North American Guqin Association

NAGA JULY 8, 2006

Lotus Gardens Yaji Report

On Saturday, July 8, 2006 NAGA embarked on a trip to the Lotus Gardens in Modesto. The main purpose of this and subsequent outings this summer is for our members and invited guests to enjoy the beauty of nature as well as guqin music and the company of friends. In addition the event served as a first get-away trip for the summer season. To find out about future outings go to

Event summary




Event summary

Despite the extremely hot weather and long drive to Modesto, over 40 people attended the event, many of them elite young professionals in the Bay Area. We enjoyed the lake, the willows, the tea house, and, of course, the exquisite lotus ponds very much. An online article in Chinese about the event can be found at:

Please see the photo album at

From 1:30pm to 3:30pm attendees toured the garden, and went to the teahouse for a short rest. The Lotus Gardens was built by the Chinese couple Mr. Zhu Tailong and Mrs. Liu Shuqing. Cultivation of the gardens began when the couple guided local river water into the garden, planted trees, and introduced lotuses into the ponds. Today, willow trees surround the lotus ponds and green lawns. The lotus grows luxuriant in the bright sunlight, its leaves covering the water, its blossoms spreading through the ponds, its ethereal aroma occasionally touching the senses of visitors.

At 3:30 pm, our yaji began in the Lotus-Adoring Pavilion (爱莲亭) with a short introduction to NAGA by Fred Pohlmann, which Jiang Wenyu translated into Chinese. Next, Wang Fei talked about the purpose of NAGA yaji outings. She said that there are many ancient paintings and poems depicting the guqin being played in natural settings. People would go out-of-doors with friends to play the guqin, write poems, do calligraphy, drink wine, etc. NAGA outings are intended to introduce the kind of ease, peace, and calm found in that ancient Chinese lifestyle into the busy, stressful modern lifestyle found in places like Silicon Valley. We hope that after long working hours, mainly in front of a computer, today's professionals can find more of such enjoyment in their spare time as that experienced at this outing. In ancient China the guqin was used as a tool for self-cultivation by scholars. In modern society, the guqin is a very good tool for giving balance to a modern professional's life. Wang Fei next recited and interpreted the famous poem in praise of the lotus: 爱莲 (Thoughts on the Love of the Lotus Flower) by Zhou Dunyi of the Song Dynasty. Then she talked about the connection between the lotus and the qin. Both are an integral feature of Chinese culture and both have been widely celebrated in Chinese literature and painting. Zhou Dunyi said this about the lotus: ¡°It grows out of the dirty mud yet is clean, cleansed by the pure waters¡­ its fragrance is milder in the distance, its stem is erect, slim and clean¡­ it is to be enjoyed from a distance, not too intimately ¡­ the lotus is like a gentleman.¡± Who can say this is not the character of qin music? This is why NAGA chose the Lotus Gardens for its first outing. Wang Fei then gave an introduction to the guqin in Chinese, citing its history and significance in Chinese culture and telling many stories about the guqin. One example was the story about how Cai Yong (Cai Wenji's father) rescued a piece of burning wood from a farmer after recognizing the wood's excellent potential, thus creating a famous qin with a burnt mark at its tail. All qins made after this mimicked this mark in honor of Cai Yong. She noted that stories about the guqin are so abundant that one could speak for months, even years, on this topic.

After the introduction, our guqin recital began with a solo performance and singing of Qiu Feng Ci by Jiang Wenyu. Next, Fred Pohlmann and Kwan Wong performed a duet of Xiang Jiang Yuan. Wang Fei noted that among the many qin pieces, relatively few are love songs, but on this day the audience already had the opportunity to hear two.

Next, Wang Fei played a solo of Jiu Kuang, and described the story of Ruan Ji, one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.

Lily, a pretty young lady from Cisco Systems, played a solo of Yang Guan San Die. Wang Fei remarked that recently there is a return to appreciating the ¡°graceful¡± or ¡°elegant¡± woman as the ideal in China. Being graceful means that a woman not only holds a higher degree and achieves a good career but also that she is skilled in the four scholarly arts, namely qin, qi, shu, and hua. A woman's skill on a traditional Chinese musical instrument such as the guqin, guzheng, etc. (as opposed to Western musical instruments) is particularly prized by men because these instruments signify the traditional virtues of Chinese women: kindness, modesty, and caring for others. Wang Fei humorously noted, ¡°I think that playing the qin is not only for self-cultivation but also it can enhance a person's character, attractiveness, and charm. You have probably realized that there are many beautiful women and handsome men qin players, especially today. Lily is one of them.¡±

Wang Fei then repeated the piece and encouraged the audience to sing along. After a few rounds of instruction, some 40 attendees were singing Yang Guan San Die with qin accompaniment. This is one of the most famous Chinese songs expressing the sadness of farewell to a newly found friend, a fitting activity before driving back home and returning to our busy modern lifestyles.

Morning rain in the City of Wei washes the light dust on the ground.

The willow leaves in the guest inn are fresh and green.

