To the tune of the Beautiful Lady Yu
Sung to the accompaniment of a Qin
琴：赵晓霞 笛\箫：喻晓庆 鼓：王佳男
Voice: Ha Hui
Qin: Zhao Xiaoxia Di/Xiao: Yu Xiaoqing Percussion: Wang Jianan
Poems come to us as distant voices through the vast expanse of time; each line, each verse captures a mood or feeling, an intimate confession of those who lived hundreds and thousands of years ago. They are records of family, friendship, love, longing and nostalgia… and teach us, that even through the never-ending flow of centuries, that the human condition never truly changes.
The Chinese zither, called the guqin (meaning "old instrument") also referred to as "qin", has existed for over 3,000 years and represents China's foremost solo musical instrument tradition. Guqin playing developed as an elite art form, practiced by noblemen and scholars in intimate settings, and was therefore never intended for public performance. The guqin was one of the four arts that Chinese scholars were expected to master, along with calligraphy, painting and "go", an ancient form of chess. According to tradition, twenty years of training were required to attain proficiency on the qin.
The singing of songs accompanied on the guqin (qin ge) was held in particularly high esteem and was seen as a vehicle for self-cultivation as well as an intimate entertainment for the Chinese literati. Generations of Chinese writers and poets expressed their most intimate ambitions and emotions in the qin ge and used their private meditations to cultivate their minds. The ancient qin ge music scores generally have one sound for each Chinese character, and the singing must follow the tradition of "recitation relying on pure sounds, revealing the beauty of the score, with deep breaths and great charm." Tradition says that this approach to qin songs dates back to Confucius himself and this practice has remained remarkably consistent up to the present.
Many of the qin ge selected by Ha Hui for this album are representative of the Chinese poetic form known as "Ci." Ci originated during the Tang dynasty as song texts that were set to existing melodies. This form reached its fullest development during the Song dynasty, but its popularity continued after that period. By the Song dynasty all the original melodies had long since been lost, ci lyrics are generally given the title of the original song from which they take their pattern. A well-known example of this would be the numerous eight-line ci said to be "Song of Everlasting Regret” (長恨歌).
Internationally celebrated Chinese concert artist Ha Hui, renown for her "sweet, well-rounded tone" brings these ancient lyrics to life with her unique interpretations, full of feeling and reverence for Chinese civilization, perfectly conveying each mood and sentiment in fresh modern arrangements. She is joined by the outstanding young performers Zhao Xiaoxia, Yu Xiaoqing, Wang Jianan, who provide a delicately improvised accompaniment on Chinese traditional instruments on our musical travel through time. Senior master recording engineer Li Dakang has perfectly captured each nuance on this superbly recorded disc.
Close your eyes and Ha Hui’s wonderful voice will transport you across the millennia to a dark night, centuries ago; a soft spring rain gently tapping at your window, a solitary candle, a cup of green tea, and this CD, completes the picture of your ancient encounter.
1. To the tune of the Beautiful Lady Yu
Poem: Li Yu
Dusk falls, and the air turns chill, as the rivers and mountains are shrouded in darkness.
To the tune of Beauty Yu was written after the Southern Tang Emperor Li Yu was dethroned and imprisoned. The poem expresses his nostalgia for his past life as the emperor, and his uncontrollable sorrow when reminiscing upon his loss. The sounds of bitterness and regret can be felt in this confessional poem, singing of the lost joys of his life in the golden palace.
2. Seeing off Meng Haoran for Guangling at Yellow Crane Tower
Poem: Li Bai
According to legend, in the spring of 730, Li Bai heard that his friend and admirer, Meng Haoran was going to take a trip to Yangzhou. Li traveled to meet his friend in Wuchang, Hubei province, to say good bye. They stayed for several days, drinking and exchanging poems and finally the two parted at the Yellow Crane Tower. As the lonely sail on his friend’s boat receded against the blue, spring sky, the poet reflects upon the endless, powerful Yangtze River and the depth of their friendship.
3.Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute
Poem: Cai Wenji
Poet and composer Cai Yan, more commonly known by her courtesy name "Wenji", was the daughter of a famous Han scholar and literati, Cai Yong. In 194–195 CE, the Han dynasty was at war, and Xiongnu nomads entered the Chinese capital and Cai Wenji was taken hostage. During her captivity, she became the wife of the Zuoxianwang ('Leftside Virtuous King' or 'Wise King of the Left', and bore him two sons. Twelve years later Cao Cao, the Chancellor of Han, ransomed her and Cai Wenji returned to her homeland, leaving behind her children.
Lady Cai Yan’s life story inspired many poems, paintings and musical pieces through the centuries. The melody for this qin song is believed to be Cai Yan’s original composition. She imitates the sound of the nomad flute’s and expresses her conflicting and painful feelings - her nostalgic yearning for her home and her reluctance to tear herself away from her children.
