五音 – Chinese philosophy and culture

wǔyīn 五音

The Five Notes

五声音阶,即宫、商、角、徵、羽等五个音高递增的音符,大致对应于今天简谱中的1、2、3、5、6。在角后、徵前加变徵,在羽后加变宫,即为七声音阶。音阶细分意味着旋律多变,不过基于五声音阶的古典音乐尽管变化相对较少,亦自有一种单纯、质朴、静穆、悠扬的美。因为古代雅乐、民歌多用五声音阶,所以常用“五音”泛指音乐。

The term refers to the five musical notes that rise in pitch, from gong (宫), shang (商), jue (角), zhi (徵), to yu (羽), which correspond roughly to the notes of 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 in today’s numbered musical notation. When a zhi minus is placed before zhi and a gong plus after yu, this pentatonic scale becomes heptatonic. Such division of the musical notes gives rise to a variety of tunes. Although Chinese classical music based on a five-note scale does not vary that much, it retains the beauty of a simple, quiet, and lyrical style. As ancient refined music and folksongs were mostly based on a five-note scale, this term often referred to music in general.

引例 Citation:

◎高渐离击筑,荆轲和而歌,为变徵之声,士皆垂泪涕泣。(《战国策·燕策三》)

(高渐离敲着筑,荆轲和着节拍唱歌,发出变徵的声调,送行的人都流着眼泪小声地哭泣。)

Gao Jianli struck the zhu instrument. Jing Ke sang to the beat, uttering a zhi-minus note. Those who saw him off broke out in tears. (Strategies of the Warring States)

◎五色令人目盲;五音令人耳聋;五味令人口爽;驰骋畋猎,令人心发狂;难得之货,令人行妨。是以圣人为腹不为目,故去彼取此。(《老子·第十二章》)

(缤纷的色彩,使人眼花缭乱;嘈杂的音调,使人听觉失灵;丰盛的食物,使人舌不知味;纵情狩猎,使人心情放荡发狂;稀有的物品,使人行为不轨。因此,圣人但求吃饱肚子而不追逐声色之娱,所以摒弃物欲的诱惑而保持安定知足的生活方式。)

A riot of color makes one dizzy; discordant melody damages one’s hearing; plenty of food numbs one’s taste bud; hunting to excess causes one to lose control over oneself; and a valuable object tempts one into stealing it. Therefore, a sage, once having eaten enough, will not seek sensual pleasures. Rather, he will abandon the desire for material comfort and be content with living a simple life. (Laozi)

◎五色杂而成黼黻,五音比而成韶夏,五情发而为辞章,神理之数也。(刘勰《文心雕龙·情采》)

(五色交错而成灿烂的锦绣,五音排列组织而成悦耳的乐章,五情抒发而成动人的辞章,这是自然的道理。)

When silk threads of various colors are woven together, a beautiful piece of embroidery is created. When the five musical notes are properly arranged, a beautiful melody is composed. When the five emotions are forcefully expressed, a beautiful piece of writing is created. This is all too natural and obvious. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)

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