An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yangchun baixue 陽春白雪

Feb 28, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

There are two collections with the title Yangchun baixue 陽春白雪, one written during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) by Zhao Wenli 趙聞禮, and one during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) by Yang Chaoying 楊朝英.

The name of both anthologies goes back to the name of a zither melody that had allegedly been invented during the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE) by the music master Shi Kuang 師曠 of the regional state of Jin 齊, or by Liuweizi 劉渭子 from the state of Qi 齊. It was historically first performed by Lü Cai 呂才 in 657 CE, and is mentioned in the book Shenqi mipu 神奇秘譜, where it is classified as a melody with the key shang (shang diao 商調). It must not be confounded with the "old" lute melody Yangchun guqu 陽春古曲.

Zhao Wenli 趙聞禮, courtesy name Lizhi 立之 or Cuifu 粹夫, style Diaoyue 釣月, hailed from Linpu 臨濮 and is known as the author of the poetry collection Diaoyuexuan ci 釣月軒詞. His anthology of 8 juan length and a supplement was based on an older collection, Caotang shiyu 草堂詩余, but adds contemporary poems. It was lost at an early point of time, but in the early 19th century, Qin Enfu 秦恩復 (1760-1843) discovered a Yuan-period manuscript. It was reproduced in the series Yueyatang congshu 粵雅堂叢書, and is also found in the series Cixue congshu 詞學叢書, Wanwei biecang 宛委別藏 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編. Zhao's anthology includes the poems of more than 200 writers, mostly of the late Southern Song period. The poems are not arranged according to a visible criterion, and the quality of the songs is also rather mixed.

Yang Chaoying 楊朝英, courtesy name Danzhai 淡齋, hailed from Qingcheng 青城, Shandong. he also compiled the much larger anthology Taiping yuefu 太平樂府. His Yuefu xinbian yangchun baixue 樂府新編陽春白雪, as the Yangchun baixue is called with the full title, consists of two parts of 5 juan each, and a supplement (Buyi 補遺) of one fascicle. It is the oldest collection of Yuan-period aria-style poetry (sanqu 散曲), and is not arranged according to the social status of writers, but according to melody patters (qupai 曲牌) and musical keys (qudiao 曲調), with an amount of 463 small, single arias (xiaoling 小令), and 55 "suites" (taoshu 套數), of more than 80 known writers. The first fascicle includes a contemporary theory on music, Changlun 唱論, written by an anonymous writer dubbed Yannan Zhi'an 燕南芝庵, as well as ten "grand arias" (daqu 大曲) of the Song 宋 (960-1279) and Jin 金 (1115-1234) courts.

Because of its value for the history of literature, and because of its scholarly reliability, Yang's anthology was often reproduced, but not all editions are of high printing quality. The most convenient edition is found in the series Sanqu congkan 散曲叢刊.

Men Kui 門巋, Xu Xianglin 許祥麟 (1997). "Yangchun baixue 陽春白雪", in Men Kui 門巋, Zhang Yanjin 張燕瑾, eds. Zhonghua guocui da cidian 中華國粹大辭典 (Xianggang: Guoji wenhua chuban gongsi), 660.
Shi Xuanyuan 施宣圓 et al., eds. (1987). Zhongguo wenhua cidian 中國文化辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexueyuan chubanshe), 88.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Shenyang: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 374.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1994). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol. Wenxue 文學卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 267.
Zhongguo baike da cidian bianweihui 《中國百科大辭典》編委會, ed. (1990). Zhongguo baike da cidian 中國百科大辭典 (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe), 548.