Chapter 13 The Mystery of the Southern Opera God of Theatrical Entertainment’s Operatic Incantation ‘Luo-Li-Lian’ 南戲戲神咒囉哩嗹之謎

In: Harmoniousness: Essays in Chinese Musicology
Jao Tsung-i
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Colin Huehns
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Forging new connections between demarcated fields of scholarly research is at the apex of Jao Tsung-i’s achievements. Set against this background, this paper takes an incantatory practice and traces its application across a wide range of genres, including Daoist and Buddhist chants, Dunhuang manuscripts, lyric song and qu compositions, and opera. The technique is found to enjoy wide application and the capacity to withstand transmutation into a range of performance scenarios. Given the paucity of musical materials that survive, the methodology adopted is suitably citational rather than musical in a technical sense, but the picture that emerges remains comprehensive and compelling.

During the first ten days of August 1985 in Urumqi, at the Second Meeting of the Dunhuang Turpan Scholarly Association, Research Group on the Arts (Dunhuang Tulufan xuehui de yishu xiaozu 敦煌吐魯番學會的藝術小組), the music historian Mr He Changlin 何昌林 of Beijing raised the issue that the Southern Opera’s lexicon of ‘operatic incantations’ (xishen zhou 戲神咒) included the custom of singing the ‘help-syllable’ (bangqiang 幫腔) refrain ‘luo-li-lian’, and did I have any views on the matter. On returning to Hong Kong, I drafted this essay as a reply to his most elegant of questions.

As is common knowledge, Puxian 莆仙 Opera of Fujian employs the sung phrase ‘luo-li-lian’ as a habitual formula. According to (the modern book) Puxi tanxie 莆戲談屑 (author unknown):

Before a performance of Puxian Opera starts, three strikes are made backstage on cymbals and drums. After that comes an operatic ceremony known as ‘colouring the theatrical awning’ and ritual recitation of four stock sentences. When the recitation is over, a second and final poetic coda is sung. It consists of only the three characters (syllables) ‘luo-li-lian’, sung with their order inverted. These three characters are an incantation, offered in fear that the action on stage might besmirch and offend the luminescence of the gods. Once the incantation has been sung, with it comes the guarantee that those on stage will not meet with misfortune.

‘Songju yixiang’ in Song Jin zaju kao by (modern scholar) HU JI that cites this passage1


Taking these three characters as the final poetic coda’s ‘harmonious vocalising’ (hesheng 和聲), they are sung by the entire company together and are said to be ‘added onomatopoeia’ (da’e 打訛) in pieces of the ‘seven-cadence’ (qisha 七煞) form, that is, ‘added harmoniousness’ (dahe 打和). In wedding ceremonies in Putian 莆田 when puppet theatre is performed, a performance titled ‘The Plough Opera’ (‘Beidou xi’ 北斗戲) often takes place. At the very end when (the patron god of opera) Marshal Tian (Tian Yuanshuai 田元帥) ‘purifies the awning’ (jingpeng 淨棚), the incantation luo-li-lian is sung; after which is sung: ‘In prosperous times in the region south of the Yangtze River, when the spring wind calls on landscaped halls, then a stem of the red peony blossoms forth and all the land is red;’ 盛世江南境,春風叫景堂。一根紅芍藥,開出滿地紅; or lines of that ilk. (Tanaka Issei 田仲一成: Chinese Clans and Theatrical Performance [Zhongguo zhi zongzu he yanju]).3

Chen Xiaogao 陳嘯高 et al. in (the modern book) Puxian Opera of Fujian (Fujian de Puxianxi 福建的莆仙戲) record: ‘In the past, when a performance of Puxian opera began, first, three strikes were made on the cymbals and drums … then a god-general came out on stage, followed by performance of “colouring the theatrical awning”; and backstage, the whole company sang together the four lines: “In prosperous times, in the region south of the Yangtze River, the landscape …” Then is sung the final poetic coda (that is, Marshal Duke Tian’s incantation): “luo-li-lian, li-luo-lian, li-lian, luo-lian, li-luo-lian, li-luo-lian, luo-luo-li, luo-lian.” Following this, an actor wearing a red robe, sporting a roof-tile-style cloth headdress and hung with a thrice-whiskered beard and moustache, playing the part of an elderly character took centre stage and intoned a four-sentence opening recitative (for example: “An essay by the Hanlin imperial scholarly academician Huang Juan [fl. twelfth century, a native of Putian]” in the four-line, six-characters-to-a-line verse-form); having finished his recitation, he moved to the middle of the stage and offered three respectful salutations to the left and right. Slowly, he strode into the scene, and afterwards the performance of the opera commenced.’ 過去,莆仙戲開台,首先是打三通鑼鼓。……出一神將上場,「彩棚」,後台全體齊唱: 「盛世江南景……」四句。接著唱下調尾(即田公元帥咒)「囉哩嗹,哩囉嗹,哩嗹,囉嗹,哩囉嗹,哩囉嗹,囉囉嗹,囉嗹」。繼即由穿紅袍戴瓦楞巾掛三綹鬚的,頭出 生走到台中唸四句開場白,(即「一篇翰林黃卷」等六言四句),唸畢, 向台中及左右三揖,徐步入場,然後開始演戲.4 According to this prescribed sequence of events, before the opera itself is performed, luo-li-lian should be recited, and it is also called ‘The Incantation of Marshal Tian’ (‘Tian Yuanshuai zhou’ 田元帥咒). Several Fujian opera houses as well as Quanzhou 泉州 puppet theatres abide by the custom of singing luo-li-lian.

I remember in the winter of 1978, I was in Paris, appointed to teach at the Department of Religious Studies in the Institute of Advanced Studies (Gaodeng yanjiuyuan zongjiaobu 高等研究院宗教部), and my colleague Mr Shi Bo’er 施博爾 (Kristofer Schipper) showed me manuscript copies of Daoist books he had collected in southern Taiwan, among which were Chen Rongsheng’s (陳榮盛, fl. nineteenth century) hand copies of Daoist hymns still current today, and a section of their lyrics is as follows:

Emerging from the Palace of the Celestial Beings, luo-li-lian, departing from Penglai (island), soaring into the multi-coloured clouds, luo-li-lian. (You come) emerging from and leaving the Heavenly palaces, luo-li-lian! luo-li-lian!


This genre of harmoniously vocalised lyrics had unexpectedly also become additional ‘help-syllables’ (bangsheng 幫聲) to Daoist pieces and was evidently absorbed from the vernacular music of Fujian.

1 Chan Buddhist Monks of the Late Tang to Northern Song Dynasties and the Jin Dynasty Founder of Complete Perfection Daoism singing Luo-Li

Nowadays, Daoist songbooks of southern Taiwan still employ luo-li-lian as their harmonious vocalising, but on researching the origin of the practice, in the latter part of the Tang dynasty, Daoist monks of south Fujian are found to have been already engaged in the custom. Many Daoist ceremonies were born out of Buddhist ones and singing luo-li also appears to some degree to have as its source the Chan school of Buddhism.

