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Chinese Instrument – Chinese Zither

Chinese zither, also known as Hanzheng, Qinzheng, Yaozheng, and Luanzheng, is a zither instrument among the traditional Chinese musical instruments of the Han nationality, belonging to plucked instruments. It is one of the unique and important national musical instruments in China. The guzheng structure is composed of a front panel, strings, Qianyueshan, string nails, tuning box, piano feet, Houyueshan, side panels, sound outlets, bottom plates, and string holes.

The shape of the zither is a rectangular wooden sound box. The string frame “Zhengzhu” (ie the geese column) can move freely, one string and one tone, arranged according to the pentatonic scale. The earliest 38-string zither was the most (Fenser·Zheng), Tang and Song Dynasty There are 13 strings at one time, and later increased to 16 strings, 18 strings, 21 strings, 25 strings, etc. The most commonly used specification is 21 strings; usually the model of guzheng uses S21 before, and S stands for S Xingyue Mountain was invented by Wang Xunzhi and Miao Jinlin. 163 represents the length of the guzheng is about 163 cm, and 21 represents the number of guzheng strings 21.



Origin theory

Chinese zither is an ancient Han national musical instrument. It was popular in Qin during the Warring States Period and has a history of more than 2500 years. The origin of the Guzheng is still inconclusive.

The first kind of argument is “dividing the semper into the zheng”. According to Zhao Lin’s “Yinhualu” in the Tang Dynasty: “Zheng, Qin Yueye, is the like of Qin. The 50-string Guse, since the Yellow Emperor ordered the female drums, the emperor’s sorrow is endless, break it, and from the second to the second. Fifteen strings. The people of Qin drew and fought, and the brothers quarreled, and broke into two. The name of the zheng began from then on.” Song Dynasty’s “Jiyun” also supports this view: “Qin is vulgar and evil, and fathers and sons have contenders. There were half of them, and they were called Zheng at the time.” Of course, in addition to the argument of father and son arguing, there are also sayings of brothers and sisters. In the “Le Dao Le Ji Ji” written by the court musician Oka Chang Ming in the Genroku reign of Japan, it is recorded that: “Qin has a wan and unrighteous person. The two daughters are passed on by a seductress, and the two daughters fight to break, and finally become the two implements, hence the name Zheng.”

The second argument is “weapon improvement.” According to this view, the Guzheng was originally a weapon in the Warring States Period. Later, strings were added to it. When it was plucked, it was found to be pleasing to the ear, so it developed into a musical instrument. Therefore, there is a saying that “the zheng can be used for music while standing on the ground”. As time went by, weapons became lighter and lighter, and the bulky Guzheng lost its role as a weapon and only appeared as a musical instrument.

The third argument is “audio naming.” In the post-Han Liu Xi’s “Shi Ming” Zheng Article said: “The string is high and anxious, and the Zheng Zheng is also”. The “Zheng” of the Guzheng is named after the sound effect.

The fourth argument is “Meng Tian builds a zither.” In the Han Dynasty Ying Shao’s “Fun Shu Tong”, the article: “Zheng, I would like to follow the “Book of Rites and Music”, the five strings, build the body. The shape of the zheng is like a serpent in the present and Liang two states. I don’t know who made it. Or it is made by Mengtian. “It can be seen that the guzheng form before the Han Dynasty should be “five strings, build the body”, but at that time “combined with (Shanxi) Liang (Gansu) Erzhou zheng shape like a serpent”,” Ying Shao did not know who made the reform, still remember The rumor that “Meng Tian made” has been released, which shows that the ser-shaped guzheng has been circulating in the Han Dynasty. Du You’s “Tong Dian·Le Si” of the Tang Dynasty records: “Zheng, Qin Sheng is also.” Fu Xuan’s “Preface to Zheng Fu” said: “I thought it was made by Meng Tian.”

Origin theory


Development process

As far back as the Qin Kingdom (Shaanxi Province) during the Warring States Period, the zheng had been popular and was called “Qin Zheng” at that time. Since then, it spread to Henan, Shandong, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Inner Mongolia and other places. Due to historical changes and regional influences, local styles, performance techniques, etc. are different, and various different schools of Guzheng have been formed as a result, making the development of Guzheng increasingly prosperous.

The zheng had twelve strings before the Han and Jin Dynasties (see “There are twelve strings” in Wei Ruan Li’s “Waiting for Zheng Fu”).

