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Chinese Zither (Chinese name: Guzheng) is one of traditional musical instruments in China. It’s a kind of plucked instrument. It originated during the Warring Period more than 2,500 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 Guzheng was developed in a region called ‘Qin Guo', its name became known as the ‘Qin zheng'.

DevelopmentGuzheng 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. Hou Jin, a scholar of the Eastern Han Period (25 AD - 220 AD) wrote that Guzheng's sound touches the Heavens above and the Gods and spirits below.

Chinese musical instrument Guzheng

By the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD), 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 Guzheng appeared through cultural exchanges with Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam and many other Asian countries.

Guzheng remained popular through the late Qing Dynasty ( 1644 AD - 1911 AD), 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 ‘the Homebound 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. The music played by the Guzheng suits both refined and popular tastes, and it’s still a popular musical instrument in China.

Chinese musical instrument Guzheng

The representative works of Guzheng include: the Homebound Fishermen, Lotus out of the Water, High Mountain and Flowing Water.