Guqin / Melodies
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Qin in art
and Qin as object
CDs/Books / Research
Repertoire / Themes
Guqin work / Performances
Marco Polo / Matteo Ricci

John Thompson on the Guqin Silk String Zither
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Updates: As of November 2013 back home in Weehawken

Pronounced "chin" ("stringed instrument") or "goo chin" ("old stringed instrument"), the qin / guqin throughout its long history has been the musical instrument most prized by China's literati. They categorized it as one of their "four arts", collected it as an art object, praised its beautiful music, and built around it a complex ideology (compare its image in popular culture). No other instrument was described and illustrated in such detail, so often depicted in paintings, or so regularly mentioned in poetry. And its tablature documents the world's oldest detailed written instrumental music tradition, allowing both historically informed performance (requiring silk strings) of over 650 early melodies, and practical exploration of the relationship between Chinese music theory and music practice.

In 2001, after 18 years with the Hong Kong Festival of Asian Arts, I moved to the New York area. Since then my focus has been guqin activities, including: research, expanding my repertoire, arranging it by theme, making recordings, performing and teaching. Further detail is available through the bibliography, discographies and links to other sites, and eventually there should be more on how to play the qin. However, though the site may seem academic, its main aim is to put the music into a context that helps players and listeners enter the world that created it.

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