Liu Ji:Gong Ziqiao Making a Lute ~ 《工之侨为琴》 刘基 with English Translations


《工之侨为琴》 刘基


Gong Ziqiao Making a Lute
Liu Ji

Gong Zhiqiao, having come by a piece of excellent paulownia wood, cut it into a lute and furnished it with strings. A pluck at it would produce a harmony of the ring of gold and the tinkle of jade. He thought it to be the best in the world. So he presented to the ritual office. The latter had it examined by the prominent musicians of the country, who, nevertheless, commented: “Not ancient!” And the lute was returned to him.
Gong took the lute back and contrived with a painter to make some cracks on it and then with a calligrapher to carve some hieroglyphs on it. Afterwards he put it in a case, which he buried in the earth. One year later he took out the lute and brought it for sale in the market. A dignitary who saw it bought it for a hundred taels of gold and presented it to the Court. The original official musicians passed it around, looking at it with great admiration, exclaiming, “It is indeed a marvelous rarity on earth!”
Hearing this, Gong said with a sigh, “Alas, this deplorable world! Is that only the unhappy experience of a lute? The same is true of all and sundry. If I do not devise my escape sooner, I shall suffer misfortune in the same way.” So he went into the Dangming Mountains, and no one knew how he ended his life.

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