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Sample recording of the various regional styles of guzheng by Winnie Wong coming soon!!
About the Guzheng (Chinese Zither) . . .
The guzheng originated during the Warring Period over 2500 years ago in China. The earliest known versions were constructed with a bamboo frame and used silk strings. Its scale was pentatonic, using the notes DO, RE, MI, SO, and LA with a major note for each of its five strings. Because the guzheng was developed in a region called "Qin Guo," its name became known as the "Qin zheng." The guzheng became very popular in the imperial court and among the common people. Historical records from ancient books and scholarly writings give vivid accounts of the instrument and its music.
In its early history, guzheng was mainly used in ensemble music and to accompany singing. The emergence of "xiang he ge" (song with harmony) in the Han Dynasty (25 AD - 220 AD) marked a whole new phase of development for Guzheng as a music art form. Hou Jin, a scholar of the Eastern Han Period wrote that the guzheng's sound touches the heavens above and the gods and spirits below.The art of guzheng reached its height of development during this period. In the music of the Eastern Jin (317 - 420 AD) and the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 - 581 AD), "qing shang yue" genre, which appeared after "xiang he ge", the guzheng was widely used to perform ethnic songs in the region of today's Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Hubei provinces.
By the Tang dynasty (618 A.D. - 907 A.D.), the number of strings had increased from five to thirteen, and the bamboo had been replaced with wu-tong or paulownia wood for the frame of the instrument. In addition, many new forms of the guzheng appeared through cultural exchanges with Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam and many other Asian countries.
Since the early days when the Qin Guzheng was introduced to the Central Plains, it had spread to other regions, covering what are today's Shanxi, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Later, with 3 migrations of the Kejia, the guzheng was introduced to Fujian and Guangdong (Canton). The art of guzheng was thus spread to all parts of China. Everywhere it went, it was subject to the geography, climate, customs, dialect of the locale, and was assimilated into the folk music of the region. Different vernacular styles were evolved, and in the 20th century, they became stylistic schools with their own provenance. The most famous guzheng schools include Henan, Shandong, Chaozhou, Kejia, Zhejiang etc.,
The guzheng remained popular through the late Qing dynasty (1644 A.D. - 1911 A.D.), where contemporary guzheng musicians began the first attempts to formalize guzheng music by compiling and arranging both classical and popular works such as " High Mountain and Flowing Water"and "Evening Song of the Fisherman." In 1948, the renowned musician Cao Zheng established the first university level guzheng program in China. The old silk strings were replaced with nylon strings, which are still being used today.
After the Cultural Revolution, the 1960's revival of folk music also paved the way for the guzheng's popular return.