By Wang Jue, People's Daily
Yangzhou, a city in east China's Jiangsu province, known as "capital of guzheng (a Chinese plucked zither)," is seeing thriving development of the musical instrument manufacturing industry, frequent guzheng-playing competitions, as well as vibrant exchange and training activities of the ancient Chinese musical instrument.
Over the recent years, the city has been leveraging technology for better development of the guzheng manufacturing sector.
Xiong Liqun, honorary president of the Yangzhou City Guzheng Association, has developed an electric guzheng. Different from traditional models, the electric one is made of environment-friendly composite materials, which makes the instrument lighter and more portable.
Besides, the electric guzheng comes with a worm drive tuning device that makes tuning much more easier. In addition, the instrument can be connected to earphones and speakers to avoid disturbing neighbors while playing and to ensure clear sound in big classrooms.
Xiong has not only redesigned the appearance of guzheng but also developed an artificial intelligence teaching system that makes guzheng teaching convenient, interesting, and more efficient.
Jia Hongliu, a guzheng manufacturer from Yangzhou's 486 Intangible Cultural Heritage Center, has also invented an intelligent teaching support system, which can recognize and rate guzheng sound quality, finger exercise, and playing posture. It supports guzheng teaching with interactive projection, as well as audio and video materials, and enables tuning through smart string recognition and projection calibration technologies.
"We hope to make breakthroughs in guzheng teaching with the latest technologies, so as to better popularize the instrument," said Jia.
After some 40 years of development, Yangzhou now stands as the largest guzheng manufacturing base and cultural base in China.
Li Tongzhi, president of the Yangzhou City Guzheng Association, told People's Daily that Yangzhou is home to over 280 enterprises engaged in the guzheng industry. Each year, the city produces around 650,000 sets of guzheng, 65,000 sets of guqin, another type of plucked string Chinese musical instrument, and more than a million sets of guqin and guzheng accessories.
About 20 of these enterprises boast annual income of 10 million yuan ($1.48 million), and three rank among the top 50 musical instrument makers in China.
Relevant industries are prospering in the city because of the sound development of guzheng manufacturing. At present, there are more than 80 enterprises in Yangzhou involved in the making of guzheng accessories, such as radens, jade, cases, stands, strings, and hardware. Besides, the city receives over 100,000 tourists attending guzheng activities on an annual basis, which has facilitated consumption in catering, accommodation, transportation, tourism, shopping, culture, and training. According to incomplete statistics, more than 25,000 people in Yangzhou are engaged in the guzheng industry.
Yangzhou is home to more than 100 guzheng training facilities and millions of guzheng learners. It has launched a campaign that encourages every elementary and middle school in the city to open extracurricular courses about intangible cultural heritage items, such as guzheng, guqin, Yangzhou opera, oral performing arts, and puppetry. The campaign helps introduce guzheng to more people and will lay a solid foundation for the future development of the instrument.
It is culture and craftsmanship that vitalize Yangzhou's guzheng manufacturing, and now technology is leading the traditional Chinese musical instrument to a brighter future. The guzheng industry of Yangzhou is bound to see further improvement as it is inherited, popularized, and expands its influence both in China and in the rest of the world.