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Domestic Drama

The pieces in this chapter are more nearly recognizable as the Western genre of narrative ballad. Their setting is the home. Their situations are grim. The titles inform us of the domestic story to be unfolded; for example, ‘Orphan Boy’ and ‘Ailing Wife’. The characters of the orphan boy and the wretched wife are recurring types.

Domestic drama was treated as a theme for the first time in the Han. In the earlier poetry of the Chou, attention focussed on personal, rather than family problems. Poetic settings were outdoors rather than in the home. Home was projected as a vision of peace and comfort in Chou poems portraying nostalgic soldiers on campaign.1 The home was also the setting for ancestral sacrifice. Among the characters of girls and women in the Chou classic, brides rather than wives were portrayed, and then it was often a royal bride. Children were not mentioned, except in abstract terms, such as grandsons prayed for in formal felicitations at ancestral sacrifice.

One reason for this difference in depicting the domestic theme is the new mood of realism in the Han.2 Elements of realism are perceptible in the Han rhapsody, but it is only fleetingly present as a novel trope.3 In the formal shih ode or lyric of the Han period, realism is often presented in a stylized, even decorative manner.4 It is in Han songs and ballads that the realistic mode is most evident, and nowhere more evident than in the mundane setting of the home. Singers often preferred to depict sordid and ugly aspects of life. There are no songs or ballads describing a happy wife with her children or a father at home with his family. It is as if the Han singers deliberately turned away from the overly lush brilliance of the rhapsody which extravagantly praised Han palaces, exotic royal parks, and magnificent capital cities. Perhaps from boredom, or from a growing sense of unease the balladeers rejected traditional themes and the subjects of the rhapsody and looked for material for their songs in the ordinary stuff of everyday life. They certainly belonged to a different social circle from the rhapsodist, who was a court poet and official like Chia I, Pan Ku, Chang Heng, and Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju, the rhapsodist par excellence. 129

One interest of this group of songs and ballads lies in the moral questions they provoke in their narrative. These moral issues arise from human relationships as much as from social ills, such as poverty. In ‘The Orphan Boy’, an older brother’s ill-treatment of his younger brother creates the domestic drama. In ‘East Gate’, a man is torn between desert­ing his impoverished family and making his own way in life. The moral issues are projected through opposing characters whose actions and dialogue display noble and ignoble facets of human nature—fortitude and integrity, bullying and rudeness. The conflict is usually between the strong and the weak in the family, the weak falling victim to the rapacity and obstinacy of the strong.

The Ballad of the Orphan Boy

The life of an orphan boy—

An orphan boy’s encounter with life:

Fated to be wretched and alone.

When Father and Mother were alive

We rode in a strong carriage,

Drove a team of four horses.

Now Father and Mother are gone,

My older brother and his wife make me trade:

South to Chiu-chiang,

East to Ch’i and Lu.

In the La month I come home,

But daren’t speak of my misery.

My hair is full of nits,

My face and eyes full of dust.

My big brother says, ‘Get the meal ready.’

My big sister says, ‘Look after the horses.’

Up I go to the high hall,

Then hurry down to the lower hall.

The orphan boy’s tears fall like rain.

They make me go and draw water at dawn,

At dusk I must fetch water again.

My hands have become chapped,

My feet go without straw sandals.

Aching, aching I tread on frost,

Among many prickly root crops I walk.

I pull up and break the thorns,

My calves hurt so I want to scream.

Tears fall spurting, spurting,

Clear tears flooding, flooding.

In winter I have no lined coat,

In summer no unlined robe. 130

To live unhappily

Is not as good as an early death,

Following on down to Yellow Springs.

Spring air quickens,

Grass shoots sprout.

In the third month silkworm mulberry,

In the sixth month I harvest melons.

Pushing the melon cart

I come back home again.

When my melon cart overturns

A few help me,

But many devour my melons.

I want people to give back the vines—

Brother and his wife are strict.

Empty-handed, I’d better hurry home

To face their reckoning.


