T of C
|Personal||email me search me|
|Images: High Mountains In nature On a boat Another boat Playing for Ziqi Mourning Ziqi||首頁|
- Qin Shi #38; other qin bios
琴史 #38 2
|Boya at the Wuhan Guqin Terrace3 (compare painting)|
Regarding his name, all the ancient sources seem to give "Bo Ya" as the complete name. Later sources, however, often say his surname was Yu, making his full name Yu Boya. In addition, some qin references also call him Yu Duan or Yu Rui. However, the attribution to him of these names seems to have originated in the Song or Ming dynasties.6
Likewise with stories that he was from the ancient state of Chu.7 Although it seems common today to state this as a fact, the source of this story is unclear - perhaps of the same origin as that his surname was Yu. On the other hand, the qin pavilion associated with him in Hanyang (part of the modern city of Wuhan) are said to be just the latest in a series of such pavilions that have been there since at least the Song dynasty. Perhaps this suggests an association of Bo Ya with Chu dating earlier, but did other places also claim a connection with him?
The many stories that grew up about Bo Ya make studies of him both interesting and worthwhile for what they say about traditional Chinese attitude towards art and music. They also call for more research into the connection between literati culture and folk culture.8
Bo Ya and the Guqin9 is the tentative title of a program drawing on the many surviving qin melodies associated with Bo Ya. The following are the relevant melodies I play, all as published in Ming dynasty handbooks; the first two are among the most famous titles in the Chinese music repertoire:
Some years ago, after playing qin at a meeting with several senior qin players, I asked them for advice on how to improve my technique. One said, "Visit all the relevant beauty spots in China." The others seemed to nod their heads in agreement.10
The origins of this concept, learning music from nature rather than from a human teacher,11 could well be the story related here below: Boya learns his qin playing skills from Cheng Lian12 (sometimes Tian Lian?13) but his playing art from nature. This story is also told in several prefaces to the melody Shuixian Qu, also called Shuixian Cao. The title Shuixian Cao is mentioned in many early lists of melodies, but the earliest surviving tablature using the word "shuixian" is the Shuixian Qu found in Wuyin Qinpu (1579).14
The Qin Shi biography includes a quote from the book of Xunzi,15 and also mentions the name Fang Zichun, whom Cheng Lian claims as a "teacher".16 I have not found mention of Fang Zichun elsewhere.
The most famous story for Boya, telling of his meeting with Zhong Ziqi, usually but not always described as a woodcutter, is told not in the present entry but in Zhong Ziqi's own entry. It is also related in the introduction to the melody Gao Shan. The friendship of Boya and Ziqi is the focus of the qin song Boya Diao Ziqi.
Boya is associated with a famous qin called Hao Zhong (Proclaiming Affection). There are images of Hao Zhong in a number of books. See, for example, Taiyin Daquanji, Chapter 2, image 10 (also compare image 3, Di Zhong).
Stories of Boya are also to be found in the countries near China,17 especially Japan, where he was called Hakuga.18
The entry for Boya in Qin Shi is as follows,19
Bo Ya references
Perhaps only "Bo Ya" should be used for the original name and "Boya" with Yu Boya; instead they are used pretty much interchangeably. A search in the Chinese Text Project for "伯牙" in all "Pre-Qin and Han" sources gives 28 results in 21 paragraphs of 14 texts, as follows:
Boya and Ziqi as 知音 zhiyin: bosom friends
The expression "知音 zhiyin", meaning "bosom friends", alludes to two people who are completely on the same wave length. The expression is said to originates with the story of Ziqi seeing into Boya's heart when hearing the latter play qin. It is thus somewhat surprising that, although a search of the China Text Project turns up 32 occurrences of 知音 zhiyin, none directly connects it to the Bo Ya - Ziqi story.
Although it is an account in Liezi, translated here as part of the preface to the melodies High Mountains and Flowing Streams, that has the most detailed account telling of Bo Ya playing the qin for Ziqi, the standard Liezi text does not seem to mention Ziqi dying, instead having Boya traveling and Ziqi continuing to understand his music. The story of Ziqi dying seems to come from Lüshi Chunqiu. Nevertheless, 24483.114 知音 zhiyin quotes the same Liezi passage as having the following:
When Ziqi died, Bo Ya broke his strings, figuring that there would be no one else who could understand his music.
