The Shijing CAN be sung! Playing and Singing pieces from the Book of Odes

A page from the Shijing Yuepu

A page from the Shijing Yuepu

*EDIT: Please see newer post*

One google search will usually tell you that the Book of Songs/Book of Odes/Classic of Poetry/Shijing/《詩經》 is one of the oldest classics of Chinese literature, with its 300+ songs in Classical Chinese (not to be confused with Wenyan 文言 or “literary speech” written form), and was traditionally sung but its music was lost throughout the ages, therefore people today just recite it. 

What bull.

Just look at this document, the Qinding Shijing Yuepu 《欽定詩經樂譜》, commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor and reprinted by Wang Yunwu in the Republican period.The music is lost? What lies. 

Due to the recent preparation of a Guanli in Toronto, I have become increasingly busy to the point where I haven’t even touched this blog in weeks (when I should be giving an outline of my England travels – looks like that’ll have to wait). However, this is too important to just slip by, and this book represents the very purpose of this site. This post includes translated sections of the music score for use in Guanli and Sheli.

Please click in.

Left: Mode chart for Guxian as Jue, Huangzhong Gong (used in first 2 pieces of Guanli)

Left: Mode chart for Guxian as Jue, Huangzhong Gong (used in first 2 pieces of Guanli)

Left: Mode chart for Guxian as Jue, Huangzhong Gong (used in first 2 pieces of Guanli)

First of all, each piece in the Shijing may use a different mode, much similar to how a repertoire of pieces on a similar subject by a composer may compose in a different key one after the other. This is no different. In the description of the pieces itself (in later section), it will tell the reader what tuning and mode this piece is in, and it is the musician’s responsibility to decode that with the chart provided in Vol.1 of the Shijing Yuepu (such as to the left).

These charts fail to provide, however, the method of HOW to tune the instruments (especially the plucked strings) accordingly. This is where some backwards calculation has to be done, and consists of the bulk of interpretation work for the guqin and se/guzheng player.

Rough notes for reverse calculation

Rough notes for reverse calculation


GuanliSong 1,2: Zhonglv Gong, start tune from Dalv: Slacken string 1,6, 2,7 by one hui. Method: Match string 4 @10.8 with open 1. Match 1 and 6. Match string 4 @ 10th hui with open string 7 Match with string 2 with this.



Song 3 (Huang Huang Zhe Hua 皇皇者華) tuning: The same thing as above, with all strings UP ONE LU (semitone).

Huangzhong Tuning (+5th, -1st strings by one lv each)

The pieces
NOTE: I grew lazy and didn’t write different scores for different instruments, because they’re all the same anyway. The downside is, I didn’t write the GUQIN score on this one, so you may have to look at the originals. Or maybe I’ll upload the guqin part at a later date. They are ALL open strings anyway.

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August 2009
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