Traditional musical instrument
The qin, also called guqin (ancient qin), is a seven-stringed long zither without frets or bridge. The Western term ‘lute’, which has been applied by Robert H. van Gulik, is misleading because lute and zither belong to two separate families of musical instruments and are different in construction and playing technique. The convex top of the qin is made of wutong wood (sterculia plantamiolia) and the flat bottom of zi wood (catalpa kaempferi), symbolic of heaven and earth, respectively. The two sound holes on the underside are called longchi (dragon pond) and fengzhao (phoenix pool). Many other parts of the instrument also have literary names. The entire wooden body is painted with lacquer. Thirteen ivory or mother-of-pearl studs are inlaid on the outer side of the surface as position marks. The strings are made of silk or silk-wrapped steel. The player plucks the strings with the right-hand fingers and stops the strings with the left-hand fingers. The three sounds produced—open, stopped and harmonics—represent earth, man and heaven, respectively.
The qin is one of the oldest and most respected musical instruments in Chinese culture. Its history goes back three thousand years. It was the instrument par excellence of the ancient elite class, referred to in classical literature, and seen in landscape paintings again and again. It was also regarded as one of four types of knowledge necessary to the literati, the others being qi (chess), su (calligraphy) and hua (brush painting). In fact, the name embodies beauty and perfection and is frequently used as a girl’s name.
Low pitched and quiet in sound, the qin is primarily a solo instrument. Other than playing in a ritual orchestra for its cultural rather than musical significance, it is only accompanied by the xiao (bamboo flute) or voice (often that of the same player). In recent years there has been a revival of interest in the qin. The instrument can be seen in many museums, while many old qin, dating back several hundred years, are still playable.
Bell, Yung (1998). ‘Music of Qin: From the Scholar’s Studio to the Concert Stage’. ACMR Reports 11 (Fall): 1–14.
Liang, David Ming-Yueh (1972). The Chinese Ch’in: Its History and Music. San Francisco: Chinese Music Association and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Thrasher, Alan R. (2001). Chinese Musical Instruments. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.
van Gulik, R.H. (1940, 1969). The Lore of the Chinese Lute: An Essay in the Ideology of the Ch’in, Tokyo: Sophia University in cooperation with the Charles E.Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont.
Wu, Zhao (2002). Guqin jichu jiaoxue [Guqin Teaching Fundamentals]. 5 VCDs. Beijing: Renmin yinyue yinxiang chubanshe (ISRC CN-M26–01–319–00V.J6).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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