‘In the village what shouting, shouting!

I want to send a foot-long letter

To the underworld to Father and Mother:

With Brother and his wife I can’t live much longer.’

This narrative is one of the most lucid in the Han repertoire. Although it shares several features with ballads of other cultures, there is one which is distinctly Chinese. This is the character of the villain. When Western ballads or fairy tales deal with the theme of ill-treated children, the villain is often a stepmother. In Han songs and ballads this role is played by the older brother. The characterization of the evil older brother has its roots in traditional society. As an adult the older brother occupied a position of power and authority in the family, even overriding the authority of the father, according to literary evidence at least. The social aspect of this system is reflected in some poems of the Book of Poetry.5 In the Han collection of anonymous songs the problems ensuing from the system are highlighted, as here in the story of the orphan boy, in one of the love songs, and, not so prominently, in ‘A Yen Song, The Whenever Ballad’ on the carpe diem theme, and in ‘Cocks Crow’.6

Hans H. Frankel has made a special study of this ballad, and has singled out a number of sophisticated narrative techniques. He notes that different time sequences punctuate the long narrative: the recent time prior to the action of the ballad when the orphan boy was born and his parents died; the present phase of the narrative action; and some­time in the near future when it is anticipated that the ill-treated boy will die. The unifying element in the temporal scheme is the orphan boy’s memory of his parents’ death at the beginning of the story and his own 131death-wish at the end. Various kinds of time markers are worked into this ‘chronological frame’: seasonal time (winter, summer, spring), festival time (the La month), and other unspecified periods. They show how the young boy’s life is a series of busy jobs and they reveal indirectly the cruelty of the boy’s guardians, his older brother and his wife. Festival time underscores the pathos of the story. La was the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, the time when families held a reunion to celebrate the New Year.7 Instead of a joyful reunion he is made to run around like a slave at home. This pattern is repeated at the end of the ballad when he brings home an empty cart and gets a scolding. The pathos is deepened by the pun contained in the word kuei, return home, which also means to die.

The narrative is also marked by three typical journeys the orphan boy makes, prefiguring his eventual journey to the underworld to rejoin his parents. He peddles goods between Chiu-chiang (Kiukiang), Ch’i, and Lu; he fetches water for the house; and he collects food, either roots or melons.8 Each journey is beset with troubles. Water imagery in the narrative, Frankel observes, is linked to the inevitable movement towards death: spilling tears, rain, drawing water, and Yellow Springs or the next world.

Frankel also comments on the device of paired images in the narrative. The carriage the boy rode in with his parents was a strong vehicle drawn by four horses. After their death he is made to work like a pack-horse pulling the cart of melons, which is so rickety that it overturns. The team of four horses drawing the family carriage become beasts the orphan has to look after as if he were just a stable lad. The contrast between these and other pairs of images is bathetic. They serve to emphasize the downward movement of the young master to young slave, from a high point of prosperity and happiness to a low level of destitution and misery.9

The narrative employs a dramatic change in point of view. The singer’s voice moves from the boy speaking in the first person, to the narrator, to the brother and wife, and back to the orphan. The singer’s tone ranges from pathos to impersonality, bringing the audience closer to the little human drama, then distancing it to provoke reflection. The narrative also becomes linked to other ballads through its use of commonplace expression. The closest link is with ‘The Ailing Wife’; its central pathetic couplet, ‘In winter I have no lined coat,/ In summer no unlined robe’, re-echoes in the central envoi of the other narrative ballad. The last line of ‘The Orphan Boy’ is similar to the last line of the short version of ‘East Gate’, ‘I can’t go on living here …’ These narrative techniques of shifts in time, place and speaker, the blend of pathos and bathos, and sparing but significant use of imagery, make this ballad one of the best in the Han repertoire.10132

The Ballad of the Ailing Wife

A wife was ailing, year in, year out.

She called for her husband to come for a word.