The Lüshi Chunqiu story, as translated in Knoblock and Riegel 14/2.3 (but substituting "qin" for "lute") is as follows:
When Zhong Ziqi died, Bo Ya smashed the qin and cut its strings. To the end of his life, he never played the qin again because he felt that there was no one in the world worth playing for. This applies not only to the qin, but to worthiness as well. Although a man is worthy, if he is not received by a ruler with due courtsy, why should he devote his full loyalty to him? It is like the fleet-footed horse that will not go a thousand li by itself when the driver is not skilled.
The other early accounts mostly tell shorter versions of the same story. The only additional detail is the one in Han Shu about Bo Ya playing a qin called 遞鍾 Di Zhong.
538.18 伯牙 and Bio/1097 伯牙 Boya both give only "Spring and Autumn period" for his dates and nothing about his place of origin. The former cites five sources, all of which are included among the references above.
None of these references connects Bo Ya to any geographical region, nor do they mention his supposed surname 俞 Yu (as in 俞伯牙 Yu Boya or 俞端 Yu Duan). The preface to Ting Qin Fu uses this surname, as does the story below connecting Boya to the state of Chu. But the surname Yu is rarely found elsewhere. Xu Jian does not mention it in his Outline History discussion of Bo Ya, Chapter 1. A. (中文 pp. 4-5).
The entry 538.21 伯牙絕絃 Boya Breaks his Strings tells the story related under
Zhong Ziqi and depicted under Boya Mourns Ziqi. And in opera one can find Boya Smashes his Qin (伯牙碎琴 Bo Ya Sui Qin, e.g., in Jing Ju), also called 撫琴訪友 Playing the qin while visiting a friend, 聽琴 Listening to a qin, and 知音會 Meeting of intimates through music. The operas seem often to connect the story to a "Saddle Mountain" (馬鞍山 Ma'an Shan; 45550.771/2 lists 24 such mountains).
Folio 2, #12; 9 lines.
|3. Bo Ya Qin Terrace 伯牙琴臺||An old photo of the Boya Qin Terrace, then on a Hanyang hilltop|
533.23 伯牙臺 Boya Terrace gives two locations, one 浙江海鹽縣東門外 Outside East Gate in Haiyan District, on the north side of Hangzhou bay east of Hangzhou; the other is the one in Hanyang mentioned above. Both are said "by tradition" to have been associated with the Boya and Ziqi story, but no dates are given for the origins of these traditions. I have found no evidence that Haiyan still claims this connection.
In addition, 21570.78/2 Qin Terrace has four references. One says it is the same as Boya's Qin Terrace, as above. However, at least two of the other three are associated with other people: the one in 山東省單縣東南一里舊城北 the north part of the old town one li southeast of Dan district of Shandong province is said to be where 子賤 Zijian (Fu Buqi) played; the one in 河南省魯山縣城北 the north of the Lushan District city of Henan province is said to have been built by 唐元德秀 Yuan Dexiu; the third, in 浙江省杭縣慧日峰西 east of Huirifeng in Hangzhou district of Zhejiang province, gives no association. And Magnificent China has a picture of at least one other Qin Terrace, on 靈岩山 Lingyan Mountain, by Taihu Lake near Suzhou; it is said to have been used by Xi Shi.
楊剛編，中國名勝詩詞大辭典 Yang Gang's Poetry Dictionary of China's Scenic Places, pp. 627-8, has seven poems associated with this terrace. The earliest ones it has are as follows:
Not yet translated.
It has proven difficult finding the sources of all the later stories about Bo Ya.
A qin named Transmitting Affect
(遞鍾 Di Zhong)
Also written Dizhong, this is mentioned several times in the texts above, e.g., in Han Shu. It is not clear whether a distinction was made between Di Zhong and Hao Zhong (號鍾 Hao Zhong: Proclaiming Affection), a qin mentioned in 淮南子，脩務訓 Huainanzi, Xiuwuxun, 13 (Major et al, Cultivating Effort, 19.7 translates this: "The qin player hopes for a pure, lingering and clear sound; he does not hope for (the perfection of) Lanxie or Haozhong.
Yu Boya (俞伯牙) and Yu Duan (俞端, also 俞瑞 Yu Rui)
The occasional references in qin melody commentaries to Yu as a surname for Boya may reflect influence from popular literature. In these examples usually his full name is given as 俞伯牙 Yu Boya (1462.xxx) but he may also sometimes be referred to as 俞端 Yu Duan (as in Boya Diao Ziqi [QQJC III/189] and in Jiang Yue Bai [QQJC III/112]; both 1525), or as 俞瑞 Yu Rui (as in Ting Qin Fu; 1511).
