The Legend of Silk and Wood: A Hong Kong Qin Story

Date    :   12 December 2013 – 10 March 2014
Venue : Thematic Gallery 5, Hong Kong Heritage Museum


Presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department
Co-organised by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and the Choi Chang Sau Qin Making Society


With a history dating back more than 3,000 years, the qin, or guqin as this Chinese zither is more commonly called today, is one of the oldest plucked musical instruments in China: traditionally regarded as one of the "Four Arts of the Scholar", along with qi (chess), shu (calligraphy) and hua (painting), it represented the height of musical prowess and was long associated with China's literati. Occupying a distinctive position in Chinese culture, the art of guqin music was designated a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003 and has thus been recognised as part of the world's intangible cultural heritage.


Hong Kong is home to a number of qin lovers who – following in the steps of qin players of the past who traditionally built their own instruments – have dedicated themselves to passing on the playing and making of the qin. Not only does the instrument embody a musical skill, the process of crafting involved is also inherently an art. To mark the 10th anniversary of UNESCO's announcement, we are joining hands with the Choi Chang Sau Qin Making Society to present an exhibition that promotes the appreciation of qin in Hong Kong by looking at the transmission of this ancient art from the perspectives of "traditional craftsmanship" and "performing arts" as defined by the UNESCO's Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Highlighting the skills involved in making and playing the instrument, the exhibition brings the public into this world of music and craftsmanship by showcasing all things qin, including artists, instruments, strings, music and musical notations. Visitors can also gain an insight into the work of the qin luthier – applying both hands and heart to his creation – through the reconstructed qin-crafting studio in the gallery, while learning the steps and skills of this artful blend of silk and wood.


Exhibit Highlights


Songfenghan, a qin made by Master Choi Chang-sau

qin made by Master Choi Chang-sau

Some of the tools used in qin making

Some of the tools used in qin making

To begin making a qin, an outline of the desired style must be drawn onto the wood according to the paper pattern. Next, one must use axe and saw to cut out the basic shape. The body is then planed and fine-tuned. The curvature of the top board has to be inspected with the help of rulers from time to time.

Laosantai Huihui Tang qin strings

Laosantai Huihui Tang qin strings 

Early years of the Republic of China


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