China has not only been one of the most influential countries in East Asia, but it has become one of the strongest nations in the world, having once taken up most of the territory in Asia. With such a history of territorial expansion and invasion, the extent of its cultural influence on other Asian nations is both unsurprising and inevitable: the influence it has conferred on other nations is very prominent.
One of the reasons behind this successful transference of culture is the ease with which other countries such as Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have accepted Confucianism, a philosophical and ethical system derived from the teachings of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius. The ideology of Confucianism places an emphasis on human morality and good deeds, and is less a religion and more an elaborate set of teachings regarding socio-political and philosophical thought that encompasses ethics, familial obligations, honor, social responsibility and respect of history, ritual and ancestry.
The embrace of Confucianism has varied according to country, though its core concepts remain fundamentally unchanged. In any case, whatever the reasons behind the spread of Chinese culture, one element that has a significant impact Korea and Japan is music. Ch’in, is one of the oldest musical instruments of China, and is one example that best illustrates this influence in both countries. This paper discusses the evolution of ch’in throughout the region, and draws parallels between it and the Komon’go, an ancient string instrument from Korea.
Because both share similarities in terms of appearance, playing method and philosophy of play it is argued that the latter instrument is originated by the former. Ch’in and Its Structure The ch’in is a seven-stringed Chinese instrument similar to a zither or lute, alleged to have a history dating as far back as 3,000 B. C. This gives the ch’in the recognition of being an instrument of great antiquity, and as such is also called gu-ch’in, which literally means “ancient stringed instrument” in Chinese, which has been played for “more than two thousand years as it is still today.
” (Gulik, preface) The construction of ch’in is very unique and has been handed down from generation to generation. Standing at about four feet in length and bearing a width of about 0. 75 feet, the ch’in is possessed of a quiet elegance that is further reflected by a tradition of constructing it entirely in dark colors such as black, deep brown or rust brown. The musical range of the ch’in is about four octaves. (Lam 353) The ch’in’s surface is rounded, not unlike a roofing tile, and its bottom is flat and straight. It has a broad and sloping head with a narrow tail, with a vase-like form.
According to Britannica Online Encyclopedia, the body of the ch’in is, by tradition, representative of the 365 days of the year; meaning 3 chi (foot), 6 cun (inch) and 5 fen (one-tenth of inch). The thickness of each of the seven strings’ differs gradually, with the thickest string being farthest from the player’s body. These seven strings, made of silk, are commonly tuned to pentatonic scales and have thirteen inlays call hui along the side pinpointing the positions for left-hand finger movements along the strings. (Lam 354)
These huis are evenly placed across intervals that are marked usually by seashells, porcelain and in some cases, even gold. The center-most hui is the largest, and the rest of the hui spread outward are progressively smaller. The hui are numbered sequentially beginning with the one one closest to the bridge down to the one closest to the nut. “[Strings] are stretched over a narrow and slightly convex sound board, usually made of paulownia wood (sterculia plantanifolia); the underside of the sound board is closed by a flat base, usually made of zi (Chinese catalpa). ” (Encyclopedia)