Please, have one more cup of wine, my friend.

There will be no more good friends once we say goodbye.

It is rare to see such a sight even in China, yet all present experienced this wonderful moment of singing, with the lotus flowers still open and the willows still green in the Lotus Gardens of Modesto.

The final program of the day was a kunqu performance by Professor Lindy Li Mark. In her 70s, Professor Li is an experienced kunqu singer. She led the audience in singing a section of the kunqu opera 牡丹亭 (Peony Pavilion) and then accompanied our singing by playing the dizi, a Chinese flute. One of the audience members asked about the origin of kunqu. Professor Li gave a thorough introduction to its origin, its characteristics, and the relationship between northern and southern opera at the time.

In the presence of the lotus blossoms, we experienced the sonorous resonance of the guqin, the beautiful voice of kunqu, and the heart-warming singing of our guests. The landscape, the qin, and the people merged as one, with the sound echoing in the background. Inspired by this wonderful moment, Professor Wang Yongan composed the poem 六无诗 (Six Withouts) to contribute to the atmosphere of this gathering:

A garden is spiritless without water;

The water is colorless without the lotus;

The lotus attracts no interest without people;

People are alone without their friends;

Friends find not enough to talk about without the qin;

And the qin has no soul without people.

Mr. Zhu Guiyi, the second son of Mr. Zhu and Mrs. Liu and the current owner of the Lotus Gardens, and his wife joined us for the yaji. He said they had always hoped to host such an event there. Last Saturday his wish was realized. It was a day for viewing the lotus, listening to the qin and kunqu, singing songs, and learning about the history of a culture. The event brought harmony and joy to the guests, the gardens, and the owners.

Meng Haoran of the Tang Dynasty once wrote in one of his poems 夏日南亭怀辛大 (Thinking of Xin in the South Pavilion on a Summer's Day):

The wind spreads lotus scent all through the air,
The sound of dripping bamboo dew is clear.
Although I'd like to fetch my qin and play,
To my regret, there is no-one to hear.

Over 1000 years later, the scene and his dream and wishes were carried out by NAGA members and their friends in California.





Thoughts on the Love of the Lotus Flower

There are many lovable flowers of grasses and trees both upon the water and on the land. In the Jin Dynasty, Tao Yuanming loved only the chrysanthemum. Since the Tang Dynasty, people of the world have loved the peony very much. I especially love the lotus, which grows out of the dirty mud yet is clean, cleansed by the pure waters but not seductive; its center is void, thus the lotus has vacuity; it grows straight and has no creeping vines and branches; its fragrance is milder in the distance, its stem is erect, slim and clean; it is to be enjoyed from a distance but not too intimately.

I say the chrysanthemum is like a recluse while the peony is like a person of high position and wealth; whereas the lotus is like a gentleman. Alas! The love of the chrysanthemum is seldom heard of except for Tao Yuanming; where are the people who, like me, love the lotus? As for those who love the peony, of course there are many!



Peony Pavilion ¨C Visiting the Garden

In the beginning the flowers were blooming, teeming with beautiful colors.

But now it has all disappeared, leaving a deserted well and ruined walls.

Good moments and beautiful scenes cannot be asked of the heavens,

And whose garden can always promise happiness and joy?

Time is flying by quickly,

Seeing the green pillars with a background of crimson clouds during sunset,

Seeing the wind twist strings of rain drops,

Decorated boats above the waves of water ¨C held back in my home, only today I realize the preciousness of youth and love, and how I have wasted all those early years.




Thinking of Xin in the South Pavilion on a Summer's Day

The glow on western mountains quickly sets,
The moon climbs over the eastern lake.
My hair loose, I enjoy the evening cool,
I lie in peace before the open window.
The wind spreads lotus scent all through the air,
The sound of dripping bamboo dew is clear.
Although I'd like to fetch my qin and play,
To my regret, there is no-one to hear.
So touched by this, I think of my old friend,
Throughout the night, I'm troubled by my dreams.




Six Withouts

A garden is spiritless without water;
The water is colorless without the lotus;
The lotus attracts no interest without people;
People are alone without their friends;
Friends find not enough to talk about without the qin;
And the qin has no soul without people.


Yongan Wang

June Lou

Jing Liu

Yan Yang

Tammy Wen

Kwan Wong

Lily Zhao

Whitey Tang

Kevin Shen

Jing Li

Maggie Lin

John Noble

Wenyu Jiang

Jennifer Wu

Shiming Deng

Rong Zhuge

Lilly Chen

Fred Pohlmann

Wang Fei

Wei Liu

Jack Yang

Sophia Chong

Weihong Li

Su Wei

Pat Wong

Linda Miao

Christie Chen

Lili Sun

Jiwei Chen


Yvonne Kwok

Lindy Li Mark

Greg Ming

William Hung

Jian Wang


For an html version of the yaji report, please visit


Thank you to Su Wei, June Lou and Pat Wong for taking the photos.

Reporter: Jiang Wenyu

Editors: Fred Pohlmann, Julian Joseph

North American Guqin Association

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