Sang Jingshu
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Sang Jingshu
- Qin Shi Bu #103
桑景舒 1
琴史補 #103 2
  虞美人圖 A corn poppy: dancing?3  
Nothing seems to be known about Sang Jingshu outside of his mention in Mengxi Bitan by Shen Gua (1030 - 1093).4 There no dates are given for him, the entry mostly consisting of a discussion of a melody called Corn Poppy Composition.5 This melody is said to have been created by Sang Jingshu using 吳音 the sounds of Wu, the region where he lived. Today Gaoyou is an area in Jiangsu just north of Yangzhou.

The original essay in Qin Shi Bu, quoting Shen Gua's Mengxi Bitan is as follows.6

Sang Jingshu, from Gaoyou, had an intrinsic understanding of music gained through listening to the all the sounds of nature. He knew how to forecast disaster or fortune, and was especially gifted at musical sounds. There was an old tradition concerning the corn poppy plant saying that when it heard people playing the Corn Poppy Melody, its branches and leaves would shake, but would not do this for other melodies. Jingshu tested this and found that the old tradition was correct. He then examined the sound of the melody and said, This is the sound of 吳 Wu. On another day he took his qin and tried to use the sounds of Wu to make a melody. Then, facing the plant, he played it. The leaves and branches also moved, so he called the melody Corn Poppy Composition. Its melody, compared to that of Corn Poppy Melody, was completely different. But although not a single sound was the same, the plant still respond as though it was Corn Poppy Melody. This is because its modality had the same internal structure, and his musical skills were so great.

Sang Jingshu was a Metropolitan Candidate who eventually became a provincial magistrate. Today Corn Poppy Composition can be heard through Jianghu (modern Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces). But people still do not know what makes it be sounds of Wu.

Although Yu Meiren is used here as the name of a melody inspired by the flower of that name, it is also the title of a poetic structure (cipai) that apparently originated in a song about Yu Ji, concubine of Xiang Yu.7

1. 桑景舒 Sang Jingshu; from 高郵 Gaoyou (north of Yangzhou)

2. Qin Shi Bu #103
9 lines, giving 夢溪筆談 Mengxi Bitan as the source. The actual text in Meng Xi Bi Tan is as follows:


Very similar to the story in Qin Shi Bu.

3. 虞美人圖 A corn poppy: dancing?
Image copied from ZWDCD 33531.68.

4. 夢溪筆談 Mengxi Bitan (Dream Creek Brush Discussions)
Written by 沈括 Shen Gua (also written Shen Kuo); see China Knowledge. This and several other articles from Mengxi Bitan are in Qinshu Daquan, Folio 17, #23.

5. 虞美人操 Yu Meiren Cao
33531.68/1 虞美人 (Yu Meiren: The beautiful lady Yu, i.e., Yu Ji, whose story is told with qin melody Chu Ge. However, (see .68/2: 植物名) it is also the name of a flower, the corn poppy. This latter seems clearly to be the meaning here (see .70). It is also the name of a poetic form (.58/3 詞牌名 name of a cipai). In that context Yu Meiren seems to refer to Yu Ji.

The lyrics of a ci poem of this name (i.e., in this structure) by 李煜 Li Yu (李後主 Li Houzhu, Wiki) have been adapted for use with the modal prelude Shenpin Wuyi Yi. The poem concerns Yu Meiren as it refers to Yu Ji rather than to corn poppies.

6. Original text for Sang Jingshu in Qin Shi Bu #103
Not yet online. The story is very similar to the one in Mengxi Bitan (above).

7. Yu Meiren as flower name
Since the use of "Yu Meiren" to refer to this flower does not seem to have a history prior to the present story, one can perhaps speculate that the flower was named after the lady (or a melody with the lady's name).

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