Guzheng, or zheng, is a plucked-string musical instrument with over 2500 years of history. As the traditional Chinese musical instruments, guzheng has beautiful sounds and retains great popularity worldwide.
The guzheng has a long and proud history, which is believed to have been invented during the Qin Dynasty (897-221 BC). In the first century AD, the guzheng is described as a plucked half-tube wood zither with movable bridges, over which a number of strings are stretched, and in the 2nd century BC the guzheng was described as having twelve silken strings and high narrow jade bridges.
How to play guzheng
There are many techniques used in the playing of the guzheng. The performer uses the right hand to pluck the strings, with the left hand pressing the string on the left side of the bridge to produce vibrato, pitch alterations or slides. In modern playing technique, the left hand often joins the right hand to play a counter-melody. Experimental techniques can include bowed, hammering and plucking the strings. These techniques of playing the guzheng can create sounds that can evoke the sense of a cascading waterfall, thunder, horses' hooves, and even the scenic countryside.
The modern guzheng usually has 21 to 25 strings made of metal wound with nylon. There have been many attempts to modernize the guzheng by adding more strings, tuning devices, and pedals like those on the concert harp, but few of these “improvements” have taken hold. The guzheng is traditionally tuned to a pentatonic scale, but many modern scales range from combinations of different pentatonic scales, to diatonic and semi-chromatic scales.
The guzheng has played an important role in Chinese history and folk music. It is also the parent instrument of the Asian long zither family. The modern guzheng, Japanese koto, Korean gayageum and Mongolian yatga are developed from the traditional Chinese guzheng, making the instrument an extremely important piece of Asian musical culture.