About to speak, before she could yet speak,

Unawares her tears fell, such a spilling stream!

‘I entrust to you the burden of two or three orphans.

Don’t let my infants hunger or go cold.

Though they do wrong, take care not to thrash them.

I am going to die very young.

Think it over and remember.’


As nurslings they have no coat,

Nor are their tunics lined.

He shut the gates, blocked the windows,

Settled the orphans, went to market.

On the way he met a good friend.

He sat down in tears and could not get up.

Then he begged him to buy some cakes for the orphans.

Facing his friend he wept tears and couldn’t stop:

‘I don’t want to grieve, but I can’t help it.’

He reached inside his breast and handed him the money.

The friend entered the gates.

He paced through the empty hut:

‘Soon they are going to follow their mother.

Stop that—say no more!’

From small details in the narrative we may infer some background to the story. The poverty-stricken family portrayed is a recently married couple with ‘two or three’ very young infants. They live in an isolated spot, some way from neighbours and the market. This setting creates the dramatic crisis of the story. It is because the market and help are so far away that the father has to leave his infants untended in their home. The remote setting heightens the pathos of the family and provides a tragic cause in the story. The two focal points of the home and the market, which is mentioned but never reached, interact in ironic play. The one person who might have averted the tragedy is a friend who happens to be passing by on the road to the market, but he is too late.

The time sequence helps to unify the story, but less tautly than in ‘The Orphan Boy’. It begins with the past, some years back when the wife began to be chronically ill, from poverty it is presumed. The second line plunges the audience into the dramatic crisis, when the wife talks to her husband on her deathbed. She utters a prophetic statement about her infants: ‘Or they’re going to die very young’. It is echoed later in the story, 133‘Soon they are going to follow their mother.’ The wife’s death is not mentioned. After her deathbed scene the narrative continues with the husband’s story. His downward spiral into failure is as predictable as that of the orphan boy. He is shown begging on the road in tears. The narrative is ambiguous, it turns out, concerning the husband’s reason for locking the infants in the house and leaving for the market. The last line says, ‘Speak no more of deserting them.’ It seems that the father had told his friend that he had contemplated abandoning them to their fate, but the audience is not aware of this possibility until the end of the story.

This ambiguity may be intentional, or it may indicate a flaw in the song’s narrative structure. The text of the first half is clear and straight­forward. From the end of the envoi to the last line of the whole piece the text becomes muddled. It is unclear whether the father takes any children with him. Nor is it clear whether the friend buys food for the children or whether the father does. This creates a confusion in the last passage, for we are not sure if the friend or the father, or both, return to the house, and if it is the friend or the father who is the speaker in the last couplet. My translation gives the story more cohesion than is present in the text, and the second half might be translated quite differently. It is possible that the stylistic differences in the two halves of the ballad, and the curious placing of the envoi in the middle instead of the end of the song may signify that the original ballad stopped at the end of the envoi, and later acquired an extra passage.

Taken as a whole, the presentation is in the pathetic mode. From the first line which tells of the wife’s long-term illness to the last line the story is marked by pathetic statements and description. The wife utters a gentle, helpless dying wish. She prophesies her infants’ early death. They are described as inadequately clothed. They are left without a mother, and then locked up without any parent or friend. The father is forced to beg. The children cry for their dead mother. The mother’s prophecy is repeated. It is typical of the Han ballad, however, that this pathos is handled without undue sentiment. The tearfulness of the mother, father, and infants is not overly emphasized, but follows from the narrative line. The singer does not intrude with additional asides or comment. He does not apportion blame for this tragedy and does not point to social injustice as its cause. The audience is left to consider if the tragedy is due to individual human error or to some wider social problem, or a combination of both factors.11134

East Gate Ballad

long version

Leaving by East Gate

I did not look back home.

Coming inside my gates

I despaired and wanted to lament:

In the bin not a peck of grain was stored,

Then I saw on the rack no clothes hanging.

