Introduction of the Zheng:
The zheng (also commonly called gu-zheng) is a plucked half-tube wood chordophone with movable bridges, over which a number of strings are stretched. It is the parent instrument of the Asian long zither family including Japanese koto and Korean gayageum. The history of the zheng can be traced back to more than 2500 years ago. In the course of this long history, the number of the strings evolved from five strings to twenty-one strings (25/26 strings zheng are also available), and the material changed from silk, steel, to metal or steel wound with nylon. It is traditionally tuned to pentatonic scales, with the right-hand pluck the right side of the bridges and the left-hand bend the left-side of the bridges to make all types of stylistic bending, sliding, and ornamentations. Many modern zheng compositions apply scales ranging from combinations of different pentatonic scales, to diatonic and semi-chromatic scales and widely expend the playing techniques and instrument expressions.
Pronunciation guidance: Zheng (jung [rhymes with lung]) / Gu-zheng (goo-jung)
Introduction of the Qin:
The qin (also commonly called guqin) is a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has been played since the ancient times and traditionally favored by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement. Qin is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as "the instrument of the sages". No other Chinese instrument was described and illustrated in such detail, so often depicted in paintings, mentioned in poetry, and deeply rooted in Chinese ancient philosophy. Its unique notation tablature documented the world's oldest detailed written instrumental music tradition and preserved hundreds of ancient pieces. In 1977, a recording of "Flowing Water" (Liu Shui, as performed by Guan Pinghu, one of the best qin players of the 20th century) was chosen to be included in the Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated LP recording containing music from around the world, which was sent into outer space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts. It is the longest excerpt included on the disc. In 2003, guqin music was proclaimed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Pronunciation Guidance: Qin (chin) / Gu-qin (goo-chin)
Introduction of Chinese Calligraphy:
Chinese calligraphy (in Chinese [shu-fa]) is an art of writing Chinese characters that has been developed and admired by artists over many centuries in China and other Asian countries. Masters are distinguished themselves through their unique expressions of dynamic life forces and emotions through their writing on rice or silk paper. Major styles (zhuan, li, xing, cao) and schools (wang, yan, liu, zhao) have been developed in history.
Artists are required to comprehend the evolution of writing styles, development and rules of technique, calligraphers and their inheritances in this art form. Traditionally, every literate person in China learned as a child to write by copying the standard forms of Chinese ideographs. The student was gradually exposed to different stylistic interpretations of these characters. He copied the great calligraphers' manuscripts, which were often preserved on carved stones so that rubbings could be made. Over time, the practitioner evolved his own personal style, one that was a distillation and reinterpretation of earlier models. This branch of learning forms an important part of Chinese culture. Calligraphy has also led to the development of many forms of art in East Asia, including seal carving, ornate paperweights, and inkstones.
The ink brush, ink, paper, and inkstone are essential implements of East Asian calligraphy. They are known together as the “Four Treasures of the Study” in China.
Brush is the traditional writing implement in Chinese calligraphy. The body of the brush can be made from either bamboo, or rarer materials such as red sandalwood, glass, ivory, silver, and gold. The head of the brush can be made from the hair of a wide variety of animals, including the weasel, rabbit, deer, chicken, duck, goat, pig, tiger, wolf, etc. Calligraphy brushes are widely considered an extension of the calligrapher's arm.
Calligraphic works are usually completed by the calligrapher putting his or her seal at the very end, in red ink. The seal serves the function of a signature.
Introduction of Chinese Painting:
Chinese painting in the traditional style is known in Chinese as guó huà, meaning 'national' or 'native painting'. Traditional painting involves essentially the same techniques as calligraphy and is done with a brush dipped in black or colored ink. As with calligraphy, the most popular materials on which paintings are made of are rice paper and silk. The finished work can be mounted on scrolls. Traditional painting can also be done on album sheets, walls, lacquer ware, folding screens, and other media. There are two main techniques in Chinese painting: “Meticulous” [gong-bi], often referred to as "court-style" painting; and “Freehand” [shui-mo], loosely termed watercolor or brush painting. The Chinese character "shui" means water and "mo" means ink. This style is also referred to as "xie-yi" or freehand style.
Major subjects in Chinese painting are: landscapes, figure paintings, and bird-and-flower. Traditional Chinese painters aim to capture not only the outer appearance of a subject but its inner essence as well—its energy, life force, spirit. The discipline that this kind of mastery requires derives from the practice of calligraphy.
Since Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), the combined art form of painting, poetry, and calligraphy has become a fashion for its fuller artistic expression. Artists often inscribed poems and calligraphy onto their painting for enriching the meaning.