The only prefaces to Gao Shan or Liu Shui that mention the surname Yu are those in Shuangqin Shuwu Qinpu Jicheng (1884) (see Zha Fuxi Guide, pp. 22  and 26 ). 1462.0 says the character 俞 when pronounced "Shu" was the name of an ancient kingdom northwest of Mount Tai in Shandong (modern 平原縣 Pingyuan County), as well as a personal name. I cannot find this listed as Boya's home, but some stories speak of him traveling in the area north of Mount Tai.
A qin friend in Wuhan, 王冠卉 Wang Guanhui, has told me that according to one of her teachers the earliest surviving reference to Yu as Boya's surname is in a story told (or re-told) by the famous late Ming literatus 馮夢龍 Feng Menglong (1574-1645). The first story of his Comprehensive Words to Admonish the World (警世通言 Jingshi Tongyan) is 俞伯牙摔琴謝知音 Yu Boya Shuai Qin Xie Zhiyin, translated as Yu Boya Smashes His Zither in Gratitude to an Appreciative Friend by Shuhui Yang & Yunqin Yang in their Stories to Caution the World: A Ming Dynasty Collection (Seattle; London: University of Washington Press, 2005). The original Chinese can easily be found online.
Other stories by Feng also concern or mention qin. I am not sure about his operas and novels (including 平妖傳 Pingyao Zhuan, expanded from an earlier version by 羅貫中 Luo Guanzhong and available online), but a number of stories he recounted in several collections concern or mention qin. For example the story of Baili Xi was recounted in his Romance of the Eastern Zhou Kingdoms (東周列國志 Dong Zhou Lie Guo Zhi). And his "三言 San Yan" series of 120 old 話本 huaben (story outlines beginning from the Song dynasty, re-told in three publications whose titles all end with the word "yan") contain other such stories.
Yu Boya of Chu 俞伯牙
The following biography of Boya, as well as the photo above, is adapted from pp. 288/9 of Magnificent China, a book with numerous pre-1949 photographs (Land of Splendours pp. 123/5). The text and layout of the biography in both books, together with three related photographs, are identical; the Chinese text is longer than the English. The book does not quote its sources, so I do not know where this story originated.
Yu Boya lived in the time of 晉平公 Duke Ping of Jin (ruled 557 - 531 BCE); Jin was in what is today southern Shanxi province. Boya himself came from the Chu Kingdom to the south. Here he had studied the qin with the great master Cheng Lianzi (Cheng Lian). In order for Boya to better understand the connection between qin music and the sounds of nature, Cheng Lian sent Boya to play in the hills. Boya then went to 泰山 Mount Tai (in Shandong) and listened to the sounds of nature in water and wind. He mastered all these sounds completely. Then he left Chu and took service under Duke Ping, who gave him high rank. After an absence of 20 years from Chu, Boya desired to return home. 楚靈王 King Ling of Chu (r. 538 - 526) was just then completing construction of a palace at 郢 Ying (on the Yangzi upriver from Hanyang), and so Duke Ping made Boya his ambassador to a commemorative event. Here Boya discovered that Cheng Lianzi had died, leaving him his qin. Boya then travelled along rivers and streams, eventually coming to Hanyang. Here he anchored his boat in the nearby gorges and began to play on the qin given to him by Cheng Lianzi. As he played he thought sadly of his teacher. Suddenly he heard a sigh coming from the river bank. It came from a woodcutter. Boya invited the woodcutter on board, learning that his name was Zhong Ziqi. Boya, though assuming that Ziqi knew little about music, played several melodies then asked Ziqi if he knew what they signified. The first melody he played was Shuixian Cao. Ziqi said that for him the melody described wind and thunder, birds soaring, fish dancing, all the while water continuing to flow. Boya was astonished that Ziqi understood the music so well. Boya then played Heavenly Wind Melody (Tianfeng Cao). This time Ziqi described in detail how the melody concerned the nearby high mountains. Boya was so pleased with Ziqi they that became close friends. They arranged to meet at the same spot on the same day of the following year. Boya duly arrived at the meeting place, but there was no sign of his friend. He struck his qin and the notes were so mournful that he knew something bad had happened to his friend. He landed and went to Ziqi's village. On the way he saw an old man tending a new grave. The old man told Boya that the grave was that of Ziqi, who had died of a sudden illness. After playing a lament at the tomb (see Huailing Cao), Boya broke his beautiful instrument and never played again. It was mid-autumn.