The Chan Master Wensui (文邃, fl. ninth century) at Qin mountain in Lizhou 澧州 is a comparatively early example of the singing of luo-li by the Chan school of Buddhism. In the Song dynasty in Wudeng huiyuan 五燈會元 (juan 13), (Shi) Puji ((釋)普濟, fl. thirteenth century) writes:

Wensui was a Chan Master and native of Fuzhou. When he was young, as an acolyte, he received initiatory instruction under the tutelage of the Chan Master Huanzhong (780–862) of the Great Kindness Mountain in Hangzhou. At that time, Yantou (‘Precipice Edge’, d. 887) and Xuefeng (‘Snow Peak’, 822–908) were brethren in the community, and observing Wensui’s excellent use of words, realised that he was a worthy instrument of Chan tenets, and so they often led one other on journeys of spiritual discovery. These two Masters had both already received the imprint of the teaching of Chan Master De Shan (fl. ninth century)…. later, under the words of guidance of Dong Shan (807–869), Wensui achieved release from spiritual bondage and inherited his Chan mantle from him. When he was twenty-seven, he took Qin mountain as his abode…. (on one occasion) at the pulpit giving a sermon, he surveyed the assembled acolytes and said: ‘Do you have burdens? Do you have burdens? If you have none, go and sing “Pusa man” on Qin mountain! Luo-luo-li-li!’ Then he went to sit among the acolytes.

文邃禪師,福州人也。少依杭州大慈山寰中禪師受業,時巖頭、雪峰在眾,覩師吐論,知是法器,相率遊方。二大士各承德山印記。……後於洞山言下發解,乃爲之嗣。年二十七,止於欽山。……上堂,顧視大眾曰: 「有麽?有麽?如無;欽山唱菩薩蠻去也!囉囉哩哩!」便下坐。5

Of a later generation than him at Qin mountain in Lizhou, Chan Master Qianming Puchu (乾明普初,6 fl. ninth century or slightly later) also sang luo-li. Wudeng huiyuan (juan 18) gives:

(The Master) took the pulpit and gave a sermon for a long while: ‘… The ordinary people are ill-disciplined and skittish like deer in the wilderness; the emperor is like a distant branch far above and does not care.7 Eighteen characters: do you know them or not? Li-li-luo, luo-luo-li.’ He clapped his hands in rhythm and went down to sit among the acolytes.

(師)上堂良久曰: 「……民如野鹿,上如標枝,上八子,知不知?哩哩囉,囉囉哩。」拍一拍,下座。8

(Qianming) Puchu was an inheritor of the Buddhist mantle of Chan Master Xiaochun (曉純, ‘Morning Pure’, his secular name is not known, fl. ninth century) of Tanzhou 潭州, Jia mountain, and the fourteenth generation after Nanyue (南岳, 677–744). He too lived at the same time in Lizhou, and when he came to the pulpit to deliver sermons also sang lou-li, which he had clearly inherited from Wensui’s teachings.9 Wensui was most friendly with Yantou and Xuefeng. Yantou was also called Ke Shizi10 (柯氏子, ‘scion of the Ke family’) of Quanzhou; Xuefeng was also called Cao Shizi11 (曹氏子, ‘scion of the Cao family’) of Nan’an 南安 county, Quanzhou, and both were disciples of De Shan. Wensui was originally from Fuzhou and so also a native of Fujian. In the Xiantong era (咸通, 860–874) of the Tang dynasty, Xuefeng returned to Fujian to establish a monastery and was bestowed the title Chan Master of Perfected Intuition (Zhenjue chanshi 真覺禪師) by the emperor Yizong (漢懿宗, 833–873, r. 359–873). In the third month of the wuchen 戊辰 year of the Kaiping 開平 era of the Later Liang dynasty (908), he showed himself to the supreme solitude that is death.

The ruler of Fujian (Wang Shenzhi 王審知, 862–925) once asked Xuefeng: ‘The Three Spiritual Vehicles and the Twelve Divisions of the Buddhist Scriptures. Would you be able to deliver instruction on them to an ordinary being such as myself? Or would you not be able to deliver instruction on them to an ordinary being such as myself?’ 三乘十二分教,爲凡夫開演?不爲凡夫開演?12 He replied: ‘It would not take as long as one rendition of the composition “Yangliu zhi”.’ 不消一曲〈楊柳枝〉.13 Wensui and Xuefeng were contemporaries. (On one occasion) Wensui sang ‘Pusa man’ and departed; Xuefeng mentioned ‘Yangliu zhi’. Chan Masters were fond of using songs as parables to explain moral and philosophical concepts. From the Mogao caves 莫高窟 in Dunhuang have come words to songs, for example, ‘Pusa man’ in S(tein).4332 (British Library) includes the line: ‘In front of the pillow, let a thousand desires be expended;’ 枕前發盡千般願;14 and in the ‘Yangliu zhi’ genre, P(elliot).2809 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) and a Hashikawa 橋川 collection item, for example, have: ‘I have not seen anyone who can deliver sermons from the pulpit at a hundred years of age; they have all crumbled into dust particles.’ 不見堂上百年人,盡總化微塵.15 These are sighs in lament at the vagaries of death and clearly related to Buddhism. On Qin mountain was an individual from Fujian who sang: ‘The Bodhisattva has beautiful hair, luo-luo-li-li.’ 菩薩 蠻了,囉囉哩哩.16 His fellow countryman Xuefeng also quoted these song lyrics and as a matter of course could sing luo-li. The establishment and formulation of Southern Opera in Fujian is inseparably connected to Wang Shenzhi. In later times when the formula luo-li was sung in Fujian opera, I believe that it must have had its source in the Chan monks of Qin mountain. From Wensui’s singing of luo-luo-li-li, a few clues can be obtained that enable the watercourse that is singing luo-li to be pursued to its wellspring.

In the Northern Song dynasty, the Yangqi lineage of Chan Masters was also fond of singing luo-li. Wudeng huiyuan (juan 19) records that Chan Master Yangqi Fanghui (992–1049) of Yuanzhou once said in a sermon at the pulpit: ‘I myself, of scant joy, live at Yangqi mountain; and as the years pass, my strength ebbs; the cold wind swallows the withered leaves;17 as if pleased at the return of an old friend. Luo-luo-li!’

在北宋楊岐一系的禪師亦喜歡唱囉哩。《會元》記袁州楊岐方會禪師云: 上堂: 薄福住楊岐,年來氣力衰,寒風咽敗葉,猶喜故人歸。囉 囉哩 !18

Picking out the dead twigs and putting them on a smokeless fire.


Fanghui was a disciple of Shi Shuangyuan (石霜圓,20 fl. tenth–eleventh centuries) and an eleventh descendent in the lineage from Nanyue. In the first year of the Huangyou 皇祐 era of the Song dynasty (1049) he showed himself to the supreme solitude that is death. The inheritor of his Buddhist mantle Chan Master Baiyun Shouduan21 (白雲守端, 1025–1072) of Shuzhou 舒州 wrote a prose piece in the generic ‘praise’ style (zanwen 讚文) that also uses the characters luo-li. Wudeng huiyuan, juan 6, gives:

The abbot of Yu mountain monastery in Chaling had as his Master the monk Baiyun (Shou)duan, a Master who had already crossed the Sea of Life and Death and achieved Nirvana. (Bai)yun wrote a generic praising prose passage that said: ‘Improvement as long as a hundred-chi-feet rod has been achieved; from first steps on the bridge across the stream, extending to all mountains and rivers; from this time forth, never departing from the Chaling rivulets; incanting and intoning, nothing is not luo-li-luo.’

