Chun Xiao Yin
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Qin as
Qin in
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089. Spring Dawn Intonation
- yu mode, standard tuning:2 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
春曉吟 1
Chun Xiao Yin
  Lu Guang, Spring Dawn Over the Elixir Terrace3  
Chun Xiao Yin has been a very popular melody, surviving in in at least 20 handbooks from 1525 to 1899.4 However, its early transmission was quite unusual.

Although this melody survives first from Xilutang Qintong (1525), where it has no separate introduction and thus seems intended to serve as a prelude to the next piece, Pheasants Fly in the Morning (Zhi Zhao Fei), in 1552 and 1557 a very similar melody was published under the title Intonation on the Influence of All (Wu Gan Yin);5 in both cases it seems to have served as a prelude to Wu Ye Ti.6 Then in 1559 an almost identical melody to the 1525 Chun Xiao Yin appeared under another new title, Intonation on a Melancholy Time (Youshi Yin);7 there it seems to be a prelude to a melody called Knock-Horns Song (Kou Jiao Ge).8

The title Chun Xiao Yin reappeared in its next publication, 1590, where it is an independent melody. But what seems to have ensured its subsequent popularity was its next appearance, in the important early Yushan School handbook Songxian Guan Qinpu (1614).9

There is a preface with both editions of Wu Gan Yin (identical, as is the music), as well as one with Youshi Yin. However, for the title Chun Xiao Yin there is no commentary until the ninth surviving occurrence of the melody, in Qinpu Xiwei (1692).10

Xilutang Qintong places Chunxiao Yin before Zhi Zhao Fei, as though it is a prelude. Both pieces are in the yu mode, and both are set in early morning. In addition the poem Zhi Zhao Fei by Li Bai is set in spring.11 On the other hand, the mood of Chunxiao Yin seems to be much calmer than that of Zhi Zhao Fei, which tells of a middle aged man seeing a male and female pheasant fly together, and bewailing the fact that he himself is still without a mate. Since the first surviving example is in Xilutang Qintong, one must consider the possibility that Wang Zhi created it as a calm introduction before the excitement of Zhi Zhao Fei. Zha Fuxi's index claims that the melody is pre-Ming, but does not cite any sources.

There is a ci rhythm named Chunxiao Qu (Spring Dawn Melody). A poem in this rhythm by Zhu Dunru (1080 - c.1175) begins, "The moon sets behind the west pavilion; the chicken sounds anxious." I have not found any specific connection between the ci rhythm or title and the qin melody.

A modern recording by Guan Pinghu says it is based on some handcopied tablature; it expands upon and changes parts of Guan's version transcribed in Guqin Quji, Vol. 1, which says it is based on the tablature in Ziyuantang Qinpu (1802).12 Two recordings by Sun Guisheng, with ensemble, incorrectly state he uses the 1525 handbook. Versions by Gong Yi (three, including one with xun ocarina and one with xiao flute) say they come from Ziyuantang Qinpu in consultation with other versions.

None of the existing prefaces gives any history of the piece or title, discussing only its mood and it qualities. The ambiguity resulting from the early associations of this melody with differing themes, meanwhile, should remind us that, as with poetry, one can appreciate music without demanding that its "meaning" be simple and straightforward.

Original preface
None. (The one for #90
Zhi Zhao Fei applies? Compare later prefaces.)

Music (Timings follow my recording 聽錄音)
3 Sections (none titled)

  1. 00.00
  2. 00.52 (harmonics)
  3. 01.23
    01.56 harmonic closing
    02.12 end

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Chun Xiao Yin 春曉吟
5/655 春曉 Chunxiao: 春日黎明 daybreak on a spring day; three poetic references.

14146.643 春曉曲 Chunxiao Qu (no chunxiao by itself) says it is:
"the name of a cipai; Ci Pu has a poem by Zhu Dunru that goes, 'From the west tower the moon is going down and the cock crow is urgent'; ...."

However, none of this seems to relate directly to the present melody, nor does the present melody have any relation to the other chun xiao melodies such as Dongtian Chun Xiao or the popular modern melody Yu Lou Chun Xiao. See, however, the alternate titles mentioned below.

