Type: Zither > Chordophone.
Region: China > Far East Asia.
Dimensions: Length / Width cm.
Acquisition Source: China, Randy Raine-Reusch.
Description: The zheng or gu-zheng is the parent instrument of the Asian long zither family. Classified as a silk instrument in the Chinese classification scheme. New evidence has shown that the zheng may even be older. In Mandarin the prefix “go” means “antiquity”.
History: Originally the zheng was described as a half-tube
wood zither with movable bridges, over which a number of strings
are attached. Upon the arrival of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)
the amount of strings had increased. Later, during the Qing
dynasty (1644-1911 AD) the zheng remained very popular. Continuing
to evolve as a musical instrument in the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD).
A 13 string zheng became an important instrument in court. A
12-stringed instrument continued to exist under the name "qing
shang youe" who evolved during the Sui and Tang dynasties.
Development: Eventually the 12 stringed instrument was replaced by a 13-stringed instrument. Many traditions were threatened to disappear during the turbulent war torn years of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Through out the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) the zheng evolved to having 14 and 15 strings. Due to the social climate of the Ming Dynasty musicians who played the zheng were stigmatized as being a member of low social status. The skill and repertoire of the zheng were taught orally. Since the arrival of the 20th century the numerous attempts at modernizing the zheng are on going.
Playing Techniques: Traditionally the zheng is played with plectrums worn around the finger usually of tortoise shell but plastic plectrums are the norm now. Experimental techniques may include bowing, hammering, prepared zheng (adding paper clips to each string for example).