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Guqin

Guqin

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Encyclopedia
The guqin is the modern name for a plucked seven-string Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 musical instrument of the zither
Zither
The zither is a musical string instrument, most commonly found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary citera, northwestern Croatia, the southern regions of Germany, alpine Europe and East Asian cultures, including China...

 family. It has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favored by scholars and literati
Scholar-bureaucrats
Scholar-officials or Scholar-bureaucrats were civil servants appointed by the emperor of China to perform day-to-day governance from the Sui Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, China's last imperial dynasty. These officials mostly came from the well-educated men known as the...

 as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as highlighted by the quote "a gentleman does not part with his qin or se
Se (instrument)
The se is an ancient Chinese plucked zither . It is the ancestor of many Asian zithers, including the Chinese guzheng, the Korean gayageum and the Japanese koto. It has 25 strings with moveable bridges and has a range of up to five octaves.-History:The history of the se extends back to early...

without good reason," as well as being associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

. It is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as "the father of Chinese music" or "the instrument of the sages".

Traditionally, the instrument was simply referred to as qin (Wade-Giles ch'in) but by the twentieth century the term had come to be applied to many other musical instruments as well: the yangqin
Yangqin
The trapezoidal yangqin is a Chinese hammered dulcimer, originally from Middle East and Persia . It used to be written with the characters 洋琴 , but over time the first character changed to 揚 , which means "acclaimed". It is also spelled yang quin or yang ch'in...

 hammered dulcimer, the huqin
Huqin
Huqin is a family of bowed string instruments, more specifically, a spike fiddle popularly used in Chinese music. The instruments consist of a round, hexagonal, or octagonal sound box at the bottom with a neck attached that protrudes upwards...

 family of bowed string instruments, and the Western piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 are examples of this usage. The prefix "gu-" (meaning "ancient") was later added for clarification. It can also be called qixianqin (lit. "seven-stringed instrument"). The guqin is not to be confused with the guzheng
Guzheng
The guzheng or "gu zheng", also called zheng is a Chinese plucked zither. It has 18-23 or more strings and movable bridges....

, another Chinese long zither also without frets, but with moveable bridges
Bridge (instrument)
A bridge is a device for supporting the strings on a stringed instrument and transmitting the vibration of those strings to some other structural component of the instrument in order to transfer the sound to the surrounding air.- Explanation :...

 under each string. Because Robert Hans van Gulik
Robert van Gulik
Robert Hans van Gulik was a highly educated orientalist, diplomat, musician , and writer, best known for the Judge Dee mysteries, the protagonist of which he borrowed from the 18th-century Chinese detective novel Dee Goong An.-Life:Robert van Gulik was the son of a medical officer in the Dutch...

's famous book about the qin is called The Lore of the Chinese Lute, the guqin is sometimes inaccurately called a lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

. Other incorrect classifications, mainly from music compact discs, include "harp
Harp
The harp is a multi-stringed instrument which has the plane of its strings positioned perpendicularly to the soundboard. Organologically, it is in the general category of chordophones and has its own sub category . All harps have a neck, resonator and strings...

" or "table-harp".

The guqin is a very quiet instrument, with a range of about four octaves, and its open strings are tuned in the bass register. Its lowest pitch is about two octaves below middle C
Middle C
C or Do is the first note of the fixed-Do solfège scale. Its enharmonic is B.-Middle C:Middle C is designated C4 in scientific pitch notation because of the note's position as the fourth C key on a standard 88-key piano keyboard...

, or the lowest note on the cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

. Sounds are produced by plucking open strings, stopped strings, and harmonics. The use of glissando
Glissando
In music, a glissando is a glide from one pitch to another. It is an Italianized musical term derived from the French glisser, to glide. In some contexts it is distinguished from the continuous portamento...

—sliding tones—gives it a sound reminiscent of a pizzicato
Pizzicato
Pizzicato is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of stringed instrument....

 cello, fretless double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

 or a slide guitar
Slide guitar
Slide guitar or bottleneck guitar is a particular method or technique for playing the guitar. The term slide refers to the motion of the slide against the strings, while bottleneck refers to the original material of choice for such slides: the necks of glass bottles...

. The qin is also capable of a lot of harmonics, of which 91 are most commonly used and indicated by the dotted positions. By tradition the qin originally had five strings, but ancient qin-like instruments with 10 or more strings have been found. The modern form has been standardized for about two millennia
Millennium
A millennium is a period of time equal to one thousand years —from the Latin phrase , thousand, and , year—often but not necessarily related numerically to a particular dating system....

.

History



Legend has it that the qin, the most revered of all Chinese musical instruments, has a history of about 5,000 years. This legend states that the legendary figures of China's pre-history — Fuxi, Shennong
Shennong
Shennong , which names mean "Divine Farmer", but also known as the Emperor of the Five Grains , was a legendary ruler of China and culture hero reputed to have lived some 5,000 years ago...

 and Huang Di, the "Yellow Emperor
Yellow Emperor
The Yellow Emperor or Huangdi1 is a legendary Chinese sovereign and culture hero, included among the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors. Tradition holds that he reigned from 2697–2597 or 2696–2598 BC...

" — were involved in its creation. Nearly almost all qin books and tablature collections published prior to the twentieth century state this as the factual origins of the qin, although this is now presently viewed as mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

. It is mentioned in Chinese writings dating back nearly 3,000 years, and related instruments have been found in Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng
Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng
The Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng is an important archaeological site in Suizhou, Hubei, China, dated sometime after 433 BCE. The tomb contained the remains of Marquis Yi of Zeng...

 from about 2,500 years ago. The exact origins of the qin is still a very much continuing subject of debate
Debate
Debate or debating is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, which only examines consistency from axiom, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion...

 over the past few decade
Decade
A decade is a period of 10 years. The word is derived from the Ancient Greek dekas which means ten. This etymology is sometime confused with the Latin decas and dies , which is not correct....

s.

In 1977, a recording of "Flowing Water" (Liu Shui, as performed by Guan Pinghu
Guan Pinghu
Guan Pinghu , was a leading player of the guqin , a Chinese 7-string bridgeless zither. Born in Suzhou, Jiangsu, Guan came from an artistic family, and started to learn the guqin from his father, Guan Nianci. After the death of his father when he was thirteen, Guan continued with his father’s...

