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105. Clear River Prelude
No mode indicated; relative tuning 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 2
清江引 1
Qing Jiang Yin  
Compare the 1573 and 1585 versions of Qing Jiang Yin 3    
Based on the lyrics of the two surviving versions of this melody, it is something of a lament on the fleeting nature of life by someone who feels out of touch with society, in other words, a typical literatus with an artistic temperament. As for the title, with no surviving commentary and no mention of a river in the lyrics, one can only speculate that it refers to an earlier melody or poetic rhythm. In such a case "Qing Jiang Yin" could be translated, "To the Tune "Clear River Prelude". However, although there are some existing poems said to be in the pattern of a "Qing Jiang Yin" (also "Qing Jiang Qu"), no Qing Jiang melodies or poetic structures have yet been found with a related melody or a word count such as what is found here. In addition, although this title does appear on ancient qin melody lists, there is no evidence to connect the present melody with any such earlier title.4

On the other hand, although both the origin of this qin melody and its title remain a mystery, actual surviving qin tablature for this title survivies only from here in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu (1585) and in the earlier edition dated 1573. For this reason, it seems most likely that both these surviving versions were either created or adapted by Yang Biaozheng himself.5

These two surviving versions are recognizably similar. In particular, in both 1573 and 1585 the music of the first line is almost the same as that of the last line, with the two versions having almost the same music as each other. Throughout the whole piece both versions can also be played with a very similar rhythm. However, there are also some significant differences between the two, most notably as follows:

  1. The 1573 version begins by saying "those who learn the Dao are few" while 1585 has it that "music connoisseurs are few" (an expression that also means "bosom friends").
  2. The three phrases that are arranged in 1585 as the second and third (of four) lines are in reverse order from the way it was in 1573.
  3. In the second and third of those three phrases the music of 1585 is somewhat different from that of 1573.

In general the 1585 version seems to be more coherently arranged.6

This is the last piece in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu as well as the last piece in its 1573 predecessor. In both handbooks they come after melodies that use non-standard tuning, Yangguan Sandie in 1573 and Zepan Yin in 1585. However, neither handbooks names the mode for Qing Jiang Yin nor specifies its tuning. This suggests that either this piece was added on at the end as an afterthought or that no one knew to what mode it belonged. This latter should be considered as a possibility because of the somewhat odd nature of the modality, with a scale seeming to be best felt as 1 2 4 5 6 7b and with 1 as the primary tonal center (further comment).

Of course its position at the end of both handbooks could also mean this piece represented Yang Biaozheng's own summary of his feelings about life.

None in either 1573 or 1585.

Music and lyrics 7
The main differences between the 1573 and 1585 versions are detailed further above.

The lyrics in 1585 might tentatively be translated as follows:

Traveling all the earth's roads shows that soulmates are few.
One can have how many entrances into the mysteries?
What one wants to buy is nowhere to be found; what one wants to sell no one wants.
Unfortunately, enjoyable days are thus just slipping by.

The lyrics from 1573 might also tentatively be translated as follows::

Traveling all the earth's roads shows that those who study the Dao are few.
What he wants to buy is nowhere to go find; what one wants to sell no one wants.
Unfortunately, the days slip by.
Unfortunately those enjoyable days, they thus are slipping away.

The original Chinese lyrics show more clearly the different phrasing that music be reflected in the music:

1585 (40 字):
可惜    好光陰,則是錯過去了。
(The gap in the last line reflects that the tablature here is the same as that of line 4 in 1573 [compare also with "盡了" in the first line] but it is missing the 1573 note on "那 na").

1573 (43 字):

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Clear River Prelude (清江引 Qing Jiang Yin) references
18003.94 清江引 says it was a "曲牌名 qupai ming", i.e., an opera or opera song title; it says further that it is a 雙調 shuang diao, of which there were two types, a northern and a southern. The following example of a piece called Qing Jiang Yin is translated and discussed in Zong-Qi Cai (ed.), How to Read Chinese Poetry, p.344:


The English title, To the Tune "Clear River, A Prelude", emphasizes that here Qing Jiang Yin is the name of a poetic form and thus does not directly relate to the meaning of the lyrics. However, the form is unrelated to that of the lyrics in either of the versions of the present melody.

Also seemingly unrelated are 18003.96 清江曲 Clear River Songs (詞牌名: 57字 cipai of 57 characters) and 18003.100 清江詩集 Clear River Poem Collection, 明貝瓊 compiled by Bei Qiong (1314 - 1379; included in ctext.org) of the Ming dynasty (10 folios, by type).

2. Mode
The web page Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature, as well as the introductions to individual modes, have details of my understanding of the modes in the qin repertoire of that time. However, this piece does not easily fit into the modal descriptions given there. As mentioned above, the scale seems to be best felt as 1 2 4 5 6 7b, with 1 as the primary tonal center. However, all of the three standard tuning modes that consider this as the relative tuning (shang, zhi and shangjiao) consider the scale to be 1 2 3 5 6, with 7b not a typical extra note. This might suggest that it would be better to consider the relative tuning as 5 6 1 2 3 5 6, making the scale 1 2 3 4 5 6 and the primary tonal center 5. However, none of the three standard tuning modes that have this as the relative tuning (gong, jiao and yu) considers 5 as the main tonal center, nor gives such prominence to the relative pitch 4 (fa).

My preliminary observation is that a number of melodies in Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu seem to have a modality different from that found in the other Ming handbooks I have studied, and this certainly is a topic worthy of further study.

3. Image: 1573 and 1585 tablature for Qing Jiang Yin
From E284 (as copied from this online edition) and from IV/513 (see also www.qinzhijie.com).

4. Origins of the title
See also above. The slightly different word could between the 1573 and 1585 versions argues against the title being a reference to a pre-existing ci pattern. "Qingjiang" could also be the name of a specific river, with the melody perhaps inspired by something from that region, but once again there is as yet no evidence to support such a contention.

5. Tracing Qing Jiang Yin
Guide 26/--/418: only here (and 1579), though also mentioned in 1511. Regarding the authorship, most of the music in both 1573 and 1585 consists of revised versions of earlier melodies, so that must also be considered as a possibility here. With those other melodies there is usually some attribution given, but there is no commentary at all with either the 1573 or 1585 versions.

6. Comparing the 1573 and 1585 versions
Further to the above,

  1. In 1585 the first and last lines are the same except that one note is missing from the first half of the last line. In 1573 the note on "道 dao" is played on the is played on the 6th string instead of the fifth.
  2. Although the music is quite the same, the lyrics last lines of each are somewhat different.
  3. "Soulmates" in the first line of 1585 is a translation of "zhi yin", literally, "know (each other's) music". Such soulmates are epitomized by the story of Boya and Ziqi, where only Ziqi understands the music played by Boya.

Making the rhythm of 1573 the same as that of 1585 required giving the 1573 version a structure that does not have a rhyme on the last word of each phrase.

7. Music
The 1585 version is one of the pieces transcribed by Wang Di and it can also be found in 薄克禮、張子盛主編:中國古代琴歌精華校譯 Bo Keli and Zhang Zisheng, Comparative Edition of Essential Chinese Ancient Qin Songs. Their note values are all somewhat different from my own.

Return to the Chongxiu Zhenchuan intro, to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.