Tong Kin-Woon  
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
Qin play Shenzhen Studio   Website   Qin Fu   "Shang Musical Instruments"   1978 Performance 首頁
Tong Kin-Woon 1 唐健垣
  Dr. Tong in his Hong Kong studio 2     
Dr. Tong Kin-Woon (Ph.D, Wesleyan University, 1983) is a life-long resident of Hong Kong, though for a number of years he has also had a residence across the border in Shenzhen and in 2019 he opened a Qin Storehouse there. Normally he divides his time between his flats in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, teaching qin and other subjects.

Dr. Tong is a specialist in a great variety of subjects including,

Dr. Tong also teaches qin,8 repairs them9 and has for sale a number of antique qins, qins made by other well-known makers, and new ones that he personally selected during trips to China, Yangzhou in particular.10

Two of Dr. Tong's most important publications are,

  1. Qin Fu, a collection of original writings plus old handbooks and articles.
    Originally published in Taiwan in 1974, reprinted 1981.
  2. Shang (Dynasty) Musical Instruments, his doctoral dissertation for a Ph.D in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University, Connecticut.
    Published in the journal Asian Music, Volumes XIV-2, XV-1 and XV-2 (1983/4; further details and links to the pdf version below).
As of 2023 Dr. Tong is working on two books,
  1. 唐門琴譜 Tangmen Qinpu, an instruction book that will have tablature for the versions of about 25 melodies he plays as well as a number of essays.
  2. A Chinese edition of his dissertation on Shang dynasty music.

A unique fountain of knowledge Visiting Dr. Tong at his Hong Kong studio            
From 1976 to 2000 Dr. Tong was my advisor in Hong Kong. After having had intensive guqin lessons for two years in Taiwan with Sun Yü-Ch'in I had begun to dabble in the earlier repertoire, leading me to imagine that perhaps this might become the focus for what was to become my work. Having begun to study the collected essays as well as old guqin tablature in the above-mentioned Qin Fu by Tong Kin-Woon it seemed as though the next step should be to go to Hong Kong and try to study with him. As it turned out, while Tong had been in Taiwan he had studied with Mr. Sun, who was happy to give me an introduction.

Tong Kin-Woon's qin repertoire was, of course, largely the same as that of Sun Yü-Ch'in, and I always enjoyed hearing him play these old melodies. However, by this time my focus had become the earlier repertoire, and for this there could not have been a better guide than Tong Kin-Woon. During my years living in Hong Kong he spent a very generous amount of time helping me to find and understand materials necessary for analyzing and reconstructing old guqin tablatures and texts.11

Dr. Tong's Hong Kong address is: 12

Tong's Art Studio
Orchid House, lst floor
173 Sai Yeung Choi St. North
Mongkok, Hong Kong
Cell phone and WeChat: +852-6194 4624

Dr. Tong also regularly goes to his studio in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong.
Cellphone: +86-18420454931

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 唐健垣 Tong Kin-Woon (
In Mandarin, Tang Jianyuan. He originally studied qin and oracle bones in Hong Kong with Rao Zongyi. Living in Taiwan from 1967 to 1970 while earning his BA from Taiwan Normal University he studied qin with 吳宗漢 Wu Zonghan and 王憶慈 Wang Yici as well as Sun Yü-Ch'in. He subsequently returned to Hong Kong and earned an M.A. focused on oracle bone studies at Chinese University of Hong Kong. Before and after earning his Ph.D. from Wesleyan University in 1983 he studied guqin with a number of other players in China including Wu Jinglue, 王華德 Wang Huade (1922-2008) and others.

2. Dr. Tong in his Hong Kong studio (Image source:
His Hong Kong studio is packed with qin and books. Compare his Shenzhen Studio.

3. Qin playing
Dr. Tong studied with Sun Yü-Ch'in while doing his M.A. on oracle bones at Taiwan National University, 1972-4. Over the years he also studied with a number of masters from different schools of qin.

In this video, Dr. Tong plays 憶故人 Yi Gu Ren as published in Jinyu Qin Kan (1937) and taught by Sun Yü-ch'in.