, one of the best qin players of the 20th century) was chosen to be included in the Voyager Golden Record
Voyager Golden Record
The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records which were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. They contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for...

, a gold-plated LP recording containing music from around the world, which was sent into outer space by NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 on the Voyager 1
Voyager 1
The Voyager 1 spacecraft is a 722-kilogram space probe launched by NASA in 1977, to study the outer Solar System and eventually interstellar space. Operating for as of today , the spacecraft receives routine commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network. At a distance of as of...

 and Voyager 2
Voyager 2
The Voyager 2 spacecraft is a 722-kilogram space probe launched by NASA on August 20, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and eventually interstellar space...

 spacecrafts. It is the longest excerpt included on the disc. The reason to select a work played on this specific instrument is because the tonal structure of the instrument, its musical scale, is derived from fundamental physical laws
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 related to vibration
Vibration
Vibration refers to mechanical oscillations about an equilibrium point. The oscillations may be periodic such as the motion of a pendulum or random such as the movement of a tire on a gravel road.Vibration is occasionally "desirable"...

 and overtone
Overtone
An overtone is any frequency higher than the fundamental frequency of a sound. The fundamental and the overtones together are called partials. Harmonics are partials whose frequencies are whole number multiples of the fundamental These overlapping terms are variously used when discussing the...

s, representing the intellectual capacity of human beings on this subject. In 2003, guqin music was proclaimed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
The Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity was made by the Director-General of UNESCO starting in 2001 to raise awareness on intangible cultural heritage and encourage local communities to protect them and the local people who sustain these forms of cultural...

 by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

.

Guqin literature



There are a number of ancient sources that discuss qin lore, qin theory and general qin literature. Some of these books are available inserted into certain qinpu
Qinpu
Qinpu are tablature score collections for the Chinese musical instrument, the guqin.-What are qinpu?:Qinpu are collections of tablatures of music for the guqin. In the past, music was passed on from teacher to student. Only recently has tablature been written down, often to preserve music or as a...

(qin tablature collections). The basic contents of qin literature is mainly essays discussing and describing the nature of qin music, the theory behind the notes and tones, the method of correct play, the history of qin music, lists of mentions in literature, etc. The detail can be very concise to extremely detailed and thorough. Some are mostly philosophical or artistic musings, others are scientific and technical.

Schools, societies and players



As with any other musical tradition, there are differences in ideals and interaction between different people. Therefore, there exists different schools and societies which transmit these different ideas and artistic traditions.

Historical schools



Because of the difference in geography in China, many qin schools known as qin pai developed over the centuries. Such schools generally formed around areas where qin activity was greatest.

Some schools have come and gone, and some have off-shoots (such as the off-shot of Zhucheng school, the Mei'an school). Often, the school is originated from a single person, such as the Wu school which is named after the late Wu Zhaoji
Wu Zhaoji
Wu Zhaoji also known as Xiangquan, was born in Hunan in 1908, China. At the age of 4, his family moved to Suzhou, where he lived the rest of his life until his death in 1997. Raised in a musical family, he learned the guqin from his father, and in 1921 became a student of Wu Jinyang. From a young...

. The style can vary considerably between schools; some are very similar, yet others are very distinct. The differences are often in interpretation of the music. Northern schools tends to be more vigorous in technique than Southern schools. But in modern terms, the distinction between schools and styles is often blurred because a single player may learn from many different players from different schools and absorb each of their styles. This is especially so for conservatory trained players. People from the same school trained under the same master may have different individual styles (such as Zhang Ziqian
Zhang ziqian
Zhang Ziqian , a famous seven-string zither qin players, was born in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, The People's Republic of China. He studied the guqin with a guqin master Suo Shaotao at the age of thirteenth. In the 1930s, Zhang moved to Shanghai and worked as an accountant at a salt factory. In...

 and Liu Shaochun of the Guangling school).

Guqin societies


It should be noted that there is a difference between qin schools and qin societies. The former concerns itself with transmission of a style, the latter concerns itself with performance. The qin society will encourage meetings with fellow qin players in order to play music and maybe discuss the nature of the qin. Gatherings like this are called yaji
Yaji
A yaji is a special term meaning "elegant gathering". It describes a meeting of like-minded individuals and is mostly associated with the literati or intellectuals of Chinese artistic and cultural society...

s, or "elegant gatherings", which take place once every month or two. Sometimes, societies may go on excursions to places of natural beauty to play qin, or attend conferences. They may also participate in competitions or research
Research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

. Of course, societies do not have to have a strict structure to adhere to; it could mostly be on a leisurely basis. The main purpose of qin societies is to promote and play qin music. It is often a good opportunity to network
Social network
A social network is a social structure made up of individuals called "nodes", which are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.Social...

 and learn to play the instrument, to ask questions and to receive answers.

Players


Many artists down through the ages have played the instrument, and the instrument was a favourite of scholars. Certain melodies are also associated with famous figures, such as Confucius and Qu Yuan. Some emperors of China also had a liking to the qin, including the Song dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 emperor, Huizong, as clearly seen in his own painting of himself playing the qin in "Ting Qin Tu".

Historical


  • Confucius
    Confucius
    Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

    : Philosopher, 551-479 BCE, associated with the piece Kongzi Duyi, Weibian Sanjue and Youlan.
  • Bo Ya
    Bo Ya
    Bo Ya was a qin player from the Spring and Autumn Period or the Warring States period. He was known by his first name of "Boya", although his surname may have been Yu , thus his complete name is sometimes given as Yu Boya . The Lute Platform in Hanyang, Wuhan, China was where musician Yu Boya is...

    : Qin player of the Spring and Autumn Period, associated with the piece Gao Shan. and Liu Shui
  • Zhuang Zi
    Zhuangzi
    Zhuangzi was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States Period, a period corresponding to the philosophical summit of Chinese thought — the Hundred Schools of Thought, and is credited with writing—in part or in whole—a work known by his name,...

    : Daoist philosopher of the Warring States Period
    Warring States Period
    The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

    , associated with the piece Zhuang Zhou Mengdie and Shenhua Yin.
  • Qu Yuan
    Qu Yuan
    Qu Yuan was a Chinese poet who lived during the Warring States Period in ancient China. He is famous for his contributions to the poetry collection known as the Chu-ci...

