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Rock'n'roll, Romance, Tranquility, Guqin Can Tell Them All!

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7s Art will hold a lecture-recital on June 18th, with an aim to give general education of Guqin. You will enjoy a series of Guqin pieces which are all representative works of different ages. You will also learn about the history and development of Guqin music, and have a more comprehensive understanding of ancient Chinese scholars's aesthetic transformation. Chinese tea and refreshments will be served. 

Some of the pieces that you will listen to were used in Confucian ritual orchestras, while some were for romantic expression, some carried a meditative quality, and some had educational connotations.

Guqin, is not simply a musical instrument, but a tool of self-cultivation and mediation, a symbol of high culture, a part of an ensemble for ritual ceremony, and a way of leading a refined Chinese lifestyle.


Archaic Ages (around 2300 BC)
A Conversation Between God and Man 《神人畅》-- Divine Music.
Long ago, before there was Chinese writing as we know it, before we have the seven-stringed Guqin, before the great flooding, a celestial being appeared and warned of the imminent danger. This account is attributed to Emperor Yao 尧 (c. 2300 BC), who received the celestial while he was offering a sacrifice. Being a Guqin player, he then composed this melody after being saved from calamity. His tune, titled A conversation Between God and Man, commemorates the celestial's revelation.

Han Dynasty (221-206 BC)
A Male Phoenix Seeks his Mate 《凤求凰》- Ancient Romance.

A Phoenix Seeks his Mate is one of China's best known romantic tales.
Music attributed to Sima Xiangru (179-113 BC) who was a well-known but impoverished poet; Zhuo Wenjun was the widowed daughter of a wealthy man in the south of Chengdu. One day during a social event in the wealthy man's home Xiangru played the Guqin, by expressing himself through this love song, seduced Wenjun, who was listening from the next room. So she eloped with him and they both went back to Chengdu. Later this was made into a Guqin melody. 

Wei and Jin (220-589 AD)
Wine Mad 《酒狂》-- Rock'n'roll with Guqin!

Wine Mad is attributed to the famous poet, drinker and recluse Ruan Ji (210-263). 
Ruan Ji was one of the famous Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove 竹林七贤, a group of Chinese scholars and poets of the mid-3rd century AD who banded together to escape from the hypocrisy and danger of the political world to a life of drinking wine and writing verse in the country. It is one of the most popular melodies in the modern Guqin repertoire. 

Today most people play a version of this piece using a triple rhythm, which is the only piece with triple rhythm in Guqin music genre. 
The theme of this piece can be summarized into: Enjoy wine and forgetting troubles; drunkenly dancing like a flying immortal; singing loudly to earth and heaven' loving wine and forgetting the body' dashing off callligraphy on art paper; bending over to exhale' holding the wine and roaming drunk.

Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)
Evening Song of the Drunken Fisherman 《醉渔唱晚》- Pure Joy.

This piece is said tobe composed by the Late Tang poet Lu Luwang and Pi Rixiu. They wrote many poems together and also had a reputation for singing together.
One day they were floating in the Song River, which is in modern Shanghai area, they saw a drunken fisherman wandering and singing, care free and at libterty, which inspired them to compose this melody. 
The fisherman in the title is not a common working man but a scholarly ideal: a gentleman fisherman living an idyllic life, enjoying nature and the pleasures of companionship and wine. 

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD)
Wild Geese Flock to Sandy Shores 《平沙落雁》-- Tranquility and Insight Meditation.

This piece has been one of the most favored examples of Guqin music after it was composed in Ming Dynasty. 
The authorship of the work is not that clear-cut, but respect for its antiquity can be seen from the different attributions, one dating back to the 8-9th centuries of the Tang Dynasty. This piece describes the scene when the sky is dotted by a group of geese who are singing on-and-off, and about to land. The horizon is far away, and the sand in the desert is flat. The freely flying goose in the sky embodies the ambition and breadth of mind of the hermits.

Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 AD)
Thinking of an Old Friend  《忆故人》-- Confidant Friendship.

The melody of 'Thinking of an old friend' is fairly a recent composition during the early part of the last century in Qing Dynasty. However, the theme it conveys is an ancient one, that of the sadness of missing a friend who was sent away in exile. 
In this piece, there is a recurring melody, which can be seen as the motif of the whole musical idea. It's a piece full of harrowing sentiment and sorrowfulness.

As you can see, Guqin is such an expressive instrument with a wide range of musical themes and sentiments. You are more than welcome to join us for our lecture-recital on June 18th to learn about Guqin and ancient Chinese scholar's aesthetic transformation, share your thoughts, and make new friends!

Works Cited:

TIME: JUNE 18, 2016 4:30 P.M.