Liu Shui | Flowing Water

An introduction to Liu Shui by musician Cheng Yu

This ancient classic piece of Chinese music is one of the handful of pieces included in the Voyager Golden Record of 1977. The gold-plated LP was sent to space on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts. It was selected for its unique cultural value and antiquity. It was played on the Guqin whose music is recognised by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Liu Shui, which means flowing water, conjures up the flowing aspects of nature. It was composed at a time when people lived in harmony with nature. Painted landscapes of the past frequently depict humans as small scale elements within the vast landscapes of China.

Water is one of the five elements in Chinese cosmology and a way of understanding a wide range of phenomena in life. The other elements are Wood, , Earth and Metal. Performer Cheng Yu explains in her introduction to the piece that Water represents soft power and Liu Shui depicts this in a variety of moods. This metaphor of Water’s soft power amplifies Thurrock’s motto of the Thames flowing from Thurrock to the rest of the world and links to our animated Thurrock Mandala which you can click here to read about and watch.

We are fortunate to be able to hear Cheng Yu’s performance of Liu Shui at Thurrock Festival Digital. She is UK’s leading exponent of the guqin. Over the years, she has tirelessly shared her musical skills with others through her numerous activities and ensembles which can be evidenced by clicking here. Her new UK Chinese Music Arts organisation will combine her current activities with a number of international partners.

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