I drew my sword, left the gates,

Babes and woman clung to my robe weeping:

‘Other families just long for wealth and honour,

Your poor wife will share her meal of gruel with you.

‘Share her meal of gruel.

Follow the will of blue-wave Heaven above,

Look after your yellow-beak babes here below!

Today you have clear integrity,

You can’t transgress the moral code!

If you only have self-regard,

Won’t that be wrong?

‘Today you have clear integrity,

You can’t transgress the moral code!

If you only have self-regard,

Won’t that be wrong?’

‘Get away! I’m late leaving!’

‘Mind how you go.’

‘Watch for my return!’

The setting is a poor home and the characters are again a young family of a wife, a husband, and infants. In contrast with ‘The Ailing Wife’, pathos is now a sub-theme. The major theme is the conflict between family morality and individual freedom. The conflict is precipitated by poverty in the home. It is dramatically presented through well-defined characters. The wife, no longer portrayed pathetically on her deathbed, is a strong, principled woman who has a more positive role here as the custodian of family values. She opposes her husband who tries to deny his family responsibilities and make his own way in life. The ballad consists of eight lines of narrative spoken by the husband and thirteen lines spoken by the wife in direct address to him, the final quatrain consisting of dialogue between the two. The structure is mainly based on the dramatic conflict between the two characters and between their two opposing, irreconcilable points of view.

The story is at first told by the husband. He confesses his emotional 135turmoil as he views his family life in ruins. The symbolism of the gate emphasizes the enormity of the decision he has to make: within the gate he has the security of his home, despite its poverty, and the inner comfort of knowing that by staying at home he is doing what is right. Beyond the gate lies the unknown, a decline into inhumanity, even crime. The first quatrain is ambiguous. I have rendered it to suggest that the husband is torn by anxiety and indecision. It might also be rendered to suggest that the husband has once left home and now returns to find the terrible tragedy at home.12 The gate symbolism of the title and song-text has additional meaning through a literary echo from the Book of Poetry:

I leave from the north gates,

My despairing heart in distress.

I am straightened and poor.

No one knows my hardship.13

The unknown man in the Chou classic is leaving the city in an attempt to shed his problems. He is poor and feels utterly alone with no hope of help. In the Han ballad the husband’s world is not the city but his family within his own gates. He wishes to leave that world behind. The image of his sword is linked to the symbolism of the gates. It reveals him as a man of action, perhaps a fighting man who will offer his services to a lord or join some outlawed band of men in a life of crime. The fact that his wife warns him against transgressing the moral code indicates that she fears he will become a criminal.14 The image of his physical strength is dramatically contrasted with the image of her weakness and vulner­ability as she and the infants cling to his robes. The image of weakness, however, masks an inner strength, just as the sword’s power hides an inner weakness.

In her feminine pose of weakness, the wife begins her plea to her husband to stay with her and share the crisis. She insists that she is not a seeker after wealth and status, whatever the cost. She values her family. She shows her maternal instinct in offering to share her meagre plate of food with her husband to try to coax him to stay. She reminds him of their infants, a Heaven-sent gift. In looking after them, she argues, he is doing what is right. If he is selfish and goes in pursuit of his own career, he will be morally wrong. He rejects her pleas and arguments with a rude curtness, born of anguish and despair. She bids him farewell with the same tender generosity of spirit as before: ‘Mind how you go.’15

The ballad has several typical features which are skilfully integrated into the narrative. Dialogue is a mixture of colloquial speech and formalities. Two-thirds of the piece is given to speech, allowing the characters to reveal themselves. Some of the dialogue is repeated, especially the pathetic line, ‘Share her meal of gruel’, and the central 136moral argument of the wife. There is repetition in the parallel structure of the first quatrain, which focusses on the symbolism of the gates. There are commonplace expressions, such as ‘Leaving by East Gate’, the image of weeping infants and wife, and the couplet, ‘Through the will of blue-wave Heaven above/ Are your yellow-beak babes here below.’ This couplet is almost the same as the penultimate couplet of the carpe diem song, ‘A Yen Song, The Whenever Ballad’, which echoes this ballad’s moral dilemma, despair, and poverty. As I suggested in my discussion of that less clear-cut, sometimes enigmatic piece, it is through the relation­ship between certain passges in the Han repertoire that some of the enigmas may be resolved. It is probable that the dramatic conflict of ‘East Gate’ informs to some extent the elliptical finale of ‘A Yen Song’, suggesting its possible social context.

