Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese String Instruments (Guqin) (3)

Now, the last of this series:

  1. Pillar Circler

Appearance & Characteristics:

Its name came from a story published in a famous ancient text: a renowned female singer from the Han region in the Zhou dynasty who was travelling to the Qi kingdom but ran out of money half way and so had to resort to singing on the street to beg for money. Her melancholy sword circled in the air like the call of a swallow. Moreover, it was said that her voice still circled and reverberated among the pillars within houses three days after she had left. Thus, this instrument had a strong echo.

Lore:

When this instrument was actually constructed is unknown. However, legend says that it was brought to the Lord of the Chu kingdom (known as Chu Zhuang Wang, that’s not his actual name but a title, Wang is the Chinese character for a feudal lord) as a tribute by a person named Hua Yuan. It was said that Chu Zhuang Wang received the Pillar Circler, he was totally immersed in the beautiful music it produced. There was once when he didn’t go to court for seven consecutive days and forgot all about the affairs of the kingdom. His wife got really worried and said to him, “Lord, you are too immersed in music! In the past, Lord Xia Jie loved to hear Mei Xi playing the Se (another string instrument that have 50, 25 or 23 strings). Similarly, Lord Zhou lost the kingdom to decadent music. Now, Lord you are so immersed in the music produced by the Pillar Circler so as to not go to court for seven days. Do you also want to forfeit your kingdom and your life?” That made Chu Zhuang Wang think. In the end, he decide to heed his wife’s advice. So he ordered the Pillar Circler to be broken up by iron hammers and this highly sought after instrument became history.

  1. Horn-bell

Appearance & Characteristics:

The timbre from this instrument is very grand, like the long note from a horn or the ringing of a temple bell (that is usually as tall and wide as one man), such that music produced from it would vibrate strongly in audiences’ ears.

Lore:

Made in the Zhou dynasty, *Bo Ya (a skilled player of the guqin who was renowned because the story about him and his friend created the Chinese term for a friend who has a keen appreciation for one’s talents zhi yin which literally means “know music/sound”) had once owned it. It subsequently fell into the hands of Qi Yuan Gong, the virtuous Lord of the Qi Kingdom during the period of the Spring and Autumn Warring States. He was a man who had great musical talents and had quite a collection of high quality guqins. Among these, he especially treasured Horn-bell. He had once asked his retainers to knock on the horns of oxen and sing accompaniments while he used the Horn-bell to perform. It was said that the effect was very poignant and the servants who were serving on the side all ended up in tears.

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