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42. Old Toper's Chant
- Shang mode, standard tuning:1 5 6 1 2 3 5 6, but played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
Zui Weng Yin 2
Zui Weng Cao3 (enlarge)    
Melodies with the titles Zui Weng Yin (Old Toper's Chant) and Zui Weng Cao (Old Toper's Melody), survive in at least six known versions.4 However, all these melodies are different from the one here in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539). Fengxuan Xuanpin also has the earliest surviving musical setting of the lyrics found here. These lyrics are a poem attributed to Su Shi (Su Dongpo, 1037-1101).5 The Old Toper was Su Dongpo's mentor, the equally famous Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072). The poetic meter (ci pai) called Zui Weng Cao has the same structure as this poem.

Earlier, Ouyang Xiu had written first An Account of the Old Toper' Pavilion,6 then a poem called the Old Toper's Chant.7 The first referred to a pavilion at his estate by the Langya mountains, near Chuzhou in eastern Anhui province, about 100 km northwest of Nanjing.8

In the preface to Old Toper's Chant, Ouyang Xiu says that after he wrote An Account of the Old Toper' Pavilion, the scholar Shen Zun9 was inspired to go walking in the surrouding area. He loved the landscape there so much that when he returned he composed a qin melody in three sections describing it, called Old Toper's Chant. The following autumn Shen and Ouyang met again. Under the influence of wine Shen played the melody again and music so moved Ouyang that he then created lyrics for it.

Over thirty years later Su Shi wrote his own poem about the pavilion. From his preface (see below) it seems that the melody of Shen Zun was either lost or had changed, because Su Shi says the reason he wrote new lyrics was that the existing qin melody did not match Ouyang Xiu's lyrics. He adds that his version follows tablature written by a famous qin player from Lu Shan named Cui Xian.10

Su Shi's preface is as follows,11

In a hidden valley at Langya the scenery is marvelously beautiful. A spring resounds from a dry gully, in a medley of moderate tones. The Old Toper enjoyed this, and brought wine to listen nearby, appreciating it so much he would forget to return home.

Ten years later the marvel-loving scholar Shen Zun heard of it and traveled there. He used his qin to describe the sounds, and called the melody Zuiweng Cao. The rhythm was exceptional and the music from the fingering was splendid. Qin connoisseurs considered it incomparable. However, although there was now music, it had no words.

Although the Old (Toper) has written a song (of this title), it does not match (Shen Zun's) qin melody. In addition, using the model of the Chu Ci to write (lyrics for the Shen Zun's) Zuiweng Yin, well-meaning people have written melodies in accord with his lyrics; but although these roughly match the modal requirements, and the qin sounds are bound to the lyrics, they do not appear natural.

(Now), over 30 years later, the Old (Toper) has already passed on, and (Shen) Zun is also long deceased. (However), there is a Jade Torrent Daoist Cui Xian of Lu Shan who is especially good at the qin. Hating the fact that this melody has no lyrics, he has written down tablature for the sounds and asked me, Dongpo Jushi, to append (lyrics). These are as follows...."

(For the lyrics see Melody and Lyrics, below).

The second surviving melody with this title,12 the Zui Weng Yin in Longhu Qinpu (1571), is the only version with an introductory preface. It says that the melody expresses a joyful inebriation,13 and adds a few other poetic comments, but says nothing of the origin. It might be noted here that, although both the Fengxuan Xuanpin and the Longhu Qinpu versions are said to be in shang mode, the former actually seems to use jiao mode, and to modern ears the latter melody seems more joyful.14

Qinyuan Yaolu, a collection of qin essays printed in the Yuan dynasty, includes Zuiweng Yin in its list of old melodies. It also has an intriguing essay on qin rhythm, describing for its example what it says is a melody for Su Dongpo's Zuiweng Cao.15 It is possible that this essay could be used to help reconstruct the rhythm of the melody originally applied to these lyrics.16 Unfortunately, the Qinyuan Yaolu article includes no music, and does not specifically identify the actual version of Zuiweng Cao under consideration. And I have not been able to apply its principles to any of the surviving qin versions of the melody.17

Original preface

Melody and Lyrics 19
(Untitled; on the recording I play and sing first the 1539 setting: here the voice can closely follow the melody;
then I play and sing the 1571 setting: here the melody leaps around so I level the vocal line through octave transpositions.
1539 does not divide the piece, but later versions have two sections, following the lyrics)

Tinkling, pure and round, whose playing resounds in the empty mountains?
There are no words, only an old man who when drunk knows of heaven.
The moon is bright, the wind (causes the) dew to shimmer, people are not yet asleep.
A carrier of baskets passing the front of the hill says,
"He has great feelings, does this worthy person."

