“Qin - The story of the Chinese instrument qin, and its significance within the lives of the educated classes, the music, poets, individuals and perceptions associated with the qin - not least how to live your life - and something of what I experienced when I became deeply involved in this."
In the spring of 1961, some years before the Cultural Revolution, Cecilia Lindqvist travelled to Beijing in order to study Chinese and to learn how to play the qin, the ancient string instrument. At that time she knew nothing about its remarkable sounds, names and inscriptions, and she had never heard the tales and stories the music represents. But living among hungry students and older Chinese people, she soon came into contact with an ancient tradition.
In the olden days, playing the qin was a kind of meditation, a way of freeing oneself from the world and finding the way to wisdom. It was the main instrument played by the educated upper class. But it also offered a refuge to tired public officials, to exiled opponents of the system and poor poets, enabling them to escape from a harsh world and showing them the way to the heart of Chinese culture.
Dragons and phoenixes, imperial gardens and wine festivals, the longing for peace and quiet - when Cecilia Lindqvist talks about this instrument which is many thousands of years old, we come closer to the whole of this ancient classical culture. And she does this with the ease and simplicity only a truly deep knowledge can bring.
“The pace of our learning was indescribably slow. We struggled to make progress. After a few weeks I asked Wang Di if I couldn’t perhaps have some scales or other exercises to practise at home. She didn’t understand what I meant. I tried to explain. Chords. Scales. Etudes. Exercises, moving up and down. Sharp and flat. Using the whole keyboard! Using all your fingers! Like you do on the piano.
She stared at me in horror. You can’t treat an instrument like that, surely! Did we really do that in my country? Did we have no respect whatsoever for our instruments?
I think that was the first time I really understood the position of the qin in Chinese culture."