During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the zheng increased from twelve strings to thirteen strings (see Tang Cen Shen’s “Qin Zheng Song, Sending Nephew Xiao Zheng to Beijing”, “If you don’t hear the sound of Qin Zheng the most bitter, five-color winding string and thirteen columns”).

After the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it gradually increased to fifteen strings. The “Da Qing Huidian” published during the Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty recorded: “Qin Zheng fifteen strings, like a serpent…”

From the end of Qing Dynasty to the beginning of the Republic of China, a new 16-string zither appeared. This type of 16-string zither is the traditional Chinese zither that has been popular in the past 100 years.

After 1949, the zither, an ancient folk musical instrument, successfully developed the S-shaped 21-string nylon steel wire-wrapped zither through the research of performers and relevant experts on the basis of reforming its shape and string quality. Due to the enlarged resonance body and the increased number of strings, this kind of zither obviously enriches the sound effect of performance and the thickness of pronunciation. The zheng, which has been passed down through the ages, is even more tactful and full of charm. The S-shaped 21-string nylon steel wire-wrapped zither is a common zither popular in China and all over the world.

In 1965, Wang Changyuan successfully composed the Guzheng song “Battle Typhoon”. The appearance of “Battle Typhoon” brought the technique and technique of Guzheng performance to a new level, thus ending the era when Guzheng could only be played lightly and slowly. In this song, the techniques of sweeping four points, close shaking, buckling, and scratching to create typhoon effects are all innovative techniques that improve and enrich the performance ability of the Zheng.

In the 1970s, Zhao Manqin created new techniques such as double-string transition glide, long chord, quick dial and 1/5 overtone in his performance. And break through the traditional octave symmetry mode, created a “quick finger sequence technique system” composed of dozens of new finger sequences, such as wheel finger, spring wheel, and rocking, so that the zither can play five tones with one hand without changing the tuning. The fast melody of seven tones and varying scales laid a solid foundation for the zither to enter the ranks of regular instruments from a color instrument. Representative works include “Fighting a Tiger on the Mountain” and “The Sun Red on Jinggang Mountain” and so on.

Since the 1990s, Guzheng creation has ushered in a spring of blooming flowers. For the first time, the performance of “Fu in Guizhou” used the rapid left-hand technique and became a highlight; during this period, composers participated in the creation of Zheng music and strengthened their innovation. They broke through the limitations of the traditional pentatonic mode and absorbed the Japanese Ryukyu mode, The color of the all-tempered mode, drawing on the experience of Messiaen’s manual mode, has designed many new modes by myself, and even created a new mode color of “lower third plus upper second”, each octave is divided into three Links, each link is a major third interval, in each link can be played in the same major tone mode. The new mode color and the multi-tonality series of tuning methods have promoted the transformation of performance techniques. Such as “Mountain Charm” (Xu Xiaolin), “Fantasia” (Wang Jianmin’s song), “箜篌引” (Zhuang Yao’s song), “Mingshan” (Wang Zhongshan’s song) and so on. In the tuning of these Zheng tunes, conditions are prepared for the transfer. Different tones are also used in different sound areas, making it possible to play different modes of color in different sound areas, both deviating from the traditional mode of color, and returning to the traditional mode of color. The change of interval creates conditions for the birth of a new musical language.

In the 21st century, a group of young guzheng performers emerged, including teachers such as Wang Zhongshan, Zhai Zhirong, Qiu Ji, Yuan Sha, Jiang Zhoujian, Liu Le, Bao Dong, Song Xinxin, etc. Over the years, these performers have visited many regions and countries such as Germany, Austria, Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. This instrument made the zither into the world.

Development process


Basic structure

The unified specifications of the Guzheng are: 1.63 meters, 21 strings. Most of the panels of the zither are made of paulownia wood from Lankao, Henan. The frame is white pine. The head, tail and side panels of the zither are redwood, old redwood (Burmese rosewood), golden nanmu, red sandalwood and other precious woods. The sound quality of the zither depends on the panel. Harmony strings, the surrounding materials slightly improve the tone of the guzheng, preferably old mahogany, red sandalwood, and golden nanmu. From early to modern times, there were 12-string, 13-string, 18-string, 23-string, 25-string and so on. There are various tuning methods for the zithers in different regions. The new types of zithers include “butterfly-style zither” and “transfer zither”.

