Home > Chinese Culture > Art > Music > Qin Zither

Qin Zither

Ask Question

Qin Zither
Qin Zither

There are four famous Qin zithers in Chinese legends, and their legacies can be traced through China's ancient literature. Unfortunately, no evidence has yet come to light proving they really did exit. But today, the most legacy Qin Zither that still exist are rare specimen from the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). The shape of Qin also varied from dynasty to dynasty. They were round in the Tang Dynasty, at least compared to those from the following dynasties, while the those of the Song Dynasty were relatively flat. In the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368), the eternal form still kept a narrower shape. By the Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) dynasties, it become loved by all walks of life. The more maverick among the Ming and Qing zithers were the most outstanding in character. There was a time when it nearly faded into history. But November 7, 2003, UNESCO announced from Paris it would add the it to the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity list. From that day on, people have again begun to give heed to the value of this traditional instrument.

The Qin zither has won many other names, including 'Green Silk', 'Silk Tung' or 'Seven-string Zither'. A zither is like a human body reconfigured according to the shape of a phoenix, with a discernible forehead, neck, nape, shoulder, body, waist and tail. Graceful ornamentation adorns the right side of the zither. Next to the first string, 13 round symbols take the form of mosaics called hui (cord of a stringed instrument) and used for marking the Qin Zither's phonemes. Of 13 cords, the seventh is the highest.

The cords then become progressively lower on both sides, representing 12 lunar months and one intercalary leap month in a year. The opposite side has cross boards, swan feet and sound holes. The cross board are used for adjusting strings, and then the swan feet support the zither and winding strings. Hard redwood or rosewood is often used for swan feet for bracing the zither's body. Qin Zither had two holes; the bigger one near the head is called the 'Dragon Pool', while the smaller one near the end is called the 'Phoenix Pond'. The seven strings pass the yueshan, the longyin and then a pair of 'swan feet' at the zither's bottom, representing the Triones.

The Qin zither is the product of thousands of years of wisdom of life philosophy. Accordingly, the instrument was considered a crucial means for ancient scholars to cultivate their minds and characters. The instrument and its player are bound together by music. A player should not only present music in a way that is pure but also focus his world outlook on values, morality, humanity and harmony between human-kind and nature. This should come across in the player's music. This fusion of morality and purpose was cultivated by the players over thousands of years. The player express felling through the instrument finding in it sympathy and comfort.

Qin zither music is like a mirror, reflecting its player's feeling in the melody and cultivating the player's mind through the form of performance. The cultural meanings and scholarly grace comes from its music, which has bestowed hundreds of generations of Chinese people with purity, beauty and wisdom. It is as if the instrument is a person and its music is that person's voice. Each player has developed a strong bond with a piece of music. And stories behind the music are countless. 

 Go to Chinese Music 

Ask a Question about Qin Zither
Back Go Top