Daily Bow: Eastern String


String Visions embraces styles, ideas, and instruments from all over.

YENFEI Tan, 16, may have been born in Australia, but she loves her Chinese instrument, the guzheng, more than a piano or violin.

With my Taiwanese background, I ponder a little why my mother never had me try my hand at this traditional instrument. The guzheng (古箏, literally meaning “ancient string instrument…” or “ancient kite” in another meaning) is a Chinese plucked zither. It is similar in many respects to other familiar Asian stringed instruments such as the Japanese koto.

I have plucked a few strings on it before. The first time I saw one I was amazed at the complexity of the guzheng.

By the way, how many strings would you guess are on it? Let’s see…

The year-11 student (Yenfei Tan) at Ryde Secondary College has been playing it since she was eight, when her mother urged her to take up a musical instrument.

She had no idea which instrument she would like until her mother suggested the guzheng.

“It’s not hard to learn, it needs practice and intelligence,” Yenfei said.

Yenfei trains under a tutor once a week and practices at home for an hour every day. She also decided that the guzheng would be her HSC music course.

Yenfei has collaborated with other students preparing for the 2011 Chinese School of Music annual performance at Crows Nest, which she said was a tough mission for her.


At then end of the article Yenfei answers that question of how many strings: “The answer is 21.”

Actually, the number of strings can range from as low as 13 to as high as 25. Today’s standards seem to favor 21-25. The first guzheng that I saw was an older one with 18 strings (I still remember).

What exotic string instruments have you played?

2 Responses to Daily Bow: Eastern String

  1. Be Binn February 4, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    hi Colin, Yenfei’s Malaysian and not Taiwanese background.

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