     (340-278 BCE): Poet of the Warring States Period
    Warring States Period
    The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

    , associated with the piece Li Sao
    Li Sao
    Li Sao is a Chinese poem dating from the Warring States Period, largely written by Qu Yuan of the Kingdom of Chu. One of the most famous poems of pre-Qin China, it is a representative work of the Chu Ci form of poetry.-Title:The title's meaning has been debated about even in historical times...

    .
  • Cai Yong
    Cai Yong
    Cai Yong was a Chinese scholar of the Eastern Han Dynasty. He was well-versed in calligraphy, music, mathematics and astronomy. One of his daughters is the famous Cai Wenji.-Early life:...

    : Han
    Han Dynasty
    The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

     musician, author of Qin Cao.
  • Cai Wenji
    Cai Wenji
    Cai Wenji , also known as Cai Yan, was a Han Dynasty poet and composer. She was the daughter of Cai Yong, also a musician. Her style name was originally Zhaoji, but it was changed to Wenji during the Jin Dynasty to avoid a naming conflict with Sima Zhao.She spent part of her life as a prisoner of...

    : Cai Yong's daughter, associated with the piece Hujia Shiba-pai, etc.
  • Sima Xiangru
    Sima Xiangru
    Sima Xiangru, also known as Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju was a Chinese writer. He was a minor official of the Western Han Dynasty, but was better known for his poetic skills, jiu business, and controversial marriage to the widow Zhuo Wenjun after both eloped...

    : Han poet, 179-117 BCE.
  • Zhuge Liang
    Zhuge Liang
    Zhuge Liang was a chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. He is often recognised as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era....

     (181–234): Chinese military leader in the Three Kingdoms
    Three Kingdoms
    The Three Kingdoms period was a period in Chinese history, part of an era of disunity called the "Six Dynasties" following immediately the loss of de facto power of the Han Dynasty rulers. In a strict academic sense it refers to the period between the foundation of the state of Wei in 220 and the...

    , one legend has him playing guqin calmly outside his fort while scaring off the enemy attackers.
  • Xi Kang
    Xi Kang
    Ji Kang was a Chinese author, poet, Taoist philosopher, musician and alchemist. He was one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.-Biography:As a thinker, Ji Kang Ji Kang(223–262) was a Chinese author, poet, Taoist philosopher, musician and alchemist. He was one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo...

    : Sage of the Bamboo Grove, musician and poet, writer of Qin Fu.
  • Li Bai
    Li Bai
    Li Bai , also known in the West by various other transliterations, especially Li Po, was a major Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty poetry period. He has been regarded as one of the greatest poets in China's Tang period, which is often called China's "golden age" of poetry. Around a thousand existing...

    : Tang poet, 701–762.
  • Bai Juyi: Tang poet, 772–846.
  • Song Huizong: Song emperor famous for his patronage of the arts, had a Wanqin Tang ("10,000 Qin Hall") in his palace.
  • Guo Chuwang
    Guo Chuwang
    Guo Chuwang was a patriot at the end of the Song Dynasty and a musician of the guqin who composer of the piece Xiaoxiang Shuiyun 《瀟湘水雲》.-References:...

    : Patriot at the end of the Song Dynasty, composer of the piece Xiaoxiang Shuiyun.


The classical collections such as Qin Shi, Qinshi Bu and Qinshi Xu include biographies
Biography
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 of hundreds more players.

Contemporary


Contemporary qin players extend from the early twentieth century to the present. More so than in the past, such players tend to have many different pursuits and occupations
Profession
A profession is a vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain....

 other than qin playing. There are only a few players who are paid to exclusively play and research the guqin professionally and nothing else. Qin players can also be well-versed in other cultural pursuits, such as the arts. Or they can do independent research on music subjects. Often, players may play other instruments (not necessary Chinese) and give recitals or talks.

Performance


In the performance and playing of the qin, the player will use a variety of techniques to use the full potential of the instrument. They would read the specialist and unique tablature that was developed over the centuries and amass a repertoire of popular and ancient tunes for the qin.

Playing technique


The music of the qin can be categorised as three distinctively different "sounds." The first is san yin (散音), which means "scattered sounds." This is produced by plucking the required string to sound an open note . The second is fan yin (泛音), or "floating sounds." These are harmonics, in which the player lightly touches the string with one or more fingers of the left hand at a position indicated by the hui dots, pluck and lift, creating a crisp and clear sound . The third is an yin (按音 / 案音 / 實音 / 走音), or "stopped sounds." This forms the bulk of most qin pieces and requires the player to press on a string with a finger or thumb of the left hand until it connects with the surface board, then pluck. Afterwards, the musician's hand often slides up and down, thereby modifying the pitch. This technique is similar to that of playing a slide guitar
Slide guitar
Slide guitar or bottleneck guitar is a particular method or technique for playing the guitar. The term slide refers to the motion of the slide against the strings, while bottleneck refers to the original material of choice for such slides: the necks of glass bottles...

 across the player's lap, however, the technique of the qin is very varied and utilises the whole hand, whilst a slide guitar only has around 3 or 4 main techniques .

According to the book Cunjian Guqin Zhifa Puzi Jilan, there are around 1,070 different finger techniques used for the qin, with or without names. It is therefore, the instrument with the most finger techniques in either Chinese or Western music. Most are obsolete, but around 50 or so are sufficient to know in modern practice.

The above four figures are from an old handbook.

Tablature and notation



Written qin music did not directly tell what notes were played; instead, it was written in a tablature
Tablature
Tablature is a form of musical notation indicating instrument fingering rather than musical pitches....

 detailing tuning, finger positions, and stroke technique, thus comprising a step by step method and description of how to play a piece. Some tablatures do indicate notes using the gongche
Gongche notation
Gongche notation or gongchepu is a traditional musical notation method, once popular in ancient China. It uses Chinese characters to represent musical notes. It was named after two of the Chinese characters that were used to represent musical notes, namely "工" gōng and "尺" chě...

 system, or indicate rhythm
Rhythm
Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...

 using dot
Dot
- Typography :* Full stop, also called period in American English, used as a sentence terminator and as a decimal separator in numerals - Typography :* Full stop, also called period in American English, used as a sentence terminator and as a decimal separator (decimal point) in numerals -...

s. The earliest example of the modern shorthand
Shorthand
Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed or brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos and graphē or graphie...

 tablature survives from around the twelfth century CE. An earlier form of music notation from the Tang era survives in just one manuscript, dated to the seventh century CE, called Jieshi Diao Youlan
Jieshi Diao Youlan
Jieshi Diao Youlan means "Solitary Orchid in the Stone Tablet Mode" or just "Solitary Orchid"...