茶陵郁山主,師乃白雲端和尚得度師。雲有贊曰: 「百尺竿頭曾進步,溪橋一踏沒山河。從兹不出茶川上,吟嘯無非囉哩囉。」22

Ten generations on from Qingyuan23 (青原, 671–740) comes (abbot) Lingtao Shouzuo (令滔首座, fl. eleventh century),24 a long-time disciple of Letan (泐潭,25 1012–1070), and under whose words of guidance he achieved the greater realisation; thus, he composed a praise-song that gives:

Having laid down and abandoned the ox’s halter and become a monk, shaved my whiskers and hair, and donned the jiasha robe, there are those who ask why I am taking this ‘journey from the West’; leaning on my stick, my forceful riposte is to issue a challenge with a rendition of luo-li-luo.

放卻牛繩便出家,剃除鬚髮著袈裟。有人問我西來意,拄杖橫挑囉 哩囉。26

In the Zhaoti 招提 (temple) west of the capital (in Nara, Japan), Chan Master Weizhan Guangdeng (惟湛廣燈, d. 1073), a native of Jiahe 嘉禾 and inheritor of the Buddhist mantle of (abbot) Jingzhong Shouzuo (淨眾首座, fl. Northern Song dynasty), on one occasion took to the pulpit and delivered a sermon that was a sung scriptural discourse:

‘Unpolluted by the Six Sense Objects, yet empathic to True Awareness…. how many people have knowledge of this heart; with yellow head and green eyes, they know not one another. Luo-luo-li.’ He clapped his hands once and took his place seated among the acolytes below.

「六塵不染,還同正覺。…… 此心能有幾人知,黃頭碧眼非相識。囉囉哩!」拍手一下,下座。27

The anecdotes cited above show that from the Northern Song dynasty onwards Chan Masters employed luo-li, and whenever they went to the pulpit to deliver a sermon that was a sung scriptural discourse or devised a praise-song, it was used as a ‘help-syllable’ (zhusheng 助聲) refrain, and this had already become an extremely popular custom.

In the Jin dynasty, Daoist Masters of the Complete Perfection Sect (Quanzhen jiao 全真教) in their works that relied on the sung voice to transmit the Way were particularly fond of using the three characters li-luo-ling as ‘help-syllables’, and examples of this are extremely numerous, for instance, Wang Zhe’s (王喆, 1112–1170) lyric song to the cipai 詞牌 set melody and rhyme scheme ‘Beating White Silk’ (‘Dao lianzi’ 搗練子).

An ape riding a horse: seems absurdly silly; hard to catch, hard to trap, yet how can it be abandoned? Li-luo-ling! Li-luo-ling!


Altogether there are twelve poems, and their last lines are all identical. (The Daoist Canon [Daozang 道藏],29 ‘Taiping bu’ 太平部, ‘Wang Chongyang Quanzhen ji’ 王重陽全真集 [vols. 793–795], juan 7 [Wang Chongyang is another name for Wang Zhe].)

Tan Chuduan (譚處端, 1123–1185) also composed a poem to the cipai set melody and rhyme scheme ‘Beating White Silk’ that talks of the Way, and the relevant passages are:

Beating white silk; how can all be like this. In the darkness, slowly wearing away the sins of yesteryear. Luo-li-ling, li-ling-luo.


From the initial obtaining and recognition of Perfection (a borrowing of the Buddhist term boluomi). Beauty and wealth seen through, like a moth dashing at a lamp. Luo-li-ling! Li-ling-luo! Luo-li-ling! Li-ling-luo!

The Daoist Canon, ‘Taiping bu’, ‘Shuiyun ji’ (vol. 798); see also: Quan Jin Yuan ci (compiler: TANG GUIZHANG 唐圭璋, 1901–1990)


Wang Chongyang was born in second year of the Zhenghe 政和 (1112) era of the reign of the Song dynasty emperor Huizong (宋徽宗, 1082–1135, r. 1100–1126) and died in tenth year of the Dading 大定 era of the Jin dynasty emperor Shizong (金世宗, 1123–1189, r. 1161–1189) (1170, that is, the sixth year of the Qiandao 乾道 era of the Southern Song dynasty emperor Xiaozong [ 宋孝宗, 1127–1194, r. 1127–1189]). Tan Chuduan was born in the first year of the Tianhui 天會 era of the Jin dynasty emperor Taizong (金太宗, 1075–1135, r. 1123–1135) (1123, that is, the fifth year of the Xuanhe 宣和 era of the Song dynasty emperor Huizong) and died in the twenty-fifth year of the Dading era (1185, that is, the twelfth year of the Chunxi 淳熙 era of the Southern Song dynasty emperor Xiaozong). The period when these individuals were active reached into the early years of the Southern Song dynasty. They had evidently continued and absorbed the older format of the Chan Buddhist monks who had employed luo-li as harmonious vocalisation. Those of Qin mountain and elsewhere who had sung ‘Pusa man’ had also used luo-luo-li-li and were their direct precursors.

2 Singing Li-Luo in Southern Song Dynasty Song Genres (Ouge 謳歌) Employing Melismatic Vocalisations (Chansheng 纏聲) and the Singing of Li-Luo-Lian Indicated in Opera Libretti

Zhang Yan (張炎, 1248–1320), at the back of his book The Origin of Words (Ciyuan 詞源), attaches an appendix that includes eight poems that furnish templates for song genres,32 and the seventh gives:

The character ‘li is husky, the character ‘luo pure; when a sentence break is required, use luo-li 哩囉, when just a pause, use ling-lun 㖫㖮.


The venerable Mao Heting’s (冒鶴亭, 1873–1959) notes to this passage are: ‘Nowadays in lyric songs to the set pattern “Tan po chou nu er” as well as the southern-style qu composition “Prince’s-Feather”,34 both include the two-character pattern “ye-luo” vocalisation as part of their template.’ 今詞中〈攤破醜奴兒〉,南曲中〈冰[水]紅花〉,並存「也囉」二字之腔.35 Master Mao uses ‘ye-luo也囉 to express ‘li-luo哩囉, but this is incorrect.36 In fact, Shi Hao (史浩, 1106–1194) of the Southern Song dynasty in his poetry anthology Maofeng zhenyin manlu 鄮峰真隱漫錄 includes a poem to the cipai set melody and rhyme scheme ‘Speckled Butterfly’ (‘Fen die’er’ 粉蝶兒) that proffers an invitation to imbibe wine and whose upper stanza gives:

A jade cup of warm spring sunshine, of crystalline brightness so precious it is without price; a person who understands the teachings, luo-li-li-luo, can take the stones piled in his chest and in one instance have them melt away.


