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The Chinese seven-stringed zither, or Guqin (read ku-ch’in / “goo-chin”), has often been misnamed as a Chinese Lute in many translations of classical texts. This was because the earliest English book on the subject, as written by Dutch Sinologist and diplomat Robert Hans Van Gulik translated the guqin as such in his book “The Lore of the Chinese Lute”.
This instrument was often perceived by popular media and common understanding that it is a dying tradition with few who understand the subtleties of the music, let alone the inner workings of the instrument. Those who played the instrument were often hidden masters of Chinese tradition, and bear the impression of being spiritually highly refined. Thus, few people today (including the Chinese themselves) are familiar with this instrument, and often mistake it with the guzheng. However, since UNESCO declared the art an “Oral or Intangible Cultural Heritage” in 2003, there has been a significant increase of awareness and a new following of players, as well breakthroughs in various related researches. The instrument and tradition is no longer as endangered as it once was.
The Internet is the key source of general information, new theories, and intercourse between the global communities of players, who have organized themselves in major cities to share their music and insights with fellow players. The Internet has also allowed easier access to the older archives stored in libraries around the world to be widely available for audience and researchers alike. (From “Standards of the Guqin”)There were various attempts on the digitization of Guqin tablature, but no widely recognizable consumer-based program is available. CAD-edited prints or scanned hand-copies, coupled with a five-line or number-staff are still the standard today. (From “Standards of the Guqin”)
Toronto is a hub of guqin activity on the Canadian East Coast. Since 2005, the University of Toronto Guqin Association has been actively connecting guqin players in and outside of the Greater Toronto Area, providing a platform for sharing music, and online resources for connecting other players and researchers. Continuing the UTQA since 2007, one of the the UTCCAS’s most successful results is the Facebook Guqin Global Group, which is vibrant in discussion on the instrument from its technical aspects to historical contexts of various guqin-related activities. Active membership are comprised of young scholars from Canada, Britain, Spain, China, and the United States.
Recently, the guqin made its display in the Opening Ceremonies of the XXIX Olympiad, during the performance on introducing Chinese painting. We hope that this is a sign of raising general awareness of the instrument, and spread this fresh bit of traditional air to cartharsize your soul.