GuqinPronounced "chin" (stringed instrument) or "goo chin" (old stringed instrument), the guqin throughout its long history has been the musical instrument most praised by China's literati. They categorised it as one of their "four arts", collected it as an art object, praised its beautiful music, and built around it a complex ideology. No other instrument was so often depicted in paintings, or so regularly mentioned in poetry. Because of the literati's fondness for writing things down, it also has the world's oldest detailed written instrumental music tradition, providing sufficient information to allow both historically informed performance (requiring use of silk strings) of early music, and practical exploration of the relationship between Chinese music theory and music practice.
The qin tradition was generally passed down from master to student by rote learning. The music was written in a tablature which details tuning, finger positions, stroke techniques and ornamentation, but does not directly indicate note values (rhythm). Reconstructing the music involves looking for structures within the playing technique, comparing different versions, and understanding the thematic and historical background of the melodies.