 (Solitary Orchid in Stone Tablet Mode). It is written in a longhand form called wenzi pu (文字譜) (literally "written notation"), said to have been created by Yong Menzhou during the Warring States Period
Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

, which gives all the details using ordinary written Chinese characters. Later in the Tang dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

, Cao Rou and others simplified the notation, using only the important elements of the characters (like string number, plucking technique, hui number and which finger to stop the string) and combined them into one character notation
Musical notation
Music notation or musical notation is any system that represents aurally perceived music, through the use of written symbols.-History:...

. This meant that instead of having two lines of written text to describe a few notes, a single character could represent one note, or sometimes as many as nine. This notation form was called jianzi pu (減字譜) (literally "reduced notation") and it was a great leap forward for recording qin pieces. It was so successful that from the Ming dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 onwards, a great many qinpu (琴譜) (qin tablature collections) appeared, the most famous and useful being "Shenqi Mipu" (The Mysterious and Marvellous Tablature) compiled by Zhu Quan
Zhu Quan
Zhu Quan , The Prince of Ning , was the 17th son of Ming Emperor Hongwu Zhu Yuanzhang; a military commander, historian and playwright, great tea connoisseur and a qin player....

, the 17th son of the founder of the Ming dynasty. In the 1960s, Zha Fuxi discovered more than 130 qinpu that contain well over 3360 pieces of written music. Sadly, many qinpu compiled before the Ming dynasty are now lost, and many pieces have remained unplayed for hundreds of years.

Repertoire


Qin pieces are usually around three to eight minutes in length, with the longest being "Guangling San", which is 22 minutes long. Other famous pieces include "Liu Shui" (Flowing Water), "Yangguan
Yangguan
Yangguan, or Yangguan Pass , is a mountain pass that was fortified by Emperor Wu during the Western Han Dynasty and used as an outpost in ancient China. It is located approximately 43 to southwest of Dunhuang, in the Gansu province of Northwest China, which was in ancient times China's westernmost...

 San Die" (Three Refrains on the Yang Pass Theme), "Meihua San Nong" (Three Variations on the Plum Blossom Theme), "Xiao Xiang Shui Yun" (Mist and Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers), and "Pingsha Luo Yan" (Wild Geese Descending on the Sandbank). The average player will generally have a repertoire of around ten pieces which they will aim to play very well, learning new pieces as and when they feel like it or if the opportunity arises. Players mainly learn popular well transcribed versions, often using a recording as a reference. In addition to learning to play established or ancient pieces very well, highly skilled qin players may also compose
Musical composition
Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

 or improvise, although the player must be very good and extremely familiar with the instrument to do this successfully. A number of qin melodies are program music
Program music
Program music or programme music is a type of art music that attempts to musically render an extra-musical narrative. The narrative itself might be offered to the audience in the form of program notes, inviting imaginative correlations with the music...

 depicting the natural world.

Transcription


Dapu (打譜) is the transcribing
Transcription (music)
In music, transcription can mean notating a piece or a sound which was previously unnotated, as, for example, an improvised jazz solo. Further examples include ethnomusicological notation of oral traditions of folk music, such as Béla Bartók's and Ralph Vaughan Williams' collections of the national...

 of old tablature into a playable form. Since qin tablature does not indicate note value
Note value
In music notation, a note value indicates the relative duration of a note, using the color or shape of the note head, the presence or absence of a stem, and the presence or absence of flags/beams/hooks/tails....

, tempo
Tempo
In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of any musical composition, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.-Measuring tempo:...

 or rhythm
Rhythm
Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...

, the player must work it out for him/herself. Normally, qin players will learn the rhythm of a piece through a teacher or master. They sit facing one another, with the student copying the master. The tablature will only be consulted if the teacher is not sure of how to play a certain part. Because of this, traditional qinpu do not indicate them (though near the end of the Qing dynasty, a handful of qinpu had started to employ various rhythm indicating devices, such as dots). If one did not have a teacher, then one had to work out the rhythm by themselves. But it would be a mistake to assume that qin music is devoid of rhythm and melody. By the 20th century, there had been attempts to try to replace the "jianzi pu" notation, but so far, it has been unsuccessful; since the 20th century, qin music is generally printed with staff notation above the qin tablature. Because qin tablature is so useful, logical, easy, and the fastest way (once the performer knows how to read the notation) of learning a piece, it is invaluable to the qin player and cannot totally be replaced (just as staff notation cannot be replaced for Western instruments, because they developed a notation system that suited the instruments well).

There is a saying that goes "a short piece requires three months [of dapu to complete], and a long piece requires three years". In actual practice, it needn't be that long to dapu a piece, but suggests that the player will have not only memorised the piece off by heart, but also have their fingering, rhythm and timing corrected. And afterwards, the emotion must be put into the piece. Therefore, it could be said that it really does require three months or years to finish dapu of a piece in order for them to play it to a very high standard.

Rhythm in qin music


It has already been discussed that qin music has a rhythm, and that it is only vaguely indicated in the tablature. Though there is an amount of guesswork involved, the tablature has clues to indicate rhythm, such as repeating motifs, indication of phrases or how the notation is arranged. Throughout the history of the qinpu, we see many attempts to indicate this rhythm more explicitly, involving devices like dots to make beats. Probably, one of the major projects to regulate the rhythm to a large scale was the compilers of the Qinxue Congshu tablature collection of 1910s to 1930s. The construction of the written tablature was divided into two columns. The first was further divided into about three lines of a grid, each line indicating a varied combination of lyrics, gongche tablature, se tablature, pitch, and/or beats depending on the score used. The second column was devoted to qin tablature.

Western composers have noticed that the rhythm in a piece of qin music can change; once they seem to have got a beat, the beats change. This is due to the fact that qin players may use some free rhythm in their playing. Whatever beat they use will depend on the emotion or the feeling of the player, and how he interprets the piece. However, some melodies have sections of fixed rhythm which is played the same way generally. The main theme of Meihua Sannong, for example, uses this. Some sections of certain melodies require the player to play faster with force to express the emotion of the piece. Examples include the middle sections of Guangling San and Xiaoxiang Shuiyun. Other pieces, such as Jiu Kuang has a fixed rhythm throughout the entire piece.

