Question & Answer

Qin Lesson

If you are interested in learning Guqin, Peiyou is giving private lessons in NJ (40 minutes train ride from Penn Station NY), and high quality (high resolution and sound quality) on-line lessons by Skype. For more details, please contact Peiyou Chang.

Student needs to have a guqin instrument at home for practicing.

For Skype lesson, student needs to have a better webcam, speakers and mic, inorder to get better visual and sound quality.

For Chinese: 教古琴(七絃琴)

How to read notation


I'm watching chinese symbols for left and right hand on your webside, also tempo symbols, than I'm watching Guqin notation, and I can't find them. Could you tell me please, where can I find some expanation of Guqin notation? Thank you very much.
Best regards from Brussels,

05/05/2010 at the lower part of that page has the piece Gŭ Qín Yín's (Song of Gŭ Qín) Finger Technique Explanation which might help to answer your question. That page can be an example of how to read notations, and once you know several combinations, you should be able to read many notes.


Questions for "Ode to Autumn Wind" (
I cannot make any meaning out of:
- The fourth symbol from the right in the third line
- The top part of the second symbol from the right in the third line
- The top part of the last symbol in the fourth line
- the last four symbols
Thank you for your time and patience.

Hi Henning,

Thank you for your questions. I am glad to answer them for you:

- The fourth symbol from the right in the third line
peiyou: It pronounce "Bu Dong" which means your left finger stay there and don't move after you played the previous note.

- The top part of the second symbol from the right in the third line
Peiyou: It is pronounce "Xu" and literally Xu means empty. In this case, the Xu Shang Ju together means your right hand does not play any string, but your left hand moves up to the 9th hui. This is actually a continuing of the left hand movement after that Bu Dong notation. "Xu" usually will be written together with several different kinds of left finger techniques and they all relate to the right hand not playing any string and the left hand just doing whatever is indicated under the "Xu".

- The top part of the last symbol in the fourth line
Peiyou: It pronounce "Jing" which means move up.

- the last four symbols
Peiyou: They read as " cong zai zuo" which means to repeat it from the symbol . The symbol is that little corner mark you see from the last 8 note in the last two line.

Because of your questions, I found my little mistakes and made two little changes on the picture. Not the Chinese notation part, just the western numeral part at the last note of line three and the 10th note of line six (tui shi fu -- back to 10 then return to 9). They should sing as "do re" and "re me." Before, I only put "do" and "re" and my recording also plays as "do" and "re." It depends on if you want to do one more movement (back to 10th hui then return again to the 9th hui) after going back to the 10th hui or you just want to stop with going back to the 10th hui without returning again to the 9th hui. Most qin players nowadays play it without returning to the 9th hui. But since the original Chinese notation indicated the "fu" (return) under the letter ten, I should follow its indication.

Thanks and best regards


Question: The fourth symbol in the second line of
is a slide up to the seventh hui, but what does the top part of the symbol mean? : )
Henning from German

Hi Henning,

Thanks for your question. This character is pronounced "Hu" and it has to read together with the "Shang Qi" (up to 7). So "Hu Shang Qi" means after you played the previous note (Thumb on 9th hui), the left thumb stops there for a second and then glides up to the 7th hui. The movement is first solid then empty, which means that the left finger is kind of raising up when it reaches the 7th hui, rather than pressing down the string all the way to 7th Hui (not like "Shang" itself, which is all the way a solid movement). Because the next note is Zhu down to the 9th hui. So together the left hand has a raising up and then pressing down movement. I hope this explanation is helpful. I also made a little illustration to help my explanation.


A friend ask me how to play this notation, also same as .

The name of this notation is Due-Qi. Its playing technique is a combination of Fen-Kai and Qia-Qi.
Explanation: If the left thumb press down the 7th string at 9th Hui position, and after the right hand has pulled the string, the left thumb glides up to the 8th Hui position; and then while the right hand pulls the string again, the left thumb glides back to 9th Hui position, as the action of "Zhu." And then the left ring finger presses down the same string at the next Hui (the 10th). Instead of using the right hand to pull the string, the thumb of the left hand pulls up the sting. Using the edge of the thumbnail to pull the sting up, at the same time the ring finger still presses down steadily.

