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Three Variations on Plum Blossom: Clear Flower Clear Music Clear Moral

Sep 26, 2010



Plum Blossom under Snow | by {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/takenzen/121763544/}takenzen{/link}

Beauty against the frost

Plum blossom, with “jade bones, ice skin and fragrance against coldness”, is a symbol of high pure virtue in eastern culture. It has long been the favored subject by poets and artists.

“Plum blossom is the clearest flower; Guqin has the clearest sound; to describe the clearest thing with clearest sound gives the music a feeling against the frost.” — <Bo Ya Xin Fa> Ming Dynasty.

Three Variations on Plum Blossom, the best classic Chinese music on plum blossom is known to be a flute music first played by Huan Yin of East Jin Dynasty. It was adapted into a Guqin version later.

The historical encounter of two geniuses: a modest and an arrogant


There is a historical story behind the music about Great General Huan Yin played it for the arrogant noble artist Wang Hui-Zhi. It was noted in a couple of history records.

Huan Yin was an eminent high-ranking general in East Jin Dynasty. However, he was also very humble and approachable. He loved music and understood the essence of music, a “top musician in Southern China” and was crowned as “The Sage of Flute”.

Wang Huizhi, the son of legendary “Sage of Calligraphy” Wang Xizhi, was a brilliant and arrogant scholar at that time. Once, he was invited to the city of Jiankang (the capital of East Jin). His boat was parked at the Port of Greencreek.

Huan Yin happened to pass by on the riverbank, although Wang Huizhi didn’t know him. One of the guests on the boat said: “Oh, that’s general Huan Yin!” Then Wang Huizhi sent his servant to Huan Yin, saying: “I heard you are good at flute, please play for me.”


The Clearest Flower | by {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomo908us/4476138708/}tomo908us{/link}

The Clearest Flower

Huan Yin was already a dignitary at that time, but he also did know the fame of Wang Huizhi. So he got off his wagon and onto Huizhi’s boat. He sit on the performance mat, took out his flute and played Three Variations on Plum Blossom, exquisite and sublime.

When finished playing, Huan Yin immediately left on his wagon. The guest and the host did not talk a single word. From this we can see the informality of social life in Jin Dynasty and how broad-minded people were then.

Huan Yin was modest and elegant while Wang Huizhi was arrogant and knowledgeable. Although the two met but did not talk, it was a rare chance for them. It is the unexpected encounter of Huan Yin and Wang Huizhi that leads to the birth of eternal masterpiece “Three Variations on Plum Blossom“.

More remarkable version:

A rare version with “Bianzhong of Marquis Yi of Zeng“: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/CMH2AUUrP9Q/

An abbreviated version with Guqin triplets: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPdpTfPeLts

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