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Guqin and Guzheng: the historical and contemporary development of two Chinese musical instruments

Gaywood, Harriet Rosemary Ann (1996) Guqin and Guzheng: the historical and contemporary development of two Chinese musical instruments. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines two Chinese musical instruments, the gitqin, a seven-string zither, and the guzheng, a larger zither of up to twenty-one or more strings. Both of the instruments appear to have been in existence since early times, but the guqin has traditionally been much more heavily documented due to its associations with Confucianism and the literary upper classes. Consequently references to the instrument may be found in the early classical writings and, in later times, preserved in handbooks for the instrument. The guzheng did not enjoy these same associations and was viewed much more as an instrument of the people. However, since it was a versatile instrument it gradually became used for music of all classes. This thesis begins by examining some of early musical history behind the two instruments including some of the development of writing, classical texts, and the philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. In examining the organological development of the guqin and guzheng similarities are drawn with the zithers found in neighbouring countries. In some cases such instruments have been more greatly preserved in these countries than in China itself The development of the guzheng is often difficult to trace due to similarities with the se, another Chinese zither of up to fifty strings. The literary history of the guqin is further shown by the systems of notation used for notating the musical scores of the instrument. The earliest known guqin tablature is wenzipu, a system of writing down playing instructions in full script, unlike the later systems which adopted short-hand simplified methods. It is difficult to separate the system of notation and performance directions as understood in Western music and so these two systems are discussed together. It is difficult to make generalisations about the music of the guqin and guzheng due to vast area of China throughout which both instruments are difiused. In examining some of the regional styles of playing, further influences upon the music such as dialect and folk-singing may be seen. The final chapter moves into the twentieth century and examines how political developments have encouraged the development of the guzheng whilst stifling the guqin. The thesis concludes that the guqin has been preserved by its philosophical associations, while the versatility of the guzheng has allowed it to develop according to the musical requirements of society. In the twentieth century however, the instruments have begun to share their social contexts bringing them closer together.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1996
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Sep 2012 15:57

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