The zither is a plucked stringed instrument with multiple strings and columns. Its shape is similar to a long box, with a slight protrusion in the middle, and the bottom plate is flat or nearly flat. The head of the zheng has feet that fall slowly. Set zheng strings on the panel of the wooden box. Place a code under each string, and the code can be moved left and right to adjust the pitch and sound quality. There are different types of zithers, and their structures are also different. The following is the structure of a twenty-one stringed zither.

The zheng is mainly composed of a front panel, a bottom plate, a side plate, a head, a tail, a mountain, a yard, a nail, a sound hole, and a string of the zheng. The pros and cons of the Zheng are based on the quality of each part of the material and the level of craftsmanship. The resonance body of the Zheng is composed of a panel, a bottom plate and two sides of the Zheng. There is a sound bridge in the resonance body, which is arched. In addition to the need for resonance effect, it also plays a supporting role. The quality and structure of the resonance body have a great influence on the sound of the zither.

Panel: The panel is made of sycamore wood that has been stored for many years, and the wood is dry and loose. It is better to have a straight wood grain and a large plucked eye. If it has live scar knots, the pronunciation is more crisp and bright. The panel determines the tone and volume of the Zheng. Some people tried Baisong production.

Bottom plate: made of sycamore wood or made of other hard wood materials

Zheng’s side: also called the side board, that is, the side of the Zheng. The zheng has two sides, the side close to the body is called the inner side, and the other side is called the outer side. The edge of the zheng is generally made of wood, but some are also made of manchurian willow, mahogany or other mixed woods. There are trial rights wood production

Zheng head: made of wood, purple or other solid wood materials. The function of the zheng head is to fix the strings, which are fixed by the string holes (some zheng heads are also fixed with nails). There is a sound hole on the side of the head of the Zheng, and there is a sound window on the sound hole for sound output. Since the head of the zheng is connected to the resonance body, the scope of resonance is expanded (some zhengs, the zheng head and the resonance body are not connected).

Yueshan: Also called wooden beam or mountain pass. Made of purple rosewood or other woods, there are two Yueshan mountains on the Zheng. One is at the junction of the panel and the head of the Zheng, called Qianyue Mountain; the other is at the junction of the panel and the tail of the Zheng, called Houyue Mountain. Following the front and back arcs of the panel, Yueshan naturally forms a curved arc, basically at an angle of ninety degrees to the panel. Houyueshan also has an S shape (shortened the chord length in the high and mid range). Yueshan plays the role of carrying strings, and also plays some role in conveying sound. The ratio of Yueshan to the height of the code is related to the issues of intonation, timbre, and tuning. Therefore, the proper ratio must be used to make the Zheng pronunciation have a good effect. A piece of bone or copper wire is inlaid on the upper end of Qianyue Mountain to make the pronunciation pleasant.

Code: Also called column, or goose column. It is the vibration-transmitting pillar of the Zheng string and the panel. It is generally made of wood, but also made of mahogany, ox bone, plastic, and ivory. The effect of wood is better. There is also a small bone piece inlaid on the mast wood, and grooves are cut on the bone piece to stabilize the string of the zheng. Each yard supports a string, a total of 21 yards. When playing, the vibration of the string is transmitted to the face plate by the code, and then through the resonance body to produce the effect of music. The code can be moved left and right to adjust the pitch. The code is sometimes moved back and forth slightly to adjust the sound quality appropriately.

Qin nail: Also called Xiaozi. It is used to wind the strings, adjust the tension of the strings, and control the pitch of the sound. The zither nails can also be replaced with piano nails, or made of hard wood for the winding of the pegs.

Sound holes: The zheng has three sound holes (there are also two sound holes), one on the side of the head and two on the bottom plate (one in the middle of the bottom plate, and one near the tail of the bottom plate). The position, shape and size of the sound hole are related to the tone color and volume.

Strings: There are 21 strings in common use at present. The first string close to the player is the highest note of the zither, and the minor third that is raised by the tone on the twenty-first string is the lowest note of the zither. In the string, according to different needs, the copper wire string, metal winding string or nylon string winding and other kinds of strings are appropriately configured. Due to differences in usage, style and habits, there are also differences in configuration methods. Some are mainly made of steel strings, which are appropriately equipped with metal or nylon strings; some are mainly made of nylon, and steel strings are appropriately configured; there are also all nylon or silk strings. The sound of steel wire strings is bright, and the sound of winding strings is strong.

