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World Music Day: The Youthful Passion for Chinese Zither

JUN . 21 2021

About Cecilia

Lie Lie Cecilia from Indonesia, is currently a fourth-year student at the School of International Studies at Peking University. Her passion for Chinese zither grew with her since her junior high school days back in Indonesia. From attending classes to playing in restaurants and church performances and then to music concerts and competitions, Lie Lie has accumulated both skill and experience in playing Chinese zither throughout the years.

Love at first sight
Lie Lie posing with her Chinese zither
Lie Lie was a young girl in junior high school in Indonesia when she first laid her fingers on a Chinese zither. Her school had made weekly extracurricular activities compulsory in school. Lie Lie found the name of the instrument very interesting, and the moment she heard the charming sound of the Chinese zither, she fell in love. Intrigued, she began taking classes to learn how to play the instrument.

The moment the sound fell on my ears, it was as if I fell in love.
Lie Lie was in a class of ten students learning Chinese zither which made the learning process very ineffective for an amateur. With the determination to master her skills, she decided to take a separate training class once a week after school. Lie Lie slowly started to gain confidence in her skills and gathered experience by performing in major festivals, hotels, restaurants and churches. Lie Lie mentions that Chinese zither is not well known among Indonesian people, so she would often perform popular songs in Indonesia in order to garner attention. Her attachment to Chinese zither grew even more when she arrived in Beijing to pursue her undergraduate studies at Peking University.

Authentic taste on Chinese zither
In 2018, Lie Lie was invited by her friends studying at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing to watch a Chinese zither concert. She was mesmerized by the phenomenal performance and decided to take training classes to improve her skill.

Lie Lie explains that she was fortunate to have a young and passionate Chinese zither teacher who is also a graduate of the Central Conservatory of Music. This time, she had a real taste of Chinese zither like never before. She started to learn and delve into a deeper understanding of the stories and meaning behind the Chinese zither music.
Lie Lie (right) and her teacher (left)

Through her training classes, she was able to participate in workshops and concerts. Lie Lie was initially nervous about not having enough professional experience before performing in concerts. However, her teacher always encouraged her to take every performing opportunity as a chance to learn regardless of the mistakes. This motivated Lie Lie to keep working harder and improve with every small mistake she stumbled on.

Every time I made a mistake, I would take it as motivation to work harder

Lie Lie performing Chinese zither on stage

Music has no borders

Although the pandemic has kept Lie Lie from returning to China, her passion for music has allowed her to reconnect by engaging in online concerts where she performed with friends from all over the world. She performed her favorite song from when she first learned how to play Chinese zither, "Liuyang River". She also took this unique opportunity of cultural exchange to introduce Indonesian folk musical instruments to her fellow counterparts.

During the pandemic, Lie Lie also participated in an online global music talent video competition called "Chinese Bridge · Global Music" International Music Talent Video Competition. She performed a fusion of the first half of the Chinese 《彝族舞曲》 with the Indonesian folk song "Jali-Jali". Her creativity and cultural essence won her the second prize and an invitation to perform in an online concert. She along with the fellow winners performed the song, 《我们》, together on the online concert at the end. Lie Lie explains that each concert has helped her realize her potential as well as her weaknesses, and is thankful for every opportunity of growth that comes her way.
Lie Lie playing Chinese zither at home

Chinese zither: a musical therapy
In spite of Lie Lie's dedication towards training and practice, she still has to balance her academics and internship. She usually commits herself to about an hour or two of Chinese zither practice time after her internship and classes. Since most of her classes are usually in the evening, she usually returns back to her dorm late after practice. Lie Lie tries her best to make sure that she practices every day during weekdays.  On weekends, she dedicates her whole Sunday to Chinese zither training class. She explains that even though her Chinese zither class is only about 45 minutes long, it takes her about three hours to commute to her class from her dormitory.

The to-and-fro journey may be long, but it is one of the times where I can find peace. Every practice is just worth looking forward to.
Lie Lie maintains her loyalty and dedication towards her daily Chinese zither practice for more reasons than refining her skill. She admits that she is relatively introverted and isn't very articulate at expressing her emotions. She believes that playing the Chinese zither allows her to conjure her emotions into action. When she is having a bad day, playing Chinese zither helps her deal with stress and negativity.

I believe that the soothing sound of the Chinese zither gives me a sense of serenity and peace.
Lie Lie credits Chinese zither for changing mentally and emotionally. Four years ago, she left Indonesia to study in Beijing, it was the first time she had ever left the comfort of her home. She confesses that Chinese zither has accompanied her through thick and thin and witnessed her growth from junior high school to now, when she will be graduating from university next month.

For Lie Lie , ever since she first laid her fingers on the Chinese zither about ten years ago, it has been an inseparable part of her life.

Happy World Music Day!

World Music Day: The Youthful Passion for Chinese Zither

Writer: Aneka R. Rajbhandari
Editor: Goh Chia Chia, Pu Hairui
Producer: Amanda Hu
Video and Photos: Lie Lie Cecilia
Designer: Goh Chia Chia