In addition to Yi Gu Ren there are a number of other recordings by Tong Kin-Woon available on the internet, BiliBili in particular. These include:

  1. 長們怨     Changmen Yuan
  2. 關山月     Guan Shan Yue
  3. 歸去來辭 Gui Qu Lai Ci
  4. 酒狂         Jiu Kuang
  5. 良宵引     Liang Xiao Yin
  6. 流水         Liu Shui
  7. 極樂吟     Ji Le Yin
  8. 梅花三弄 Meihua Sannong
  9. 平沙落雁 Pingsha Luo Yan
  10. 普庵咒     Pu'an Zhou
  11. 秋風辭     Qiu Feng Ci
  12. 仙翁操     Xian Weng Cao
  13. 湘江怨     Xiang Jiang Yuan
  14. 瀟湘水雲 Xiao Xiang Shui Yun
  15. 陽關三疊 Yangguan Sandie
  16. 憶故人     Yi Gu Ren
  17. 漁樵問答 Yu Qiao Wen Da
  18. 醉漁唱晚 Zui Yu Chang Wan

Except for Jiu Kuang, where he has his own interpretation of Yao Bingyan's triple rhythm version, Dr. Tong plays all these in a manner similar to the version we learned from Sun Yuqin, though using nylon metal strings.

4. 正聞琴坊 Zhengwen Qin Fang: qins made by Tong Kin-Woon (see also acquiring a qin) logo: 正聞琴坊、唐健垣制    
Dr. Tong began making guqins in the 1970s. During the years after that he did considerable research into traditional guqin construction techniques. Then in 2012 he opened a workshop in 汕頭 Shantou, China, where he has been going five days a month to make and supervise the making of guqins of particularly high quality.

In 2023 Dr. Tong categorized the qins he has for sale as follows:

These instruments are expensive but their quality is very high, and even at that price sound better to me than many other very high priced instruments.

5. Oracle bones, especially in relation to Shang Musical Instruments (links to pdf)
Dr. Tong says he was able to learn the meanings of a significant number of oracle bone characters because he was the first oracle bone researcher (his M.A. in Taiwan concerned oracle bones) to have had a musical background. In 1983 he completed a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, USA. His dissertation, Shang (Dynasty) Musical Instruments, was subsequently published in Asian Music, Volumes XIV-2, XV-1 and XV-2 (1983/4).

The complete dissertation is outlined in an Appendix below, together with links to a complete pdf copy in nine parts, slightly re-organized as noted.

Considering the subject matter, this dissertation is surprisingly easy to follow.

6. Traditional singing
Dr. Tong delayed his departure to work on his doctorate at Wesleyan University so that he could do what he considered essential study with traditional Cantonese singers who were then quite elderly. During my time with him I did very little work in qin songs, in part because Dr. Tong said that qin songs couldn'be sung in Cantonese: He said that in Mandarin such songs were OK because the tonal patterns of the lyrics were not so important in Mandarin, but to sing them in a traditional Cantonese style the lyrics had to follow certain tonal patterns, and they did not do so with the qin songs. On the other hand, I never heard him sing any qin songs in Mandarin.

Dr. Tong and solfeggio singing (also see here)
When discussing melodies he heard me playing on the qin, whether songs or not, Dr. Tong would often "唱名 chang ming": sing them solfeggio, i.e., sing the names of the relative pitches as he went along. In fact, it was Dr. Tong's solfeggio singing that helped make me comfortable with the way I assigned relative pitches to notes when I first began reconstructing early melodies. Often when I played a melody for him he would sang along in solfeggio - naming the notes as he sang. He could do this even though he had never heard the melody before. He added that such a custom was quite common for traditional singers, and he seemed particularly to enjoy it for melodies he had not heard before. When I began doing my reconstructions (da pu), which included transcribing the music from the original tablature into staff notation, I had to decide what pitches to assign to the notes. From the beginning, because it was my understanding that Chinese music was mostly pentatonic - do re mi so la - I would transcribe the melodies in the way that required the fewest accidentals. I then found it quite significant (and reassuring) that in spite of not having seen the notation Dr. Tong would always select as "do" when he heard the note I had transcribed as "C". The other notes then followed along, and I thus began to develop my understanding of qin modes,

7. Tea and teaware
He has a large collection of Yixing teaware and at one time a large collection of very old pu-er tea.

8. Qin teaching
Here is a schedule for his teaching and related activities.

9. Qin repair
Over the years Dr. Tong has repaired many antique qins.

10. Buying qins in Yangzhou
Today Yangzhou dominates the qin making business in China. Some are made by craftsmen but most are factory made, perhaps with different factories making different qin parts that are then assembled elsewhere. The price can vary from the equivalent of a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, but the price is not necessarily a reliable indication of quality. All are designed for nylon metal strings.

