North American Guqin Association

The Asian Art Museum and the North American Guqin Association present

A guqin and xiao concert

by Master Li Xiangting and Wang Fei


Introduction piece:

Guan Shan Yue (Moon over the Mountain Pass )
The music describes the feelings of conscripts going to fight in the border regions in Northern China , many of whom would never return. Although this piece is over 200 years old, it is considered a new piece in the guqin repertory!


• Liu Shui (Flowing Water)
This piece is more than 700 years old, and is perhaps the most famous Chinese classical composition. The story behind it concerns the scholar Yu Boya and his friend the woodcutter Zhong Ziqi. The guqin music played by Yu Boya was as grand as the high mountains and as lively as flowing water, but only Zhong Ziqi could perceive this in his music. As a result of this mutual appreciation they became very close friends. When Zhong Ziqi died,Yu Boya destroyed his guqin and vowed never to play again, because he felt nobody else could understand his music. This is the origin of the Chinese expression zhi yin – "knowing the sound", which means a very close friendship.

• You Lan (The Solitary Orchid)
The earliest score for this piece is 1400 years old, so it is probably the oldest surviving score anywhere in the world that is still played today. It is closely associated with Confucius. He travelled to various states in China , attempting to promote his ideas of ethics and virtue as an ideal of government, but was constantly rejected. One day he saw an orchid growing alone among ordinary plants. He likened it to a wise man whose ideas are not in tune with the time, and who consequently associates with the common people.

• Xiao Xiang Shui Yun (Mist and Cloud over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers )
This piece is dates back more than 700 years. The Mongols had driven the Song Dynasty rulers south, and set up a new court. Where the the Xiao and Xiang rivers meet, mist rises and the water seems to merge with the air above. In the distance the mountains are partially obscured. The music vividly contrasts this ethereal beauty with the composer's anguish at the destruction wrought to his homeland by the invaders.

• Yi Guren (Memories of an Old Friend)
This pieces is about 200 years old. It is based on the story of Dai Kui's journey to visit his friend Wang Xianzhi. Although his friend was not at home, Dai Kui was satisfied that he had made the effort. The subtle melody reflects the restrained emotions of a Confucian scholar. 

• Meihua San Nong (Three variations on the Plum Blossom Theme) ( qin/xiao duet)
This piece is more than 700 years old. The main theme appears in three different registers, hence the Three Variations. The tune describes the noble and unsullied nature of the plum blossom while conveying its characteristic resistance to low temperatures and cold winds.

• Ping Sha Luo Yan (Wild Geese Descending on the Sandbank) ( qin/xiao duet) ­
This piece is more than 300 years old and is one of the most frequently performed of all qin pieces. As the title suggests, the music depicts wild geese ascending and descending on a bright sunny day. Like most guqin music, however, it can be interpreted on more than one level: the cry of the wild goose is a symbol of separation and loneliness.

• Xiao Improvisation

• Guqin Improvisation

• Vocal Improvisation
Improvisation on the guqin is an ancient tradition that for centuries was almost lost. Professor Li revived it, and is now one of the few guqin masters who practice it. For the first two of these improvisations, the audience will be asked to suggest a theme. For the song, the audience will be asked to provide a poem. Professor Li will sing the poem and accompany himself on the guqin .

• Guangling San (Guangling Melody)
This piece has a history of at least 2000 years and is perhaps the oldest piece of music in the world. The King of Han had a sword maker executed when he failed to deliver on time a sword he had commissioned him to make. The sword maker's son Nie Zheng made up his mind to avenge his father's death. He went into the mountains for ten years, learned to play the guqin and became a famous player, giving performances all over the country. The king heard of his fame and asked him to perform in the palace. Nie Zheng thus realized his long-cherished wish to kill him. Fearing his family might be in danger if his identity were known, he afterwards mutilated his face beyond recognition and committed suicide. The version Professor Li plays is from a score published in 1425.

About Professor Li Xiangting

Li Xiangting is recognised as a world-class guqin (Chinese 7 string zither) and xiao (Chinese vertical bamboo flute) master. He is currently a distinguished professor of guqin at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing , vice-president of the China Guqin Committee, and senior consultant to the North American Guqin Association. Professor Li is renowned not only for his individual style of guqin music but also for his refined traditional scholarly skills in xiao flute playing, calligraphy, ink-painting and poetry.

