riverbank, we arrived below Mount Qi.
Together with Lady Jiang, he had come to secure a home.

It also says,

The Zhou plain was fertile, (its) common plants (tasting) like sweet cakes.
"Here we begin, here we plan, here we notch our tortoises (for divination)."
(Looking at this,) it seems that the land at Qishan was better than that at Bin. It is thus possible that this migration to Mt. Qi was more a pre-planned strategy than a random, last minute decision. I once wrote a poem that spoke of this.

Taiwang then created the melody Qishan Cao, in it exclaiming the struggle and hardship ancestors went through to build a state and accumulate wealth, and grief for losses due to the invasion by the Rong and Di tribes.

Han Tuizhi credited the composition ofQishan Cao to the Duke of Zhou. However according to Qin Cao,

Taiwang "felt remorse that his virtue had not been sufficient to influence the Rong and Di tribes, which led to their invasion. So he expressed his sorrow by taking up his qin and playing it."

Therefore Qishan Cao should be considered as having been composed by Taiwang. Its lyrics are as follows:

Suffering from the invasion by the Rong and Di, we were forced to leave our homes.
To move the state to a suitable place, we chose the land at Mt. Qi;
As for my worries for my people, who can understand them?
It is with great regret that I must accept, that such a traumatic fate happened to me.
Taiwang (had such great virtue that) he was able to reflect on his own mistakes and submit to the authority of his people. It was because of this that he was eventually able to establish his own state, and leave his virtue and deeds on history!

The only connection the entry makes between Taiwang and the qin is the claim that he wrote a qin melody/song called Qishan Cao. There is no mention anywhere of he himself playing qin.8

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 太王 Tai Wang, also called "old Duke Danfu" (古公亶父 Gu Gong Danfu)
For the story of Gugong Danfu see Nienhauser, The Grand Scribe's Records, Vol. 1, p.56; fn. 16 says he was later called 太王 Tai Wang. Sources for the text of this Qin Shi entry are:

He also quotes from HanThere may be others.

2. Qin Shi entry
16 lines.

3. "Mausoleum" of Zhou Taiwang (Danfu) at Qishan
Copied from this site, where it gives the location as, 陝西省岐山縣祝家鎮岐陽村 Shaanxi province, Qishan County, Zhujia district, Qiyang village. This is about 100 km west of Xi'an.

The commentary there says that the age of the structure is uncertain and that formerly there was a mistaken tradition that it was 周幽王墓 the grave of King You of the Zhou dynasty (r. 781-771 BCE; Wikipedia), but during the Wanli reign (1572–1620) this was corrected. There is an added sign on it dated to ca. 1783 CE, and local people restored it in 2000.

4. Zhou lineage in 豳 Bin (Wiki Zhou family tree and Bin)
See under the melody Geng Ge.

5. Qin song about 岐山 Qi Shan
YFSJ [p.832] has only the Han Yu poem. The Qin Shi entry refers to him as Han Tuizhi.

6. Original text
The original Qin Shi text is as follows (regarding the quotes, the first is from 孟子 Mengzi, the second and third from 詩經 Shi Jing, the fourth from 琴操 Qin Cao):









韓退之謂《岐山操》為周公之作。 然據琴操云:





Sources are mentioned above.

7. Translation
Thanks to 池月 Yui Chi for her considerable help with the translation.

8. Connecting Taiwang to guqin
Presumably, like other Zhou rulers, Taiwang was included in Qin Shi for a supposed influence he had on qin development. However, this is not spelled out.


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