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098. Boya Mourns Ziqi
- yu mode,2 standard tuning: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6
伯牙吊子期 1
Boya Diao Ziqi
  Hakuga (Boya) about to break his koto strings 3
This is a song in the form of a lament by the famous qin player
Bo Ya upon the death of his one true friend, Zhong Ziqi (today always described as a woodcutter, but in some depictions looking more like a scholar). The story itself is very well-known,4 but the present melody is much less so. Xilutang Qintong is the second of only five surviving handbooks to have this lament.5 All have lyrics, but the lyrics and melody here are somewhat different from those in the other handbooks.6

Here the afterword begins by calling Bo Ya by the name Yu Duan.7 The surname Yu for Bo Ya can be found in some old sources, making his name Yu Boya. However, this surname is not commonly used.

The afterword in Xilutang Qintong makes no mention of musical skills, the focus being totally on the friendship of Boya and Ziqi as it fills in the circumstances of Boya learning of Ziqi's death. The lyrics, however, (see below) do mention playing music, and the background story is obviously the same as that for the melodies Gao Shan and Liu Shui (High Mountains and Flowing Streams). For this Shen Qi Mi Pu quoted Liezi8 as follows:

According to Qin History, Liezi said,

(During the Spring and Autumn Period) Boya was good at playing the qin, Zhong Ziqi was good at listening. When Boya's will lay in (describing) high mountains, Zhong Ziqi said, 'How lofty; like Mount Tai!' When Boy's will lay in (describing) flowing streams, Zhong Ziqi said, 'How vast! It is like a great river and the sea.' Whatever Boya was thinking (as he played), Zhong Ziqi saw clearly in his heart  Boya said, 'Awesome! Your heart and mine are one and the same.'

When Zhong Ziqi died, Boya broke his strings and never again played the qin. Thus we have Gao Shan and Liu Shui.

Some commentaries have Boya living during the Jin dynasty (365-420 CE). This does not accord with the most common stories, which have him living in the state of Jin (same Chinese character) during the "Spring and Autumn Period" (i.e., some time between 722 and 484 BCE), adding that he was actually from the state of Chu, to the south of Jin.9 Note that the stories connecting Boya to the state of Chu usually have his meeting with Ziqi take place near the confluence of the Yangzi and Han rivers, both of which are mentioned in the first verse of the lyrics below. This meeting place connects the story to the Boya Qin Terrace discussed in the entry on Boya.

Original preface 10

Yu Duan (Boya) met Zhong (Zi)qi along the banks of the Clear River. They made friends then parted. More than 10 years later (Boya) came to pay a visit, but (Ziqi) had already died. So he wrote this to describe his sad thoughts.

Music and Lyrics: Three sections (see my transcription; timings follow 聽錄音 myrecording)
- Setting follows the syllabic structure of the lyrics (listen with the original Chinese)11)

1.   (00.00)
Last year I rowed to a Qing River landing,
and with a true gentleman unexpectedly became emotionally attached.
Suddenly, upon now arriving at the river,
I don't see my music friend and so am empty and sad.
Heartbreak, heartbreak, more heartbreak!
The Yangzi and Han rivers just make me gloomy.
I have such strong feelings I can't bear to go to your grave,
(so here I must) sprinkle the wine in drops, becoming empty as I pour.

2.   (01.06)
We each came from a separate part of the world,
but by the clear river that moonlit night our feelings were unforgettable.
I returned to visit you, but you had died,
causing all to be aggrieved, hearts perturbed.
Ziqi, Ziqi, Ziqi, Alas!
Listen to my qin's words of allusion.
The melody is elevated, the song is sad, the sound is wailing.
Just thinking of you brings tears like rain.

3.   (01.59)
Thinking of you is bitter, my emotions seem foolishly doting.
The qin sounds are urgent and share the misery.
Sharing the misery, the heart becomes sad.
As for people who understand music, who else is there?
As for people who understand music, who else is there?

End (02.42)

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Sources of Boya Diao Ziqi
The source of the lyrics is unknown. As for the story, 538.18 - .23 all have related information, but none specifically refers to this title or lyrics. 9918 has only .18 Diao Qu Yuan (弔屈原文) Mourning for Qu Yuan. A Song dynasty melody list says this was the common name of 感志吟 Gan Zhi Yin. See also the entries for Boya and Zhong Ziqi in Qin Shi (琴史). There are brief mentions in Liezi, Xunzi and Huainanzi (see under Boya). (Return)

2. For further information on yu mode see Shenpin Yu Yi and Modality in Early Ming Qin Tablature (Return)

3. Hakuga: Boya in Japan (For another axe story see Dai Kui.)
The picture above is from an online illustration of a float (called a "mountain" [山 yama]) from a parade during the 祇園祭 Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival), which takes place every July 17 - 24 in Kyoto. The story of Boya and Ziqi was also once well-known in Japan.