There has been a qin terrace at Hanyang since the Song dynasty, and a district of old Hanyang was called 鐘家村 Zhong Family Village (41566.xxx). Here there is also a Qin Breaking Port (Qin Duan Kou 琴斷口 21570.99xxx). For this reason the famous story is connected to Hanyang.
The original Chinese text begins:
Some accounts say the above story explains a Chinese expression for "brain drain": 楚材晉用 (Chu talent used in Jin). However, 4/1152 connects this expression with a story from the Zuo Zhuan, 26th year of Duke Xiang (546 BCE; see Legge, V., pp. 521 and 526), that has no connection to Boya (there are also several other unrelated references). Note also that in addition to the specifics about the time and location of this story, it has Boya going into the mountains to learn about nature, instead of to the legendary island of
Penglai in the eastern sea.
Bo Ya in folk culture
Boya and the Guqin: Further program comments
The first seven melodies on the list above have about 40 minutes of music that I myself have reconstructed and perform; a separate singer would be needed for #8, Ting Qin Fu. From this the program could be expanded in several ways. One would be to include melodies from Boya Xinfa (Shared Teachings of Boya), the only qin handbook named after a famous player of antiquity. Another would be to include other melodies with tangential references to Boya or to this story. For example, the preface to the melody Lingxu Yin says it must have been "written by...a friend like Zhong (Ziqi)."
Inspiration from art and nature
A personal experience that might be connected to this concept is presented in connection with Silk Zither Dreams.
Learning without a teacher 無師自通
The Qin Shi biography says only "無師 without a teacher". For the expression "無師自通 without a teacher oneself succeeds" 7/127 gives several examples, but none involves learning from nature.
Cheng Lian 成連 (sometimes romanized Chenglian)
There is little information available about Cheng Lian other than that he was the teacher of Bo Ya. 11820.165 Cheng Lian (quoting 太平御覽，樂，琴 one of the three chapters about qin in the music section of the Song dynasty work Taiping Yulan) tells only the story of him sending Bo Ya to Penglai. Giles, Po Ya, also has this story. Van Gulik (Hsi Kang, p.88) writes that the 田連 Tian Lian (see next footnote) in Xi Kang's Qin Fu was said to be Cheng Lian.
Tian Lian 田連
22219.xxx, but 7/1276 Tian Lian says he was a qin master, quoting Han Feizi (外儲), which also mentions another qin master, 成竅 Cheng Qiao (11820.xxx). The story also compares them to two famous charioteers, 王良 Wang Liang (21295.461) and 造父 Zao Fu (39772.4).
Melody of the Water Immortals (Shui Xian zhi Cao 水仙之操)
The Chinese titles for melodies on this theme usually omit the "of" (zhi) used here, thus Shuixian Qu as well as Shuixian Cao and simply Shui Xian. These titles are actually applied to a variety of melodies, occurrences of which are traced in a footnote to Shuixian Qu. None of the commentaries there discusses any specific connection between Boya and water immortals.
Xunzi (Wiki) is a philosopher said to have lived ca. 310–238 BCE. His interpretation of Confucius, rather different from that of Mencius, is found in the book called Xunzi; it has been translated by John Knoblock.
Passages from Xunzi that mention qin are listed here. Two of these relevant to Boya are as follows:
|昔者||In former times,|
|瓠巴鼓瑟而潛魚出聽||When Hu Ba played the se, fish came out of the water to listen;|
|伯牙鼓琴而六馬仰秣。||When Boya played the qin, six (imperial) horses looked up from eating.|
Xunzi uses this to illustrate how even the smallest actions have significance, concluding that worthy actions must likewise bring reknown.
A passage from Xunzi that does not specifically mention qin but that might be considered relevant to guqin learning is mentioned here.
Fang Zichun 方子春
No further information (13936.xxx, Bio/xxx) on this teacher of Cheng Lian
Bo Ya stories in China's neighboring countries (for Japan see next footnote)
In Korea the fact that a net search showed that a Korean singer/rapper named Gil Seong-joon has made an album with a title that translates as "Boya Breaks his Strings" (伯牙絶絃: 백아절현 Baek-ah-jeul-hyun) suggests its currency there.