Organology


While acoustics dictated the general form and construction of the guqin, its external form could and did take on a huge amount of variation, whether it be from the embellishments or even the basic structure of the instrument. Qin tablatures from the Song era
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 onwards have catalogued a plethora of qin forms. All, however, obey very basic rules of acoustics and symbol
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

ism of form. The qin uses strings of silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

 or metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

-nylon
Nylon
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as polyamides, first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station...

 and is tuned in accordance to traditional principles.

Ancient guqins were made of little more than wood and strings of twisted silk. Ornaments included inlaid dots of mother-of-pearl or other similar materials. Traditionally, the sounding board
Sounding board
A sound board, or soundboard, is the surface of a string instrument that the strings vibrate against, usually via some sort of bridge. The resonant properties of the sound board and the interior of the instrument greatly increase loudness over the string alone.The sound board operates by the...

 was made of Chinese parasol wood firmiana simplex
Firmiana simplex
Firmiana simplex, commonly known as the Chinese parasol tree or wutong is an ornamental plant or tree of the cacao, or chocolate, of the family Sterculiaceae of the order Malvales, native to Asia. It grows to a height of 12 m . It has alternate, deciduous leaves up to 30 cm across and small...

, its rounded shape symbolising the heavens. The bottom was made of Chinese Catalpa, catalpa ovata
Catalpa ovata
Catalpa ovata, the yellow catalpa or Chinese catalpa , is a pod-bearing tree native to China. Compared to C. speciosa, it is much smaller, typically reaching heights between 20 and 30 feet. The inflorescences form bunches of creamy white flowers with distinctly yellow tinging; individual flowers...

, its flat shape symbolising earth. Modern instruments are most frequently made of Cunninghamia
Cunninghamia
The genus Cunninghamia is a genus of one or two species of evergreen coniferous trees in the cypress family Cupressaceae. They are native to China, Taiwan and northern Vietnam, where they may reach 50–55 m in height....

 or other similar timbers. The traditional finish is of raw lacquer mixed with powdered deer horn, and the finishing process could take months of curing to complete. The finish develops cracks over time, and these cracks are believed to improve the instrument's sound as the wood and lacquer release tension. An antique guqin’s age can be determined by this snake like crack pattern called "duanwen" (断纹).

Construction


According to tradition, the qin originally had five strings, representing the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Later, in the Zhou
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

 dynasty, Zhou Wen Wang added a sixth string to mourn his son, Bo Yihou. His successor, Zhou Wu Wang
King Wu of Zhou
King Wu of Zhōu or King Wu of Chou was the first sovereign, or ruler of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The dates of his reign are 1046-1043 BCE or 1049/45-1043. Various sources quoted that he died at the age of 93, 54 or 43. He was considered a just and able leader. Zhou Gong Dan was one of his...

, added a seventh string to motivate his troops into battle with the Shang. The thirteen hui on the surface represent the 13 months of the year (the extra 13th is the 'leap month' in the lunar calendar
Lunar calendar
A lunar calendar is a calendar that is based on cycles of the lunar phase. A common purely lunar calendar is the Islamic calendar or Hijri calendar. A feature of the Islamic calendar is that a year is always 12 months, so the months are not linked with the seasons and drift each solar year by 11 to...

). The surface board is round to represent Heaven and the bottom board flat to represent earth. The entire length of the qin (in Chinese measurements) is 3 chi, 6 cun and 5 fen; representing the 365 days of the year (though this is just a standard since qins can be shorter or longer depending on the period's measurement standard or the maker's preference). Each part of the qin has meaning, some more obvious, like "dragon pool" and "phoenix pond".


Harmonic scale


The Guqin has a musical scale
Musical scale
In music, a scale is a sequence of musical notes in ascending and descending order. Most commonly, especially in the context of the common practice period, the notes of a scale will belong to a single key, thus providing material for or being used to conveniently represent part or all of a musical...

 based on harmonic
Harmonic
A harmonic of a wave is a component frequency of the signal that is an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency, i.e. if the fundamental frequency is f, the harmonics have frequencies 2f, 3f, 4f, . . . etc. The harmonics have the property that they are all periodic at the fundamental...

 overtone
Overtone
An overtone is any frequency higher than the fundamental frequency of a sound. The fundamental and the overtones together are called partials. Harmonics are partials whose frequencies are whole number multiples of the fundamental These overlapping terms are variously used when discussing the...

 positions. The dots indicate the string positions: 1/8, 1/6, 1/5, 1/4, 1/3, 2/5, 1/2, 3/5, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, 7/8.

Strings




Until recently, the guqin's strings were always made of various thicknesses of twisted silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

, but since then most players use modern nylon-flatwound steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 strings. This was partly due to the scarcity of high quality silk strings and partly due to the newer strings' greater durability and louder tone.

Silk strings are made by gathering a prescribed number of strands of silk thread, then twisting them tightly together. The twisted cord of strings is then wrapped around a frame and immersed in a vat of liquid composed of a special mixture of natural glue
Glue
This is a list of various types of glue. Historically, the term "glue" only referred to protein colloids prepared from animal flesh. The meaning has been extended to refer to any fluid adhesive....

 that binds the strands together. The strings is taken out and left to dry, before being cut into the appropriate length. The top thicker strings (i.e. strings one to four) are further wrapped in a thin silk thread, coiled around the core to make it smoother. According to ancient manuals, there are three distinctive gauges of thickness that one can make the strings. The first is taigu [Great Antiquity] which is the standard gauge, the zhongqing [Middle Clarity] is thinner, whilst the jiazhong [Added Thickness] is thicker. According to the Yugu Zhai Qinpu, zhongqing is the best. The currently used silk string gauge standard was defined by Suzhou silk string maker Pan Guohui (潘國輝).

Although most contemporary players use nylon-wrapped metal strings, some argue that nylon-wrapped metal strings cannot replace silk strings for their refinement of tone. Additionally, nylon-wrapped metal strings can cause damage to the wood of old qins. Many traditionalists feel that the sound of the fingers of the left hand sliding on the strings to be a distinctive feature of qin music. The modern nylon-wrapped metal strings were very smooth in the past, but are now slightly modified in order to capture these sliding sounds.

