Serene’s Blog: Gu Zheng Dreams

I started to learn the gu zheng when I was about 8 years old. The gu zheng (pronounced “gu jung”) is a Chinese plucked zither. It has 21 strings and bridges. I use 8 picks (4 on each hand), which I tape around my fingertips to pluck the strings. 

What I love about this special and unique instrument is that it has an amazing sound, and when I play it, it gives me a powerful feeling. I forget about my surroundings and all my thoughts melt into the air as I float away in my own world of gu zheng  dreams. When my parents saw my desire to learn the gu zheng, they found me a teacher, and I was set to work. The first few lessons were easy, but as I continue to play, the steps get more difficult and the songs harder to memorize. But I still cling to this magical instrument, which gives me a great feeling. 

I sometimes play the gu zheng for devotionals or get-togethers in our home. I have also played at a school, for the Chinese Moon Festival. My dad joined me in playing the end-blown Chinese bamboo flute called the xiao (pronounced “sheow”), while my sister played the rainstick and a unique bird whistle with water inside that sounds like a real bird singing when you blow into it. It was a lot of fun playing for the little kids at the school.

When I go to my teacher’s home for a lesson, the music takes me into my own world. I play the first two lines quite well, but stumble along the next two. My teacher stops me and shows me the correct way. I listen to her and look at the notes and follow. On some days, my hand aches from all the playing and my brain is full of notes and songs from the day. At night, tunes that I have played keep coming back to me, but I shake them off and continue dreaming. I am really glad that I stuck with this beautiful instrument, and now I still have a lot to learn.

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