High Mountains and Flowing Water高山流水

Witnessed the sincere friendship between Yu Bo Ya and Zhong Zi Qi


Chinese Name: 高山流水

English Name: High Mountains and Flowing Water, Gao Shan Liu Shui

Composer: Yu Bo Ya俞伯牙

High Mountains and Flowing Water高山流水
High Mountains and Flowing Water

“High mountains and flowing water” is one of the top ten ancient songs in China. “High mountains and flowing water” is a metaphor for a bosom friend or confidant, as well as a piece of high and wonderful music. This song is a Guqin song. In the Tang Dynasty, it is divided into two songs: High Mountain(Gaoshan高山) and Flowing Water(Liushui流水).

High Mountains-Gao Shan-高山
Flowing Water-Liu Shui-流水

Story of High Mountains and Flowing Water

Yu Boya was a native of the state of Chu during the Warring States period. He was good at caressing Guqin and later joined the state of Jin as an official. On the night of the Mid Autumn Festival, he went to the state of Chu and came to Chuanjiang by boat. Suddenly, there was a violent storm, and the boatman had no choice but to stop the boat. After the wind and rain stopped, Boya saw that the Sichuan river between the mountains had a special charm and played Guqin music on the boat.

High Mountains and Flowing Water高山流水
High Mountains and Flowing Water-play-guqin

When he played the Guqin, one string broke, and his thoughts were interrupted. Boya raised his head, but he saw a woodcutter on the cliff not far away. He was listening with his eyes closed and intoxicated. Boya was suspicious. The boat came to the edge of the cliff, and they met each other. The woodcutter Zhong Ziqi replied, “Don’t be suspicious, sir. The villain’s firewood was blocked here by the rainstorm. When the rain stopped and was about to go home, I suddenly heard a Guqin sound floating. I was fascinated when I listened!”

Hearing this, Yu Boya asked with a little arrogance, “how can there be people who understand music in such a wilderness?” Zhong Ziqi answered modestly, “Sir, you are wrong. If there is no Guqin player in the wilderness, how can there be someone who plays Guqin by the lonely river?”

High Mountains and Flowing Water高山流水

Yu Boya closed his eyes and played another song. After playing, he asked, “since you know the Guqin music, do you know what music I just played?” Ziqi replied: “I know a little. What you just played was your emotion when you saw the Sichuan river in the mountains after the rain. At first, your Guqin sound was so high and powerful, just like these towering mountains; later, your Guqin sound was so vast, just like waves and running water…”

High Mountains and Flowing Water高山流水

Yu Boya was very surprised at Ziqi’s understanding. He hurried to play the Guqin and bowed his hand as a salute: “I’ve traveled all over the world to find a bosom friend. I met you today, and my wish for this life has been completed!” the two seemed to have known each other for a long time. They talked with great interest. Boya learned that Ziqi was a woodcutter, but he was knowledgeable and had high musical accomplishments, but he didn’t want to be an official, so they lived in seclusion here, Cutting firewood for a living.

The more they talked, the more they speculated, and they became brothers under the witness of high mountains and flowing water. Boya said, “just call the song I just played” high mountains and flowing water “to commemorate your acquaintance with me.”Then they made an appointment to meet here next Mid-Autumn Festival.

High Mountains and Flowing Water高山流水

The next year, Boya came here and learned that Ziqi had died. He was devastated. After playing the last song of high mountains and flowing water in front of Ziqi’s tomb, he smashed the Guqin and never played again.

In 1977, a recording of “Flowing Water” was chosen to be included in the Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated recording containing music from around the world, which was sent into outer space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft. This ancient music was played in the space since then!

Flowing Water流水 Played By Bai Wu Xia

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