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24. Eighteen Scholars Ascend Yingzhou
  - shang mode2 (5 6 1 2 3 5 6 , but played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 )
十八學士登瀛州 1
Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou
18 Cranes represent 18 Scholars 3        
This, the second surviving of the four handbooks with a version of this melody,4 is only one one with the complete title, Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou; the others all simply title it Yingzhou, a fabled island of immortals in the Eastern Sea.5 In all, the four handbooks are as follows:6

  1. Xilutang Qintong (1525)
  2. Faming Qinpu (1539)
  3. Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539)
  4. Wenhuitang Qinpu (1596)

All the pieces seem melodically related, though the melodies of the latter two are actually quite distant. Three of them (not 1525) have lyrics, but the remaining three sets of lyrics are also quite different as well. Only 1525 has any commentary, an afterword that says nothing about the origins of the melody itself.7

After Li Yuan established the Tang dynasty (see chart) he enfeoffed his son Li Shimin as Prince of Qin as well as appointing him Chief Guardian of the Emperor. In this capacity (i.e., before Li Yuan abdicated, allowing his son to become the Tang dynasty Taizong emperor in 626), in order to promote good government after the unrest accompanying the change of dynasty, Li Shimin brought together 18 scholars to advise the government. He appointed Du Ruhui (Wiki) to be first among them.

During the reign of the emperor Tang Xuanzong (r. 713 - 756) this group was formally organized as the Hanlin Academy (Wiki). Joining the academy became known as called "ascending Yingzhou".

Depictions of 18 scholars in an elegant gathering came to be a motif in Chinese painting (sometimes in combination with the Four Arts).8 And because in classical Chinese pronunciation the word for crane (in Mandarin "ho") is pronounced the same as the word for study (xue), in art there is also the motif of 18 cranes, to represent the 18 scholars.9

The style and content of this melody is quite strikingly similar to another one from this period, Great Ming United (in 1539).

Original preface


Music and lyrics11
Five sections, untitled; the lyrics and music are paired almost one note per syllable
(timings follow my recording 聽錄音, tentative because played too fast to sing the lyrics, and with extraneous sounds):

1.   (00.00)
Heaven protects the glorious Tang dynasty, greatness on our emperor.
He honors scholarly study, searching out superior talent.
With ceremony he takes 18 scholars into the Hanlin academy.

2.   (00.16)
Each one is a literary giant, exceedingly intelligent,
Going to the (White) Goose Pavilion (in Xian) and having their names inscribed (as jinshi)
Sometimes feted at the Red Stone Forest (in Kaifeng), positioned alongside of dukes and nobles.
Their poetry.... (translation incomplete)

2.A.   (00.37)

3.   (01.17)

4.   (01.38; melody begins with same melody as #2)

5.   (02.18)

Harmonic coda   (03.04)

Melody ends   (03.17)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Eighteen Scholars Ascend Yingzhou (十八學士登瀛州 Shiba Xueshi Deng Yingzhou)
None of the dictionary references for this mentions a melody.

2741.192 (1) 十八學士 Shiba Xueshi mentions academic bureau of Tang Taizong (r.627-650);
2741.192 (2) names 18 people honored by Tang emperor Xuanzong (r.713-756)
23180.148 登瀛州 deng Yingzhou (ascending Yingzhou) mentions joining the imperial academy after Tang Taizong
19047.6 瀛州 Yingzhou says it was traditionally considered an island of immortals in the East Sea (
29425.13 翰林 Hanlin (not 漢林 Hanlin) and .21 翰林院 seem not to specify when this became an official term

2. Shang mode (商調 shangdiao)
For further information on this mode see Shenpin Shang Yi

3. Image
The title of this ceramic pen or brush holder from Jingdezhen is on the side shown here upper left: 十八學仕 18 Scholars. The ceramic piece shown below is from the same source. In Cantonese (the pronunciation of which is said to be closer to that of early Chinese than modern Chinese is) both "學 study" and "鶴 crane" are pronounced "hok"; in this context cranes can be called 鶴士 Mr. Cranes.

4. Second version
Normally I first learn the earliest version of any melody I reconstruct, but when I worked on this piece the general assumption was that Xilutang Qintong has been published in 1549. It was only later that I discovered that it was actually published in 1525.

5. Yingzhou 瀛州
19047.6 瀛州 Yingzhou, after saying it was traditionally considered an island of immortals in the East Sea, says to see further under 岱輿 Daiyu, then quotes 史記,秦始皇紀 the entry on Qin Shihuang in Shi Ji as saying it was one of three such islands, the other two being 蓬萊 Penglai and 方丈 Fangzhang. 8194.27 岱輿 Daiyu says it is 渤海東五仙山之一 one of the five mountains of immortals in the Bohai Sea, putting it just off the northeast coast of Shandong province (presumably around 嘗到 Changdao), but now some people claim that 岱輿 Daiyu actually referred to 釣魚台 Diaoyutai (Wiki: Senkaku Islands), a disputed island chain between Taiwan and Okinawa. Of these islands Penglai in particular is sometimes associated with the Eight Immortals (listed here, where they are distinguished from the Eight Dukes).

6. Tracing Shiba Xueshi (see Zha Guide 15/157/341)
Some further detail on the four versions of this melody is as follows:

  1. Xilutang Qintong (1525; III/122):

  2. Faming Qinpu (1530; I/393)

  3. Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539; II/117)

  4. Wenhuitang Qinpu (1596; VI/212)

I have not yet examined all four versions in great detail.

7. 1525 preface
It has only general comments, nothing about the origins of the melody.

8. Artistic representation of the four arts
For some good commentary on this in English see pp. 43-53 of Scarlett Jang, Representations of Exemplary Scholar-Officials, Past and Present, in Liu and Ching (ed), Arts of the Sung and Yüan; Princeton, The Art Museum, 1999.

9. Cranes as Scholars
The title of this ceramic brush holder from Jingdezhen (compare at top) is 六公同_ Six Worthies Gather ___ : here 4 + 2 cranes stand for the 18. The text on two of the other sides is not yet translated. For 18 cranes as scholars see above.

11. Chinese lyrics (聽錄音-未唱的)
The lyrics in Chinese are as follows. (A gap between commas indicates a repeated musical phrase; there is no indication whether the lyrics of that phrase should also be repeated. // means the whole line is repeated.)

1.   (00.00)

2.   (00.16)
(2.a.)   (00.37)

3.   (01.17)

4.; (01.38)

5.   (02.18)

泛音   (03.04)
曲終   (03.17)

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