As the Old Toper whistles and sings, the sounds harmonize with the flowing streams.
After the Old Toper leaves,
  the void is filled with (sounds of) morning birds and evening monkeys.
Mountains sometimes collapse, (and) rivers sometimes reverse course,
(but) I think the Old (Toper) is completely ageless.
The Old (Toper) now being an airborne immortal, this thought should be with people:
Try to listen to listen (to the ethereal resonances) beyond sounds (defined by) finger positions and strings.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Shang mode 商調
For more on shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi.

2. Old Toper's Chant (醉翁吟 Zui Weng Yin
40778.64 醉翁吟 zui weng yin: "name of a qin song,by 沈遵 Shen Zun of the Song dynasty"; it then quotes a passage in Dongpo Bieji describing it and giving the attribution to Shen Zun.

3. Old Toper's Melody (醉翁操 Zuiweng Cao)
40778.68 醉翁操 zui weng cao: originally a qin melody, then later the name of a 詞牌 cipai poetic rhythm; it quotes the story given here. The calligraphy is discussed on a separate page. The structure can be seen by examining the original lyrics, below.

4. Tracing Zui Weng Yin
Based on two entries in Zha's Guide, 16/--/362 (pieces that follow the ci structure) and 27/--/418 (pieces that do not). Page references to Qinqu Jicheng have been added.

  1. 16/--/362, Zuiweng Ting (!), with

  2. 27/--/418, Zuiweng Yin, with
Zha's index does not include

An examination of these versions shows the following.

The second surviving melody, the Zui Weng Yin in Longhu Qinpu is set to virtually the same lyrics as here, as is another completely different melody, the Zui Weng Cao in the Japanese handbooks Wabun Chuyin Kinpu and Toko Kinpu. The Japanese version has almost the same lyrics as above, but then also adds these phrases at the end: "琴在手,月在天,彈琴招明月,明月落我絃。清風月明人亦仙,曲罷月落風自然,曲罷月落風自然。"

The Zui Weng Cao in Shuhuai Cao and Songsheng Cao (companion books to Songfengge Qinpu (ca. 1677), have the same ci structure, but again different lyrics and music, even using a different tuning, called 側楚 zechu: raise the 7th string and lower the 2nd.

Qinshu Daquan (1585) has a Zui Weng Yin that is basically unrelated, with both different lyrics and a different melody; likewise with Taoshi Qinpu (late Ming).

(The Japanese handbooks have only qin songs. Japanese also studied the 松絃館琴譜 Songxianguan Qinpu (1614; QQJC, VIII), but that handbook has no melodies with lyrics.

5. See Melody and Lyrics.

6. An Account of the Old Toper's Pavilion (醉翁亭記 Zuiweng Ting Ji)
40778.66 醉翁亭記 Zuiweng Ting Ji describes the essay. Translations can be found in Stephen Owen, An Anthology of Chinese Literature, p.613; Victor Mair, The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, p.590; and elsewhere.

7. Ouyang Xiu's poem Old Toper's Chant (醉翁吟 Zuiweng Yin)
Also translated Old Toper's Intonation, this poem by Ouyang Xiu can be found in his complete works, as follows. I have not yet found a translation, so have attempted my own.

Miscellaneous Writings: Five in all

Old Toper's Chant (with a preface dated first year of Jiayou)

(Preface not yet translated; it begins, "I wrote Zuiweng Ting in Chuzhou...." Presumably this refers to Zuiweng Ting Ji.)

When the Old (Dotard) first arrived, beasts saw him and deeply hid, birds saw him and high they flew.
The Old (Dotard) sober went out, drunk he returned.
At dawn he was sober, at sunset drunk; the four seasons were all the same.
Birds called, enjoying their forests; beasts came out, wandering in their streams.
"Yiying, zhaozha" (they call out) in front of the Old (Dotard).
When drunk he loses awareness that those with human emotions cannot be like those who have none.
When there is coming together there must also be separating.
The streams flow on: the Old (Toper) suddenly leaves without looking back.
The mountains provide solitude: the Old (Toper) will return when he can.
The breeze wafts gently: mountain trees lose their leaves.
Spring comes every year: mountain grass then flourishes.
Alas! I have no virtue among other people.
I have feelings for the mountain birds and wild deer.
Worthy indeed is Master Shen. He is the one who can describe my feelings and comfort our mutual longing.