Chinese Zither art festival


musical skills

Right hand technique

1. Support

When playing, the string is plucked outwards, that is, towards the bass direction. The plucking angle should be applied diagonally downward. And avoid bending the first joint and the second joint of the big finger to “buckle” the strings obliquely upwards. The lifting movement is a natural, ingenious and coordinated movement through the shoulders, arms, hands and artificial nails. Do not bend the small joints of the fingers you are playing. Use the base of your big finger as the base point and use natural force. Pluck the string diagonally downward.

Continuous support is referred to as “continuous support”. You can use the method of holding your fingers continuously without leaving the string, or you can use the method of ricocheting (finger up and playing after each note). The former has a coherent sound, and the latter has a strong sound and is helpful for finger strength training. Tuo is the basic fingering in the zither playing method. It is used for the performance of monophonic or scaled melody. The plucking method is also used in fingerings such as “revisiting the tuo” and the downward “calendar”.

2. Split

When playing, the string is plucked inward, which means plucking the string in the direction of the high pitch. The splitting movement is still based on the joint where the big finger connects to the base of the palm, plucking the strings slightly at an angle from the upper side. Chop is the reverse fingering of support. It is often used alternately or continuously alternately with care. In the melody, when two or more sounds of the same degree with shorter pitch appear one after another, the alternate fingering of split support is often used. It is generally supported first and then split. It is also used in the plucking of continuous upward notes in sequential order, and is often used in conjunction with the performance of the middle finger and index finger. Both “Rego Pituo” or “Mother Finger Shake” include the fingering of Pi.

3. Wipe

When playing, pluck the string in the index finger. Wiping is often used to play with the big finger or the second finger of the big middle finger. It is also used to pluck the strings in a single tone or ascending scale. Both the fingering of “index finger shake” and “three hook round wipe” include the fingering of wipe.

When used alone, the large joint is often used to pluck the string diagonally downward. When it is matched with other fingers to pluck the strings, due to the limitation of speed and hand shape, small joints (second and third joints) are used to bend the strings slightly obliquely upward. When using this method, attention should be paid to the unity of timbre and the flexibility of string touch.

4. Pick

When playing, the index finger plucks the strings outward. There are two ways to pluck the strings with the index finger: one is to attach the big finger to the first joint of the index finger and use the auxiliary force of the big finger to pluck the strings with the wrist strap; the other is to rely on the power of the index finger and use the wrist strap. Fingers are plucked; the other is that the index finger relies on the plucking of its first and second joints, and the armband fingers are used for plucking. Both of these methods require the middle, first and small fingers to be naturally relaxed and slightly contracted.

Pick is often used for the performance of a single note or the performance of the downward scale melody; it is also often used for the performance with the big finger or with the two fingers of the big and middle. These comprehensive fingerings, such as “calendar”, “anti-small group” and “anti-heavy group”, all include the picking fingering.

5. Hook

Pluck the strings in the middle finger while playing. The movement of plucking the strings in the middle finger takes the third joint at the root of the middle finger as the moving point, and drives the movement of the omni finger in a slightly oblique downward direction. It should be noted that the first and second joints are not bent and are in a natural relaxed state, and at the same time there is a certain amount of strength in the relaxation. It is based on relaxation and maintaining a certain strength to play. The angle of the hook should always be based on the playing of the string, rather than hooking the string like a hook. Only by playing the strings diagonally below can you get a good tone and sound quality.

Gou is often used for plucking strings in coordination with the big finger, as well as plucking strings with the big finger and index finger; sometimes it is also used for tone or ascending scale melody. In some comprehensive fingerings, such as “zoom”, “re-zoom”, “re-hook chopping support” and “three-hook round wipe”, the plucked string fingering is included. Hook is widely used in Zheng music like Tuo. It is a common fingering second only to Tuo in Zheng music.

6. Tick

When playing, pluck the strings outwards from the middle point. Tie is not used alone. Tie is often used in comprehensive fingerings such as “anti-pick”, “tick”, and “anti-heavy pinch” in conjunction with the big finger. It is also used in comprehensive fingerings such as the right-hand “strum” and “tick”.

7. Hit

When playing, the unnamed point inwards plucks the strings. Playing is often used in the performance of arpeggios or split chords. Since the ring finger generally does not wear false nails, the individual notes are played with the ring finger to obtain soft color contrast and gentle sound effects. In addition, the playing of some chords also includes the fingering of “beating” with the unnamed inward plucking the chord.

