Yiqi : Bo Yi and Shu Qi
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Yi Qi (Bo Yi and Shu Qi)
- Qin Shi #13
夷、齊 (伯夷、叔齊) 1
琴史 #13 2
Bo Yi and Shu Qi3  
"Yi Qi" refers to the brothers Bo Yi and Shu Qi; towards the end of the Shang dynasty they are said each to have run off and become recluses so that the other could inherit the realm of their father, the Lord of Guzhu (also the title of a qin melody4). They are mentioned in a number of ancient texts, with most detail coming from the Grand Scribe's Records (Shi Ji, Book 61: Memoir 1, Bo Yi).5

Although this memoir in the Shi Ji (Grand Scribe's Records) was named for Bo Qi himself, little was written about him or his brother before they became recluses. Their home region, Guzhu, is said to have been a district now called Lulong, in the northeastern corner of what is today Hebei province.6 The Grand Scribe's account begins by saying the father wanted his youngest son, Shu Qi, to inherit the princedom. As a result the eldest son Bo Yi ran off, so as to avoid conflict. When Shu Qi learned of this he also ran off, so the middle son inherited the princedom.

Joining up and having heard of the virtues of Wen Wang, the two brothers went west to Shanxi. However, when they got there they found out that Wen Wang had died and his son Wu Wang was about to attack the ruler of the Shang dynasty, to which Bo Yi and Shu Qi still felt loyalty. They considered this to be unfilial, so they ran off again, this time to Shouyang Mountain.7 Once the Zhou dynasty was established they refused to eat food produced in its territory, and so they died of starvation.

Bo Yi is said to have written a Gathering Thornferns Melody (Cai Wei Cao).8 There is no surviving qin tablature with this title, but it is Folio 47, #20 in Yuefu Shiji. There the introduction and lyrics are as follows.

Qin Ji says,

Gathering Thornferns Melody was written by Bo Yi.

Shi Ji says,

When Wu Wang attacked Yin, Bo Yi and Shu Qi were ashamed of this. They would not eat the grain of Zhou, but hid in Shouyang mountain....

Yuefu Jieti says,

Picking Thornferns Melody is also called Chen You Gao Ju.9

(Lyrics attributed to Bo Yi),

Having climbed those high (or: western) mountains, we picked the thornferns we found there.

They replaced disorder (or: tyranny) with tyranny, without realizing their error.

Shen Nong, Yu and the Xia all gone, to where can I return?

One can mourn death, but fate always brings decline.

The last line comes from the version in 史記 Shi Ji, which also had several other differences from the version in Yuefu Shiji.


The original biography in Qin Shi is as follows.

(Bo) Yi and (Yi) Qi were two sons of 孤竹君 Guzhu Jun. When Bo Yi wanted to allow his brother to have the kingdom, Wen Wang....

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 夷齊 Yi Qi: 伯夷 Bo Yi; 叔齊 Shu Qi
Bo Yi is title of Chapter 61 of the Book of History (reference below). There are also brief words of praise for them by Confucius at four places in the Analects, though there is also some reserve about this. And, in his Patterns of Disengagement, Alan Berkowitz discusses them as the archetypal moral recluses, who would rather die than have to follow rulers they did not respect. (In this matter, there has been some discussion of how to reconcile what the founders of the Zhou did with what Bo Yi and Shu Qi did, which would seem to have been exactly the opposite.) (Return)

2. Qin Shi Entry 13
9 lines

3. Images of Bo Yi and Shu Qi (伯夷、叔齊圖)   Bo Yi and Shu Qi (compare another)        
The image above was downloaded from a webpage no longer online; the page seemed to be connecting several images to the Tongbo Palace (桐柏宫 Tongbo Gong) at Tiantai Shan (a new Tongbo Palace, the old one now being under water because of a dam).