Around 2007, a new type of strings were produced made of mostly a nylon core coiled with nylon like the metal-nylon strings, possibly in imitation of Western catgut
Catgut
Catgut is a type of cord that is prepared from the natural fibre found in the walls of animal intestines. Usually sheep or goat intestines are used, but it is occasionally made from the intestines of cattle, hogs, horses, mules, or donkeys.-Etymology:...

 strings. The sound is similar to the metal-nylon strings but without the metallic tone to them (one of the main reasons why traditionalists do not like the metal-nylon strings). The nylon strings are able to be turned to standard pitch without breaking and can sustain their tuning whatever the climate unlike silk. The strings have various names in China but they are advertised as sounding like silk strings prior to the 1950s when silk string production stopped.

Traditionally, the strings were wrapped around the goose feet, but there has been a device that has been invented, which is a block of wood attached to the goose feet, with pins similar to those used to tune the guzheng
Guzheng
The guzheng or "gu zheng", also called zheng is a Chinese plucked zither. It has 18-23 or more strings and movable bridges....

 protruding out at the sides, so one can string and tune the qin using a tuning wrench
Wrench
A wrench or spanner is a tool used to provide grip and mechanical advantage in applying torque to turn objects—usually rotary fasteners, such as nuts and bolts—or keep them from turning....

. This is good for those who lack the physical strength to pull and add tension to the strings when wrapping the ends to the goose feet. However, the tuning device looks rather unsightly and thus many qin players prefer the traditional manner of tuning; many also feel that the strings should be firmly wrapped to the goose feet in order that the sound may be "grounded" into the qin and some feel that the device which covers the phoenix pond sound hole has a negative effect on the sound volume and quality.

Tuning


To string a qin, one traditionally had to tie a fly's head knot (yingtou jie) at one end of the string, and slip the string through the twisted cord (rongkou) which goes into holes at the head of the qin and then out the bottom through the tuning peg
Tuning peg
A tuning peg is used to hold a string in the pegbox of a stringed instrument. It may be made of ebony, rosewood, boxwood or other material. Some tuning pegs are ornamented with shell, metal, or plastic inlays, beads or rings....

s (zhen). The string is dragged over the bridge (yueshan 『岳山』), across the surface board, over the nut (longyin dragon gums) to the back of the qin, where the end is wrapped around one of two legs (fengzu "phoenix feet" or yanzu "geese feet"). Afterwards, the strings are fine tuned using the tuning pegs (sometimes, rosin
Rosin
.Rosin, also called colophony or Greek pitch , is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly conifers, produced by heating fresh liquid resin to vaporize the volatile liquid terpene components. It is semi-transparent and varies in color from yellow to black...

 is used on the part of the tuning peg that touches the qin body to stop it from slipping, especially if the qin is tuned to higher pitches). The most common tuning, "zheng diao" 〈正調〉, is pentatonic: 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 (which can be also played as 1 2 4 5 6 1 2) in the traditional Chinese number system or jianpu (i.e. 1=do, 2=re, etc.). Today this is generally interpreted to mean C D F G A c d, but this should be considered sol la do re mi sol la, since historically the qin was not tuned to absolute pitch. Other tunings are achieved by adjusting the tension of the strings using the tuning pegs at the head end. Thus manjiao diao ("slackened third string") gives 1 2 3 5 6 1 2 and ruibin diao ("raised fifth string") gives 1 2 4 5 7 1 2, which is transposed to 2 3 5 6 1 2 3.

Playing context


The guqin is nearly always used a solo
Solo (music)
In music, a solo is a piece or a section of a piece played or sung by a single performer...

 instrument, as its quietness of tone means that it cannot compete with the sounds of most other instruments or an ensemble
Musical ensemble
A musical ensemble is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles...

. It can, however, be played together with a xiao
Xiao (flute)
The xiao is a Chinese vertical end-blown flute. It is generally made of dark brown bamboo . It is also sometimes called dòngxiāo , dòng meaning "hole." An ancient name for the xiāo is shùdí The xiao is a Chinese vertical end-blown flute. It is generally made of dark brown bamboo (called...

(end-blown bamboo flute), with other qin, or played while singing. In old times, the se
Se (instrument)
The se is an ancient Chinese plucked zither . It is the ancestor of many Asian zithers, including the Chinese guzheng, the Korean gayageum and the Japanese koto. It has 25 strings with moveable bridges and has a range of up to five octaves.-History:The history of the se extends back to early...

(a long zither with movable bridges and 25 strings, similar to the Japanese koto
Koto (musical instrument)
The koto is a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument, similar to the Chinese guzheng, the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. The koto is the national instrument of Japan. Koto are about length, and made from kiri wood...

) was frequently used in duets with the qin. Sadly, the se has not survived into this century, though duet tablature scores for the instruments are preserved in a few qinpu, and the master qin player Wu Jinglüe was one of only a few in the twentieth century who knew how to play it together with qin in duet. Lately there has been a trend to use other instruments to accompany the qin, such as the xun (ceramic ocarina), pipa
Pipa
The pipa is a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments . Sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12–26...

(four-stringed pear-shaped lute), dizi (transverse bamboo flute), and others for more experimental purposes.

In order for an instrument to accompany the qin, its sound must be mellow and not overwhelm the qin. Thus, the xiao generally used for this purpose is one pitched in the key
Key (music)
In music theory, the term key is used in many different and sometimes contradictory ways. A common use is to speak of music as being "in" a specific key, such as in the key of C major or in the key of F-sharp. Sometimes the terms "major" or "minor" are appended, as in the key of A minor or in the...

 of F, known as qin xiao 「琴簫」, which is narrower than an ordinary xiao. If one sings to qin songs (which is rare nowadays) then one should not sing in an opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

tic or folk style
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 as is common in China, but rather in a very low pitched and deep way; and the range in which one should sing should not exceed one and a half octaves. The style of singing is similar to that used to recite Tang poetry
Shi (poetry)
Shi is the Chinese word for "poetry" or "poem", anciently associated with Chinese poetry. In modern times, shi can and has been used as an umbrella term to mean poetry in any form or language, whether or not Chinese; but, it may imply or be used to refer certain classical forms of poetry, for...

. To enjoy qin songs, one must learn to become accustomed to the eccentric style some players may sing their songs to, like in the case of Zha Fuxi.

