The fact that I stumbled upon the guqin (Chinese zither) while visiting the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in late 2003 and subsequently picked it up continues to be of fascination to Chinese journalists. Most recently, my self-proclaimed “moral self-cultivation” through guqin practice interested China Newsweek (no connection to Newsweek) enough for them to ask for my insight into modern Chinese culture. It’s the old “foreign monks read scriptures better” adage as the basis for an article entitled basically “Leading a Life of Few Wants and Ambitions in China.” I wish that title better described me. The author asked a number of foreigners who practice traditional Chinese arts what they have to say to modern Chinese readers. The quote the author used from me was about us moderns being afraid to spend time alone with ourselves, that people are always running away from their thoughts to some kind of distraction like the television, or worse. Since I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years meditating and becoming a calmer and happier person because of it, I wanted to pass that message along. (I’m not sure if that message came through or not). Finding a hobby like writing or playing an instrument is great, but it doesn’t compare to the benefits of yoga and meditation (at least for me).
An earlier article in 2005 “An American Guy’s Romance with the Guqin” popped up without me knowing it just using various bits and bobs from my websites. The article is mostly just un-cited cuts from my old blog A Backpack and a Keyboard. After I emailed them, the editors graciously cited my words and made a few suggested changes. Re-reading the article brings back memories.
Learning guqin has been one of the best decisions I have ever made toward making new friends in China and abroad. I’m overjoyed that the ancient instrument that nearly went extinct during the Nationalist period continues to make a comeback. I’m no maestro, but plucking out the few songs I know still compliments the birds and the frog songs nicely.
You can read more about me and my guqin here.