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Guqin maestro recalls rough start on way to illustrious career

2014-08-24 11:37:51

(Shanghai Daily)


Guqin master Chen Leiji performs at the opening of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

In August 2008, the world's attention zoomed in on Beijing for the Summer Olympics. During the opening ceremony at the National Stadium, the first note from a guqin symbolized China unveiling the beauty of its culture to the world.

Chen Leiji was the musician on stage in the Bird's Nest playing the guqin that night. Now 47, he says it's his destiny to pass on his skills and knowledge to the young generation.

In Shanghai for a lecture on guqin and Western music during the Shanghai Book Fair, which ended on Tuesday, Chen says though he started learning the seven-stringed plucked instrument at the age of 9, he didn't show much interest in it at the time.

"My parents hoped playing it could calm me down," he says with a chuckle.

For his part, he says he was more interested in Western music and he went abroad after graduating as a guqin major from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1989.

Despite working as a conductor with a number of orchestras including the European Union Youth Orchestra and Katowice Symphony Orchestra, Chen says his life always comes back to the guqin, an instrument dating back about 3,000 years.

He has staged more than 100 guqin recitals around Europe and released numerous albums before returning to China in 2003. Despite wide recognition as one of the world's best guqin musicians, he has always wondered where his true path laid.

Finally, Chen says, he realized what he was meant to do when he was on stage plucking his guqin as much of the world watched the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics.

"I realized it is my destiny to be paired with the guqin forever and it is my mission to further develop and spread this ancient art," Chen says. "A Chinese saying goes that a man knows the mandate of heaven at 50. It's so true for me."

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