Between 1989 and 1994 he accepted fellowships at the universities of Cambridge and London and has traveled extensively throughout the world for both his guqin performances and his other scholarly activities.

Besides performing in China , Li Xiangting has also staged over fifty recitals in the USA and many countries in Europe and Asia , including the famous International Edinburgh Festival and the Oriental Music Festival in England . He has also recorded and arranged solo guqin music for a number of films and television dramas, including "The Emperor's Shadow" etc. He has also lectured at various universities internationally. Professor Li's prolific publications range from several dozen research articles, poems and books through to music CDs and exhibitions of his calligraphy and ink-paintings. His books include “ Aesthetics and Musical Ideology in Guqin Performance during the Tang Dynasty” published in Taipei in 1993. He has published more than a dozen guqin tapes and CDs, and released the first guqin instructional video CD in 2000. In November 1994, he received the "Outstanding Ethnic Writers and Painters Award" granted by the Chinese Artists' Association and the Chinese Authors' Association.

For further information please visit .

About Wang Fei

Wang Fei is a guqin performer, educator, scholar, director of the North American Guqin Association (NAGA), and council member of the China Guqin Committee.

Wang Fei is one of the very few people who have truly mastered the qin and can really perform and promote it worldwide. Her music was included in an American textbook and CD on geography and music in 2003 to represent Chinese music.

She has won several awards in the field of Chinese music and has given concerts, many speeches, lectures, workshops and seminars on the guqin for universities and the general public in China , the USA and Japan , and has written articles introducing the guqin to the public. Not only is Wang Fei an outstanding guqin player, she also organizes and promotes guqin -related activities and events. After moving to the United States , she became the first person from China to gain an MA in multimedia, and started to use new technology to promote the ancient art of the guqin .

Wang Fei is also a well-known author in China . She and her two sisters are known as the Chinese Brontë Sisters. Their book "Three Sisters' Skies and Dreams" was a bestseller in Beijing in 1997.

Wang Fei is a traditional Chinese scholar: not only does she play the guqin , she also writes and paints. She also plays the guzheng (21 stringed zither).

For more information or to listen to her guqin music online, please visit her web site at .


About the North American Guqin Association

Historically, guqin societies have always been regional. The North American Guqin Association (NAGA) was founded by Wang Fei and her two sisters in 1997. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our goal is to introduce guqin music, exchange guqin information, make qin friends, offer guqin lessons, arrange and give guqin performances etc .. For more information, please visit our web site at .

NAGA Class: Introduction to the Guqin (group lessons) - Register Now

Time: Start 3/3, Wednesday nights or Saturdays afternoon..

Fee: $600 for 10 weekly sessions, total 30 hours.

Class covers playing techquie, theory, trandition etc. .Classes will be led by NAGA Director Wang Fei and will be held at East Bay .

Similar classes are also available for the guzheng . For details of any of these classes and to enroll, please email or call 1-868419139 ext. 1555.

Shopping for Chinese music and instruments? offers a large selection of Chinese musical instruments including guqin, guzheng, erhu, pipa as well as music CDs, instructional VCDs, sheet music and books. For more information, please visit our web site at .

About the Guqin

The guqin , a seven-stringed zither, is China 's oldest stringed instrument, with a history of some 3000 years. It has always been viewed as a symbol of Chinese high culture. In Imperial China, a well educated scholar was expected to be skilled in four arts: qin (the guqin), qi (the game of Go), shu (calligraphy) and hua (painting).

When the U.S. spaceship "Voyager" was launched in 1977, a gold CD was placed on board to introduce the music of our planet to the rest of the universe. The guqin piece "Flowing water" was included as one representative of the world's music.

Undoubtedly, the guqin is a part of our world's heritage, but today fewer than two thousand people can play it, and it is rarely seen in China . Music that was written over a period of many centuries is unknown to most people. In recognition of its supreme importance to Chinese culture, UNESCO in 2003 declared the art of the guqin a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

For more information or to listen to guqin music online, please visit our web site at .

About the Xiao

The xiao is a traditional Chinese vertical bamboo flute with a history of 2000 years old. Usually played as a solo instrument, it is sometimes also played with other instruments. The tone of the xiao is extremely beautiful, suitable for expressing a peaceful or melancholy mood. It is often featured in music of the "civil repertory", typically used to accompany the quiet guqin .

For more information or to listen to xiao music online, please visit our specialist Chinese Music web site at .


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