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Erhu Brings Flavor to Chinese New Year Show
Shelley Zhang

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NEW YORK—A full moon rises over the audience. Onstage, accompanied by a lone piano, Ms. Qi Xiaochun bends over her instrument and fills the theater with hauntingly beautiful music. Ms. Qi plays the erhu, a two-string Chinese instrument that many in the audience have never heard of—but after listening to her play, they will never forget.

Like the Western violin, the erhu is renowned for its expressiveness and is often said to echo the human voice. Growing up in Shanghai, Ms. Qi began learning the difficult instrument at the age of 6, taught by a friend of her father's. She was later accepted to the Shanghai Music Conservatory.

A skilled musician, Ms. Qi won an award at the Chinese National Erhu Competition and has also played at the Hollywood Bowl. But her most memorable performances are at the New Tang Dynasty television network's (NTDTV) Chinese New Year spectaculars.

At the 2006 NTDTV Chinese New Year show, Ms. Qi performed the powerful piece, "The Vow." Although most non-Chinese in the audience had never seen the erhu before, many praised her performance as one of their favorites of the show.

Why do people find the erhu so touching? According to Ms. Qi, "As a performer, I love the sound of the erhu, and how it can deeply move people's hearts. As a composer, I know that when the songs move me, they will move the audience as well."

When composing "The Vow," Ms. Qi explored the idea that each person may have come to the world for just one thing, their own preordained mission. "When people see good and evil, they must speak," she says. "Others may have other ways to speak, but I can only speak with my erhu."

In addition to performing, Ms. Qi also teaches the erhu. When learning the erhu, she says, people must develop their basic skills first. The music, however, comes from the person's character. "People carry their own things in their music. What they want to express, and also the person as a whole, is expressed through the music. As an artist, your moral character will also determine your skill."

This idea is seen throughout ancient Chinese culture, whether in painting, martial arts, or poetry—in order to cultivate talent, one must cultivate the whole person. Ms. Qi believes this philosophy is also seen in NTDTV's performances.

She hopes that when people see the show, they will not only be entertained, but will also think about what these ancient Chinese arts can truly bring to people. In Ms. Qi's opinion, it is simple, "Pure compassion, pure beauty."

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