The gu-zheng is one of the oldest zithers in the world, originating in China over 2,000 years ago. The earliest known versions were constructed with a bamboo frame and silk strings. The gu-zheng became very popular both in the imperial court and among the common people. Historical records give vivid accounds of the instrument and its music. The gu-zheng remained popular through the early 1900’s, when musicians began the first attempts to formalize gu-zheng music by compiling and arranging both classical and popular works. In 1948, the renowned musician Cao Zheng established the first university level gu-zheng program in China. After the Cultural Revolution, the 1980’s revival of folk music also paved the way for the gu-zheng’s return to popularity.
Weishan Liu has played the gu-zheng since the late-1940’s. She studied under Master Cao Zheng at the Shen Yang Music Conservatory in China. Weishan moved to the United States in 1982, and founded the San Francisco Gu-Zheng Music Society to promote the gu-zheng and traditional Chinese music and culture, and to provide cultural exchange and performance opportunities for musicians of all levels.
In 2008, Weishan participated in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Regina Ngo. Their apprenticeship focused on two important compositions from the ancient musical repertoire and practicing playing techniques, posture breathing, and developing stylistic interpretation.
Regina Ngo completed an apprenticeship in 2008 with master artist Weishan Liu, receiving training in the Chinese gu-zheng, one of the world's oldest zithers. Photo: Sherwood Chen