Hello! It's Lorraine here, a postgraduate student in London, doing a fieldwork project. Would you please answer the following questions for my survey? Feel free to add in additional comments. Thanks!

1) Reason and experience in learning Qin. -- I should say its all because fall in love with the guqin music itself which is so calm and ease my mind. I first heard this music was 5 years ago in the US (it's kind of shame that I never heard guqin music in Taiwan before I came to the US 8 years ago) in my guqin teacher Mr. Yuan Jung Ping's concert at China Institute and I decided to ask him to teach me how to play Guqin and that was how i start. Mr. Yuan taught me 2 pieces and since I can read the tradition notation, I start to teach myself until now. The learning process is always joyful. It feels like found a new mainland every time when I learn a new piece.

2) Describe your background/ knowledge/ interest in Chinese culture. How does it tie in with your learning and understanding in Qin music? -- I don't really have any music background. If there is, I should say that I learn piano when I was a child and maybe that gives me the sense of music and so when I start to learn guqin music, I have more sense of the melody and that helps me more easily to learn a new piece (for me, to learn a new piece is to memorize the melody first and the playing technique the next).
My major in college was fashion design and that does not do anything relateing to guqin music. But I love ancient art, especially ancient Chinese art. Some of the knowledge I learned about ancient Chinese art was from art classes in college, and most of it was studied by myself, such as visiting museums in Taipei, New York and Shanghai. When I visit museum, I like to see Chinese painting and calligraphy along with something related to guqin. I also like to see Chinese opera -- Jing Ju and Qun Qu. I had learned singing of several Jing Ju pieces and the gestures when I was in elementary school in Taipei.
My first fashion design job after college was in a Chinese robe design company (Long Dee) and during the 2 years working at Long Dee, I had chances to get in touch with Chinese traditional dress making and design. Also had chances to design traditional Chinese costume for several TV shows (Dream of the Red Chamber -- Hong Lo Mong and Qin Yong -- Qin Terracotta). Because of these experiences, it helps me knowing more about my own culture.

3) Describe the popularity of Qin in your local area and social circle. What's your opinion in the export, development and significance of this Chinese music in foreign countries?-- I am a member of the New York Qin Society. (I believe you got more info on NYQS from our other members, so I will save this explanation of the NYQS to them). Every other two month, NYQS has gathering and I join them very often to keep myself in touch with our qin friends. Join the gathering is always joyful. To see friends and to hear some of their playing, and to know what they are learning or their discovery related to guqin music, that is always enrich my life. Although some of them are not Chinese, the passion of guqin music is the same. You will see more comparison of the western music to eastern music. For example, our last meeting was an informal performance of the Western lute (shu qin) to Chinese Qin playing together. Because of this chance, we know more about how these 2 instruments' combination, sound quality, playing technique, history, etc,.

4) How do you approach a new piece, both in learning or simply when listening (aesthetics) ? Illustrate with examples. (particularly if you have studied ''Autumn Wind Poetry'', ''Drunkard'' and ''Ping sha luo yan'', so as to give a comparison with other respondants)-- I listen to CD first to memorize the melody and then study the notation and play it. This is my learning process. At the mean time, I try to study more about the piece's history to know when and who and how it was composed. So I can try to understand what feeling the piece is trying to present. For example, Xiao Xian Shue Yun:
Misty River Xiao and Xiang (Xiao Xiang Shui Yun) is attributed to the Southern Song Dynasty (1128-1276 AD) Qin player and poet Guo Chuwang. Guo felt regret about the Southern Song being cut off from northern China by the Jin Dynasty. As he floated down the river Xiao and Xian in the Hu Nan province on a boat, he gazed upon the Jiuyi Mountain, which rose majestically into the clouds brought home the sorrow of losing his country. This piece presents a combination of the image of flowing water, blowing wind, a drifting boat and the lofty atmosphere. So I will try to reach the feeling as describe above.

