This article focuses on the enigmatic musical anecdote of zither player Bo Ya and his friend and expert listener Zhong Ziqi in considering early Chinese perspectives on music’s hetero-referential and descriptive potential. Using some recent Western scholarship on description in a number of different media, the article considers whether these accounts are sufficient to explain the phenomenon of Bo Ya and Zhong Ziqi. Concluding that this scholarship is helpful but insufficient to explain the early Chinese situation, it suggests that selections from the Xun Zi and Zhuang Zi demonstrate that connections between the senses and phenomena were not necessarily expected to differ intersubjectively as broadly as they have been in the West and that Zhong Ziqi was able to achieve particular listening prowess by transcending conventional understandings of music. It is hoped that this may help scholars in framing discussions of music from the classical literature and inform our understanding of a range of early philosophies related to aural phenomena, especially music and language.


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pp. 259-270
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