Realism is a characteristic of ‘East Gate’. The borrowed phrase, ‘yellow-beak’, denotes the desperate hunger of children like hatchlings clamouring with beaks upstretched for their parents to bring food. The picture of poverty is realistically conveyed in the first passage: an empty foodbin and an empty clothes-line graphically illustrate the family’s poverty. The ballad is important in the Han repertoire for its portrayal of the wife’s courage. This portrait is somewhat idealized, the idealism nicely accentuated by the touches of realism in the descriptive vignettes. As a heroine she is stronger than other wives in tragic balladic narratives, such as Lan-chih who drowns herself in ‘A Peacock Southeast Flew’, and the wife of Ch’iu Hu in ‘Harmonizing with Mr. Pan’s Poem’, who also drowns herself.16 She is not so entertaining or independent as Ch’in Lo-fu, who jauntily flirts with an importunate official and then rebuffs him. She is more credible than the good wife in ‘The Lunghsi Ballad’ who is idealized for the purposes of irony and satire. The wife of ‘East Gate’ may perhaps be seen as the prototype of heroines in the later literary tradition, such as Tou O or Li Wa in drama and fiction.17

East Gate Ballad

short version

Leaving by East Gate

I did not look back home.

Coming inside my gates

I despaired and wanted to lament:

In the bin not a peck of rice was stored,

Then I saw on the rack no clothes hanging.

I drew my sword, from East Gate I went,

In the hut my babes and their mother clung to my robe weeping:

‘Other families just long for wealth and honour, 137

Your poor wife will share her meal of gruel with you.

Through the will of blue-wave Heaven above

We now enjoy these yellow-beak babes here below.

Today you are doing wrong.’

‘Get off! Get away!

I’m late in leaving.

I can’t go on living here when my hair’s nearly white.’

The first section of narrative is almost the same as that of the long version. In the second section the short version deletes the speech on morality and its repetition, reducing the long passage’s eight lines to just one. The repetition of line 11 in the long version is also deleted. Line 21 of the long version is expanded to two lines in the short. The closures of both versions are different. In the long version the harshness of the marital quarrel is softened by the wistful farewell. In the short version the husband’s angry frustration is developed into a final explosion of anger about his wasted life at home. Its diction is a half echo of ‘The Orphan Boy’. The singer of the short version clearly felt that the long passage of moral censure was not only tedious in its repetition but unattractive in content to his audience. This short version brings the song closer to the pathetic mode than the other’s dramatic clash of personalities and points of view. The techniques of song, such as repetition of lines or words or phrases, are subordinated in the short version to the narrative line.18

The Ballad of Shang-liu-t’ien

In the village is a weeping boy

Just like my own father’s son.

As I turn my carriage to question the boy

I cannot check my heartfelt sorrow.

The indeterminacy of character, setting, and situation of this song has attracted several specific interpretations. The third century AD commentator, Ts’ui Pao, explains that Shang-liu-t’ien is the name of a place where a certain family lived. The parents died, and the eldest brother refused to care for his orphaned younger brothers. His neighbours composed this sad song on behalf of the younger brothers to satirize the elder brother.19

Yü Kuan-ying offers a different interpretation. He cites a song entitled ‘The Old Ballad of Shang-liu-t’ien’, which clearly expresses the theme of fraternal cruelty: 138

As I leave by this West Gate of Shang-tu

Three thorn trees are growing from the same single root.

One thorn is broken off, not fully grown.

