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The Metropolitan Museum of New York 大都會美術館
  A woman playing qin (Met Collection)1        
The Metropolitan Museum's Musical Instruments collection includes quite a few guqins. Most of them are in storage; of those on display, one is off the Astor Garden Chinese Court while the others are in one of the André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments" newly re-opened in 2019 (Galleries 680-684).

According to the museum online catalogue, as of 2023 the Met has the following guqins.

  1. 17th c. Prince of Lu qin 2 (Gallery 684, a music instrument gallery); see details below about the qin itself as well as performances with it
  2. 17th-18th c. qin 3 (Gallery 684, same music instrument gallery as above); links to a recording of Guan Shan Yue on a modern qin with metal strings
  3. Ming dynasty (?) qin 4 (Gallery 218, hanging on the north wall off the Astor Court); no recording
  4. Mid-19th c. qin named "Yunzhu" 5 (Gallery 681), another musical instrument gallery; referred to there as "Xiangpu's Treasure"; accompanied by the same metal string recording as #2
  5. 19th c. qin 6 (not on display); recording same as previous
  6. 19th c. qin 7 (not on display); recording same as previous
  7. 19th c. guqin from Japan 8 (not on display); no recording (labeled as a 七弦琴 Shichigenkin [7-string qin])
  8. 21st c. qin from Yangzhou 9 (no image and not on display); no recording

When I visited the music instrument curatorial area in 2003 I heard that there were three instruments in storage that were not available to be seen. One was said to be in very bad condition (the back was cracked) and the other two were said to be Japanese (-made?) qins in bad shape. I am not sure of how all this ties in together with the above list found on the Met website in 2023.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Image: woman playing qin
This image was copied from the Met museum website, which identifies it as late 18th century. For differing types of qin-themed paintings see Guqin in Art.

2. Prince of Lu Qin (潞王琴 Lu Wang Qin) (currently removed from display for research purposes)
This instrument, acquired by the Museum in 1999, is the earliest known qin attributed to the Ming dynasty Prince of Lu Zhu Changfang (1608 - 1646). As such it is probably the best known and best studied guqin in the Museum's collection. The prince is known to have made (or supervised the making of) over 200 qin between 1633 and around 1644 (the last year of the Ming dynasty), at least a dozen of which are known to have survived (details). As for this one, dated to 1633 or 1634, it has inscribed on its back the title "中和 Zhong He" (like most surviving Luwang qins), and has the standard Luwang shape (q.v.).

Zhu Changfang is also noted for his qin handbook Guyin Zhengzong, dated 1634; this handbook has tablature for 50 melodies, most notably the earliest surviving version of the still-extremely popular melody Pingsha Luo Yan (Wild Geese Descend on a Sandbank).

Playing the Met's Luwang Qin
Around the time of its acquisition by the Met in 1999 this qin was re-strung with new and somewhat thick silk strings. These strings were then quite slack and somewhat rough, perhaps never before played (see
Breaking in new silk strings). So before a performance I had with the qin at the Museum on November 7th, 2003, I first had to re-mount them in order to tune them up high enough for playing without zayin. Although I was then able to practice with the qin a number of times, partially in order to break in the strings, their sound remained somewhat rough, as can heard a newer performance linked on its website. This was made in 2016 of 呂皎月 Jiaoyue Lyu playing Qiu Feng Ci, a 20th c. melody than can be traced back to the 1709 Qiu Feng Qu.

According to my recollection, for my performance I tuned the bottom string to about Bb just over an octave below middle C. However, over time the pitch naturally lowers and thus, on the recording by Jiaoyue Lyu, the bottom string seems to be tuned down to G.

(Explanation [see also "absolute pitch" under Tuning a qin]: Due to influence from Chinese conservatories, qins today usually have metal strings tuned based on the standard of A=440 Hz, with the bottom string pitched an octave below middle C. With silk strings this tuning causes the strings to be somewhat unstable and more prone to breakage, whereas when tuned down to A or below they hold their tuning very well [except with wide changes in humidity] and very rarely break.)

3. Another qin in the music instrument section (also currently removed from display for research purposes)
This beautiful instrument, which has no inscriptions, was a gift of curator-emeritus 屈志仁 James C.Y. Watt (see his The Qin and the Chinese Literati). The Met normally has it in the music instrument room and that room has a qin hanging vertically in a glass case. However, currently the qin has been taken away for further research.

4. Qin by Astor Chinese Garden Court (map)
For many years the qin at the north end of the Astor Court was resting on a table. It is not clear whether that was the same qin as this one, which is currently hanging on a nearby wall. This qin is identified as a "Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (Wikipedia: Robert H. Ellsworth; 1929-2014), in honor of Mrs. C. Douglas Dillon, 1981" (née Phyllis Chess Ellsworth). Although this suggests authenticity and good quality, the data actually given with it seems to be somewhat garbled and the single image is not very sharp. (What does "right end" mean? 10 1/8 inch length must be a mistake. And "purple zitan" is a very hard wood to use on a qin, so presumably this refers to the bridge and/or the "corner hats" up at the top end.) When I saw this qin in the curator's area the wall mounting, which uses two plugs that cover the two sound holes, made it impossible to see the original bare wood. There had also been considerable restoration done, e.g., of a long crack in the wood on the bottom side.

5. Qin named Mellifluous Bamboo (韻竹 Yunzhu) or Xiangpu's Treasure (香浦鈞藏 Xiangpu Jun Zang?)?
The title "Yun Zhu is written in large characters on the back while a seal at the end saying Xiangpu Jun Zang seems to suggest Xiangpu was a nickname of the owner. There are two lengthy inscriptions, one of which concerns the friendship of the scholar Boya and the woodsman Zhong Ziqi.

Further information given here regarding the illustration is somewhat confusing, for example, with regard to which qin is in which room.

6. 19th century Qin
No inscription; credited to the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889.

7. 19th century Qin
No inscription; as with previous, credited to the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889.

8. Qin from Japan
No apparent inscription, but no image of the back (damaged?); credited only as a "Museum accession". The Japanese qin tradition is discussed here but at present it is not clear whether this was connected to this tradition or where it was made.

9. Modern qin from Yangzhou
This qin is said to be in "綠綺 luqi style". As an instrument apparently made since 2000, its quality is not clear (more on Yangzhou qins). There are no images; the credit line says, "Gift of the artist, Liqun Xiong, Zhou Yi, and Yimin Miao, 2016".


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