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Living Heritage: Guqin

Updated: 2023-05-29 11:11 ( chinadaily.com.cn )
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Wandering sounds, irregular rhythms and a carrier of gentle emotions. This is the musical language of guqin, a plucked seven string instrument created in ancient China.

The earliest piece of guqin in China, unearthed in Hubei province in 2016, dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (c. 11th century - 256BC). The body of a guqin is made of lacquered wood and the strings of twisted silk. Unlike its seemingly simple appearance, making a guqin is extremely demanding. An outstanding piece can take anywhere from two to several decades to craft. It is a crystallization of art and time.

The tone of a guqin is quiet, ethereal and distant. Vibrations are suppressed to produce an undulating and lingering flavor, with abundant empty notes in between. As the listener fills in the voids in their own minds, a connection is formed between music and man.

The guqin was favored by the literati in ancient China. The most renowned guqin musician was Yu Boya in the Spring and Autumn (770-476 BC) and Warring States (475-221 BC) periods. As he played his guqin in the mountains, a woodcutter named Zhong Ziqi heard the music and understood exactly what Yu wanted to express. This deep understanding formed a strong bond between them, and they became close friends. This is the famous tale behind the guqin masterpiece, Flowing Water, High Mountains. The piece has been passed down through generations and is considered one of the most famous and important compositions in Chinese guqin music.

This graceful dialogue, flowing from brushed fingertips and travelling for thousands of years, is continuing to this day.

Column: Living Heritage

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