Seven-stringed zither (Spring Breeze)

Stringed musical instrument made of wood and coated in a dark brown lacquer. Shape is long and narrow with a slightly convex surface and a flat back. Below the head, which contains the bridge for the strings, is a recessed neck, wide shoulders, narrow waist and round-edged tail. On the proper right side of the front are thirteen shell studs, inlaid along the length at unequal intervals.

On the back are two cut-out rectangular openings: a larger one (“Dragon Pool”) near the center and a smaller one (“Phoenix Pond”) near the tail. There are seven silk strings, tied on the front at the bridge (“Dew Receptacle”), drawn across the length of the qin through a narrow recess (“Dragon Gum”) in the tail and then wrapped and knotted around two turned wood legs (“Goose Feet”) inserted into the lower half of the back. Connected to the strings tied on the front are seven horn tuning pegs set into a recess (“Peg Pool”) on the back. The pegs have blue silk cordage with tassels. At the top of the head, seen on the back, are two curved feet (“Peg Guards”).

There are two inscriptions on the back, located between the neck and shoulder. Both are incised. The center one is partially filled with a white material; the left facing one is partially filled with a red, glossy material, probably lacquer.

Maker(s)
Calligrapher: Forged inscription of Wen Zhengming 文徵明 (1470-1559)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 1368-1644
Medium
Lacquered wood, water buffalo horn, mother of pearl, and silk strings
Dimensions
H x W x D: 11 x 18.2 x 124.5 cm (4 5/16 x 7 3/16 x 49 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Shing Yiu Yip
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1999.8
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Musical Instrument
Type

Zither (qin)

Keywords
China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), qin, WWII-era provenance, zither
Provenance

Mrs. Chan Wai Fong Yip (died 1969), Hong Kong [1]

To 1999
Dr. Yip Shing Yiu, Hong Kong, by descent, to 1999 [2]

From 1999
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Dr. Yip Shing Yiu in 1999

Notes:

[1] In a letter dated April 22, 1999 (see copy in the object file), Dr. Shing Yiu Yip explains how the objects came to be with his mother, Mrs. Chan Wai Fong Yip: "…they came from her family with several qin players, in Guangzhou, and were given or left to her in Hong Kong before World War II, and so probably acquired in the late 30's, as I could remember them from childhood during the War in Hong Kong" (according to Curatorial Note 4 in the object record).

[2] Dr. Yip Shing Yiu donated to the museum in 1999, see acquisition file.

[3] See note 2.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Mrs. Chan Wai Fong Yip died 1969
Dr. Yip Shing Yiu born 1933

Description

Stringed musical instrument made of wood and coated in a dark brown lacquer. Shape is long and narrow with a slightly convex surface and a flat back. Below the head, which contains the bridge for the strings, is a recessed neck, wide shoulders, narrow waist and round-edged tail. On the proper right side of the front are thirteen shell studs, inlaid along the length at unequal intervals.

On the back are two cut-out rectangular openings: a larger one ("Dragon Pool") near the center and a smaller one ("Phoenix Pond") near the tail. There are seven silk strings, tied on the front at the bridge ("Dew Receptacle"), drawn across the length of the qin through a narrow recess ("Dragon Gum") in the tail and then wrapped and knotted around two turned wood legs ("Goose Feet") inserted into the lower half of the back. Connected to the strings tied on the front are seven horn tuning pegs set into a recess ("Peg Pool") on the back. The pegs have blue silk cordage with tassels. At the top of the head, seen on the back, are two curved feet ("Peg Guards").

There are two inscriptions on the back, located between the neck and shoulder. Both are incised. The center one is partially filled with a white material; the left facing one is partially filled with a red, glossy material, probably lacquer.

Inscription(s)

Inscription by Wen Zhengming (fake)

Label

This instrument's silhouette, traditionally called Zhongni (Confucius's given name), is the most common shape for the qin. The tradition that Confucius was an ardent advocate of the instrument's virtues and a master qin player, coupled with the strong Confucian following among emperors and scholarly elite during the Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties made it a popular shape for qin dating from these periods.

The back of this qin bears the signature of Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), one of the foremost scholar-painters of his time, but is probably spurious. However, such an attribution, even if unsubstantiated, indicates that the qin was prized for its associations with cultured individuals. Possession of the instrument would have been considered an adequate reflection of its owner's virtues.

The inscription reads:

Spring Breeze

Zhengming (i.e. Wen Zhengming, 1470-1559)

Published References
  • 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer. Exh. cat. Hong Kong. cat. 113, pp. 232 - 233.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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