History of the Guqin

The Guqin, can be said to be the most highly valued musical instrument in the history of Chinese literati. Records show that the earliest Guqin was found in China approximately four thousand years ago and has strong associations to the aristocrats, nobles, royalty, and scholars. According to ancient records, it is said that Confucius (孔子), was a keen player of the Guqin, and extremely fond of it. In ancient China, aristocrats and scholars will need to master the “four arts” namely Qin(琴)Qi(其)Shu(书) Hua(画), Qin refers to the Guqin, Qi refers to Chinese board game of Go, Shu refers to literature and calligraphy, and lastly Hua, painting. The Guqin is ranked first, and it represents the music of the nobles and scholars, as opposed to the folk music enjoyed by common folks in various tea houses and festivities. Guqins crafted before the Qing Dynasty are often considered as rare antiques and are symbolic cultural objects, and often each piece will cost more than half a million dollars. As such, the status and value of antique Guqin in Chinese culture are comparable to those of antique Italian violins in. The chart below shows the timeline of Guqin through ancient China
Tea cup with guqin as background

Physical Attributes Of The Guqin

The Guqin can be described as a hollow oblong wooden body approximately 120 centimetres in length, with seven strings stretched across it, attached to a single fixed bridge. It is an entirely different instrument form the Guzheng, which has a much longer body at 165 centimetres, has 21 strings, and 21 moveable bridges. (Insert photos)
The construction of the Guqin is a soundboard (top plate) which is traditionally made of Chinese fir (杉木)or Qin Tong Mu (青桐木) a dense species of paulownia, and a bottom plate that is a hardwood, typically Xin Mu (辛木). It is then coated with multiple layers a mixture that consists of traditional Chinese lacquer and deer antler powder. The construction of the Guqin has allowed it to be extremely durable, as such instruments made in the Tang dynasty are performed on today.

Tonal Qualities Of The Guqin

The Guqin is a relatively quiet instrument, traditionally it was played for one’s own enjoyment or a small group of people in an intimate setting. To help the Guqin project better, the Guqin is often placed on a specialized table made of tone-woods such as rosewood, sandalwood, Chinese fir, and paulownia.
The Guqin has a well-rounded tone, and a bell like resonance that seems to go on forever. Many have said that Guqin music is meditative, and relaxing. The Guqin has also one of the widest collections of music scores for any traditional Chinese instrument, and it has its own unique way of notating music. A charming instrument that has little change since its beginning, the Guqin allows the player a deeper understanding and connection to what life was like thousands of years ago.

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