Traditionally, the qin was played in a quiet studio
Studio
A studio is an artist's or worker's workroom, or the catchall term for an artist and his or her employees who work within that studio. This can be for the purpose of architecture, painting, pottery , sculpture, scrapbooking, photography, graphic design, filmmaking, animation, radio or television...

 or room by oneself, or with a few friends; or played outdoors in places of outstanding natural beauty. Nowadays, many qin players perform at concert
Concert
A concert is a live performance before an audience. The performance may be by a single musician, sometimes then called a recital, or by a musical ensemble, such as an orchestra, a choir, or a musical band...

s in large concert halls, almost always, out of necessity, using electronic pickups or microphones to amplify the sound. Many qin players attend yaji
Yaji
A yaji is a special term meaning "elegant gathering". It describes a meeting of like-minded individuals and is mostly associated with the literati or intellectuals of Chinese artistic and cultural society...

s, at which a number of qin players, music lovers, or anyone with an interest in Chinese culture can come along to discuss and play the qin. In fact, the yaji originated as a multi-media gathering involving the four arts
Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar
The Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar, otherwise known as siyi , is a term used to describe four main accomplishments required of the Chinese scholar gentleman...

: qin, Go
Go (board game)
Go , is an ancient board game for two players that originated in China more than 2,000 years ago...

, calligraphy, and painting
Chinese painting
Chinese painting is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world. The earliest paintings were not representational but ornamental; they consisted of patterns or designs rather than pictures. Early pottery was painted with spirals, zigzags, dots, or animals...

.

Ritual use of the qin


Being an instrument associated with scholars, the guqin was also played in a ritual context, especially in yayue
Yayue
Yayue , Wade-Giles ya-yüeh; ; ; ) was originally a form of Chinese classical music that was performed at imperial courts. The basic conventions of yayue were established in the Western Zhou. Together with law and rites, it formed the formal representation of aristocratic political power...

in China, and aak
Aak
Aak is a genre of Korean court music. It is an imported form of Chinese ritual music. Aak is often labeled as "elegant music" in contrast with other traditional Korean music...

in Korea. The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts continues to perform Munmyo jeryeak (Confucian ritual music), using the last two surviving aak melodies from the importation of yayue from the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 emperor Huizong in 1116, including in the ensemble the seul (se) and geum (guqin). In China, the qin was still in use in ritual ceremonies of the imperial court, such can be seen in the court paintings of imperial sacrifices of the Qing court (e.g. The Yongzheng Emperor Offering Sacrifices at the Altar of the God of Agriculture, 1723–35). The guqin was also used in the ritual music of Vietnam, where it was called cầm.

Qin aesthetics


When the qin is played, a number of aesthetic elements are involved. The first is musicality. In the second section of "Pingsha Luoyan", for example, the initial few bars contain a nao vibrato
Vibrato
Vibrato is a musical effect consisting of a regular, pulsating change of pitch. It is used to add expression to vocal and instrumental music. Vibrato is typically characterised in terms of two factors: the amount of pitch variation and the speed with which the pitch is varied .-Vibrato and...

 followed by a phase of sliding up and down the string, even when the sound has already become inaudible . The average person trained in music may question whether this is really "music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

". Normally, some players would pluck the string very lightly to create a very quiet sound. For some players, this plucking isn't necessary. Instead of trying to force a sound out of the string one should allow the natural sounds emit from the strings. Some players say that the sliding on the string even when the sound has disappeared is a distinctive feature in qin music. It creates a "space" or "void" in a piece, playing without playing, sound without sound. In fact, when the viewer looks at the player sliding on the string without sounds, the viewer automatically "fills in the notes" with their minds. This creates a connection between player, instrument and listener. This, of course, cannot happen when listening to a recording, as one cannot see the performer. It can also be seen as impractical in recording, as the player would want to convey sound as much as possible towards a third audience. But in fact, there is sound, the sound coming from the fingers sliding on the string. With a really good qin, silk strings, and a perfectly quiet environment, all the tones can be sounded. Since the music is more player oriented than listener oriented, and the player knows the music, he/she can hear it even if the sound is not there. With silk strings, the sliding sound might be called the qi
Qi
In traditional Chinese culture, qì is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as life energy, lifeforce, or energy flow. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts...

 or "life force" of the music. The really empty sounds are the pauses between notes. However, if one cannot create a sound that can be heard when sliding on a string, it is generally acceptable to lightly pluck the string to create a very quiet sound.

Guqin in popular culture



Being a symbol of high culture, the qin has inevitably been used as a prop in much of Chinese popular culture to varying degrees of accuracy. One can find references to the qin in a variety of media, most notably television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 serials and film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

. Mostly, the actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

s may not know how to play the instrument and mime it to a recorded piece by a qin player who may have recorded it specifically for the project. At other times, the music that is mimed to is guzheng
Guzheng
The guzheng or "gu zheng", also called zheng is a Chinese plucked zither. It has 18-23 or more strings and movable bridges....

 music, rather than qin music. We also see the rather stereo-typical hybrids of qin and zheng pseudo-instruments of Kung Fu Hustle, to the more faithful representation of the qin in the Zhang Yimou
Zhang Yimou
Zhang Yimou is a Chinese film director, producer, writer and actor, and former cinematographer. He is counted amongst the Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, having made his directorial debut in 1987 with Red Sorghum....

 film Hero
Hero (2002 film)
Hero is a 2002 wuxia film directed by Zhang Yimou. Starring Jet Li as the nameless protagonist, the film is based on the story of Jing Ke's assassination attempt on the King of Qin in 227 BC....

. In the latter case, Xu Kuanghua plays an ancient version of the qin in the courtyard scene in which Nameless and Long Sky play the game of go
Go (board game)
Go , is an ancient board game for two players that originated in China more than 2,000 years ago...

. He in fact mimes it to the music composed which is actually played by Liu Li, formerly a professor at the Central Conservatory of Music
Central Conservatory of Music
The Central Conservatory of Music is the national leading music school in Beijing, China.Founded in 1950, the Conservatory offers courses to both Chinese nationals and foreign students, and caters for all levels from primary up to postgraduate programmes...

 in Beijing. It is suggested that Xu made the qin himself.