Shi Hao died in the fifth year of the Shaoxi 紹熙 era (1194) at the age of eighty- nine. Prior to Zhang Yutian (張玉田, Zhang Yan’s soubriquet), he employed luo-li in a lyric song in the same manner as the founder of Complete Perfection Daoism’s (Wang Zhe’s) ‘Beating White Silk’. In the written sources of the Song and Jin dynasties, many other examples of singing luo-li appear; Hong Mai’s (洪邁, 1123–1202) Yijian zhi 夷堅志, juan 13 (113),38 the entry under ‘Nine Flowers Heavenly Immortal’ (‘Jiuhua tianxian’ 九華天仙) gives:

In the ninth year of the Shaoxing era (1139), Zhang Yuandao was a shilang official whose home was situated at the Southern Chan Temple in the city of Wuxi; his daughter sought for an earthly manifestation of a celestial immortal. Suddenly were written words that said: ‘Nine Flowers Heavenly Immortal is descending to earth.’ When she asked who this was, the answer came: ‘You have sought for an earthly manifestation of the spirit-woman of Wu mountain, that is who it is. I have composed a poem to the cipai set melody and rhyme scheme “Xi nu jiao”, a large-scale composition in nine stanzas … of which the ninth dwells on the word “return” and the whole lyric song says: “I will return.” I have been away from the palace of the celestial beings for a long time. My cave-like cell has no one looking after it. It simply awaits my return. I desire to take out my metal and flint and undertake thousands upon thousands of spiritual exercises. When my words are over, do not forget them. Li-luo-li.’ (Subsequent text is omitted.)

紹興九年,張淵道侍郎家居無錫南禪寺,其女請大仙。忽書曰: 「九華天仙降」。問爲誰?曰: 世人所請巫山神女者是也。賦〈惜奴嬌〉大曲一篇凡九闋。…… 其第九曰「歸」詞云: 吾歸矣,仙宮久離。洞戶無人管之。專俟吾歸。欲要開金燧,千萬頻修已。言訖無忘之。哩囉哩。 (下略)39

This is (an extract from) a substantial composition representing the tale ‘arm-in-arm supporting the Ji Celestial Immortal of the (Chinese) Ouija Board’ 乩仙扶出的大曲 of the Shaoxing era; in it, the spirit-woman of Wu mountain sings li-luo. In later epochs, when people made supplication to the god Guankou 灌口 (alias) Qingyuan 清源,40 the ancestral master of theatrical entertainment, they also sang luo-li. It seems that in the Song dynasty, the custom of singing luo-li was particularly prevalent in Xichuan 西川. Compiled and written by the Nine Mountains Book Society (Jiushan shuhui 九山書會), Zhang Xie, the Zhuangyuan Scholar: Libretto (Zhang Xie zhuangyuan xiwen 張協狀元戲文; ‘zhuangyuan’: the Palace Examination ‘Senior Wrangler’; Zhang Xie, d. c.307) gives:

Carrying my wares on a shoulder pole, I had just arrived in front of the temple when I saw a ne’er-do-well vagrant and got into a scuffle with him. Singing li-lian-luo-luo-lian, he made a complete fool of me …

Great Encyclopedia of the Yongle Era (Yongle da dian 永樂大典; Yongle era: 1403–1424), Xiwen san zhong jiaozhu 戲文三種校注

我適來擔到廟前,見一個苦胎與它廝纏。口裡唱個𠻗嗹囉囉嗹,把小二便來薄賤。…… (《永樂大典戲文三種校注》本)41

In the fifth scene, Zhang Xie says: ‘Alone, away from Xichuan, with no companion.’ 獨離西川無伴侶. Zhang Xie was himself a native of Xichuan. In this phrase, the usual character ‘li (in li-luo-lian) has been replaced through the common process in Chinese of ‘sound-borrowing’ (jieyin 借音) by another one with a similar sound ‘li𠻗; the character for ‘lian (in li-luo-lian) appears just as is the case in Fujian music and is thus more worthy of attention.

Written by Dong Jieyuan (董解元, late twelfth–early thirteenth centuries) of the Jin dynasty, Tale of the West Chamber (Xixiang ji 西廂記), juan 5, to the cipai set melody and rhyme scheme ‘Qiao hesheng’ 喬合笙 contains the following lower stanza:

Don’t let trivia and gossip circulate bitterly in your breast. Be harmonious—li-li-luo! Li-li-luo! Li-li-lai!


As Zhang Yan indicated, ‘li is husky, and ‘luo is pure; when a sentence break is required, use luo-li; when just a pause, use ling-lun. Wang Jide (王驥德, 1540–1623), Tale of the West Chamber (version three), scene two, includes: ‘li-ye-bo, li-ye-luo.’ 哩也波,哩也囉.43 The notes give: ‘In the dialect of the north, this is like saying: “Just like this, just like this.”’ 北人方言猶言如此、如此.44 Qian Nanyang (錢南揚, 1899–1987) dismisses this and states: ‘Li-luo is simply harmonious vocalisation and not a manner of speech exclusive to northerners.’ 𠻗囉是和聲,非北人所獨有.45 Regarding (Zhang) Yutian’s ling-lun 㖫㖮, in the whole oeuvre of Complete Perfection Daoist adepts, only the formula li-luo-ling 哩囉㖫 is followed, that is, ling and not lun . In fact, lun is simply a lengthened version of the sound of ling ; harmonious vocalisations have the potential for extension in this way.

In the libretti of the Ming dynasty, sentences where singing li-lian 哩嗹 occurs as a ‘help-syllable’ (bangqiang 幫腔) linguistic device are frequently encountered. In 1975 in the city of Chaozhou 潮州in Guangdong, a manuscript copy was unearthed of The Official Corrected Version of ‘The Tale of Liu Xibi’s Gold Hairpin’ (Zhengzi Liu Xibi jinchai ji 正字劉希必金釵記;46 Liu Xibi is a fictional character) dated to the sixth year of the Xuande 宣德 era (1431) in which the harmonious vocalisation luo-li-lian 囉哩嗹 is used in several places:

The fourth scene: ‘Dazhai lang’: … as sung previously: ‘Luo-li-lai, li-luo-lai. Luo-li-luo-li-li-luo-lai! Li-luo-li-lai-luo-li-lai. Li-lai-luo-li-lai!’

第四齣:[大齋郎]…… 前腔: 羅哩唻,哩羅唻,羅哩羅哩哩羅唻。哩羅哩唻羅哩唻。哩唻羅哩唻!47

The thirty-second scene: ‘Goose Dance’: ‘Kulugan, your servant’s name is Dalasu.’ … (together): ‘Li-lian! Luo-lian-li-lian! Lian-lian! Luo-li-luo-luo! Li-lian-luo-li-lian-luo! Lian-li-lian! Lian-li-lian! Luo-luo-li-lian-luo-li-lian!’

第三十二齣:[雁兒舞]:𠺟嚕干,阿如奴名答剌速。…… (合)哩嗹!囉嗹哩嗹!嗹嗹!囉哩囉囉!哩嗹囉哩嗹囉!嗹哩嗹!囉哩嗹!囉囉哩嗹囉哩嗹。48

The fortieth scene: ‘Goose Dance’: … altogether now: ‘Li-lian-luo-lian! Li-lian-lai-luo-li! Luo-luo-li-lian! Luo-lian-li-lian! Luo-li-lian-luo-luo-li-lian-luo-li-lian!’ (recitative by the mo [middle-aged male] role)

第四十齣:[雁兒舞]…… 齊聲: 哩嗹囉嗹!哩嗹唻囉哩!囉囉哩嗹!囉嗹哩嗹!羅哩嗹羅羅哩!嗹囉哩嗹!(末白)49

The sixty-fourth scene: … waiting for them, husband-and-wife, the two sing ‘luo-lian-li…. the sheng (male) role sings: ‘Luo-li-lian! Luo-li-lian.’

