Beijing, Cao Yuan’s Practice Room



One of Cao Yuan’s favorite recordings of her zither music: (copyright: 曹原 Cao Yuan)

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Name: Cao Yuan

Age: 20

Chinese zodiac sign: Goat

Education: Sophomore at the Central Conservatory of Music (note: during high school, Cao Yuan received the WenHua Award from the government, it is the most prestigious music award for young musicians in China)


Profession: Studying Guzheng (Chinese zither)


When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?

At home, I will do something which can please and delight myself, surf the internet, watch movies and enjoy delicious foods. What I enjoy most is to concentrate wholeheartedly on work (study) at hand.

Before I came to the Conservatory of Music in Beijing, I studied at a subsidiary school of the Nanjing University of Arts.  They were not only teaching me music, but also drawing and many other forms of art. I learned to appreciate painters like Gauguin and Dali. As a hobby I like to make drawings myself these days.


Name three of your daily routine activities:

The first thing is to attend class. After class, I like to go for a walk. It keeps both my body and mind in shape and I may come across something interesting. At night, I like to chat with the other 5 girls that I share the room with in our dormitory.


What is your favorite food?

Soup, spicy food and I also like noodles.


How much money do you spend on food per day?

20-50 RMB per day this term


Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)

My hometown is Nanjing in Jiangsu province. What I miss most is the fog-like drizzle and the rocks with green lichen. But I don’t miss home very much when I’m in Beijing. Nor do I miss Beijing when I’m at home.


What is your most precious childhood memory?

When I was small, everyone called me by my pet name “Maomao”, but few people continued to use that name after I went to school. Now friends call me “Yuantuan”, or my full name “Cao Yuan”. I had a good time at the kindergarten because my mother was one of the teachers and the other teachers gave me special attention.


I started to learn zither when I was 6 years old. My mother gave me a paper with pictures of different musical instruments and I had to choose one of them. I did not realize that I was making the choice for myself.


Most of the zither players are girls, but my first teacher was male. There were only two boys in that class, the others were girls. For 10 years he was teaching me how to play the zither. I have very good memories of him. Unfortunately he died later of lung cancer.


What are the three most important things in life for you?

Love, holiday and people appearing in my life are most important to me.

All kinds of people appear in my life. The relationship between people is often quite extraordinary and amazing. The butterfly effect and the chaos theory can be used to explain the mutual influence among people.

A holiday changes my state of mind and after that I can plan and do many things.


Love is the most important; love for the family and for other people. My mother was 29 years old when I was born and my father was even 4 years older. Those days, in their generation, it was quite late to have a baby at that age. They love and cherish me very much because I am the only child. Sometimes they gave me too much love, to the extent that I was spoiled. Being the only child and spoiled can make you self-centered and less concerned about others. I’m trying to change that and show more concern for other people.



What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?

I think I will be able to give a better answer to this question a few years later. But in my opinion, a person should follow the virtue of “truth, good and beauty” for a lifetime.


Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy



What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I want to experience as much as possible, and never regret what I’ve done.

I’m a bit worried about the future. Most conservatory students will stay in Beijing, because the cultural environment is good and has more opportunities. The reality however is that not everybody can be a Lang Lang (a famous pianist). Graduates don’t want to do simple and low-level jobs as they have paid too much for their education. As a result the competition for good jobs is fierce and many students are not able to find jobs after graduation.


After my graduation I will continue to study (i.e. master’s degree) and perhaps stay in my school to work. I will continue to do performances, like I’m doing now: television performances, performances for business people, etc. But I also like to do other things next to my zither study. This year I will participate in a musical performance; not as an actor but as a scout for actors. I hope that my life will not be limited to music or the zither, maybe I can be involved in making movies or some other art form in the future.



What is your religion?

My belief is to follow my own outlook on the world, life and values. I’ll enrich my social experience, strengthen myself, go through trials and tribulations, and finally direct my own way of life. Then, I won’t stop my pace and will keep on seeking a higher level of life. My faith is to obtain a higher level of life.




Note: CaoYuan will be performing in Taiwan during the summer, playing modern Chinese classical music like recorded in this video:





Video of the 360 degree panoramic photo
(click full screen icon for best view)
the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China



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