International Shakuhachi Society Logo

The International Shakuhachi Society

San'ya Seiran


This is a piece of genre Koten from the Chikuho Ryû and Nezasa Ha / Kimpu Ryû Schools . Also Known As : San'ya Sugagaki (Nezasa Ha).

History (Riley Kelly Lee):

San'ya seiran / Three Valleys The word san'ya means 'three valleys'. In this instance, it means the Buddhist term sanmai, which refers to the concentration developed during meditation. The meaning of the word seiran in this context is unknown.

San'ya Seiran appears on the following albums

Bamboo Grass - Yearning for the Bell Volume 2 Riley Kelly Lee

    San'ya seiran / Three Valleys The word san'ya means 'three valleys'. In this instance, it means the Buddhist term sanmai, which refers to the concentration developed during meditation. The meaning of the word seiran in this context is unknown.

Empty Bells Riley Kelly Lee

Jin Nyodo No Shakuhachi 01 Jin Nyodo

Jin Nyodo No Shakuhachi 01 Jin Nyodo

    Nezasa-ha: SAN'YA SEIRAN

    2-shaku 1-sun
    8 min. 39 sec.

    1. About the title:

    For the San'ya part of the title consult the section on San'ya in "Commonly Used Titles."

    Seiran was originally one kind of performing technique used on string instruments such as the wagon. The Chinese characters for Seiran were generally read sugagaki and were written in a variety of forms. In the case of this piece they are pronounced in the Sino-Japanese style as Seiran.

    2. Structure of the piece

    There is a three-part structure of [First dan (Shirabe - Honte) - Second dan (Takane) - Third dan (Musubi)]. In Nezasa-ha there is no tradition of using the terms shirabe, honte etc. in naming the parts which form the first dan. However, in considering the musical content of the first dan, there are some cases where we can observe sections which contain elements of both shirabe and honte, as well as cases where only a honte is present. Therefore, in this and other Nezasa-ha pieces, we will point out the sections of the first dan using the terms shirabe-honte or simply honte [corresponding to the actual musical forms. The distinction I between shirabe and honte can be generally understood as follows. The shirabe is played in the lower range, in a quiet, relaxed tempo: it is an introductory section which barely rises above the first octave. In contrast, the honte generally begins already centered on the second octave, and its melodies develop from that point. If we consider the following takane to be the second developmental section, then the honte can be called the first developmental section.

    Now let us consider the structure of San'ya Seiran in more detail:

    Shirabe-Honte: It begins with a low, weighty melody, having the feeling of a daijo "Prologue"). After a five-breath introduction, there begins a melody overflowing with a feeling of desolation, and filled with the subtle profundity unique to this piece. This melody is played first in RO and then repeated in KO.

    Takane First, repeated twice, comes a classical Nezasa-ha takane melody centering on the hi-tone and variants of the hatone. It is a beautiful melody filled with loneliness. Next, a somewhat altered takane melody is repeated with the principal melody of the shirabe-Honte inserted in the middle. Musubi A finale section which closes the piece again in a quiet, lonely mood, after freely expressing a modulating and enhanced emotional intensity.

    3. Special features of the piece:

    Among Nezasa-ha pieces this is certainly the most desolate and yet dignified. The manner of playing has a feeling of complete composure in the midst of great tranquility. Among the numerous pieces called San'ya, the "three superior pieces" are felt to be this work, Futai-ken San'ya and Echigo San'ya. Even though this piece has virtually the same melodic framework as Taizan-ryu San'ya-kyoku, its performance style is strictly that of Nezasa-ha so that it is quite different from any other piece entitled San'ya.

Shakuhachi Honkyoku Riley Kelly Lee

Shakuhachi Zen John Singer

Smithsonian Folkways - Shakuhachi Honkyoku Riley Kelly Lee

Sui Zen - Blowing Meditation on the Shakuhachi - 04 Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin

    The title of Sanya Seiran refers to gaining satori while hearing the sound of the wind in the reeds. We have had much discussion of the meaning of Sanya, which may be interpreted as literally referring to a mountain field with three valleys, or to sanmai, or samadhi, enlightenment from meditation, in which the distinctions between subject and object have been obliterated or transcended. This is why it is said that in Sanya, there is no up, down, right or left.

    Seiran was originally one kind of performing technique, used on string instruments such as the wagon, which was the predecessor of the koto, and used in gagaku, court music. The reason that this sanya has the same meaning as Sanya Sugagaki is because the Chinese ideogram character for the word Seiran was generally read as Sugagaki, the same word we have in the Kinko piece. In this case, though, the word is pronounced in the Sino-Japanese style, "Seiran."

    Sanya Seiran evokes a sense of loneliness, but it also conveys a sense of moving from stark emptiness to a transcendent, centered, dignified and peaceful solitude. While it has a melody very similar to that of the Taizan-Ryu Sanya-Kyoku, its distinctive Neza-Sa-Ha performance style conveys a different impression.

    This is considered by some to be the most dignified of the Neza-Sa-Ha pieces. It is also the most desolate; the manner of playing is very composed, as if within a sea of tranquility.

    Among the Sanya-style pieces, the most superior three are commonly considered to be Sanya Seiran, Futaiken Sanya and Echigo Sanya. Even though Sanya Seiran has virtually the same melodic framework as Taizan Ryu Sanya-Koku, its performance style is that of a very strict typical Neza-Sa-Ha piece, and therefore quite different from any of the other sanya. It is played here on a 2.1 flute.

Tsugaru no Take no Oto Nezasa Ha Kimpu Ryu Shakuhachi Goto Seizo

Tsuru no Sugomori - Komuso Shakuhachi Zenyoji Keisuke

    There are many tunes with same name "San'ya" (mountain field) in other schools. The "San'ya Seiran" of Nezasa-Ha has almost same melody structure as "San'ya" (three valleys) of Seien-Ryu in Nagoya Prefecture. It begins with quiet low notes, and the beginning melody repeats with octave high pitch after the 4 indicative phrases at 1' 26". "Takane" from 2' 55" is the phrase with highest notes in the piece and effective combination of earlier phrases is repeated four times as a total. In "Musubi" from 6' 23", the beginning phrase is again used effectively and ends with lower notes. In general, "San'ya" type tunes have an attitude of strictly suppressing emotion in comparison with "Reibo" types. "San'ya Seiran" of Nezasa-Ha, however, has natural flowing melody while retaining the dignified "Sanya" style.

World of Zen Music, The - Shakuhachi Music from Tsugaru, Nezasa-ha Kinpu-ryu Nakamura Akikazu

    The word sanya is thought to originate in the Sanskrit term samadhi, meaning meditation or concentration on a single object with no distinction being made between subject and object.

    This is a profound piece with a quietly narrative quality which suggests a journey from an esoteric inner world towards a universe of sublime tranquillity.

The International Shakuhachi Society - 2018