Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bo Ya playing the lute

Whenever Bo Ya played the lute, Zhong Ziqi would listen to him. Once
when he was playing the lute, his thoughts turned to Mount Tai. Zhong
Ziqi said, "How splendidly you play the lute! Lofty and majestic like
Mount Tai." A short time later, when his thoughts turned to rolling
waters, Zhong Ziqi said, "How splendidly you play the lute! Rolling
and swelling like a rushing river." When Zhong Ziqi died, Bo Ya
smashed the lute and cut its strings. To the end of his life, he never
played the lute again because he felt that there was no one in the
world worth playing for. This applies not only to the lute, but to
worthiness as well. Although a man is worthy, if he is not received by
a ruler with due courtesy, 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 Annals of Lü Buwei], John Knoblock, Jeffrey Riegel trans.,
Standford University Press, 2000, p. 308.

"This is the first complete English translation of Lüshi chunqiu,
compiled in 239 b. c. under the patronage of Lü Buwei, prime minister
to the ruler of the state of Qin, who was to become the first emperor
of a newly unified China fifteen years later. Lü retained a group of
scholars whose aim was to encompass the world's knowledge in one great
encyclopedia; so delighted was Lü with the finished work that he is
said to have offered a fabulous prize of gold to anyone who could add
or subtract even a single word."

Here is the Chinese original:

伯牙鼓琴,鍾子期聽之,方鼓琴而志在太山,鍾子期曰:『善哉乎鼓琴,巍巍乎若太山。』少選之間,而志在流水,鍾子期又曰:『善哉乎鼓琴,湯湯乎若流水。』鍾子期死,伯牙破琴絕弦,終身不復鼓琴,以為世無足復為鼓琴者。非獨琴若此也,賢者亦然。雖有賢者,而無禮以接之,賢奚由盡忠?猶御之不善,驥不自千里也。