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Music Beyond Sound: An American's World of Guqin 1 希聲:一個美國琴人的境界  
A feature-length documentary by veteran Hong Kong filmmaker Lau Shing-hon,2 2019 紀錄長片;劉成漢監製導演,2019  
112 minutes;  Facebook page;3  TrailerTwo excerptsOuttakes;4  Reviews5 112分鐘;電影摘錄;   電影摘錄字幕、新聞稿  

This film premiered Saturday 31 August 2019 at the Hong Kong Movie Movie festival Life is Art 2019, preceded by a short foyer performance.6 The film itself was shot in segments over a ten year period.7 During its first year it is being submitted to various international film festivals; public availability will come after that.8


Press release / trailer text   新聞稿、電影摘錄字幕

In 1974 an American, John Thompson, went to Taiwan, then Hong Kong, to study Chinese and the guqin, a silk string zither with an ancient history. Now, 45 years later, he plays on, still inspired by the beauty of the music and by the culture that produced it.
1974年美國人John Thompson 唐世璋往台灣和香港學習中文和絲弦古琴。45年後他仍在孜孜不倦,全情投入在優美的古琴演奏和文化硏究之中。

In 2010 he was the only non-Chinese among 14 masters the Zhejiang Museum invited to play in a program featuring guqins over 1000 years old.

How did this happen? And why should a Westerner spend so much of his life in something so Chinese?

This documentary film, made over a 10 year period by Hong Kong veteran filmmaker Lau Shing Hon, tries to answer this.
香港資深導演劉成漢花了十年時間拍成的最新紀錄長片, 試圖解答這個問題!

* * *

An East-West rendezvous in classical music and culture!
西方邂逅千年東方古典文化與音樂的璀燦 !

Beautiful music! Fascinating! Moving!
Absolutely inspiring!

Not to be missed!

名家推介 - Testimonials from the film

  • Mr. Thompson not only plays qin, he also has been doing extensive dapu (reconstruction of early melodies) and in-depth research of qin culture, setting a very good example for our young people. The sounds he plays are very authentic because, unlike many who nowadays use only metal strings, he has always used silk strings. He is thus preserving a very important part of the qin tradition.
    Wang Duo, Suzhou guqin master

    唐世璋先生在打譜發堀古曲方面做了很好很多工作,给後人很好榜樣,他彈琴音色很傳统因為他用絲弦,不像現在很多人只用鋼弦,他保持了絲弦這個傳统, 應該是很重要的.

  • Mr. Thompson's work and his contribution to the art and culture of guqin are very impressive, especially to young friends and students studying guqin. They all admire Mr. Thompson very much!
    Dai Xiaolian, guqin master, professor at the Shanghai Conservatory


  • Mr. Thompson has not only completed reconstructing the entire classic qin Handbook of Spiritual and Marvelous Mysteries, he has also done much in-depth comparison of different tablatures for the same melodies in terms of their academic and artistic elements; although a foreigner, he has great devotion and dedication to Chinese arts and culture, I really have deep respect and gratitude for his achievements.
    Li Mingzhong, Xi'an guqin master and professor at the Xi'an Music Academy


  • His whole life is devoted to China's culture of guqin. He has made many precious contributions, such as his reconstructing of all the music in the Shen Qi Mi Pu, reflecting his unique points of view as a foreigner.
    Wu Zhao, Beijing guqin master and professor emeritus


  • When reconstructing ancient melodies John’s fingering techniques and positions on the strings are very authentic to the original tablature, so he has made many contributions to the discovery and preservation of the actual music...making unique contributions to guqin music culture.
    Tong Kin-Woon, Hong Kong guqin master


  • For a foreigner to contribute to Chinese culture such passion and creativity is really admirable. His guqin artistry has reached very high level.
    Ding Chengyun, guqin master, professor, Wuhan Music Academy

    唐先生一個外國人能夠對中國文化有這麼大的熱情,他這個創造力 的確是使人敬佩的; 他的古琴演奏水平相當高。 丁承運,著名古琴家,武漢音樂學院教授音樂學院教授

  • Mr. Thompson's guqin website is the best one at present, even including Chinese sites. It is so thorough and really impressive....
    Wang Bu, professor, East China Normal University

    作為一位美國學者,唐世璋目前對中國古琴所做的工作,在中國 本土也可說是鳳毛麟角.

  • In his dignified and concise performing style, Mr Thompson elegantly reveals the grace of the ancient guqin tradition of the literati rarely seen today! Such natural honest devotion is exceptional, Mr.Thompson has fully acheived the free and romantic spirit of the classical scholar.
    Bi Minghui, professor, School of Arts, Peking University



Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 希聲:一個美國琴人的境界 - Music Beyond Sound: An American's World of Guqin
A number of people worked on this film, most notably those mentioned in the film credits.

製作名單 Film Credits:

This page was initiated 1 May 2019.

2. 劉成漢 Lau Shing Hon (中文簡介)
Further information about Lau is linked here; see in particular his entry in the Ultimate Guide to HK Film Directors

Lau and I have been friends since 1978, when he asked me to do the music for his first feature film, 慾火焚琴 House of the Lute. To my knowledge this is still the only full length feature film to have used guqin music almost exclusively (see Guqin in film). Some of the musical decisions are described there.

3. Facebook page
Select "Posts" to make a comment. You should also be able to make a comment on
my Facebook page.

4. Outtakes
Other melodies recorded but not included in the film include:

These two scenes were filmed by 黃可範 Richard Wong on Cheung Chau island in February, 2017.

5. Film reviews
There was a very positive review of the premieve by leading Hong Kong film critic 石琪 Sek Kei for his column 傾偈集 Kinggai Gei in 明報 Ming Pao, 7 September 2019. (in Chinese;
original, not yet translated; .pdf).

6. Film premiere
The foyer performance (of necessity) featured my
qin with a piezo pickup under its silk strings. My piezo qin connects to an amplifier directly through a 1/4" plug on the end of the qin (warning).

7. Shot locations
Lau directed the filming in Hong Kong (including Cheung Chau and Tung Chung) and Hangzhou. The film also includes an official video from the Zhejiang Concert Hall (浙江音樂廳) in Hangzhou, plus a video I made in Tampa, Florida.

8. Screening the film
As of August 2019 non-commercial screenings can be arranged on request. Meanwhile, the "Watch Video" button on the film's
Facebook page links only to the trailer.
目前Facebook頁面上的"Watch Video"(觀看視頻)鏈接到電影預告片。

9. 電影預告片 Trailer for the film
Length: 2 min 36 sec.

10. 電影摘錄 Excerpt 1 from film
From 08.38 to 11.22; filmed in Tung Chung and Cheung Chau, Hong Kong

11. 電影摘錄 Excerpt 2 from film
From 17.10 to 18.07; filmed in Tung Chung, Hong Kong, with images from Taipei and Hong Kong.

12. Poster announcing the film
Poster design by 許晴嵐 Hui Ching Laam

13. Image from the opening scene
1 min 14 sec from the beginning; shot at the end of 海濤半島 Seascape Peninsula, above 香港長州南氹灣 Nam Tam Bay, Cheung Chau Island, Hong Kong. The text on screen refers to my focus on music of the Ming dynasty, discussed further here.

14. More stills from the film
The first two images are from Hong Kong, the last two were shot in Hangzhou.

電影預告片  Trailer for the film 9

電影摘錄 Excerpt from the film10

電影摘錄 Another excerpt from the film 11

Poster announcing the film 12

Music source (from the opening scene) 13

More stills from the film14

Go to JT Bio or to the Guqin ToC