Jade Sheng, Heavenly Crane

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This image of John Thompson was taken in March, 2005 as he was recording this piece. Singing and qin plucking both by John.

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Jade Sheng, Heavenly Crane
          (Tentative translation)
Ziqiao loved soaring up, 
he didn't wait for an elixer. 
Riding a crane he went to remote places, 
studying how a phoenix faces mountain peaks. 
Mountains don't have grass just one spring, 
valleys can have 1,000 year orchids. 
Clothed in clouds he is hesitant to descend, 
riding a dragon when would you ever return? 
Yáo Tiān Shēng Hè
Zǐ Qiáo hǎo qīngjǔ,
Bùdài liǎn yín dān.
Kòng hè qù yǎotiǎo,
Xué fèng duì cuán wán.
Shān wú yī chūn cǎo,
Gǔ yǒu qiān nián lán.
Yún yī xià zhízhú,
Lóng jià héshí huán.
Translator: John Thompson 唐世璋

This melody, found only in Xilutang Qintong, evokes the image of Wangzi Qiao (often read as Wang Ziqiao), usually depicted riding on a crane while playing the sheng mouth organ. This is a Daoist image often seen in folk art, and the story of Wangzi Qiao is perhaps the source for later poetic references to a jade sheng imitating the sound of a crane. The eldest son of King Ling of the Zhou dynasty (traditional reign period 571-544 BCE), he is said to have studied the Dao at Songshan, one of China's five sacred mountain ranges and long a famous center of Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. From here he ascended into immortality.

Details of this are in his earliest surviving biography, in the Biographies of Immortals, probably a late Han dynasty text. The preface to Yao Tian Sheng He is largely a quote from the first half of his entry in this volume. The complete biography, which is quoted in the Yuefu Shiji, is as follows.
Wangzi Qiao, Zhou Ling Wang's eldest son, was named Jin. He was good at playing the sheng and could imitate the call of a phoenix. As he roamed in the area between the Yi and Luo rivers the Daoist Master Fuqiu (Fuqiu Gong) drew him up to a high mountain in the Song mountain range. 30 years later he called (people?) to the mountain. Seeing (someone named) Huan Liang he said, "Tell my family to wait for me on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month at the top of Goushi Mountain." When that day arrived he mounted a white crane and stopped briefly on the mountaintop. People could see him but could not go near him. Raising his hands to thank his contemporaries, he left several days later (having become an immortal). A temple was established in his honor at the base of Goushi mountain, extending (?) a path high up to Songshan.

Yuefu Shiji includes five sets of lyrics about Wangzi Qiao. The second of these, by Jiang Yan (444-505) can be sung to the music of section 8 of the present melody. However, the pairing of lyrics to music does not fit the then-standard practice of one character for each right hand stroke or left hand pluck.

The earliest known mention of Wangzi Qiao is perhaps in the Chu Ci (Chu Lyrics) poem Yuan You (also a qin melody), traditionally attributed to Song Yu (ca. 290- ca. 223). On line 54 the author speaks of "following Wang(zi) Qiao for pleasure", apparently suggesting a search for immortality; and on lines 61/2 he speaks of asking Wangzi "about the balance made by unifying essence."

Above quoted from John Thompson's website at http://www.silkqin.com/02qnpu/16xltq/xl096yts.htm

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