There is also an improved fingering method, that is, the ring finger with a nail is used instead of the middle finger to pluck the strings. The middle finger is removed from the position of the bottom half of the octave and used for the plucking of other notes in the octave played by the big and ring fingers. . This improved fingering makes not only the wipe of the index finger in the octave, but also the pick of the middle finger.

The order of fingering used for arpeggios is: from low to high, use “tick and tick”, and from high to low, use “tick and tick”.

8. Pick

When playing, the nameless points to dial out.

musical skills-1

Left hand technique

1. Press the tone

In addition to the original note of each string, you can also press the string with your left hand on the left side of the bridge to press each note within the range of high and small thirds. The low-range piano is long and thick, and it takes a lot of effort to press the tone, and it can barely press the high second tone. The pitches of the strings of the Yixian Zheng are arranged in a pentatonic scale, with the D key as its basic key. The “fa” and “si” notes of the seven-tone scale are obtained by pressing the strings on the “mi” and “la” strings. Because the zheng music is arranged by the pentatonic scale, the melody characteristic of the zheng music “complements the sound with rhyme” is formed. That is, by pressing the string with the left hand, sounds other than the original string sound, especially the notes other than the pentatonic scale, are played. The melodic characteristics formed by this “rhyme-filling” technique have two tendencies. One is color and decorative, that is, it does not have the meaning of mode and tonal conversion. This feature is found in Shandong, Henan and some Hakka Zheng music. Obviously; Second, it is functional, that is, it has the meaning of mode and tonal conversion, which is mainly manifested in Chaozhou Zheng music, that is, through the method of “complementing the sound with rhyme”, the music can be light three-six, heavy three-six, and lively five. And other changes in various modes.

The double tone of the same degree in Zheng music is obtained by pressing one of the notes on the other string. The pitch of the two tones, one is fixed and the other is sliding, combined with the special slightly vibrating sound of the zither.

2. Ginne

It is to alternately slide the natural tone to the uncertain upper tone, and the general chanting tone is controlled by the player himself.

3. Portamento

For the sounds above the midrange, the ascending, descending, and glide tones within the minor third range are extremely commonly used.

4. Vibrato

It refers to the effect that the two tones are played alternately quickly. It can be played alternately with one finger, two fingers or both hands on the zither. The vibrato has a clear idea and a definite pitch, which is different from the chanting that slides back and forth without a definite pitch.

5. Shaking

After plucking the string with your right hand, immediately press the string with your left hand to stop the remaining sound.

6. Buckle

The hand shakes the finger or single play, and the left hand moves the thumb to the left and right at the same time to make a mute sound from low to high or from high to low.

7. Overtone

The natural overtones produced at 1/2 of the chord length are often floated with the fingers of the left hand.

musical skills-2

Musical instrument maintenance

Daily maintenance

Guzheng is a wooden instrument. Wood is easily affected by weather and environment. This brings the following problems to the daily care of Guzheng.

1: In a humid weather environment, be sure to store the Guzheng in a dry and ventilated place. When not in use, you can put moisture-absorbing items such as desiccant in the piano bag and store the Guzheng in a package.

2: In an excessively dry weather environment, some cracks will appear at the string holes and even the bottom plate of the guzheng. At this time, it must be protected as soon as possible. You can use some musical instrument moisturizing cream to evenly spread around the cracks to prevent cracks from expanding.

3: Be sure not to expose the guzheng to the sun for a long time, otherwise it will cause great damage to the panel.

4: Don’t let the panel get wet, and take protective measures when transporting it in rainy days.

Use maintenance

In addition to the weather or environment that can easily cause damage to the instrument, you should also pay more attention to the maintenance of the instrument during or after practice.

1: Make sure your fingers are dry before touching the strings. Do not touch the strings with wet fingers, as it is easy to make the string wire rusty.

2: Do not wipe the panel and bottom plate with a wet cloth or paper towel. As the most important part of the pronunciation, it will seriously affect the wood when it is exposed to water, causing the tone to deteriorate.

3: Regularly clean up the dust on the piano surface. Use a small amount of household cleaner to increase the brightness of the smooth part of the piano head and tail.

4: You can use a piece of cloth to cover the strings in normal storage. If you are transporting or consigning for long distances, you must remove the strings to avoid damage.


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