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095. At Cock's Crow Going through the Pass
- Yu mode, 2 standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
雞鳴度關 1
Ji Ming Du Guan
Lord Mengchang goes through Hangu Pass 3 
This melody, found only in Xilutang Qintong (1525), concerns the escape of Lord Mengchang from the Kingdom of Qin,4 He did this with the aid of assistants who had what came to be called "mouth skills" ("kouji")5: being able to imitate the sound of animals. When Mengchang needed to escape from Qin this first meant imitating the sound of a dog; subsequently imitating the sound of a rooster. The illustration at right shows what took place in between.

Born in the 4th c. BCE to a prominent family of Qi in what is today Shandong province, Mengchang was so effective as a minister of its client state Xue that King Zhao brought him to Qin to consider the possibility of making him prime minister. However, once in Qin local retainers tried to turn their ruler against the new man, fearing that if he were made Prime Minister this might endanger their own positions. As a result Mengchang was imprisoned.

Regarding the dog, in order to get back into the Qin ruler's good graces Lord Mengchang was told he should get the king's favorite concubine on his side. The plan for doing this seemed almost impossible: get for her the white fox fur coat Mengchang had just presented to the king. However, one of Mengchang's advisors came up with a plan: he would sneak up near the place where the coat was stored, bark like a dog to fool the guards into ignoring him, then take the coat and give it to the concubine. The success of this venture persuaded the king to allow Mengchang to return home the next day.

The cock played its own role in the ensuing episode. In spite of their success with the coat Mengchang and his advisors were fearful that the king would change his mind and so they left at once. By the time that the Qin ruler discovered what had happened, Mengchang and his followers had already begun to flee. When they had reached the nearby mountain pass which was their gateway to freedom, Qin soldiers were already in hot pursuit. They needed to get through the mountains immediately, but it was still night time and the guardians of the pass were not permitted to open it up until dawn. Yet again, one of Mengchang’s followers used his kouji skills to mimic a rooster crowing, thus triggering all of the local roosters to crow. Tricked into thinking dawn was about to break, the guards openee the pass and allowed Menchang and his entourage through.

After success at this Mengchang subsequently became one of the great Four Lords of that period. The Shi Ji tells other stories concerning him, but does not include the one that concerns the qin. In that story the qin playing of Yongmen Zhou moves Lord Mengchang to tears.

Original preface10

Qin imprisoned Lord Mengchang, (but) one of his retainers who was good at (pretending to be a) dog (in order to) steal things got into the Qin storehouse and made off with a white fox fur in order to present it to the king's concubine, thereby getting their release. Arriving at the pass and finding it closed, fearing that pursuers would soon be there a retainer made the sound of a cock crowing (so that the guards would open the pass) and they went through the pass and returned (to Qi). As a result we have this piece.

Music (III/185)
Eight sections, titled as follows: 11
(The section titles do not seem to follow a chronological account of the story.)

  1. Presenting a fox fur
  2. Going out through Han Gu
  3. Night is not half way through
  4. Escaping detention
  5. Meeting vermillion shoes (designating someone important)
  6. Returning to Qi
  7. Having skill
  8. Gathering of the Qi clan (?)
        Closing harmonics

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Going Through the Pass at the Cock's Crow (雞鳴度關 Ji Ming Du Guan (III/185)
43065.xxx, only 43065.159 "雞鳴狗盜 jī míng gǒu dào", giving as its reference the biography of Mengchang Jun in the Shi Ji. Ji ming gou dao literally means "cocks crow and dogs steal". It clearly comes from the above story, but it came to suggest gaining an advantage through not quite honorable tricks.

2. Yu mode (羽調 yu diao)
For more on yu mode (standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 ) see Shenpin Yu Yi as well as Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature.

3. Lord Mengchang goes through Hangu Pass (孟嘗君過函谷關)
Picture from an internet source that says the illustration was selected from "新銹綉像列國志 Xin Xiu Tou Xiang Lie Guo Zhi" (? related to the 東周列國志 Chronicles of the Eastern Zhou Kingdom by Feng Menglong? Feng's account of the story does refer to the pass as 函谷關 Han Gu Guan).

4. Lord Mengchang (孟嘗君 Mengchang Jun) (Wiki
Famous aristocrat and statesman of the Qi Kingdom of ancient China; one of the "Four Lords" from that period. He is also mentioned in connection with Yongmen Zhou.

5. Mouth skills (口技 kouji
3299.44 has as its earliest reference a work by 梁章鉅 Liang Zhangju (1775-1849 but apparently not published until 1875) called 稱謂錄 Cheng Wei Lu (A Record of Terms of Address; full text in ctext.org). This work is the focus of Daniel Zoltan Kadar, The Powerful and the Powerless: on the classification of the Chinese polite denigrating/elevating addressing terminology (JSTOR). Reading that I am reminded of the Chinese people in Hong Kong who said that even when speaking Chinese they would often use their English names because it was a way to avoid having to use such classification in normal speech.

Cheng Wei Lu discusses "kouji" in its entry "口技者 Koujizhe " ("Mimickers"), part of the section called 雜戲 Za Xi (Opera Forms). This suggests that the term was relatively new and may have especially been used used in theater. The Wikipedia entry first discusses its use within a performance context. It then gives as its earliest example the present Lord Mengchang story. It goes on to give many historical examples of its use but does not discuss the history of the actual term.

10. Preface
The original text is, "秦錮孟嘗君,客有善為狗盜者,入秦藏中,竊狐白裘以獻如姬,得釋。至關,尙閉,恐追者至,客又有爲雞鳴者,啓關而歸。因有是曲。"

11. Music
Reconstruction incomplete. The original section titles are,

  1. 獻狐裘
  2. 出函谷
  3. 夜未央
  4. 脫拘囚
  5. 會朱履
  6. 歸齊國
  7. 有功
  8. 聚宗戚

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