How this instrument brings Chinese culture to NL – and brings friends together
The guzheng has been played in China and across Asia for thousands of years, and players in Newfoundland and Labrador are hoping it will soon take the spotlight on the provincial music scene.
The guzheng is incredibly popular in China, according to Yaying Tu, piano teacher and guzheng player at St. John’s. It became famous during the Tang Dynasty, 618 to 907, and was often played by the wives of noble Chinese families, Tu said.
The 21-string instrument is about 1.7 meters long and sits horizontally on a stand. A seated player plucks the strings with a nail to produce a harp-like sound.
“It’s still very popular in China. I think this is one of the most popular Chinese authentic instruments. So in China, a lot of younger kids are still learning it for fun, for extracurricular activities,” Tu said Thursday.
Ten guzheng players, part of a group that forms the YY Guzheng Ensemble along with pianists and cellists, perform a free show at The Rooms in St. John’s on Sunday. The group of 15 players range in age from 12 to seniors in their 70s.
It’s a big show for the group, created by friends who wanted to do something pleasant during the winter.
Tu said she also sees the instrument as a way for her to stay connected to her Chinese culture.
“I think maybe this one [is] simply helping for the Chinese community, coming together with music. Because our group are all Chinese and it makes community life more colorful,” she said.
CLOCK | Members of the YY Guzheng Ensemble perform Blue and white porcelain:
One of the ensemble members, Lili Wang, joined the group last year on the recommendation of a friend. She says it was a great decision to buy the guzheng.
“I think that’s something that unites us all,” she said.
“That brings us together. We come here regularly to practice to get better at playing the instrument ourselves. But we also use the opportunity to make contacts. We eat together, we party together, we have fun together.”
Wang says their unity is important, especially as a visible minority in Newfoundland and Labrador. She sees the group as a way to introduce aspects of Chinese culture, such as guzheng, to a wider audience.
“People here probably have very little contact with this instrument. Many of them have never seen this instrument,” Wang said. “Well, I think everywhere we go, we tend to have this ‘Wow!’ to get. What is good.”
Wang hopes the guzheng will one day be a part of the Newfoundland and Labrador “music world,” while Tu says she’s excited to see where the ensemble will go in the future.
“I wish we could keep this group for as long as possible. And I hope we find more beautiful, nice pieces to perform for the community and for St. John’s, Newfoundland,” she said.
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