Afterglow-style ‘Caifeng Mingqi’ seven-stringed guqin

Tang dynasty (618–907)

Length 124.8 cm, Length of string 116.3 cm, Width at widest part 18.8 cm, Depth 5.4 cm

One of the museum’s Top Ten Treasures

This guqin has a thick body and a slightly convex

back. Beneath the lacquer is a layer of ‘deer antler

putty’, which is rather thick as revealed at the

places where it has peeled off. The back is covered

mainly with the original chestnut-coloured lacquer,

which is interspersed with red lacquer. The top

and sides of the instrument have a coating of red

lacquer over the original lacquer. The back bears

'ice cracks' and 'bridge-over-stream cracks'. The top

bears an indistinct crack pattern, with small circles

resembling 'plum blossom cracks' near the third,

fourth and fifth hui (dots indicating the positions

for producing harmonics). The instrument has a

'dragon pool' and a 'phoenix pond', both oblong,

but no zhenchi ('tuning pegs pool'). The name of

the guqin, 'Caifeng Mingqi' (colourful phoenix

crying on Mount Qi), appears above the 'dragon

pool', which is surrounded by three eulogizing

inscriptions by Yang Zongji. Engraved within the

'dragon pool' are the words 'made by Lei Wei in the

2nd year of Kaiyuan of Great Tang' (ad 714). This

instrument has a classical and dignified appearance

and makes a sound suggestive of that of bronze bells

or chime stones. A description of it can be found

in Qin Xue Cong Shu (A Series of Books on Guqin

Studies). As one of the three guqin most treasured

by Yang Zongji, it was praised by the master for the

exceptional quality of its sound. (Fan Peiling)