第六十四齣:……等他夫婦,兩人囉嗹哩。……生唱[囉哩嗹﹗囉 哩嗹]。50

The Liu Xibi libretto is in fact Liu Wenlong’s 劉文龍 ‘Water-Calthrop Flower Mirror’ (‘Linghua jing’ 菱花鏡).51 Written in the Xuande era, at the end of the each juan, the following title is offered: ‘Newly edited and fully illustrated throughout, studded with numerous amusing anecdotes and action from the south and north, both loyal and filial, The Official Corrected Version of “The Tale of Liu Xibi’s Gold Hairpin”.’ 新編全相南北插科忠孝正字劉希必金釵記.52 Newly edited and recently re-copied, in it is preserved the harmonic vocalisation li-luo-lian, and it has also imbibed linguistic items from Mongolian, so clearly it must have originally been replicated from Liu Wenlong’s Yuan dynasty urtext. It contains a passage that recounts: ‘Calling “Mongolian Servant” and singing Mongolian pieces,’ 叫番奴,唱番曲,53 in which these traits are still more self-evident. The sections quoted above are newly unearthed material and as such extremely valuable. (The opera is now listed as one of the Ming Dynasty Chaozhou Libretti: Five Types [Mingdai Chaozhou xiwen wu zhong 明代潮州戲文五種].) In the thirty-second and fortieth scenes, the li-luo-lian that are found are sung by actors together and seem identical to Marshal Tian’s incantations recited in modern Puxian opera and can thus be regarded as of insuperable value when researching into the incantations of the god of theatrical entertainment.

Regarding Jin and Yuan dynasty opera libretti and singing li-luo, there is demonstrable evidence of it in Tale of the West Chamber (Xixiang ji) and ‘Water-Calthrop Flower Mirror’ (‘Linghua jing’). In a Ming dynasty Chenghua era (成化, 1465–1487) volume, in the opening to the opera Tale of the White Rabbit (Baitu ji 白兔記), a composition to the qu set melody ‘Red Peony’ (‘Hong shaoyao’ 紅芍藥) records:

The mo (male) character sings: ‘Li-luo-lian! Luo-luo-li! Lian-lian-lian! Li-luo-li! Lian-li-lian! Luo-lian-li-lian! Luo-li-lian! Li-lian-luo-lian! Li-lian-luo-lian! … Li-lian-luo! Li-luo-li!’ (A manuscript of the Chenghua era excavated in Shanghai that contains examples of the ‘talking and singing’ genre and dialogue of lyric songs.)

末唱: 哩囉嗹!囉囉哩!連連連!哩囉哩!連哩連!囉連哩連!囉哩連!哩連囉連!哩連囉連……哩連囉!哩囉哩!(上海出土成化本說唱詞話)54

The li-luo-lian sung by the mo character has exactly the same origin as that in The Tale of Liu Xibi’s Gold Hairpin.

In the Ming dynasty, qu compositions such as one to the cipai set melody ‘Yellow Oriole’ (‘Huang ying’er’ 黃鶯兒) by Wang Yue (王越, 1426–1499) also use the phrase ‘li-luo-luo, luo-li’ in them (see Wang Xiangmin gong ji 王襄敏公集 [Wang Xiangmin is a soubriquet used by Wang Yue], final juan [see towards the end of the fourth and final juan]). Yang Shen (楊慎, 1488–1559) in Cipin 詞品 discusses harmonious vocalisations and observes: ‘like the li-luo-lian that is found nowadays,’ 若今之哩囉嗹, and from this the wide application in the Ming dynasty of singing luo-li can be understood. At the start of the Qing dynasty, Cao Yin’s (曹寅, 1658–1712) works include a shi poem ‘Listening to the Music of Fujian’ (‘Ting Min yue’ 聽閩樂) that gives:55

Striking the instrument strings in precise harmonious accord with the melody,
In spaces between the dancing, not even re-wiping its decorative inlays.
The theatre lad’s comic capers have the whole hall rocking with laughter,
Cupping the ear as if listening to luo-li-lian.

一拍么絃一和纏,舞餘無復掃花鈿。囝郎漫縱哄堂笑,摘耳猶聞囉 哩嗹。56

There is also an introduction that includes:

I (Cao Yin) remember that I once had a copy of Dong Jieyuan’s Tale of the West Chamber. Not only do I understand the speech of fowls, but I am also fluent in snake language. (Lianting shichao)

記董解元西廂嘗有之。老子不獨解禽言,竝通蛇語矣。(《楝亭 詩鈔》)57

This passage mocks the singing of luo-li-lian. Regarding those who speak the language of snakes, The History of the Liao Dynasty (Liao shi 遼史), ‘Guoyu jie’ 國語解 (juan 116) gives: ‘“Shensugu” is the name of an individual who was a member of the royal household who understood the language of snakes.’ 神速姑,宗室人名,能知蛇語.58 Cao Yin has here taken the singing of luo-li in the music of Fujian and compared it to ‘snake language’. It can therefore be seen that by the early Qing dynasty, the custom (of singing li-luo) was only preserved in Fujian, as is evident. In other regions, it had probably already disappeared, thus singing li-luo was probably misunderstood as Fujian music’s only defining characteristic, and this was in fact incorrect!

3 In the Ming Dynasty, Singing Luo-li-lian when Making Offerings to the God of Theatrical Entertainment the Ancestral Master Qingyuan

In a collection of the celebrated Ming dynasty master of qu poetry (Tang Xianzu 湯顯祖, 1550–1616) Anthology of Tang Xianzu’s (Poetry and Prose; Tang Xianzu [shiwen]ji 湯顯祖[詩文]集), ‘Yuming tang wen’ 玉茗堂文 (juan 34), volume 7, is an essay that discusses the history of the god of theatrical entertainment: ‘Yihuang xian xishen Qingyuan shi miao ji’ 宜黃縣戲神清源師廟記), which is an extremely well-known passage pertaining to the history of theatrical qu composition, and in it is a passage that reads:

I have heard of Qingyuan, the Guankou god of Xichuan, who obtained the Way through play-acting and entertaining and left the teachings of his skills flowing through the world. At present no temple is dedicated to his memory. Members of theatrical companies customarily offer a libation of wine to him as part of the prologue to a theatrical performance and simply sing ‘luo-li-lian’, something I generally heartily dislike … The da sima Commander-in-Chief (Tan Lun, 1520–1577), when he returned from Zhejiang, taught this to his company of theatrical entertainers, and it was called ‘sea-salt voice’. After the da sima Commander-in-Chief had been dead for twenty or more years, those who earnt their livelihood from these skills numbered almost a thousand or more people … I asked whether there were those who still made offerings in like manner after the example of the da sima Commander-in-Chief and received the answer that there were none who dared do this. The practice is now limited to food offerings made to the general (Marshal) Tian Dou.

