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Guqin Recitals with Sharing by John Thompson – Great Ming Silk String Zither Music

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Venue Date & Time Price
Recital Hall, Hong Kong City Hall

Sharing session after each performance is conducted in English, with Cantonese translation available.


Ming dynasty music

The earliest surviving books with detailed scores of Chinese music are the handbooks for the silk string guqin zither published during the Ming dynasty. This was the music of the Chinese literati class, and the 40-odd surviving collections of zither music from this period, allow us today to experience music not only prized by them but certainly as sophisticated as any music in the world surviving from that time. The 77 melodies in the two most important collections from the early Ming dynasty were written using a tablature still in use today. These two works are Shen Qi Mi Pu (Handbook of Spiritual and Marvelous Mysteries, 1425) and Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (Qin Handbook of Music from the Zhejiang [School] Elucidated through Lyrics, 1491). The intention of the compilers of these two works was to re-create the music that had been played in China in the 13th century, at the end of the Song dynasty. With our current state of knowledge it is not possible to say to what extent this was music of the Song dynasty rather than of the Ming dynasty, but it does seem to represent very well the musical ideals of 15th century guqin players.


The aim of this programme is first to show the scope and sheer beauty of guqin music from that time. At the same time, the accompanying discussion on guqin music form, and through question and answer session, will introduce the audience to a beautiful but largely unknown early tradition. The three performances focus on music published during different periods of the Ming dynasty, programme for each recital is selected from below:

Amidst Mountains Thinking of an Old Friend, Nomad Reed Pipe (Long Version), Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, Unity of the Great Ming, Fisherman's Song, Hidden Virtue, Wine Mad, Canon of Form and Emptiness (Heart Sutra), and more.

About the performer


John Thompson, was born in the USA, studied piano and violin as a child. After a college degree in Western musicology (early music) and graduate studies in ethnomusicology (Asian music), he began in 1974 to study the modern guqin tradition from Sun Yu-qin in Taiwan. In 1976 he turned his focus to its early repertoire, moving to Hong Kong to consult with Tong Kin-woon. Throughout these 40 years Thompson has continued his guqin work, which includes composing but emphasizes reconstructing, analyzing, teaching and performing ancient music for the guqin, gradually gaining a reputation for the fidelity, fluency and feeling of his performances. In 1992 he was invited to a seminar on reconstructing music from the earliest surviving guqin handbook, Shen Qi Mi Pu (Handbook of Spiritual and Marvelous Mysteries, 1425) in Beijing. In 1996 he began making CD recordings of his reconstructions, resulting in his first CD Music Beyond Sound; this was followed by his six CD publication of the complete music from Shen Qi Mi Pu. He has performed in the US and Europe as well as throughout Asia.


Since 1976 Thompson's focus has been guqin music published during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Through exclusive use of silk strings and carefully following the written scores, he has become the best-known practitioner of historically informed performance of early guqin music. In addition to the 77 melodies on his seven CDs, he has also recorded more than 120 of the further melodies he has reconstructed. All of the latter plus many recordings from his CDs can be heard on his website. This music, together with the accompanying extensive musicological, historical and philosophical commentary, makes it the most comprehensive online source of historical information on guqin.


John Thompson’s website: www.silkqin.com



Tickets available from 24 May onwards at all URBTIX outlets, on Internet and by Credit Card Telephone Booking.


Half-price tickets available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients. (Limited tickets for CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis).


Group Booking Discount

For each purchase of standard tickets for ‘Guqin Recitals with Sharing by John Thompson – Great Ming Silk String Zither Music’:

10% off for 2 different performances; 15% off for 3 different performances.

Patrons can enjoy only one of the above discount schemes for each purchase.  Please inform the box office staff at the time of purchase.


The duration of each performance is about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Audiences are strongly advised to arrive punctually.  No latecomers will be admitted until the interval or a suitable break in the programme.

The presenter reserves the right to substitute artists and change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.



Programme Enquiries: 2268 7321

Ticketing Enquiries: 3761 6661

Credit Card Telephone Booking: 2111 5999

Internet Booking: www.urbtix.hk

Programme Note




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