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Hear the sounds of the legendary Guzheng and meet the musician keeping the art alive

Weishan Liu has been playing the Guzheng for more than half a century. She, along with the San Francisco Guzheng Music Society, play Guzheng concerts regularly.

SAN FRANCISCO — When you stroll through San Francisco's Chinatown you will hear a variety of sounds.

Not far from this historic neighborhood is a beautiful sound the Chinese have created for generations. It comes from an instrument known as the guzheng.

"Gu means ancient. Zheng means zither. So, it means ancient zither," said Anna Wong with the San Francisco Guzheng Music Society San Francisco Guzheng Music Society Home Page. "This instrument was introduced in China. It's created over 2,500 years ago."

Weishan Liu has been playing the guzheng since she was a teenager. She did not choose this instrument, her teacher did.

"He looked at her hand and looked at her fingers, you have strong fingers. I think you can play this instrument," said Wong.

Weishan Liu plays the guzheng like few others.

"She is a musician, fantastic musician, in my opinion," said Wong.

"Music is a feeling art. It's not a ritual art. You have to really feel it," said Weishan Liu. "When you feel the music, then you play. The sounds are different."

As a young performer Weishan Liu became such an accomplished musician she rose to the pinnacle of her profession in her home country.

"She was selected as a soloist in one of the most prestigious orchestras in China in Beijing, the central orchestra meaning representing the government," said Wong. "She gave that up to come to this country at the height of her career."

Now 75, Weishan Liu is not slowing down. In addition to being a musician and composer, she has taught several thousand people how to play the 13-string guzheng.

"Because it's a traditional instrument that plays traditional, ancient pieces, so as the children learn about the pieces, they learn about their history," said Wong.

In San Francisco, there is a group of performers that have been together 40 years. The San Francisco Guzheng Music Society performs annual concerts, keeping her music alive.

In a city with a variety of sounds, there is one plucked from silk strings that stirs history and captures the "Spirit of China".

"I don't know why I have a responsibility for this guzheng  so I just kept playing. I keep playing," said Weishan Liu.

The "Spirit of China" series highlights the culture of Chinese-Americans across the United States. Learn about the people, the history and the challenges of Chinatowns in Chicago, New York and San Francisco while the world focuses on the Winter Olympics in Beijing.


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