(East-West Question) Yu Hui: What kind of Chinese cultural code does Chinese Guqin music contain?

  China News Agency, Kunming, March 24th Telegram: Yu Hui: What kind of Chinese cultural code does Chinese guqin music contain?

  Author Chen Jing

  With the continuous strengthening of national cultural self-confidence, the current "national trend" is emerging in Chinese society. Many young people are keen on Hanfu and learn Guqin, which brings infinite possibilities for the inheritance and development of traditional culture.

As one of the earliest stringed instruments in the Chinese nation, the guqin has been in circulation for more than 3,000 years. What kind of development process has it experienced, what cultural codes and cultural genes are contained in it, and what development possibilities have it shown?

In-depth discussion and thinking on these issues will build a bridge for us to connect the past and the future, as well as the East and the West.

  Recently, Yu Hui, Academician of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and "Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor" of the Ministry of Education, accepted an exclusive interview with China News Agency "East-West Question". , and how Chinese traditional music can better "go out" to interpret.

  The following is a summary of the interview transcript:

  China News Service reporter: Why do you say that the guqin is the most traditional musical instrument with Chinese characteristics?

  Yu Hui:

Chinese traditional music is an important part of Chinese traditional culture. Along with people's endless daily work, they have gone through five thousand years of splendid development history of Chinese civilization.

In the process of historical and cultural development, some ancient musical varieties have gradually disappeared due to various reasons; other musical varieties have been constantly evolving during development, handed down in new forms, and endowed with new era characteristics and social functions, such as pipa and dulcimer. The earliest varieties of Chinese opera, such as Song and Yuan Zaju, Ming Chuanju, and Qing Dynasty four-tone tunes, have also evolved over the years and developed into new musical genres.

However, there are still very few ancient music forms that have always maintained their early characteristics, and have been passed down from generation to generation in a living form. They have displayed and inherited the cultural genes of traditional Chinese national music, especially Han music, on the land of China. Guqin is one of them. It can even be said that is the only musical variety.

  The legend of the guqin was created by Fuxi, and it has been alive from the pre-Qin period to today, spreading and inheriting the traditional Chinese music that contains profound philosophy and cultural thoughts.

The shape of the guqin has remained the prototype at least since the Han Dynasty.

The earliest surviving guqin score is from the Tang Dynasty manuscript "Jieshi Tuning Youlan" handed down by Qiu Ming (AD 494-590), a hermit of the Liang Dynasty in the Southern Dynasty. Down.

Chinese guqin scores on display at the National Museum of China.

Photo by Deng Yifei issued by China News Agency

  The traditional guqin is made of silk strings, and the sound is very small.

But in the dead of night, the real sound of nature can pop up. It is delicate, subtle, and endless, which makes people's thoughts boundless. It reflects the philosophy of Chinese Taoist culture: "The sound of the sound is like the sound, and the elephant is invisible".

Players will fall into contemplation and meditation when playing the guqin, so that the soul can be purified and sublimated.

In terms of temperament, Guqin is a kind of "high culture" music that is closest to the sound of nature in human music, and it is one of the very few human musical instruments known in the world's academic circles that uses pure temperament scales.

Since pure temperament is closer to the natural overtone sequence, when more than two notes in the scale resonate at the same time, there is little beat note, which can make the harmony produced by chorus and instrumental ensemble more pure.

This also makes the musical tradition of Guqin a precious human musical heritage.

  In addition, the single tone ("sound") in Guqin music has a very important expressive meaning.

The same note can be played with the right hand holding, smashing, picking, wiping, tickling, hooking, picking, hitting and other string strumming skills, left hand chanting, kneading, choking, betting and other up-and-down notes decoration skills and appropriate strength control, to play out. The rich and colorful percussion, overtones, open strings, and decorative sounds are a lot of sound colors that the piano can't match.

This emphasis on the vocalization of a single sound reflects the very oriental musical concept and has become one of the important creative concepts of contemporary Western composers.

Guqin playing.

Photo by Yu Junjie issued by China News Agency

  China News Service reporter: What kind of Chinese cultural essence does Guqin music embody, and how does it break down barriers for mutual learning between civilizations?

  Yu Hui:

The score of Guqin is composed of Chinese characters or their radicals, so literacy is a prerequisite for playing Guqin.

This makes the guqin a representative variety of ancient Chinese literati music, ranking first in the "qin, chess, calligraphy and painting" literacy that shows the literati sentiment, and profoundly reflects the moral pursuit, cultural, social and religious views of the "scholar" class.

  When the "scholar" class regards becoming an official as its pursuit in life, it will be deeply influenced by many Confucian ideas.

It is said that Confucius could play the guqin and regarded it as a good companion throughout his life.

There is a saying in "Book of Rites" that "scholars do not withdraw the qin and serge for no reason".

However, when the "scholar" class lost its aristocratic status and was outside the system, it would retreat to the mountains and forests and advocate the learning of Lao and Zhuang.

For example, Ji Kang and Ruan Ji, the "Seven Sages of Bamboo Forest" in the Wei and Jin Dynasties of China, were both famous qin players in Chinese history.

