Traditional Chinese Music

Home Traditional Chinese Music

Traditional Music Guqin

Legend has it that the Guqin, the most revered of all Chinese musical instruments, has a history of about 5,000 years. This legend states that the legendary figures of China’s pre-history ???Fuxi, Shennong and Huang Di, the “Yellow Emperor??????were involved in its creation. Nearly all Guqin books and tablature collections published prior to the twentieth century state this as the actual origins of the Guqin, although this is now presently viewed as mythology. It is mentioned in Chinese writings dating back nearly 3,000 years, and examples have been found in tombs from about 2,500 years ago.

Historical Guqin Players
  • Confucius: Philosopher, 551-479 BCE, associated with the piece Kongzi Duyi, Weibian Sanjue and Youlan.
  • Bo Ya: Qin player of the Spring and Autumn Period, associated with the piece Gao Shan. and Liu Shui
  • Zhuang Zi: Daoist philosopher of the Warring States period, associated with the piece Zhuang Zhou Mengdie and Shenhua Yin.
  • Qu Yuan (340-278 BCE): Poet of the Warring States period, associated with the piece Li Sao.
  • Cai Yong: Han musician, author of Qin Cao.
  • Cai Wenji: Cai Yong’s daughter, associated with the piece Hujia Shiba-pai, etc.
  • Sima Xiangru: Han poet, 179-117 BCE.
  • Zhuge Liang (181???34): Chinese military leader in the Three Kingdoms, one legend has him playing guqin calmly outside his fort while scaring off the enemy attackers.
  • Xi Kang: One of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, musician and poet, writer of Qin Fu.
  • Li Bai: Tang poet, 701???62.
  • Bai Juyi: Tang poet, 772???46.
  • Song Huizong: Song emperor famous for his patronage of the arts, had a Wanqin Tang (???0,000 Qin Hall??? in his palace.
  • Guo Chuwang: Patriot at the end of the Song Dynasty, composer of the piece Xiaoxiang Shuiyun.
Playing Technique

The music of the Guqin can be categorised as three distinctively different “sounds.???The first issan yin, which means “scattered sounds.???This is produced by plucking the required string to sound an open note About this sound Listen. The second is fan yin, or “floating sounds.???These are harmonics, in which the player lightly touches the string with one or more fingers of the left hand at a position indicated by the hui dots, pluck and lift, creating a crisp and clear sound About this sound Listen. The third is an yin, or “stopped sounds.???This forms the bulk of most qin pieces and requires the player to press on a string with a finger or thumb of the left hand until it connects with the surface board, then pluck. Afterwards, the musician’s hand often slides up and down, thereby modifying the pitch. This technique is similar to that of playing a slide guitar across the player’s lap, however, the technique of the qin is very varied and utilises the whole hand, whilst a slide guitar only has around 3 or 4 main techniques.

According to the book Cunjian Guqin Zhifa Puzi Jilan, there are around 1,070 different finger techniques used for the qin, with or without names. It is therefore, the instrument with the most finger techniques in either Chinese or Western music. Most are obsolete, but around 50 or so are sufficient to know in modern practice.

Learn the Guqin at Master Chen Shiyu’s School

Many Chinese come and learn the Guqin in our school. Now the Guqin lessons are open andexclusive for foreign students! Master Chen Shiyu wants to spread this ancient traditionand is now teaching the way of the Guqin to people outside of China. If you have more questions about playing the Guqin please contact Master Chen Shiyu in the ???em>Contact Us???section. Come to our School and learn this art directly in the Wudang Mountainspersonally from Master Chen Shiyu.


The Xiao is a very ancient Chinese instrument usually thought to have developed from a simple end-blown flute used by the Qiang people of Southwest China in ancient period.

Xiao are almost always made of bamboo, the best being ‘purple bamboo???or ???em>zizhu??? Sometimes, the xiao is made of solid wood that has been carved and hollowed out. They can either be made plain, or have a horn inlay at the end and/or various inscriptions along the shaft. Usually, nylon wire bindings along the shaft are wrapped on which attempts to stabilize the bamboo and prevent cracking. Some players tie a tassel to dangle from one of the lower sound holes, purely for decorative purposes.

Xiao are today most often pitched in the key of G (with the D above middle C being the lowest note, with all fingers covered), although xiao in other less common keys are also available, most commonly in the key of F. More traditional xiao have six finger holes, while most modern ones have eight; the additional holes do not extend the instrument’s range but instead make it easier to play notes such as F natural. There are a further four (sometimes two or six) sound holes situated at the bottom third of the length of the xiao. The blowing hole is at the top end, it may be cut into a ‘U???shape, a “V???shape, or at an angle (with or without bone/ivory inlay.) Some xiao have the blowing end entirely cut off, so the player must use the space between their chin and lips to cover the hole fully. There may be a metal joint between the blow hole and the top finger hole for tuning purposes and sometimes also between the last finger hole and the end. The length of the xiao ranges from around 45 cm to over 1.25 m but is usually around 75???5 cm. Usually, shorter xiaos are more difficult to play because of the need to control one’s breath more accurately. The angle to play the xiao is around 45 degrees from the body.

Learn the Xiao in the Heart of Huilong Temple in Wudang Mountains

Chen Shiyu is a renown Master of the Xiao instrument. As a foreign student it is possible to receive lessons personally from him at his school. If you have further questions about Xiao lessons please contact Master Chen Shiyu directly in the ???em>Contact Us???section.