HOME >> Intangible

The Legend of Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi

Source: hubei.gov.cn 08/07/2014 10:08:30

Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi

China Intangible Cultural Heritage

Year: 2014

Sort: Folk Literature

Area: Hubei Province  

Serial No.: I-138

Declarer: Wuhan City, Hubei Province

The Legend of Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi, a household story spread in the ancient State of Chu (now mainly referred to central China’s Hubei province), was listed in the fourth batch of Chinese National Intangible Cultural Heritage, according to the local media on August 7, 2014.

Brief introduction to the story of Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi

Bo Ya (伯牙) was a qin player from the Spring and Autumn Period or the Warring States period. He was known by his first name of "Boya", although his surname may have been Yu (俞), thus his complete name is sometimes given as Yu Boya (俞伯牙). The Lute Platform in Hanyang, Wuhan, China was where musician Yu Boya is said to have played. He is associated with the guqin pieces Gao Shan 《高山》 ("high mountains") and Liu Shui 《流水》 ("flowing water").

Yu Boya He was bright and eager to learn when he was young. After three years learning from his teacher Lian Cheng, he had already had a good command of the temperament and superb skills in playing the musical instrument. A few years later, his skills in playing the musical instrument had already reached a fairly high level. But he still felt that he could not superbly express the various things which had deeply impressed him. Knowing what was in his mind, his teacher said he would take Boya to his own teacher who would help Boya with his music.

He took him to the penglai Island, a fabled abode of immortals, on the East China Sea by boat. When they reached there, Lian Cheng told Yu Boya to wait while he went to pick up his teacher. Then he disappeared with his boat. Boya waited and waited but his teacher didn’t come back for several days. His heart was filled with sadness. The running waters, the flying seagulls and the silent woods all seem to be composing a sad melody. With myriads of thoughts welling up in his mind, he began to play a tune on his musical instrument. He found his music got more expression. It turned out that his teacher was putting him there by himself on purpose to let him find an inspiration in the arms of Nature.

On the island, Boya enjoyed the natural scenarios and listen to the roaring of the great waves. He incorporated the beautiful nature with his music, thus reaching a realm of thought he had never experienced before. Later Boya became a famous musician but his tunes were not immediately by all the people of his time.

One day Boya was boating alongside the river bank. A heavy downfall struck and suddenly Boya felt an urge to play his Guqin. The melodious music became more and more beautiful when he felt someone was listening. Boya came out of the boat, and saw a woodcutter standing on the bank. He knew that this man was keenly appreciative of his talents, because he understood his music. He immediately invited the woodcutter, Zhong Ziqi, to his boat. Full of zest, Boya played the musical instrument for him. When Boya played a piece of music eulogizing the high mountains, the woodcutter said, " The melody is as magnificent and dignified as Mount Tai which reaches to the sky!" When he played a piece of music depicting the turbulent waves, the woodcutter said, " The melody is as vast and mighty as the great rivers!" Boya was excited, and said, "Bosom friend! Only you can understand my music!”

They agreed that Boya would visit Zhong Ziqi again when he’s back from his tour. When he got back and visited Ziqi, the later had already passed away because of illness. Boya was so sad he played a tune before Zhong Ziqi’s tomb then broke his Guqin into pieces. He never played music ever since.

Bo Ya's story exemplifies the Chinese ideal of friendship. The term Zhiyin (知音,literally "to know the tone") has come to describe a close and sympathetic friend.