Brothers there were two or three,

The younger brothers were thrown out, alone and poor.20

The title of this old song relates to that of the Han quatrain. On the other hand, the two verses have in common only the theme of a luckless boy. Hu K’e-chia (AD 1809 ed.) amends the text of the old song so that Shang-tu becomes Shang-liu, which forces a comparison between the two stories and texts. But it would be imprudent to make that amendment and that comparison serve as evidence that the old song constitutes the background story of the Han song. While it is true that several Han ballads deal with the theme or sub-theme of the cruelty of an older brother to his younger brother, the theme is not necessarily present in the Han quatrain.

The unexplained individualized emotion here contrasts with the social specificity of the emotion expressed in other Han domestic ballads. The vagueness itself provides a clue to the interpretation of the piece. The stranger who happens to be driving in his carriage through the boy’s village sees the weeping child and responds to him as an older brother, ‘Just like my own father’s son’. The curious turn of phrase may denote that the stranger’s father had a son by a different mother than the stranger’s, and that this son is perhaps a generation younger than the stranger. The brief narrative merely relates that he turns back to talk to the child; no dialogue expands the story line. But this quatrain is not really concerned with the boy’s story. It focusses on the stranger’s emotional response to the sight of the child. That the mere sight of him in tears provokes such a strong reaction from the stranger points toward the cult of sentiment and the rejection of the stronger narrative of Han songs featuring children. The effect of the quatrain is an appealingly sentimental scene which depicts the persona’s fine sensibilities. It is notable for the absence of that stoicism which is the hallmark of the typical Han repertoire. This quatrain marks a transition between domestic narratives and those sentimental lyrics of the late and post-Han which explored not so much the reality of everyday life as the inner workings of the human psyche.21


1 Karlgren, The Book of Odes, poem nos. 156 and 207.

2 Watson, Chinese Lyricism, pp. 33–51, discusses this trend in ‘Chien-an and the New Realism’.

3 Watson, Chinese Rhyme-Prose, pp.21–4, translates ‘The Wind’, attributed to Sung Yü (3rd cenury BC), which is unusual in its long realistic passage describing the lives of the poor.198

4 Watson, ‘Chien-an and the New Realism’, gives examples of literary shih in the Han.

5 For example, poem 26 in which a girl who loves someone who is not her brothers’ choice says: ‘when I go and complain,/ I meet with their anger.’ Poem 223 states: ‘but the bad brothers/mutually do harm to each other.’ Poem 189 prays: ‘elder and younger brothers,/may they love each other,/and not plot against each other.’ Karlgren, op. cit., pp. 15, 177, and 130 (last line slightly abridged).

6 The love song is ‘A Yen Song, A Ballad’ in Chapter Ten.

7 The observance of the La festival in the Han is described by Bodde, Festivals in Classical China, pp. 54, 58, 60, and 72.

8 Chiu-chiang was in the region of modern Anhwei; Ch’i and Lu were the names of states in the Chou era, in the regions of modern Shantung and Honan.

9 Most of the analysis of this song is based on Frankel’s illuminating discussion of it, which he also translates in The Flowering Plum, pp. 62–7.

10 The narrative text has no stanza divisions. At the end there is an envoi. The metre is very irregular, a mix of different syllabic line lengths in which the tetrasyllabic predominates: lines 1–22: 3–5–4–4–3–3–4–6–4–5–4–5–4–4–5–5–3–5–6–5–5–3; lines 23–26 are tetrasyllabic; line 27 is pentasyllabic, the break in the metrical pattern indicating an emotional line; lines 28–33 resume the tetrasyllabic metre; lines 34–36 are: 6–3–3; lines 37–47 resume the tetrasyllabic metre. The line indicat­ing the envoi is disyllabic; the envoi quatrain is irregular: 6–5–6–6. The text is in Kuo, ch. 38, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 13, Zither-mode Pieces, Part 3’, p. 567.