Another image, shown at right, was more recently downloaded from a site that did not give the origin of the image. Elsewhere it seems to be identified as 採薇圖·南宋李唐作 a painting called Cai Wei by the Southern Song dynasty's Li Tang (courtesy name 晞古; Wiki). Whether or not this is actually the original, I have not yet found out its actual location. It is clearly the central section of a larger painting that presumably looked like one that can be found elsewhere on the internet, though it is identified only as "in the style of Li Tang" by the Qing dynasty painter Xiao Chen (清蕭晨仿李希采薇圖 a full version).

4. 孤竹君 Guzhu Jun (Lord of Guzhu)
7111.35 孤竹君 says 商墨胎初之封號 Lord of Guzhu was the reign title of Motai Chu of the Shang (or 殷 Yin) dynasty. It then identifies him as the father of Bo Yi and Shu Qi, referring to their biography in the Grand Scribe's Records.

Guzhu Jun (lit.: Lord of Solitary Bamboo) is also the title of a melody in Xilutang Qintong (see Zha Guide, 23/198/--). The relationship of this name with the person who was the lord of the region called Guzhu (see footnote below) is not clear.

The melody 孤竹君 Guzhu Jun was originally reconstructed and recorded in the 1990s by 成公亮 Cheng Gongliang, but more recently many people have learned it from him or his recordings (example by "古竹君 Guzhu Jun".)

"Lord of the solitary bamboo" has also been used as a nickname.

The introduction in 1525 tells of a man of Jin (265-420) seeing an inscription on a grave. The full text is as follows:

"On this mound (tomb) is a solitary stalk of bamboom. Breezes blow constantly but gently, Underneath is a centenarian, sleeping forever and never knowing dawn." These are words a man of Jin unexpectly discovered on a grave, so he called the man (or: so the grave had the title?) "Lord of the Solitary Bamboo". These words were rather crude and abrupt, but they can cause people to feel respectful. Whatever emotions come from such an abandoned tomb are the same, whether past or present. Without the achievements of a Mengzhuang (i.e.,
Zhuangzi) few can understand such things. Hearing this being played ("beaten"), one cannot move its sounds (?).

Translation tentative.

Qinshu Daquan, Folio 11, #41, suggests that Guzhu Jun is an alternate title for the melody 採薇操 Cai Wei Cao (see below. However, there is no evidence to show that the writer was familiar with the guqin melody published in 1525, so using Caiwei Cao as an alternate title for it.

5. Bo Yi and Shu Qi in Shi Ji
See Nienhauser, Grand Scribe's Records VII/pp.1-7.

6. 孤竹 Guzhu region
The corresponding modern region is said to be what can be found on modern maps as 盧龍 Lulong, a district in the northeast part of what is today Hebei province.

7. 首陽山 Shouyang Mountain
There are a number of ancient mountains with this name; one possibility is the one in Shanxi (see Nienhauser, VII, p. 3).

8. Gathering Thornferns Melody (Cai Wei Cao 采薇操 or 採薇操)
This melody title, found on some old melody lists, concerns the story told above of Bo Yi and Shu Qi. Although this story seems to be associated with that of the melody Guzhu Jun, there is no evidence that it was ever an alternative title for the surviving melody of that name. Nevertheless, 41010.112 采薇歌 Cai Wei Ge relates this story from Shi Ji #61, with no mention of 采薇操 Cai Wei Cao. 12564.72 採薇操 Cai Wei Cao (note that different Cai) refers to Folio 47, #20 in Yuefu Shiji.

The version of this poem in Shi Ji (see Nienhauser, VII/p.3) is as follows. The main differences between the two are mentioned here:

登彼西山兮,採其薇矣。     (instead of 高山 high instead of east mountain)
以暴易暴兮,不知其非矣。     (instead of 亂易暴兮 in YFSJ)
呼嗟徂兮,命之衰矣!           (YFSJ omitted this line)

There do not seem to be any surviving musical settings for these lyrics.

9. 晨遊高舉 Chen You Gao Ju
14269.xxx; Gaoju 46302.xxx Morning Wander in Gaoju/High Lift? (Return)

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