© The London Youlan Qin Society 2003-2010

Chinese Four Arts Summer School, 27-31 May, 2011


The London Youlan Qin Society, in collaboration with the Prince’s Charities Foundation, the British Museum and SOAS held a five day course on the four quintessential Chinese traditional arts: qin, qi (Weiqi or Go, Chinese chess), shu (calligraphy) and hua (brush painting). It was the first time such a course has been held in the UK, enabling participants to study and experience the techniques, aesthetics and cultural meanings of these four interlinked art forms.

The first three days were held at the British Museum; the last two days at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. The activities included 5 days of tuition in qin music by qin master Professor Li Xiangting from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, lectures, demonstrations and workshops on Go (Weiqi, Chinese chess) by Go expert Tony Atkins, calligraphy and painting by UK-based calligrapher and painter Guo Le and Li Xiangting, and a public concert with visual images and multimedia with live improvisation on painting and calligraphy while music was played on the stage. A high quality booklet by experts on the subjects covered was published; all participants received copies.


The classes began with a public lecture by Professor Li Xiangting entitled "Introduction to the Chinese Four Arts", in which he explained, with slides and demonstrations, how the concept of points and lines unite painting, calligraphy and qin music. The interpreter provided clear English translation throughout. The lecture was followed by the first qin class. There were qin classes every morning, with the other three arts in the afternoons.

The qin classes included demonstrations of playing techniques and the procedure for mounting strings. Professor Li also spent time working with participants individually, evaluating their playing and providing guidance. Charles Tsua co-taught the beginners.

On the first afternoon, there was a painting workshop in which Guo Le introduced the history of Chinese painting and explained some basic techniques. Participants then practiced what they had learned.

On the second afternoon, Guo Le introduced the history of calligraphy and some basic techniques, which the participants then practiced.

On the third afternoon, Tony Atkins explained the history and rules of Go, after which all participants played on a 9x9 Go board.

On the fourth day the classes moved to SOAS, where Li Xiangting taught the calligraphy and painting classes as well as qin. After the classes on day 4, a guqin yaji was held. For details, see Yaji 30th May, 2011.


On the evening of the first day a concert entitled "The Guqin Zither: Elegant Orchid" was held. It featured Li Xiangting playing traditional pieces and an improvisation, on a theme suggested by the audience, on the qin and xiao. One piece, Jie Shi 碣石 (Secluded Orchid in Jieshi Mode) was arranged by Raymond Yiu for the string quartet of the English Chamber Orchestra. For details see Concert – The Guqin Zither: Elegant Orchid.


The classes were very well attended, and included participants with a wide range of experience, from complete beginners to people who had studied one of more of the arts for several years. More people wanted to join the classes that there were places for. There was wide media coverage, with Phoenix TV showing a 7 minute report which included an interview with one of the participants. This can be seen at:


Several newspapers carried articles, including The Sun Post (page 2).

Participants' responses to the events were very enthusiastic. One attendee said, "It was a fantastic experience to meet and talk with Li Xiangting, a great qin master from China"; another said, "I had a great time – thank you very much to everyone involved". Many participants expressed the hope that this would be the first of many such summer schools.


The London Youlan Qin Society would like to express their gratitude to the Prince’s Charities Foundation for funding this series of events, and to the British Museum and SOAS for hosting them. The society would also like to thank all the members and non-members who gave their time and worked hard to make the events a success.