Tang Xianzu shiwen ji, juan 34

余聞清源,西川灌口神也。以遊戲得道,流此教於人間。訖無祠者。子弟開呵時一醪之,唱「囉哩嗹」而已,予每爲恨。……大司馬(譚綸)以浙人歸教其子弟,能爲海鹽腔。大司馬死二十餘年矣,食其技者殆千餘人。……予問倘以大司馬從祀乎?曰: 不敢。止以田、竇二將軍配食也。……(《湯顯祖詩文集》卷三十四)59

This passage can be used to investigate the process of the formation of ‘sea-salt voice’ during the Wanli 萬曆 era (1573–1620), and the role of offerings made to the ancestral master Qingyuan as the god of theatrical entertainment by the opera performers of Yihuang county. In the same book in juan 18 is also a shi poem that contains lines that read: ‘In secret darkness, towards the Qingyuan temple, recite an incantation; hoping that the god will teach me to receive plentifully into my voice the example of the cuckoo’s singing.’60 暗向清源祠下咒,教迎啼徹杜鵑聲.61 The collator of this anthology was Master Xu Shuofang (徐朔方, 1923–2007), so another set of notes is not provided here for these lines, and their origin is probably obscure. Meng Yuanlao (孟元老, fl. twelfth century) in Dongjing menghua lu 東京夢華錄 (east capital: Kaifeng), juan 8 (in a passage titled: ‘The Sixth Day of the Sixth Month: Birthday of His Excellency Governor Cui; the Twenty-Fourth Day: Birthday of the God [Erlang] of the God Protects Daoist Temple’ [‘Liu yue liu ri Cui Fujun shengri ershisi ri shen bao guan shen shengri’ 六月六日崔府君生日二十四日神保觀神生日]), includes a record of the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, when in Zhouxi 州西 on the birthday of Guankou-alias-Erlang, operas were performed, and the spectacle was most magnificent.62

Yang Wujiu (楊無咎, 1097–1171) of the Southern Song dynasty in his Taochan ci 逃禪詞 includes a composition called ‘The God Erlang’ (‘Erlang shen’ 二郎神) whose titular subtext reads ‘Qingyuan’s Birthday’; 清源生辰; exemplar sentences of the poem are: ‘Guankou seized the dragon and rendered the waterways of Lidui level; what need is there then to enquire whether the achievement exceeds that of the ancient times of yesteryear. There should be a renaissance to protect our borderlands and once again allow all in the Four Quarters to live at peace.’ 灌口擒龍,離堆平水,休問功超前古。當中興、護我邊陲,重使四方安堵.63 Cilü (collated by Wan Shu: c.1630–1688), juan 15 (which contains this poem), gives: ‘This appears to be a lyric song wishing the god longevity on his birthday.’ 此似壽神之詞.64 Yang Wujiu’s composition is thus to be regarded as a poem extolling the longevity of the god Qingyuan. Feng Yingjing (馮應京, 1555–1606) in Yueling guangyi gives: ‘The sixth month, the twenty-sixth day, is the birthday of the god Erlang and (-cum-) Qingyuan, the Perfected Immortal.’ 六月二十六日爲二郎神及清源真人誕.65 According to Dongjing menghua lu, the supposed birthday of Qingyuan ought to be the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.66

Who then was Qingyuan? Ming dynasty Tan Qian’s (談遷, 1594–1658) Zaolin za zu 棗林雜俎 gives: ‘The god Erlang was the excellently skilled Perfected Gentleman Qingyuan, who as Zhao Yu (fl. Sui dynasty), the Governor of Jiazhou, decapitated a water dragon. During which dynasty did he live? From which aristocratic lineage did he stem? He was called Erlang.’ 二郎神爲清源妙道真君,即嘉州守趙昱斬蛟者也。未詳何代?何封?稱爲二郎.67 On examining Song dynasty vernacular oral storytelling, in ‘Kan pixue dan zheng Erlang shen’ 勘皮靴單證二郎神 is already mentioned a personage ‘Qingyuan, the excellently skilled god Erlang,’ 清源妙道二郎神 (see: Everlasting Words that awaken the World [Xing shi heng yan 醒世恒言; by Feng Menglong 馮夢龍, 1574–1646]; juan 13), which tells a story of the court of the Song dynasty emperor Huizong.68 Zhao Yu originally lived during the Sui dynasty, and traces of his existence seem first to appear in Records of Dragon City (Longcheng lu 龍城錄) (traditionally attributed to Liu Zongyuan [ 柳宗元, 773–819]). Modern scholar Li Xiaocang (李嘯倉, b. 1921), writing according to Yao Fujun’s (姚福均, fl. late Qing dynasty) Zhu ding yu wen 鑄鼎餘聞 that quotes Wang Jun’s (王峻, 1694–1751) Suzhou fu zhi 蘇州府志 (juan 38), gives: ‘In the time of the Song dynasty emperor Zhenzong (968–1022, r. 997–1022), Qingyuan was conferred the additional honour of “excellently skilled Perfected Gentleman”.’ 宋真宗時晉封清源妙道真君.69

Taking Zhao Yu and the god Erlang, combining them, and awarding ‘them’ the title Qingyuan had its inception in fact in the epoch of the Song dynasty emperor Zhenzong. (For more precise details, see Master Li’s [Li Xiaocang’s] work ‘Pinghua zhong de Erlang Shen’ 平話中的二郎神 in Song Yuan jiyi zakao 宋元伎藝雜考.)70 Chen Huairen (陳懷仁, fl. eighteenth century) of the Qing dynasty and a native of Zunyi 遵義 who wrote a biography of Zhao Yu regards him as a native of Emei 峨嵋 who studied with the Master Li Ban (李班, 288–334) and practised the Daoist method at Qingcheng 青城 mountain. He (Chen Huairen) writes in particular detail on matters pertaining to Zhao Yu. (For the text, see Li Sichun’s [ 李思純, 1893–1960] Jiangcun shilun 江村十論, that quotes from Le Shan zhi 樂山志 [by Huang Rong 黃鎔, fl. eighteenth century, et al.])71 By the Ming dynasty, the stories of ancestral master Qingyuan and Li Bing’s (李冰, fl. third century BCE) son (the god Erlang) had been amalgamated, and in the region south of the Yangtze River, temples dedicated to Qingyuan appeared. An example of one of these is mentioned in Deng Fu’s (fl. sixteenth century) Changshu zhi 常熟志, written in the eighteenth year of the Jiajing era (1539), juan 2:

The Qingyuan Excellently Skilled Perfected Gentleman Temple is inside Jiefu Gate. It is dedicated to a god who was the son of Li Bing, Governor of Shu prefecture in the state of Qin. He once eliminated a water dragon infestation of the river flowing through the Shu capital and enjoyed accolade for controlling floodwaters. In the Song dynasty capital Kaifeng was built a God Protects Daoist Temple. Local people regard Changshu as the lower reaches of the (Yangtze) river, and therefore after the temple had been constructed, requests were made to the imperial court for sacrificial ceremonies dedicated to him to be enacted.


