According to prehistoric legends, all music began with the mythical emperor Fu Hsi.

Actually, history and archeology indicate that the foundations of Chinese music were laid during the Shung Dynasty (apx. 1523 - 1028 B.C.) Several significant instruments were already in existence -- the pitched sonorous stone (ch'ing), the pitched bronze bell (zhong), the globular flute, the panpipes and the reed mouth organ (sheng).

The spirit of Chinese music is deeply rooted in Confucian philosophy: Music is the harmony of Tian and Di (heaven and earth), and our ability and spiritual understanding of music. It explains that tones are the substance of music, whereas melody and rhythm are the appearance of tones. Thus, emphasis in Chinese music is on the single tones, its articulation, timbre, and inflection. This concept is manifested in ya yueh (ritual music) and the music for gu-zheng.

The gu-zheng is an ancient Chinese stringed musical instrument. The earliest written records appeared in the book Sher-Ji, written by the famous historian, Lee Si, in 237 B.C.

The gu-zheng has a long, slender, rectangular body with slightly convex longitudinal curve and sharper lateral curve. The strings are of graduated thickness, made of steel and copper wrapped with nylon, and rest on ivory tipped wooden bridges.

Performance of music on the gu-zheng is maintained today through the dedication of a few who choose not to allow this art to become extinct.

--Angela Jui Lee

A 21-string Gu-zheng.

Closeup of the Gu-zheng.

To hear the gu-zheng in REAL AUDIO sound samples, go to CD Baby.

(Examples are from Angela Jui Lee's second CD,"The Moon Is High.")