Two ways of dealing with this are:

  1. Dr. Tong says that when he was buying qins in Yangzhou (something he no longer does), he would test perhaps a hundred qins, all of a similar price, in order to find about five that he thought would be acceptable for students. Certain instruments he then cut open so that he could improve the sound. Since in Yangzhou all of them are strung with metal strings and Dr. Tong himself does not use silk strings, it is difficult for me to use this to confirm or deny my suspicion that with these Yangzhou qin probably a similar number of them (not necessarily the same ones) would stand out as better than the others for use with silk strings.
  2. Wang Geng, as an expert on an advocate of silk strings, has gone to Yangzhou many times and identified qin makers who make instruments that sound good with silk strings without them being significantly more expensive.

Of course, this does not help if one wishes to buy a qin online.

11. Consulting with Dr. Tong    
Over the years, Dr. Tong has been essential to my
guqin work, guiding me towards the most useful resources, helping me understand them, organizing performances for us, and guiding me whenever I sought out a new qin.

From December of 1976, when I arrived in Hong Kong (with Tong Kin-Woon as my sponsor) through 1978, when he went to Wesleyan University to become Dr. Tong, I regularly visited him at his home in Shatin and he kindly and for no charge helped me begin the research project I was formulating, focused on reconstructing qin melodies published in the earliest surviving guqin handbook, Shen Qi Mi Pu (details of the project are here). While he was away I had continued to seek his advice when we were able to meet, then from 1983, when the newly minted "Dr. Tong" returned to Hong Kong, until I left Hong Kong in 2000 we met more regularly, though at a somewhat less intense level (I was now working for the Hong Kong Festival of Asian Arts and he had begun working at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, then later focused on performing and private teaching.)

12. Directions to Tong's Art Studio
From Exit A of 太子 Prince Edward MTR Station go right
then make an immediate right on 動場道 Playing Field Road;
the first left is Sai Yeung Choi St. North:

西洋菜街北 173

Return to My performances or the Guqin ToC


            Shang Musical Instruments
see above)
Tong Kin-Woon:
Doctoral Dissertion, Wesleyan University, 1983
Text from Asian Music, Volumes XIV-2, XV-1 and XV-2 (1983-4)
But re-organized with nine chapters as 9 pdf files;
Indented itrems are with Chapter 1 in the first pdf

  As published in 3 Volumes of Asian Music  
Volume XIV-2 (pp.17-182)
PDF 1: Cover page with content outline

Title page with Editor's note, XIV-2, 17
Table of Contents (Chapters 1-4), XIV-2, 18

Glossary of Chinese terms, XIV-2, 158-163
Oracle bone collections cited and their abbreviations, XIV-2, 164-166
Classics cited, XIV-2, 167-170
Major books and articles cited, XIV-2, 171-182
Errata (in previous volumes, i.e., in Chapters 1-6), XV-2, 142
Author's acknowledgements, XV-2, 143

Chapter One, Introduction (XIV-2, pp.19-31)

Chapter Two (PDF 2: XIV-2, pp.32-68)
Graphs and terms relating to performances

Chapter Three (PDF 3: XIV-2, pp.69-114)
Qing (stone chimes)

Chapter Four (PDF 4; XIV-2, pp.69-157

XIV-2, pp.158-173 had Glossary, Oracle, Classic and Major sections now moved up

Volume XV-1 (pp.103-184)

Chapter Five (PDF 5; XV-1, pp.103-151)
Bells (compare in this Zhou dynasty set)

Chapter Six (PDF 6; XV-1, pp.152-184)
Wind instruments

Volume XV-2 (pp.68-143)

Chapter Seven (PDF 7; XV-2, pp.68-82)
Stringed instruments and other wooden instruments

Chapter Eight (PDF 8; XV-2, pp.83-111)
Performance and the performers

Chapter Nine (PDF 9; XV-2, 132-143)