In Vietnam a melody called Lưu Thủy (Liu Shui) has a long history, and is still popular today. The melody is unrelated to the Chinese one and it is not clear to what extent people connect it to the Boya story, but one can read there about its connection to Bá Nha (Boya) and Tử Kỳ (Ziqi).
Bo Ya stories in Japan
In Japan Bo Ya is usually called Hakuga. Most online information about Hakuga comes from commentary on Kyoto's 祇園祭 Gion Matsuri. In connection with the melody Bo Ya Mourns Ziqi this site has an image from that festival and some comments.
In addition, there is the following story from Kakuzo Okakura (岡倉覚三; also 岡倉天心 Okakura Tenshin, 1862 - 1913), The Book of Tea, 1906. The complete English book is included on the website of the World Wide School (see Chapter 5). Here Bo Ya is called Peiwoh.
Okakura apparently wrote only in English. The story was translated into Japanese (see below) shortly after the publication of The Book of Tea, with what he called a harp being written "琴 qin". As for this story, it is pretty clear that Okakura was not translating it from an original Chinese source. It reads something like one of the many free adaptations Japanese have long made of Chinese stories, but Okakura may have adapted or made up a lot of the details himself (further comment). Kiri is Japanese for the 桐 tong tree, from which qin were commonly made, but I do not know of any stories connecting Bo Ya to a place called Lungmen (龍門 Longmen).
Have you heard the Taoist tale of the Taming of the Harp?
Once in the hoary ages in the Ravine of Lungmen stood a Kiri tree, a veritable king of the forest. It reared its head to talk to the stars; its roots struck deep into the earth, mingling their bronzed coils with those of the silver dragon that slept beneath. And it came to pass that a mighty wizard made of this tree a wondrous harp, whose stubborn spirit should be tamed but by the greatest of musicians. For long the instrument was treasured by the Emperor of China, but all in vain were the efforts of those who in turn tried to draw melody from its strings. In response to their utmost strivings there came from the harp but harsh notes of disdain, ill-according with the songs they fain would sing. The harp refused to recognise a master.
At last came Peiwoh, the prince of harpists. With tender hand he caressed the harp as one might seek to soothe an unruly horse, and softly touched the chords. He sang of nature and the seasons, of high mountains and flowing waters, and all the memories of the tree awoke! Once more the sweet breath of spring played amidst its branches. The young cataracts, as they danced down the ravine, laughed to the budding flowers. Anon were heard the dreamy voices of summer with its myriad insects, the gentle pattering of rain, the wail of the cuckoo. Hark! a tiger roars,--the valley answers again. It is autumn; in the desert night, sharp like a sword gleams the moon upon the frosted grass. Now winter reigns, and through the snow-filled air swirl flocks of swans and rattling hailstones beat upon the boughs with fierce delight.
Then Peiwoh changed the key and sang of love. The forest swayed like an ardent swain deep lost in thought. On high, like a haughty maiden, swept a cloud bright and fair; but passing, trailed long shadows on the ground, black like despair. Again the mode was changed; Peiwoh sang of war, of clashing steel and trampling steeds. And in the harp arose the tempest of Lungmen, the dragon rode the lightning, the thundering avalanche crashed through the hills. In ecstasy the Celestial monarch asked Peiwoh wherein lay the secret of his victory. "Sire," he replied, "others have failed because they sang but of themselves. I left the harp to choose its theme, and knew not truly whether the harp had been Peiwoh or Peiwoh were the harp...."
The Japanese translation by 村岡博 Muraoka Hiroshi 1895-1946) can be found online in several places, as follows (this one from here):
Regarding the source of Okakura's version of the story, Jing Ke (UCLA doctoral dissertation: China in Okakura Kakuzo with special reference to his first Chinese trip in 1893) wrote to me the following,
The original Chinese of Boya's biography in Qin Shi (琴史，卷二，十二號) is as follows (compare other early Shuixian Cao
19. The original Chinese of Boya's biography in Qin Shi (琴史，卷二，十二號) is as follows (compare other early Shuixian Cao introductions),
|20. Penglai 蓬萊 (Wikipedia)||蓬萊山圖 Mt. Penglai|
Return to QSCB, or to the Guqin ToC.