In the Song capital, sacrificial ceremonies were performed for Zhao Yu. Dongjing menghua lu gives an account of celebrations marking the birthday of Guankou-alias-Erlang, and with operas by the hundred performed in a most lavish manner, he evolved to become the patron god of theatrical entertainment, a legend already current since the Song dynasty and which in the Ming dynasty obtained new depth and significance. In Yihuang, offerings were made to the ancestral master Qingyuan and li-luo-lian was sung; those made to Qingyuan were also for the general Tian Dou to enjoy, who, as Marshal Tian, for the people of Fujian was also a recipient of offerings. According to Yue Ke (岳珂, 1183–1243) in Tingshi 桯史, juan 10, in the entry ‘(Lei) Wanchun lingyu’ [雷]萬春伶語 (Lei Wanchun: d. 757), this person (Marshall Tian) was called Lei Haiqing (雷海青, 716–755) and had lived in the time of the Tang dynasty emperor Minghuang (明皇, also called Tang Xuanzong 唐玄宗, 685–762, r. 712–756). The character for ‘Lei’ in its abbreviated form is written (‘Tian’), for example, Lei Wanchun is also Tian Wanchun. The reason luo-li-lian evolved to become a Marshal Tian incantation was probably because in the Ming dynasty, the general Tian together with the ancestral master Qingyuan became joint recipients of shared offerings, and therefore, given the situation, for the guest to usurp the status of the host is a role-reversal that can be readily understood.

The God Erlang (Erlang shen 二郎神) is the name of a composition in the repertory of the Tang dynasty Imperial Music Academy, while ‘Guankou-alias-Erlang Decapitates the Spirit and Body of the Water Dragon’ (‘Guankou Erlang zhan jian jiao’ 灌口二郎斬健蛟) is a title employed in vernacular opera. Zhang Tangying (張唐英, 1029–1071) of the Song dynasty in his Shu Taowu 蜀檮杌 records performance of a contemporary Imperial Music Academy comic sketch composition ‘Guankou shendui’ 灌口神隊 that takes the mode of two dragons engaged in combat. Chen Zhan’s (陳鱣, 1753–1817) Xu Tang shu 續唐書 attributes this event to the fifteenth year of the Guangzheng 廣政 era (952) as a martial opera performed at the court of the Later Shu dynasty of the Five Dynasties in the Meng Chang Palace (Meng Chang: 孟昶, 919–965) that recounted the decapitation of a water dragon as its centrepiece, and the story of the god Erlang and Zhao Yu would, as a matter of course, have constituted its background. The origin and evolution of the god Guankou and subsequent formulation into vernacular opera can thus be traced back to the epoch of the Later Shu dynasty.

The historical origin of theatrical gods has already become an area discussed by experts in the field. Numerous ensembles of the genre ‘Southern Sounds’ (Nanyin 南音) found in south-east Asian Fujian are titled using the epithet ‘Lord (Er)lang Association’, ([Er]lang jun she [二]郎君社) and in both Bangzi 梆子 and Pihuang 皮簧 opera companies, the theatrical god is called ‘Old (Er)lang’ 老[二]郎. There are those who say that ‘Old (Er)-Lang’ is an appellation that stems from the vernacular storytelling of village schools and literary societies.73 Other theories abound (see: Tang xi nong 唐戲弄 [by Ren Bantang 任半塘, 1897–1991], the eighth case study), but since they exceed the scope of this paper, let us not be burdened with them here.

4 Epilogue

Luo-li-lian is in essence harmonised vocalisation, but why did it later turn into an incantation? In the Tang dynasty Dunhuang manuscript ‘Siddhaṃ Chapter’ (‘Xitan zhang’ 悉曇章), the four characters lu-liu-lu-lou 魯流盧樓 are customa- rily used to link passages of the composition together, inserted into the last line of the upper stanza of each passage as a harmonised vocalisation. This happens in ‘Suliu xitan zhang’ 俗流悉談章 and ‘Fo shuo Lengjia Chanmen xitan zhang’ 佛說楞伽禪門悉談章 as well as widely elsewhere, and all retain the same format. Lu-liu-lu-lou were originally the four Sanskritic ‘liquid consonants’ (liuyin 流音) Ṛ Ṝ Ḷ Ḹ and can be translated (transliterated) in many different ways: some use li-li-lou-lou 離離樓樓 (the Japanese Imperial Household alternative edition of The Mahāparinirvāna Sutra [in Chinese: Da ban niepan jing 大般涅槃經]), while others prefer li-li-lü-lu 哩哩𠴊嚧 (Bu Kong’s [ 不空, 705–774] translation); these four syllables have their own special significance: ‘Lu-liu-lu-lou, each of these four characters has its own meaning, and they indicate respectively: Buddha, the Law, monkhood, and doctrinal exegesis.’ 魯流盧樓,如是四字有四義,謂佛、法、僧及對法.74 From Tan Wuchen (曇無讖, 385–433 or 439) of the Northern Liang dynasty in his translation of The Mahāparinirvāna Sutra, juan 8, ‘Tenet of the Nature of Tathāgata’ (‘Rulai xing pin’ 如來性品) (the fourth section, the fifth subsection) to Huiyan (慧嚴, 363–443) et al. of the Southern (Liu) Song dynasty and their translation of The Mahāparinirvāna Sutra, also in juan 8, ‘Tenet on Written Language’ (‘Wenzi pin’ 文字品; the thirteenth tenet), all offer the same doctrinal explanation of this phrase. Using it as harmonious vocalisation has a degree of functionality, especially in Tantric Buddhism, so regarding it as an incantation is easily accomplished.

I once wrote an essay: ‘Four Sanskrit “Liquid Consonants” Ṛ Ṝ Ḷ Ḹ and their Influence on the Study of Chinese Philology’ (‘Fanyu Ṛ Ṝ Ḷ Ḹ si liuyin ji qi dui Hanwenxue zhi yingxiang’ 梵語 Ṛ Ṝ Ḷ Ḹ 四流音及其對漢文學之影響) that has already been translated into Japanese by Kin Bunkyō 金文京 and published in the Kyoto University Journal of Chinese Literature (Chūgoku bungaku hō 中國文學報), volume 32, so there is no need to add more detail here. By the early Ming dynasty, taking the three syllables luo-li-lian and singing them repeatedly in any order had already been widely adopted by opera libretti, and The Tale of Liu Xibi’s Gold Hairpin is an excellent example that demonstrates this practice; later, the formula evolved and penetrated Puxian opera of Fujian, where it became an incantation of Marshal Tian used to promote auspiciousness and prevent inauspiciousness. Travelling back in time to search for its origins, it came from the same wellspring as late Tang dynasty Chan Buddhist monks singing li-luo, and the process of its evolution can thus be successfully sought and made explicit.

Published in Guoji daojiao keyi ji yinyue yantaohui lunwenji 國際道教科儀及音樂研討會論文集, pp. 224–27.

The following photos were taken from a handwritten copy of Guangdong Yaozu wenshu 廣東傜族文書 made in the yiyou 乙酉 of the Guangxu 光緒 era (1885).

Figure 13.a
Figure 13.a

The mystery of Luo-li-lian

Photo Authorized by Shin Wen Feng Print Company
Figure 13.b
Figure 13.b

The mystery of Luo-li-lian

Photo Authorized by Shin Wen Feng Print Company

In this essay, the Jin dynasty is the one named , 1115–1234, and not the earlier ones named , 265–420.


Hu Ji, Song Jin zaju kao, 307.


Tanaka Issei, Chūgoku no sōzoku to engeki 中国の宗族と演劇, 999.


Chen Xiaogao, Gu Manzhuang, ‘Fujian de puxianxi’, 94.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 13.813–15.


