UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Historical and contemporary development of the Chinese zheng Han, Mei


The zheng is a plucked, half-tube Chinese zither with a history of over two and a half millennia. During this time, the zheng, as one of the principal Chinese instruments, was used in both ensemble and solo performances, playing an important role in Chinese music history. Throughout its history, the zheng underwent several major changes in terms of construction, performance practice, and musical style. Social changes, political policies, and Western musical influences also significantly affected the development of the instrument in the twentieth century; thus the zheng and its music have been brought to a new stage through forces of modernization and standardization. This thesis focuses mainly upon contemporary changes. Chapter One reviews zheng history before the 20th century, including its etymology, origin, construction, and music. The discussion is based upon historical documents, archaeological finds, and contemporary studies from both Chinese and non- Chinese sources. Through an examination of social, political, and cultural issues, Chapter Two examines the contribution of musicians who have facilitated the transition from traditional styles to modern interpretations of zheng music. Finally, Chapter Two also examines aspects of modernized instruments, such as the construction of the changeable-key zheng and the butterfly-shaped zheng, together with some new performance techniques and new compositions.

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