A note of thanks for your great Guqing site!

I'm a total novice ...

I'm wondering if you would not mind giving me several pointers on tuning... have you used any particular tuning device to get started? I was looking at a Korg electronic tuner for about $35 which is capable of tuning an entire orchestra!

Any other first-time pointers are wonderfully appreciated! Xiexie,
-Lloyd Tribley
-Tallahassee, FL

Thanks for visiting my qin website.

It is not quite easy to describe the tuning just by a few words here. I will try my best.

When I started to learn qin, I only knew the basic tuning which is C D F G A C D (from 1st to 7th string) and the electric tuner (also called a chromatic tuner) can help to make each string tune right and I think that is a good start.

To tune without the electric tuner's help, there is also a way which I learned from my teacher.

Use Fan Yin to check each strings tuning interval, to see if they sound correct:
For the basic tuning (Zheng Diao)--Use Fan Yin On the 7th dot and 5th dot to check the 7th string and the 4th string... and so on, please see below:
on 7th dot.......on 5th dot
7th string.......4th string (should sound the same) (La La)
6th string.......3rd string (should sound the same) (So So)
5th string.......2nd string (should sound the same) (Me Me)
4th string.......1st string (should sound the same) (Re Re)
After checking the string's sound by following above list, here is another checking method, actually it is same method,using Fan Yin, just different dot position.
on 4th dot.......on 5th dot
1st string.......3rd string (should sound the same)(So So)
2nd string.......4th string (should sound the same)(La La)
4th string.......6th string (should sound the same)(Re Re)
5th string.......7th string (should sound the same)(Me Me)

If one of them does not sound the same, the tuning is not correct. So you just need to find the not correct one and either tighten or loosen the tuning peg.
This is just one of the basic ways of checking the tune.
Hope this will answer your question.


I wonder what can be seen as the standard typical ancient music notation system for chinese music. Was the standard notation during e.g. 1000 b.c. resembling the one you show for the qin as you show on your website? or was there another standard?
-K. K.
-Holland 1/24/2002

Thanks for your good question. According to my understanding, there was no standard music notation for Guqin music as early as 1000BC.

The known earliest qin notation (really should not be called "notation") was written in Chinese characters (please see attachment 1) for qin players to remember how to play each song.

It was just like writing a note saying where and what the finger should play. It does not tell the tone or the melody. On the other hand, it allows great creativity for qin players to present whatever feeling they want to present.

That early form of writing music down was said to be created by a qin player Yong Men-Zhou 庸門周 during the Warring States Period 480-221 B.C. So Called Wen-Zi-Pu, (literate notation).

Later there was the invention of Jian-Zi-Pu (abbreviated Chinese), which was created by Cao-Rou 曹柔 in the middle of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). He simplified the Chinese characters to a symbol system that has been used until now (please see attachment 2).

Attachment 1
Attachment 2

I suspect that the tail of the qin "Ku Mu Long Yin" is not actually made of sandlewood "tan xiang" which is a soft wood but rather out of "zi tan" which is a very hard wood. Many people translate zitan as purple sandlewood but that is incorrect.
-Harrison Moretz
- 09/06/2002

Thanks for pointing out the error. So if "zitan" is not purple sandlewood, what kind of wood is "zitan" in english?

That is a very good question. The wood that was originally called zitan was logged out around the end of the Ming or beginning of the Ching dynasty. There is wood being imported to China with the name zitan i believe from africa but it is not exactly the same as the wood that was used historically. Like Chinese Herbs often several different plants share the same name because of some particular characteristic. With herbs it is the medicinal nature. With zitan it is a hardwood that when rubbed on a piece of paper leaves a dark purplish mark. The wood on that qin is most likely the original zitan which was harder and finer grained than the wood being used now.

And...... all this to say i do not know what it is called in English.

Hope this is helpful or at least interesting.
- 09/07/2002

Back To Main Menu
Copyright ©2001-2013 Judy (Pei-You) Chang