Guqin always has an important place in China’s history and, along with Chinese painting and calligraphy, poetry and literature, is an indispensable vehicle for traditional Chinese culture. Guqin is one of the most representative solo instruments in China. It is often played not only for performance, but also for self-entertainment, meditation, self-cultivation, and the exchange of emotions among close friends.
Early literary works and archaeological discoveries show that guqin has been played in China for over 3,000 years. The playing of this instrument was a symbol of elegance and status, making it an elite art for the aristocracy and literati, rather than a performing art for the general public. In fact, guqin is inextricably intertwined with the Chinese literati in the past, as it comes first among the four most important skills of “guqin, chess, calligraphy, and painting” required of the Chinese literati. The art of guqin incorporates a variety of elegant and melodious tunes, with complex and sophisticated playing techniques and unique notation. As a result, a large number of scores are passed down orally.
Guqin has seven strings and thirteen “hui” (glossy white dots representing different position in one string). By plucking the strings in ten different ways, the player can play four octaves. Three basic techniques are employed to play guqin: free plucking, pressing, tapping. The “free plucking” produces the sound of free string, which is deep and thick and is often used as the unison of a tune. Tapping is the light touching of the hui with the left hand to produce a light and floating sound (overtone), which is often used to play strong melody. Pressing is to press the string with the left hand, and moving the finger can change the pitch. The same pitch can be played on different strings and different hui positions by different techniques such as free plucking, pressing, and tapping etc. to produce varying tone.