4. Wild Geese Descending on the Sandbank
Poem: from the Yazhai Qinpu Zongji, modern reconstruction by Wang Di
A quiet mediation on Wild Geese Descending on the Sandbank, from Eight Views of Xiaoxiang, a collection of eight poem-paintings inspired by the beautiful scenery of in modern day Hunan Province, in south central China. The original set of eight painting titles were done by painter, poet, and government official Song Di (ca. 1067 - ca. 1080), during the reign of Shenzong, in the Song Dynasty.
In ancient times, Xiaoxiang was a place of exile, where courtiers who fell from grace were sent. One can hear the sadness in the music, as the poet dreams of his hometown. He has become as a solitary wandering goose, and the beauty of spring, and the moon is nowhere to be found, as he flies like an orphan over the thousands of mountains. Later, we hear a gust of wind and rain; the qin, percussion and xiao bamboo flute echo a yearning melancholy that penetrates the lover’s heart.
——[宋]周邦彦《苏幕遮·燎沉香》 长安古乐曲谱 李健正译谱配词
5. To the Tune of ‘Sumu Veil’ (Basil Garden)
Poem: Zhou Bangyan
The ancient melody “Su mu zhe” (“The Sumu Veil”/”Basil Garden”) inspired several famous poets, including Fan Zhongyan (范仲淹) (989-1052) and Zhou Bangyan (周邦彦)(1056-1121). Zhou was one of the most well-known lyricists of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and a talented musician but fell from favor and exiled when he wrote a poem based on a conversation he overheard between the Emperor Huizong and the concubine Li Shishi. Fittingly the theme of “Sumu Veil” is homesickness; beginning with a description of the lotus leafs, which remind him of his hometown south of the Yangtze River, known for its beautiful water ponds and lotus flowers.
6.Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night
Poem: Du Fu
Following the chaos of the An Lushan Rebellion, the poet Du Fu moved to Chengdu in 759, and built a thatched hut near the Flower Rinsing Creek and lived there for four years. The "thatched hut" period was the peak of Du Fu's creativity, during which he wrote two hundred and forty poems. Despite his prolific output during this period, Du Fu was impoverished and bitter. The spring rain provided the poet with a moment to escape his regrets and contemplate the City of Brocade (an archaic name for Chengdu) bloom in a landscape full of pink flowers.
7.Climbing to Youzhou Tower
Poem: Chen Ziang
“Witness not the sages of the past; perceive not the wise of the future…” Climbing to Youzhou Tower is a meditation on loneliness written by the Tang dynasty poet, Chen Ziang, an important figure in the development of the quintessential "Tang" poetic style. Dissatisfied with the current state of the affairs of poetry at the time, he celebrated the sages of remote antiquity he helped usher in a new age of Chinese poetry.
8.The Prince Recalled
Poem: Li Chongyuan
The classic ci, The Prince Recalled, also known as The Prince Reads Aloud was written by Li Chongyuan, taking the words “Facing the green grass I recall my prince…” as its inspiration. Li wrote his poem from a woman’s perspective; the mood is melancholy as the realization of her abandonment sets in. The cuckoo’s song fills her heart with sorrow as the dusk approaches. The fragmented melody, punctuated by the gong’s low resonance, perfectly conveys the sadness and resignation she feels. From her window, she sees the rain scatters the pear blossoms, and she closes the door to her room… and her heart.
9.Regarding Plum Mountain
Poem: Qi Jiguang
Qi Jiguang (1528 – 1588) was a famous general during the Ming dynasty, who spent forty fighting for his country in the south and north of China. He was a national hero and a strategist who scored great military achievements, including fortifying the Great Wall and finally expelling the wokou Japanese pirates. He wrote several books on military strategy and was also a poet. His poems expressed his patriotic sentiments and his noble personality. Regarding Plum Mountain was written about one of Qi’s final campaigns in Fujian and Guangdong provinces.
10.Two Branches of One Tree
Poem: Inspired by “Song of Everlasting Regret” by Bai Juyi
Written in 806 AD by Bai Ju-Yi, The Song of Everlasting Regret is among the most famous poems from the Tang Dynasty. Bai’s poem depicts the tragedy of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang and his concubine, the beautiful Yang Guifei who was murdered during the Anshi Rebellion in 755 AD. Following Guifei’s death, the Emperor became disconsolate and eventually consulted a shaman to contact her spirit. The shaman finds her in a heavenly palace, reborn as the fairy Taizhen. Before the shaman departs to report to the emperor, she asks him to take a message with vows that only the Emperor and she knew: “Let us fly to heaven, as two birds on one wing; And to grow together on the earth, two branches of one tree.”