Guzheng

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The guzheng is a traditional Chinese plucked zither with a large, rectangular soundboard and movable bridges. It has a varying number of strings, often 21 or 25, and is played with fingers and picks. Its resonant and melodic sound is a cornerstone of Chinese classical, folk, and contemporary music.
History of the Guzheng
The guzheng, sometimes referred to as zheng, has an ancient history that begins thousands of years ago. String instruments in China began to be created long before any written records, so there is great debate over when exactly the guzheng first materialised. Board zithers that resemble the guzheng were discovered in Northern China that dated back to the warring periods, approximately between 475 - 221 BC. There are also many disputed legends that exist around the number of strings on the guzheng. One such legend describes how the king of the Qin state ordered the musician’s of the land to play music but became angered by the sound of the 50 string zheng and broke it in half. The 22 to 25 string guzheng may have become more prevalent and standardised at an early time in the instrument’s history. One thing that is traceable is the materials used. During the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1912), the strings of the guzheng transitioned from silk to brass wires for greater durability and volume. They again moved to steel strings during the 1950s when improvements in manufacturing were also able to produce a larger sound box. Later design modifications included an S-shaped bridge instead of a straight bridge during the 1960s. The guzheng is still one of the most popular instruments in China with millions of players across the country and across Asia.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$300 - $2,000

Hear the Guzheng

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How to Play

A Chinese plucked zither with a large resonant box and 16-25 strings. Played by plucking the strings with picks attached to the fingers.

In Popular Music

The guzheng is almost certainly on the title track of the film soundtrack ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ by Chinese-American composer Tan Dun. The 2000 film won awards at the Academy awards and Golden Globes.Some notable pieces from China include ‘Lotus Out Of Water’ by guzheng player Yuan Sha.

Famous Players

Wu Fei, Bei Bei He, Ji Wei

Close Relations

Yangqin, Koto
Video Credit: SoundofChina Guzheng
Understanding the Guzheng
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