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Orchid

The flower of kings.

The oldest written pieces of music written for the Chinese qin (zither) is a piece called You Lan or the 'The Solitary Orchid'. A manuscript was found in a temple in Kyoto, Japan by a monk in the early 1880s. This manuscript dates from the Tang Dynasty, but is probably a copy of a work lost much earlier: Qiu Ming's Music for the Qin of AD 586.

You Lan may have been composed by Confucius himself, while travelling among the feudal princes and trying unsuccessfully to convert them to his ideology. The music describes Confucius' feelings when, while travelling home from the kingdom of Wei to the Kingdom of Lu, he saw an orchid blooming among grasses and weeds in a desolate valley. He saw in this an analogy with his own situation: an orchid, the flower of kings, growing among ordinary wild flowers; he, the great scholar, having no audience among the princes, had to speak to the common people. It is infused with his sadness and unspoken anger which is thought to be reflected in the piece.

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