A Friendship Story of “High Mountain-Running Water” in Ancient China – by Wang Lili – Ningbo, China – July 2020

During the Warring States Period in ancient China, there was a man named Boya Yu who played the Qin (a kind of string instrument in China) very well.

One day when he was playing the Qin in a remote forest, a woodcutter named Ziqi Zhong came by. Boya used music to express his thoughts on climbing mountains. Ziqi would chime in and suggest,” As lofty as Mount Tai “.

Boya used his music again to express the running water. Ziqi complemented: “What a mighty river it is !” What Boya placed in music, Ziqi always responded with powerful understanding. Thus the two became bosom friends.

Later, when Ziqi died, Boya lost his bosom friend and was extremely sad, he threw his Qin away and vowed never to play again.

From this historical story, a special term “知音(zhi-yin)” in Chinese is thus created, which could be translated as “recognizing your music, inner feelings and potential impacts.”

This term “high mountain-running water” in Chinese is often used today to suggest the rare fortune of having friends who can really appreciate your passion, recognize your talents and endeavors, and further encourage and inspire you to reach a higher level.


Billy’s Comments: Prof. Wang Lili was the first Vice President of Ningbo University and an esteemed Material Scientist in China. He was responsible for getting me back to teach Architecture at Ningb U. in 1991. He is certainly one of my most admired, respected, and loved cousins – we are related as his maternal grandmother was the youngest sister of my paternal grandfather. I requested that he write something for my Friendship & Friendshipology Website, and within a week I received his response:

“Dear Ming Sing, It’s quite difficult for me to write a story about ancient Chinese Friendship in English as you requested. I tried my best due to the deep Friendship between you and me. I wrote a story here about “High Mountains and Running Water “Please see the attachment. I hope you like it. Cheers, Lili”



Wang Lili (Lili WANG, Lilih WANG), male, born in 1934, the Professor and Honorary Director of the Mechanics and Materials Science Research Centre at Ningbo University in China. Since 1956, he has worked in Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Institute of Chemical Machinery; University of Science and Technology of China. In 1985 he participated in the founding of Ningbo University and served as vice President. He was the Chairman of the Explosion Mechanics Committee of CSTAM, and has been the Chairman or Co-Chairman of several international conferences.

His research interests are stress-wave propagation, dynamic response of materials and structures, rate-dependent constitutive relation of materials under high strain rates, dynamic fracture, adiabatic shear localization, damage mechanics and impact engineering. To this subject, he has contributed immensely, with more than 300 papers. His books entitled “Foundations of Stress Waves” and entitled “Dynamics of Materials” are widely used in China as textbooks for graduated students since 1980s and the corresponding English editions have been published by Elsevier.

Over the past 60 years, he cultivated a number of outstanding students (including academicians in China) engaged in this field.

His scientific research achievements have won the National Science and Technology Conference Award, The Gansu Province Science and Technology Achievement Award, the Zhejiang Province science and technology Award, the Ministry of Education natural science first prize. In 2013, he won the Second Prize of National Natural Science (the first prize is vacant).