China the Beautiful

Four Arts of A Scholar -
Music, Chess, Calligraphy and Painting

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Throughout Chinese history, every scholar learns and strives to excel in four art forms: music, board game, calligraphy and painting. Fine points of these arts are taught as part of one's formal education; and skills in these arts are diligently honed and improved upon all one's life.
We often see these arts illustrated and mentioned in paintings and poems.

  • Music
    The music instrument which one learns to play is a 5 or 7-string guitar called a zither or guqin .
    The guqin is a seven-stringed plucked instrument. Its body is a long wooden sound box. Two sound-holes, which are, called "Fengzhao" and "Longchi" can be found at the bottom. Guqin is played by plucking and pressing the strings with the right hand and left hand respectively. Rich and colorful quiet sound. In the past, it was frequently used for accompaniment. With a long history of development, the playing of this instrument has become a distinctive performing art.
    The quqin is played while resting on the table.
    This painting shows a man playing the zither. The zither is clearly visible.

This illustration is reproduced from a book Poetry of WangWei.
The text of the poem with its English translation are shown also.

            Bamboo Adobe by WangWei
          I sit alone in the dark bamboo grove,
          Playing the zither and whistling long.
          In this deep wood no one would know -
          Only the bright moon comes to shine.

                                    tr. Liu Wu-chi

Read about more poems by WangWei ]

Guqin by John Thompson

  • Qi - Chess Game - WeiChi (Go) [WeiQi]
    WeiChi [WeiQi], commonly referred to in the Western literature by its Japanese name of Go, is the ultimate two-person board game.

    discusses more about WeiChi than you will probably ever need to know.

Weiqi board White Glaze Weiqi Board: the earliest one of its kind in China, Sui Dynasty (581 - 618), unearthed in Anyang City.

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