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

Happy

 

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: http://www.56.com/u92/v_NTIwNjIyODk.html

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Beijing, Mrs. Lü’s Living Room

 

Name: Lü Jin

Age: 47

Chinese zodiac sign: Rabbit

Education: I studied Guzheng and Koto at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Later I studied music and Korean drums in the DPRK (North Korea).

 

Profession: Teaching Guzheng (Chinese zither), Koto (Japanese zither) and Gayageum (Korean zither) at the Central Conservatory of Music

 

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

I like chatting with friends and listening to music. Besides classical music, I also listen to pop, rock & roll and jazz. I once formed a rock band in which I played the drums. I like rock & roll and I want to experience various musical styles. I also established a traditional Chinese instruments orchestra.

What I enjoy most, next to listening to music and chatting with friends, is thinking. I read books, think about questions and find ways to solve them. After some problems are settled, I’ll think about new ones and again try to solve them.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

Cooking, preparing lessons and teaching. Sometimes, I’ll go out and meet friends.

 

What is your favorite food?

I like all kinds of food. North China cuisine, Cantonese cuisine, Italian food, Indonesian food, Japanese food, American food; any food will do for me, but I don’t eat snakes.

 

How much money does your family spend on food per day?

60 to 100 RMB per day (about 2,000 to 3,000 RMB every month)

 

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

My hometown is Shenyang. I left Shenyang at the age of 12 when I came to Beijing to study at the Conservatory. In fact, I’ve been thinking about the question “do I miss my hometown?”. I have a feeling that I don’t know where my home is. Probably it’s because I left my hometown at a very young age. I don’t think Shenyang is my home. I have no friends and families there. Beijing seems more like my home. I also lived in North Korea for 5 years. I really don’t know where my home is.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

My most precious childhood memory is probably the time with my family, the time with my father. Sometimes I was happy, but sometimes… I was not so happy in my childhood. Maybe it’s because I always had to practice Guzheng. I started to learn Guzheng when I was 7. Before that, I studied violin for 3 years. My father taught me violin. He was playing violin in the army. The photo on the wall was taken in 1959, the 10th anniversary of the PRC. At the center of the photo are Chairman Mao, Liu Shaoqi and ten great generals of China. My father is here (pointing at the upper right corner of a group photo with hundreds of soldiers).

 

My father thought that a Chinese could never compete with Westerners in playing music on Western instruments, so my father made me give up the violin in favor of the Guzheng. At first, I really didn’t like Guzheng. I liked violin and cried for several days. But I had to obey my father, so I started to learn Guzheng. Now, I’ve fallen in love with Guzheng.

In 1978, I took the entrance examination of the Central Conservatory of Music. I failed in the first year, but passed the exam in the second year. It was very difficult to get admitted to the college, because the Central Conservatory of Music only accepted one Guzheng student per year at that time. There was only one Guzheng instrument and one student in the classroom …

 

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

I think the most important things in life are love and family. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know whether my idea is right or wrong, but I really think that love and family are most important. Work comes second. However, some people think I am wrong about this. I believe that love is the motive to do things, but many people only care about work. I’ve been thinking which idea is right?

 

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

I believe truthfulness is most important. People are wearing masks most of the time. I think people should be true to everything, like when you deal with students it should come from your heart.

 

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

I feel happy most of the time. But it would be better if there’s someone resonating with my soul. It’s important for people who are in music. Just like a musician pays particular attention to resonance in timbre, I like to have profound discussions with people in order to reach resonance. If someone reaches a consensus with me in soul, I’ll be very happy.

However, it’s difficult to find such a person. I often adapt myself to other people’s way of thinking. There are different kinds of friends: true friends understand me, while some others think my ideas are strange. In their mind, the normal idea should be what most people think, but I’m different.

Contemporary society is quite complicated. Different people have different ideas about life. Many people care about money. They think success means becoming famous and earning a lot of money. Many Chinese think so. Therefore, they sometimes don’t agree with me.

For example, they think it’s worthwhile to make friends who are famous and useful to them. I believe it’s wrong.

I care more about the inner beauty of a person. If a person can resonate with my soul, I can become friends with that person, whether he or she is successful or not.

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I hope to live a happy life with whom I love and do what I like. I don’t want to be influenced by other people’s thoughts.

 

What is your religion?

I became a Catholic four years ago. It’s my own choice. I tried to believe in Buddhism, but it didn’t work for me. Then I learned something about Judaism and I think it’s my right way.

 

Many of my friends suggest me to believe in Buddhism, but I choose to convert to Catholicism. I go to church every Sunday. If I have time, I also go there on weekdays. I enjoy the time in the church, which I spend in thinking or communicating with God. Four years ago, I was baptized. After converting to Catholicism, I feel happier. My ideas and values of life have totally changed. I grew up in a context of Marxism-Leninism, but I think some values of it are unwise.

 

 

 

 

 

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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