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Chinese Music

Yu Boya Playing Guqin
This is a famous ancient painting named Boya Gu Qin Tu(伯牙鼓琴图, Yu Boya Playing Guqin) preserved in Beijing Palace Museum(also called Beijing Forbidden City). The painter was Wang Zhenpeng(王振鹏), and the painting is 31.4 centimeters high and 92 centimeters long. This painting mainly themed with the story of Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi making friends via appreciating the Guqin Music named Gao Shan Liu Shui(高山流水, one of top ten classic ancient music masterpieces of China). This quite famous story tells us how the strangers became the best friends by musical interconnection. In Chinese, they are called Zhiyin,知音, namely, the figures understand the music played by each other. This story is available in Chinese classic work named Lv Shi Chun Qiu(吕氏春秋, a great book compiled by Lv Buwei, who lived in the period of Warring States and was said to be the real father of Emperor Qinshihuang). Two main figures were portrayed, and one is the player and the other is the listener, and the player was Yu Boya, a famous Guqin expert in the period of Spring and Autumn, and the listener was Zhong Ziqi(钟子期) sitting on the rock. The whole painting shows the course of musical appreciation and interconnection. In accordance with the story recorded on the book, Yu Boya destroyed his favorite Guqin and did not touch the Guqin any more when he heard the news that Zhong Ziqi died. Due to this cultural tradition, in Chinese culture, people usually compare the bosom friends to be Yu Zhong Zhi Jiao(俞钟之交, the friendship between Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi).

Chinese Music has another role as the tool for self-cultivation and self-discipline. In China, roughly there are not less than 1000 kinds of musical instruments. They could help people to forget the impatience, sorrow, anguish and other extreme moods. Most of China’s musical instruments have such a function. The pursuits of clearness in mind, tranquility in heart, reason in passion and so on. To some extent, it is also up to the sensation of keeping self in the deep heart. All the multifarious feelings, the passionate emotion and others suddenly became the harmony between human and nature.

Via Guqin(古琴), many a Chinese literator cultivates himself, because the self-improvement philosophy is released through this instrument. Many well-educated learners were good at playing instrument. In other words, the instruments have been one essential part of their life and body, even their spirit. Hence the musical instruments play the parallel parts in educating and refining people just as the traditional education and painting. Thanks to the musical instruments, in Chinese people’s heart and mind, the elegance and reason are going everywhere. Indeed, China’s most philosophy about society, individual, and relationship between human and nature.

Chinese Music played by Chinese musical instruments always takes a unique effect in appreciation. Chinese Music is different from western ochestra. it is possessed of its own independent system and performance style. Generally, the most popular musical form is folk music, distinguished itself from western music. Folk music could be the most popular music type in Chinese daily life. A individual can play a famous ancient music in a single musical instruments, even mostly belonging to the most simple and portable type like Di Zi, Xiao, E Hu, Xun and so on. These musical instruments seems to be too simple to be focused, but actually they always can surprise the listerners to a most degree. Most of the famous classic music is widely extended through these commonplace musical instruments.

This rarely-seen musical instrument named Bian Zhong(编钟,bell set) is a type of quite ancient large-scale musical instrument used during Period of Chinese Spring and Autumn and Warring State Period. It could be the oldest musical instrument made for symphony orchestra in the world that emerged roughly 4000-5000 years ago. Initially, it was only exclusively used among aristocrats, especially for the solemn rites like emperors' annual sacrifices to heaven and earth. Or on some quite formal occasion, Bian Zhong would be played by many players at the same time. The best-preserved bell set was excavated from Mausoleum of Zeng Hou Yi(曾侯乙墓) of Hubei province. It has more than 3000 years of history. It is said that this bell set could be used to play Beethoven's Song of Joy. It is marvelous and incredible ! Currently, it is the national-level treasure.

The musical instruments below are easily found and largely used today in China. we list here to help you get more understanding about Chinese music and Chinese musical instruments.


Writer: David from Seeraa International
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