2. Yu mode (羽調 yu diao)
See Shenpin Yu Yi.

3. 陸廣 《丹臺春曉圖》 Lu Guang (ca. 1300–after 1371), Spring Dawn Over the Elixir Terrace
Copied from, where the commentary begins, "To escape the turbulence of the closing years of the Yuan dynasty, Lu Guang traveled far from his native city of Suzhou. He painted Spring Dawn after his return to the Lake Tai area, following the establishment of the Ming dynasty in 1368. The reference to the Elixir Terrace in the title of the painting indicates the artist's interest in both Daoist alchemy and the pursuit of immortality...."

An internet search for "春曉" gives a lot of images of young ladies. A search for "春曉圖" gives traditional paintings, the most common being Spring Dawn in a Han Palace (漢宮春曉), but also several 丹臺春曉, 溪山春曉, 清江春曉, 江南春曉, 桃源春曉, etc. Similar to the image here is the 明文伯仁《丹臺春曉圖》Brewing an Elixer of Immortality during Spring Dawn, by 文伯仁 Wen Boren (1502–1575; q.v.).

4. Tracing Chunxiao Yin
Zha Guide 20/189/-- has 20 entries from 1525 to l899. The second was not published until 1590

5. Intonation on the Influence of All (物感吟 Wu Gan Yin; )
Zha Guide 24/200/--: 3 sections; only in 1552 (QQJC IV/145) and 1557 (III/378). The preface is:


Sections 1 and 3 of Wu Gan Yin are almost identical to Sections 1 and 3 of Chunxiao Yin. Section 2 of Chunxiao Yin is in harmonics. Section 2 of Wu Gan Yin has stopped sounds, but the right hand fingering is in many places similar to the corresponding parts of Chunxiao Yin, giving what at first seems to be a rather stange melody. In both handbooks Wu Gan Yin is a prelude to Wu Ye Ti.

6. As indicated by the fact that the preface connected to both publications of Wu Gan Yin refers specifically to Wu Ye Ti.

7. Intonation on a Melancholy Time (Youshi Yin 憂時吟)
Zha Guide 24/203/-- : 3 sections; only in 1559 (QQJC III/426). The preface to Youshi Yin is (with thanks to Chow Shuengit for translation help):

The timing might allow (this) to transpire, but I have not been given a mandate to do it; I have the wish to do it, but the timing is not right; it is about all this that a junzi (gentleman) becomes melancholy."


8. Knock-Horns Song (扣角歌 Kou Jiao Ge)
In Taiyin Xupu (1559) Intonation on a Melancholy Time precedes Knock-Horns Song (12087.4 扣角歌 Kou Jiao Ge), which concerns 齊甯戚 Ningqi of Wei, "a poor wagoner...who was overheard singing a ballad and beating time on the horns of his oxen" by 桓公 Duke Huan, as a result of which he was made Privy Councillor (Giles). What Ningqi sang was, "南山爛,白石粲;生不達堯與舜禪".

9. Yushan School melody
The version of 1614 seems quite similar to that of 1525. Guqin Quji, Vol. 1 transcribes a performance by Guan Pinghu said to be from 1802 but see further comment.

10. Commentary accompanying Chun Xiao Yin
Zha Guide [433]189 found no prefaces; it includes three afterwords, from 1692, 1833 and 1899 (identical to 1833).

The 1692 afterword (by Xu Luanyou), in Qinpu Xiwei (1692; QQJC XIII/118), is as follows (魯君 presumbly is the compiler 魯鼐 Lu Nai):


The afterword from 1833 and 1899 is as follows,


Neither one yet translated.

11. See Yuefu Shiji, p.836 and also the Shen Qi Mi Pu preface to Zhi Zhao Fei.

12. Chun Xiao Yin as played by Guan Pinghu on ROI RB-951005
The transcription in Guqin Quji, Vol. 1, p. 200-1, says it is following the Guan Pinghu version from Ziyuantang Qinpu (1802). However, after the opening section, what is actually written down in Guqin Quji seems to expand on what is in the original 1802 tablature as copied in QQJC XVII/453; and what Guan plays in the recording seems to expand on it even more. Notes to the recording say 據《抄本琴譜》 based on "Guqin copy book" 管平湖打譜演奏 Guan Pinghu reconstructed and performed it.

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