Friday, July 17, 2009


I've recently discovered the ancient Chinese musical instrument, the Guqin and a lovely talented lady, Wang Fei. Wang Fei expertly plays and teaches the 'qin' and is founder and director of the North American Guqin Association (NAGA) and council member of the China Guqin Committee. She is a published writer and an international award winning digital artist.

The Guqin (pronounced ku-ch'in "ancient stringed instrument") is the modern name for a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has been played since ancient times and has traditionally been favoured by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as highlighted by the quote "a gentleman does not part with his qin or se without good reason," as well as being associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as "the father of Chinese music" or "the instrument of the sages".

There is much symbology surrounding the instrument. For example, it measures 3'6.5" (Chinese feet and inches), to symbolise the 365 days of the year; the upper surface is rounded, representing the sky, the bottom is flat and represents the earth.

Rock carving of a bodhisattva playing a guqin,
found in Shanxi, Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534)
Musee Guimet, Paris

Guqin music has been enlisted as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003.

Confucius was a master of this instrument. For thousands of years, Guqin has been regarded as a very important element for education, for the purpose of enriching the heart and elevating human spirit. However, being considered as a high-class art form it has never been very popular throughout history.

In Imperial China, a well educated scholar was expected to be skilled in four arts:

Qin (the guqin)
Qi (the game of Go)
Shu (calligraphy)
Hua (painting)

The U.S. spaceship "Voyager" was launched in 1977, a gold CD was placed on board to introduce the music of our planet to the rest of the universe. The guqin piece "Flowing Water" was included as one representative of the world's music.


Delwyn said...

Hello Alaine
thank you for a beautiful and educational post. The instrument is unusual to hear - it is almost as if there is a voice at times echoing the sound...

The Chinese prints are perfect.

Are you a keen pianist?

Happy Days

Alaine said...

Thanks, Delwyn. I suppose I play once a month for about two hours, maybe the next day and then get passionate about something else.

Tracy said...

Fascinating post, Alaine! I love Asian music and learned so much form this post--thank you! Such beautiful images too...lovely! Happy weekend :o)

Derrick said...

Hi Alaine,

Thanks for posting the Kookaburra pic!

I'm sure this instrument is capable of making "more beautiful" music than that in the clip. It certainly is meditative but I don't think I could listen to pieces like this for too long! No doubt about its place in world music though.

Alaine said...

Derrick, I much prefer Violin but I was happy to learn about the Guqin and share it with others. Next is the Guzheng!

willow said...

Fascinating post. That rock carving is just amazing.

I would love to be able to just sit down and play the piano for my own enjoyment. I took seven years of lessons growing up. They didn't "take". teehee

Alaine said...

Willow, what a pity you didn't take to it but have you considered taking lessons now? You might be surprised, it might make sense to you now and you'd be away..... Your lovely daughter is certainly making up for what you missed.

Bonnie, Original Heart Studio said...

This blog has such a lovely quality to it and the content of this post was very interesting. Think I will pass by again soon.

Alaine said...

Bonnie, I'm happy that you visited and will talk to you again, I'm certain.

ruthie said...

Alaine, that was fascinating, thank you. such beautiful music & i love the symbology behind it all.

Alaine said...

Thankyou, Ruthie, lovely to hear from you. Yes, the music would be nice to work with, playing softly in the background.

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