Here is the original Chinese, first the preface then the poem:



餘作醉翁亭於滁州,太常博士沈遵,好奇之士也,聞而往遊焉。愛其山水,歸而以琴寫之,作《醉翁吟》三疊。去年秋,餘奉使契丹,沈君會余恩冀之間。 夜闌酒半,援琴而作之,有其聲而無其辭,乃為之辭以贈之。其辭曰:


8. Old Toper's Pavilion (醉翁亭 Zuiweng Ting)
40778.65 醉翁亭 Zuiweng Ting says the pavilion at 琅琊 Langya southeast of 滁州 Chuzhou had been made for Ouyang Xiu by the monk 智遷 Zhi Qian. Today there is a park here, with a relatively recent pavilion with this name. Here I found a set of scrolls with Su Dongpo's poem.

9. 沈遵 Shen Zun
bio.xxx; but see biographical notes in Qinshi Bu

10. Cui Xian 崔閑
Cui Xian, the Jade Torrent Daoist, is discussed in Xu Jian, Chapter 6A (p.87). Xu Jian says he played over 30 qin melodies and also wrote (transcribed?) Zuiweng Yin.

11. From 蘇軾詩集合注 The Annotated Collected Poems of Su Shi, pp.2483-4:


12. See footnote above.

13. "龍湖曰按。 是曲沈酣醁醞 。放志林泉。鼓之令人(?)心勢利之私。猶懷憂世之意。"

14. This is my own feeling and also the reaction of people who have heard me play these two versions.

15. 琴苑要彔 Qinyuan Yaolu. See the chapter 節奏 Rhythm, which begins on page 29b of the photocopy edition.

16. At the 1998 CHIME conference in Prague Marnix Wells presented a paper trying to connect the poems by Ouyang Xiu and later Su Dongpo, discussed above. Wells suggested that the Qinyuan Yaolu essay prescribes an isorhythm of 13 beats:

v v v v v v v  v v v (? I did not fully understand this)

This accords with a possible reading of the article, and Wells supported his interpretation as follows (see also the original text of the poem, below).

Su Shi's poem has 39 characters for the first verse and 52 for the second. Some versions suggest Su Shi's first verse be repeated in harmonics, making 39+39+52=130 characters. Ouyang Xiu's poem has 129 characters, so if an extra character can be added somewhere, it could also be made to fit the same isorhythm.

Unfortunately, the isorhythm goes completely against any possible grammatical phrasing of either poem, and in particular it ignores both the parallel structures in Ouyang Xiu's poem, and the fact that the structure he used was (or became) a ci pattern. It also does not accord with any rhythms naturally implied by the fingering of the version here in Fengxuan Xuanpin.

17. See footnote 3 above. Perhaps an as yet undiscovered melody might fulfill these requirements. However, the rhythmic structures of the poems by Ouyang Xiu and Su Shi are so completely different that it would be extremely difficult to make one musical composition that could naturally accompany both.

18. None of the surviving qin melodies has a preface.

19. 歐陽修,醉翁吟歌詞 (English)
The original lyrics are as follows (each line ends with a rhyme):

  琅然清圓,誰彈響空山? 4,5 ( 9 [ci: 4,3])
  無言,惟翁醉中知其天。 2,7 ( 9 [ci: 4,7])
  月明,風露娟娟,人未眠。 2,4,3 ( 9)
  荷蕢過山前, 5 ( 5)
  曰﹕有心也哉此賢。 7 ( 7; total for verse: 39)
  醉翁嘯詠,聲和流泉。 4,4 ( 8)
  醉翁去後,空有朝禽、夜猿。 4,6 (10)
  山有時而童顛,水有時而回川, 6,6 (12)
  思翁無歲年。 5 ( 5)
  翁今為飛仙,此意在人間﹕ 5,5 (10)
  試聽徽外三兩絃。 7 ( 7; total for verse: 52; total for poem: 91)

My understanding of the melodic phrasing required changing one puncuation mark from the standard ci structure, from after "山" to two characters earlier, after "響".

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