Qianming Puchu 乾明普初 is mentioned in juan 18 of Wudeng huiyuan. The first two cha- racters 乾明 mean ‘Qian-Trigram Bright’ and are likely to be his Chan Buddhist soubriquet and Puchu 普初 his secular given name; his original surname cannot be traced.


‘The ordinary people are ill-disciplined and skittish like deer in the wilderness; the emperor is like a distant branch far above and does not care’ 民如野鹿,上如標枝 is a citation from Zhuangzi (莊子; eponymous text by Zhuangzi, c.369–286 BCE), ‘Tian di’ 天地 (essay 12); in Zhuangzi, however, the two halves of the phrase are inverted: ‘When the emperor is like a distant branch far above and does not care, the ordinary people will be ill-disciplined and skittish like deer in the wilderness.’ 上如標枝,民如野鹿. Evolved from this is the chengyu 成語 four-character set phrase 標枝野鹿 that summarises its essential meaning.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 18.1191.


Jao appears to have obtained much of his information on Xiaochun from juan 17 of Wudeng huiyuan; the sources are however complex and confused, and juan numbering and the texts themselves vary significantly in different editions.


His secular name is Ke Quanhuo 柯全奯.


Prevailing sources give his secular name as Zeng Yicun 曾義存, surname Zeng rather than Cao .


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 7.385.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 7.385.


Dunhuang baozang, 35: 356, S.4332.


Dunhuang geci zongbian, 515.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 13.815.


An alternative version that is commonly found has a different verb: ‘the cold wind withers the dead leaves.’ 寒風凋敗葉.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 19.1230–31.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 19.1231.


A Chan Buddhist monk. Little is known of him, and it is likely that the second and third characters of his name or all three are his Chan Buddhist soubriquet, respectively: ‘Stone Frost Round’.


A Chan Buddhist monk. Baiyun 白雲 ‘White Cloud’ is his Chan Buddhist soubriquet, Zhou Shouduan 周守端 his secular name.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 6.355.


This is his Chan Buddhist soubriquet and means ‘Turquoise Origin’; his secular name is Liu Xingsi 劉行思.


‘Shouzuo’ 首座 is an honorific title.


This is his Chan Buddhist soubriquet: ‘Le’ is a place-name, ‘tan’ means ‘pool’; the overall meaning is a pool on Dong mountain of this name; his secular name is Liu Hongying 劉洪英.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 15.1011.


Puji, Wudeng huiyuan, 16.1075.


Wang Zhe, ‘Daolianzi’, 25: 730.


Sometimes called The Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era (Zhengtong daozang 正統道藏); Zhengtong era: 1436–1450.


Tan Chuduan, ‘Daolianzi’, 25: 861.


Quan Jin Yuan ci, 416.


In prevailing versions of Ciyuan, the term translated as ‘templates for song genres’ is not 謳歌旨要 but 謳曲旨要; with the second character (‘ge’) replaced by (‘qu’), an English rendition becomes ‘templates for qu compositions’; qu compositions are a specific type of song written to pre-established melody and rhyme schemes.


Zhang Yan, Ciyuan, B.14a (1733: 64).


The southern-style qu set melody and rhyme scheme intended here is probably 水紅花 and not the 冰紅花 given in the Jao Tsung-i original. The English translation reflects this, but both alternatives of the characters are given; 水紅花 is a flower whose vernacular English name is ‘prince’s feather’.


Mao Guangsheng, Mao Heting ciqu lunwenji, 261.


Several poems in these set patterns indicate that Master Mao does indeed mean ‘li-luo哩囉 by ‘ye-luo也囉, for example, a specimen of ‘Tan po chou nu er’ by Zhao Changqing (趙長青, fl. late twelfth–early thirteenth centuries). ‘Tan po’ 攤破 and ‘Chou nu er’ 醜奴兒 seem more commonly to be independent cipai set melodies in their own right.


Quan Song ci, 1279.


Prevailing redactions give the juan number where this quotation occurs as 113. Yijian is an ancient figure, dates uncertain, said to be adept at writing.


Hong Mai, Yijian zhi, 13.291–292.


Qingyuan 清源 ‘Pure Spring’: The ancestral master and god of theatrical entertainment. Perhaps associated with Qingshui 清水 ‘Pure Water’, a Buddhist saint revered for his almsgiving whose secular name is Chen Zhaoying 陳昭應 (1047–1101).


Yongle dadian xiwen sanzhong, 13991.25b.


Zhonghua shuju Shanghai bianji suo, Ming Jiajing ben Dong Jieyuan Xixiang ji, 5.8b.


Wang Shifu, Xin jiaozhu guben xixiangji, comm. Wang Jide, 3.13b.


Wang Shifu, Xin jiaozhu guben xixiangji, comm. Wang Jide, 3.21a.


Qian Nanyang, Yongle dadian xiwen sanzhong jiaozhu, 76.


Liu Xibi jinchai ji, 1–163.


Mingben Chaozhou xiwen wuzhong, 9–11.


Mingben Chaozhou xiwen wuzhong, 67.


Mingben Chaozhou xiwen wuzhong, 75.


Mingben Chaozhou xiwen wuzhong, 129.


Jao Tsung-i gives Liu Wenlong as the writer of ‘Water-Calthrop Flower Mirror’, but pre- vailing sources suggest it is the title of another opera.


Mingben Chaozhou xiwen wuzhong, 148.


Mingben Chaozhou xiwen wuzhong, 75. Chen Liming, Jinchai ji ji qi yanjiu, 176.


Ming Chenghua shuochang cihua congkan, 12: 1b.


This poem is in juan 7 of Lianting shichao 楝亭詩鈔 in a section titled ‘Zai guo Zheng shi jiang cun’ 再過鄭氏江村; the individual indicated by ‘Master Zheng’ cannot be traced. The introduction cited here comes slightly earlier than the shi poem and is worded somewhat differently in prevailing sources.


Cao Yin, Lianting shichao, 7.18a (201: 426).


Cao Yin, Lianting shichao, 7.18a (201: 426).


Liao shi, 116.1537.


Tang Xianzu, ‘Yihaung xian xishen Qingyuan shi miaoji’, 34.1128.


The poem from which these lines are taken is called: ‘Ji sheng jiao Zhang Luo’er hen Wu Ying dan kouhao’ 寄生腳張羅二恨吳迎旦口號.


Tang Xianzu, ‘Ji sheng jiao Zhang Luo’er hen Wu Ying dan kouhao’, 18.740.


Meng Yuanlao, Dongjing menghua lu zhu, 8.205.


Wan Shu, Cilü, 15.31a (350).


Cilü cidian, 244.


Feng Yingjing, Yueling guangyi, 11.12a–12b.


Meng Yuanlao, Dongjing menghua lu zhu, 8.205–6.


Tan Qian, Zaolin zazu, 330.


Feng Menglong, Xingshi hengyan, 13.5b (718).


Li Xiaocang, ‘Pinghua zhong de ErLang shen’, 130.


Li Xiaocang, ‘Pinghua zhong de ErLang shen’, 127–32.


Li Sichun, Jiangcu shilun, 77.


Hongzhi Changshu xianzhi, 2.79a (1: 89).


See Chen Bingliang, ‘Fulu: Cong shuhui dao liyuan’, in ‘Zhongguo de shuishen chuanshuo yu Xiyouji’, 203–25.


Niepan jing huishu, 8. 482a (56: 963).

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