Traveling on the River in Snow
An early Song Dynasty (960–1279) painting on silk of two Chinese cargo ships accompanied by a smaller boat, by Guo Zhongshu (c.910–977 AD); notice the large stern-mounted rudder on the ship shown in the foreground.
The text in the upper left was written by Song Huizong, the 8th emperor of the Song Dynasty.
Xi Yang Xiao Gu (夕阳箫鼓)
Listed as one of ten best ancient Chinese music pieces, “Flutes and Drums at Sunset” is one of the representative works of ancient Chinese lute music. The author is not known. Beginning to be popular as early as in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the music’s name was first seen in Textual Research of Contemporary Music compiled by Yao Xie (1805-1864) in the Qing dynasty.—source
Ping Sha Luo Yan 平沙落雁 (Wild Geese Descending on a Sandbank)
Pingsha Luo Yan (also called Ping Sha, Pingsha Yan Luo and, in the first four published versions as well as later, Yan Luo Pingsha), is one of the most popular melodies in the current repertoire, actively played in several versions from old handbooks and developing in many individual interpretations. Although this popularity is certainly related to the basic appeal of the melody itself, the popularity did not emerge until early in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), just after Manchu rulers had driven out a native one, the Ming (1368-1644). Both geese and sandbanks have long been associated with exile, and the earliest surviving version of the melody was published by a Ming prince about to go into exile, Zhu Changfang. Zhu published it in his 1634 handbook Guyin Zhengzong.
Yan Luo Pingsha then quickly became popular during the ensuing Qing period. Presumably it was for political reasons that Qing dynasty publications did not mention the melody title’s associations with exile. Some instead suggest that the melody expresses detachment from worldly matters, or admiration for the lofty aims of wild geese. More often, though, they discuss technical matters, dealing obscurely with such matters as mode and comparative versions. —source
(my favorite traditional Chinese piece :)
Han Gong Qiu Yue 汉宫秋月 Autumn Moon over the Han Palace
Han Gong Qiu Yue means autumn moon of the palace in the Han Dynasty. There are respectively Guzheng, Erhu, and Pipa versions of this tune.
The music reveals the bitterness and grief of the young maids in the palace, stirring people’s sympathy towards the misfortune and loneliness of the girls.—source
Versions of this latter melody, also called Han Gong Qiu Yue (Autumn Moon over the Han Palace), Han Gong Qiu Yuan (Autumn Lament in the Han Palace) and Qiu Shan Yin (Autumn Fan Intonation), survive in at least 49 handbooks from 1589 to 1946.
The prefaces for all these are in some way connected with the Ban family, Ban Jieyuin particular, but there are some confusing details.
Ban Jieyu came from a family already very well known, though not yet as famous as it was to become. By her skillful action she at one time rescued her brother Ban Zhi from a charge of treason. Ban Zhi became the father of Ban Biao,a historian who in turn was father of Ban Gu and Ban Zhao,the brother and sister who were responsible for completing the history of the former Han dynasty; Ban Gu’s twin brother Ban Chao was perhaps China’s most famous frontier general.
Gazeteers include Guanshans in Shaanxi and Shandong provinces, but it is also a common allusion to separation from home. The prelude could thus also be translated Homesick.
The story related in the afterword to the present Han Gong Qiu is a scaled down version of a fairly well-known story about Ban Jieyu, the imperial concubine who at one time was the favorite of the Han emperor Chengdi.
Ban Jieyu had already proven her moral values by resisting the emperor’s attempts to persuade her to ride with him in his chariot, her artistic talents through her ability to recite poems from the Shi Jing, and her generosity by introducing her attendant Li Ping to the emperor. Eventually, however, she lost out to Zhao Feiyan, after which great skill was required to survive the jealousy of Zhao and her sister. To do this Ban Jieyu first had to defend herself against accusations that she had cursed the emperor. She then found safety by arranging to serve the empress dowager in her palace.
Ban Jieyu’s best poem is said to be one called Self-Commiseration.In it she speaks of her virtue, and her sadness at having been abandoned.
Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai 胡笳十八拍 ( Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute)
Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai means eighteen songs of a nomad reed pipe, which was composed on the basis of the poem with the same name. Hu Jia was a kind of reed pipe popular among the nomadic people in ancient North China, and was used in the army to boost the morale since it’s very loud.
Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai tells the famous story of Cai Wenji’s return to the Han kingdom. Social unrest forced Cai to marry a king of the nomadic Huns in the North at the end of the Han Dynasty, and she missed her hometown in the Central Plain every single day. Finally she got a chance to go back 12 years later, but by then she was already a mother of two. The ecstasy of being able to go back to the hometown was extinguished by the pain of having to leave her children. The music delicately expresses her mixed feelings at this moment.
Gao Shan Liu Shui 高山流水 (High Mountains, Flowing Water) - composed by Yu Boya
According to Qin Shi, Liezi said: “Bo Ya was good at playing the qin. Zhong Ziqi was good at to listening to the qin. When Bo Ya’s will was towards high mountains in his playing, Zhong Ziqi would say, ‘How towering like Mount Tai!’ When Bo Ya’s will was towards flowing water in his playing, Zhong Ziqi would say, ‘How vast are the rivers and oceans!’ Whatever Bo Ya thought of Ziqi would never fail to understand. Bo Ya said, ‘Amazing! Your heart and mine are the same!’ When Ziqi died, Bo Ya broke the strings [of his qin] and vowed never to play [the qin] again. Thus, there was the melody of High Mountains Flowing Water.” —source