11 The metre is very irregular, with a few regular couplets scattered among the lines. The first 9 lines are: 6–7–6–8–7–6–6–4–4; the envoi: 2–4–4; the last passage: 4–5–4–5–7–8–8–6–3–8–5–4–5. The text is in Kuo, ch. 38, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 13, Zither-mode Pieces, Part 3’, p. 566.

12 In his translation and discussion of this piece Diény comments that it is evident that the man’s first attempt to leave failed, Aux origines, p. 127.

13 Poem no. 40, first quatrain, my translation.

14 It is tempting to characterize the husband as a knight-errant, yu-hsia, one who gave his services altruistically to those in need. But this would contradict the spirit of this ballad, for his wife has condemned his departure as ‘self-regard’. It is more in keeping with the meaning of the narrative to view the husband as a mercenary who will be paid for his military skills. Diény, id., p. 128, views the husband as a yu-hsia.

15 The texts of Shen and Kuo diverge in the last line. Shen’s text is Wang wu kuei‚ ‘Watch for my return’, whereas Kuo’s reads Wang chün kuei‚‘I’ll watch for your return.’ If Shen’s text is followed, the last four lines constitute alternate lines spoken by the wife and husband; if Kuo’s is accepted, the wife’s gentle farewell softens the ending of the harsh domestic drama.

16 Both ballads appear in Birrell, New Songs, Chapter 1, p. 61: ‘goes toward the clear lake’, and Chapter 2, p. 78: ‘goes to the long flow’. Ch’iu Hu’s wife is idealized as a chaste woman in the ‘Biographies of the Chaste’ section of Biographies of [Virtuous] Women (Lieh nu chuan)‚ attributed to Liu Hsiang, SPPY 5.6b–7b.

17 For a study of Tou O, see Shih Chung-wen, Injustice to Tou O: Tou Yüan, A Study and Translation (1972); for a study of Li Wa, see Glen Dudbridge, Tale of Li Wa: Study and Critical Edition of a Chinese Story from the Ninth Century (1983). The metre of ‘East Gate Ballad’ is irregular. The first quatrain is trisyllabic; lines 5–6 of the first stanza are 5–7; the second stanza is: 5–5–6–7; stanza three: 3–6–6–4–4–4–3; the last stanza: 4–4–4–3–4–3–3. The text of the long version is arranged in four stanzas. The text is in Shen Yüeh, ‘Treatise on Music’, ch. 21, ‘Major Pieces’ category, p. 616, and in Kuo, ch. 37, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 12, Zither-mode Pieces, Part 2’‚ p. 550. Although Kuo presents the long version of the song first, he lists the short version following it as the original, which Diény disputes, see Chapter Four, n. 28.199

18 The metre is 3–3–3–3–6–7–5–7–6–7–6–7–2–2–4–7, the first quatrain matching that of the long version. The text is presented as one narrative sequence. The text is in Kuo, ch. 37, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 12, Zither-mode Pieces, Part 2’‚ p. 550, with the words ‘original words’ tacked onto the end of the piece, a dating disputed by Diény, who feels in general that long versions precede the short, Aux origines‚ pp. 128 and 138.

19 Kuo cites this ballad in his preface to Ts’ao P’ei’s imitation of the title, and quotes Ts’ui Pao, Record of Things Ancient and Modern (SPTK 2.4b).

20 Yü, Anthology, p. 33, cites this hexasyllabic song from the commentary of Li Shan on Lu Chi’s imitation of ‘The Yü-chang Ballad’ in Anthology of Literature (Wen hsüan)‚ SPPY 28.3a, of which the Ch’ing editor, Hu K’e-chia, amends the name of the gate from Shang-tu to Shang-liu, ibid.

21 The metre is pentasyllabic. The text is in Kuo, ch. 38, p. 563, in Kuo’s preface to Ts’ao P’ei’s imitation, citing Shen Chien of the Northern Sung, Elaborations on Yüeh-fu Titles (Yüeh-fu kuang t’i), who gives the text of the quatrain and notes that the composer was probably of the Han era.

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