  After Buddhism was introduced into China, Guqin also absorbed Buddhist music to a certain extent. For example, the famous Guqin piece "Pu'an Mantra" absorbed elements of Buddhist music.

The "Three Teachings Simultaneous Piano Score" survived in the Ming Dynasty also reflects the eclecticism of Guqin music to Chinese culture.

In 2016, Nantong, Jiangsu, the vice president of the Chinese Qin Association and the president of the Jiangsu Guqin Association, Zhu Su, performed "Pu'an Mantra".

Photo by Song Chenglin issued by China News Agency

  As a concentrated expression of traditional Chinese culture, guqin was once used as a means of voice by patriotism or nationalists when Chinese culture was facing a crisis.

In the modern history of China, when Western culture occupied an important position in the upper-class life in central Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Cha Fuxi and other staunch defenders of traditional culture believed that the value of Chinese guqin music was very precious and surpassed Western music in many aspects. , and organized one of the most important traditional music associations in modern Chinese history, "Jinyu Qin Club" in Suzhou and Shanghai, to organize the practitioners of guqin music to unite to protect, explore and inherit the guqin music culture.

In 1936-1937, when the Japanese army was about to attack Shanghai, and when Western culture was attacking Chinese traditional culture, the "Geek Gathering" activities were carried out continuously to spread the confidence of Chinese culture and laid an important foundation for the subsequent development of Chinese guqin music. organizational, academic and social foundations.

  After the baptism of the long history, Guqin music has remained unchanged and has become one of the most representative musical varieties of Chinese music culture.

Because of its Chinese characteristics, contemporary Chinese and foreign musicologists have been trying to reveal the traditional Chinese cultural codes or cultural genes hidden in Guqin music.

The famous Dutch sinologist Robert van Gulik devoted himself to researching and arranging Chinese guqin literature, and spent a lot of effort to write and publish the monograph The Lore of the Chinese Lute: An Essay in Ch'in Ideology (Chinese translation) "Qin Dao"), made an important contribution to the spread of Chinese guqin culture.

Influenced by the Chinese guqin and Taoist music concepts, the American avant-garde composer John Gage created his masterpiece "4 minutes 33 seconds".

In 1977, the recording of "Flowing Water" played by the famous guqin player Guan Pinghu was engraved on a gold-sprayed bronze record. As one of the 27 selected human music works, it was launched by the American spacecraft "Voyager". Take to space to greet possible superintelligent beings.

In 2003, the guqin was included in the United Nations "Representative List of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity".

At China Guardian's 2010 Spring Auction, a piece of Jin Taikang's two-year "Ape Roaring Qingluo" qin was sold for 19.04 million yuan.

This qin was collected and used by Guan Pinghu, the national hand of Guqin in his later years.

The picture shows the customer listening to the guqin at the concert.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Sudan

  China News Service reporter: From a global perspective, how can Chinese traditional music better "go out" and communicate with world music?

  Yu Hui:

The exchanges and mutual learning of world civilizations are inseparable from the "soft power" of a country.

We have always talked about cultural "going out", but I think the "power" of "soft power" is more of an "attraction".

Taking Guqin music as an example, it embodies ancient Chinese philosophical thoughts and aesthetic thoughts, and implies the important value orientation and cultural genes of Chinese culture, so that the audience can have a yearning for Chinese culture from the appreciation of Guqin music.

As for the exchange of music and culture, I think that sometimes the power of the people may be more effective than the official activities.

Foreign students try the Chinese guqin.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhai Yujia

  For example, in 1997, a good friend of mine established the world's first Chinese folk orchestra "Japanese Chinese Orchestra" composed entirely of Japanese in Japan. It has performed more than 600 times at home and abroad. Invited to perform at the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the People's Republic of China held in Beijing, which has received wide attention and praise from the international music industry.

Their performances not only deepened the cultural exchanges between China and Japan, but also allowed more foreign friends to understand the charm of traditional Chinese culture.

  When I was studying and working in the United States, I was often invited to some universities and communities to introduce Chinese traditional music, and I was invited to introduce and demonstrate Chinese guqin music in a PBS special TV film, all of which achieved good results.

I think the folk music exchange and communication can open a new channel for us to communicate and exchange music between the East and the West, and carry out a new culture diplomacy.

The "cultural confidence" we advocate now needs to come from the full research, protection and development of cultural traditions with Chinese characteristics like the guqin, and from the continuous in-depth communication and reference of Chinese and foreign cultures.


Interviewee Profile:

  Yu Hui, Academician of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, "Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor" of the Ministry of Education, "Donglu Distinguished Professor" of Yunnan University, Chair Professor of Xiamen University, Visiting Professor of Zhejiang Normal University; Ethnomusicology, Wesleyan University, USA Professional Doctor of Philosophy; Co-President of the Council for Asian Musicology, Member of the Steering Committee of the International Music Society East Asia Association (IMSEA), and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the international English music journals Asian Musicology and Oxford Handbook: Chinese Music.