In Japan Boya is pronounced Hakuga (or Haku Ga), and Zhong Ziqi is Shoshiki (or Sho Shiki). A net search for these names gives mostly information connected to Gion Matsuri float, as described here. In modern Japanese the traditional character for koto (箏 zheng) is generally replaced with the character 琴 qin, the actual qin (Japanese "kin") being little known in Japan. As a result many of these sites either mistranslate "qin" as "harp" (organologically the qin is a zither) or call it a "koto"; the qin is also not a "lute".

In another story from Japan Boya is called Peiwoh.

There is a Chinese illustration of Boya playing for Ziqi here.

4. Other melodies on the same title are listed at the top. (Return)

5. ( Tracing Bo Ya Diao Zi Qi (tracing chart>)
Zha's Guide 14/149/256. Xu Jian, Qinshi Chubian, p.146 says the title Boya Huai (懷) Ziqi is pre-Ming. Boya Yi (憶) Ziqi is #87 in Qin Shu, and #92 in 僧下古 the "Less Ancient" section of Seng's list.) This suggests the melody might have originated in the Song dynasty. Unfortunately, there is no way at present to know how close any of the surviving printed versions might be to the earlier ones. The five surviving versions are as follows:

  1. 1511
  2. 1525
  3. 1539
  4. 1585
  5. 1828 (Diao Ziqi)

6. See previous footnote: 1511 and 1539 are identical to each other but very different from here, though there are common motifs (see especially m.11-12 with the lyrics Shang xin, shang xin, fu shang xin (傷心,傷心,復傷心 ). 1585 is similar to them; 1828 is unexamined (three sections). (Return)

7. Yu Duan (俞端 ; also 俞瑞 Yu Rui) and Yu Boya 俞伯牙
More in a footnote under the Bo Ya biography. (Return)

8. The story in the Book of Liezi focuses on the musical skills. See Graham, pp. 109-110; 王強模,列子, p.188. Here the preface is shorter, focusing on friendship. Elsewhere it is explained that the reason Boya never played again was his conviction that in life you are lucky to find one person with such deep understanding, and you could never hope to find two. See also Qin Shi Fol. II, #12, Bo Ya and #13 Zi Qi. (Return)

9. 晉 Jin: dynasty or state?
The Jin dynasty (365-420 CE) and Jin state from the earlier Spring and Autumn Period (ca. 722 to 484 BCE) are both written with the same character. The version of Boya Diao Ziqi in Taigu Yiyin groups it with Jin dynasty pieces. Online Japanese references also seem mostly to mention the Jin dynasty rather than the Jin state. I do not know the significance of this confusion other than underlining Boya's legendary status. It should be pointed out that although some scholars suggest that the book of Liezi in fact dates as late as the 4th c. CE, there is apparently other early mention of the story of Boya and Ziqi (for which see above). (Return)

10. Preface
Original Chinese not yet online.

11. Lyrics
The Chinese original lyrics are as follows (聽錄音 Listen to the recording):




Return to the top

Appendix: Chart Tracing 伯牙吊子期 Bo Ya Diao Zi Qi
Further comment
above; based mainly on Zha Fuxi's Guide 14/149/256.

    (year; QQJC Vol/page)
Further information
(QQJC = 琴曲集成 Qinqu Jicheng; QF = 琴府 Qin Fu)
  1. 謝琳太古遺音
      (1511; I/310)
1; lyrics
Further details here
  2. 西麓堂琴統
      (1525; III/190)
3T; yu mode; lyrics are very different from previous; music is related but also very different;
Further details above
  3. 風宣玄品
      (1539; II/158)
1; same as 1511
  4. 新刊正文對音捷要
      (1573; #23)
1; same as 1585?
  5. 重修真傳琴譜
      (1585; IV/403)
1; lyrics (長期去年春....) quite similar to 1511, but quite a bit longer; music still related but quite different;
  6. 琴學軔端
      (1828; XX/455)
3 unnumbered sections; titled 吊子期 Diao Ziqi
New lyrics (憶昔去年春....) and music (see 訪子期 Fang Ziqi)

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