The qin was also featured in the 2008 Summer Olympics
2008 Summer Olympics
The 2008 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, was a major international multi-sport event that took place in Beijing, China, from August 8 to August 24, 2008. A total of 11,028 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees competed in 28 sports and 302 events...

 opening ceremony
2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony
The 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony was held at the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest. It began at 8:00 pm China Standard Time on August 8, 2008, as 8 is considered to be a lucky number. The number 8 is associated with prosperity and confidence in Chinese culture...

 in Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

, played by Chen Leiji (陳雷激).

The qin is also used in many classical Chinese novels, such as Cao Xueqin
Cao Xueqin
Cao Xueqin was a Qing Dynasty Chinese writer, best known as the author of Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature...

's Dream of the Red Chamber
Dream of the Red Chamber
Dream of the Red Chamber , composed by Cao Xueqin, is one of China's Four Great Classical Novels. It was composed in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. It is considered to be a masterpiece of Chinese vernacular literature and is generally acknowledged to be a pinnacle of...

and various others.

Related instruments


The Japanese ichigenkin
Ichigenkin
An is a Japanese single-stringed zither. Its slender, flat body is carved from kiri wood. Its silk string is plucked with a pointed tubular plectrum placed on the index finger of the right hand while the rokan slightly depresses the string—though not so hard that...

, a monochord
Monochord
A monochord is an ancient musical and scientific laboratory instrument. The word "monochord" comes from the Greek and means literally "one string." A misconception of the term lies within its name. Often a monochord has more than one string, most of the time two, one open string and a second string...

 zither, is believed to be derived from the qin. The qin handbook Lixing Yuanya (1618) includes some melodies for a one-string qin, and the Wuzhi Zhai Qinpu contains a picture and description of such an instrument. The modern ichigenkin apparently first appeared in Japan just after that time. However, the honkyoku (standard repertoire) of the ichigenkin today most closely resembles that of the shamisen
Shamisen
The , also called is a three-stringed, Japanese musical instrument played with a plectrum called a bachi. The Japanese pronunciation is usually "shamisen" but sometimes "jamisen" when used as a suffix . -Construction:The shamisen is a plucked stringed instrument...

.

The Korean geomungo
Geomungo
The geomungo or hyeongeum is a traditional Korean stringed musical instrument of the zither family of instruments with both bridges and frets...

may also be related, albeit distantly. Korean literati wanted to play an instrument the way their Chinese counterparts played the qin. For some reason they never took to the qin itself, instead playing the geomungo, a long fretted zither plucked with a thin stick. The repertoire was largely the geomungo parts for melodies played by the court orchestra. Another ancient Chinese zither, the zhu, was likely plucked with a stick, so the komungo may also be related to that instrument.

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See also


  • Contemporary guqin players
    Contemporary guqin players
    This is a list of contemporary players of the guqin of the 20th and 21st centuries. It attempts to list most notable players .-Table guide:...

  • Guqin aesthetics
    Guqin aesthetics
    When the guqin is played, a number of aesthetic elements are involved.-Aesthetics:The first aesthetic is musicality. In the second section of "Pingsha Luoyan", for example, the initial few bars contain a nao vibrato followed by a phase of sliding up and down the string, even when the sound has...

  • Guqin construction
    Guqin construction
    The construction of the guqin Chinese zither is a complex process like any other musical instrument. However, there is much symbolism in the choice of materials, the shape or form of the instrument that are important things to consider when creating a qin....

  • Guqin history
    Guqin history
    The history of the Guqin, an ancient Chinese musical instrument, is a long one that spans 3,000 years. Although similar, it should not be confused with another Chinese zither instrument, the guzheng, which has bridges.-Ancient origins:...

  • Guqin notation
    Guqin notation
    The notation of the guqin is a unique form of tablature for the Chinese musical instrument, with a history of over 1,500 years, still in use today.-History:...

  • Guqin playing technique
    Guqin playing technique
    The playing techniques of the guqin, is sometimes called fingerings. There is a large number of techniques employed in playing the qin, but unlike other instruments, these are rather complex and full of symbolism.-Basic sounds:...

  • Guqin schools
  • Guqin strings
    Guqin strings
    -Overview:Until modern era, the guqin's strings were always made of various thicknesses of twisted silk 『絲/丝』, but since then most players use modern nylon-flatwound steel strings 『鋼絲/钢丝』...

  • Guqin tunings
    Guqin tunings
    There are many different tunings for the guqin.-Traditional tuning theory:To string a qin, one traditionally had to tie a butterfly knot at one end of the string, and slip the string through the twisted cord which goes into holes at the head of the qin and then out the bottom through the tuning...

  • List of guqin literature
  • List of guqin societies
  • List of traditional Chinese musical instruments
  • Qinpu
    Qinpu
    Qinpu are tablature score collections for the Chinese musical instrument, the guqin.-What are qinpu?:Qinpu are collections of tablatures of music for the guqin. In the past, music was passed on from teacher to student. Only recently has tablature been written down, often to preserve music or as a...

  • Se
    Se (instrument)
    The se is an ancient Chinese plucked zither . It is the ancestor of many Asian zithers, including the Chinese guzheng, the Korean gayageum and the Japanese koto. It has 25 strings with moveable bridges and has a range of up to five octaves.-History:The history of the se extends back to early...

  • Yaji
    Yaji
    A yaji is a special term meaning "elegant gathering". It describes a meeting of like-minded individuals and is mostly associated with the literati or intellectuals of Chinese artistic and cultural society...

  • Yayue
    Yayue
    Yayue , Wade-Giles ya-yüeh; ; ; ) was originally a form of Chinese classical music that was performed at imperial courts. The basic conventions of yayue were established in the Western Zhou. Together with law and rites, it formed the formal representation of aristocratic political power...


External links



  • Historical qin from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Qin by Prince Lu, Ming dynasty, 1634
  • John Thompson's on the Guqin Silk String Zither A host of information on the qin and silk strings for qins in English, including extensive study of Shenqi Mipu and analysis of playing style, plus useful section on qin sources
  • The Qin on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Silk on Wood A Feature Radio Documentary by Robert Iolini about the Silk String Qin and Madame Tsar Teh-yun. The website includes online video performances by the Deyin Qin Society of Hong Kong. An Australian Broadcasting Corporation production.
  • Chinese Guqin and Notation Judy (Pei-You) Chang's very detailed and well illustrated site explaining fingering techniques, including sections on structure, forms and various information
  • Guqin terminology