Volume 3, Chapter 8: Distinguishing Quality in Strings
As for the workmanship of strings, look at the
outer layer wrapped around strings one to four.
It should be flat (without bumps), and tight, wrapped right up next to
the inside part like they were one whole.
From the head to the tail, it should be rounded without overly thick or
thin places, and without rejoined sections, knots or scars. Strings five to seven also should be tight
and strong like a string of pearls. Also
they should be bright and clear like glue.
If the outer wrapping is too ample and loose, then it may separate with
the inside. If the wrapping is done
unevenly, then a division into smaller and larger sections will result. If the outer part has any broken places and
they are rejoined, then knots will result.
These then are the defects in workmanship.
best strings are made in the provinces of Kiangsu, [ Soochow] and in Chekiang, [
Hangchow]. In the Chia-ch’ing (嘉慶) period (1796-1821) and the
first few years of the Tao-kuang (道光) period (1821-1851), there
was a Mr. Shen I-hsien (沈軼先) who made excellent strings
of three varieties, T’ai-ku (太古) (extreme antiquity),
Chung-ch’ing (中清) (middle purity), and
Chia-chung (加重) (increased
heaviness).(3) Chung-ch’ing was the
best. His strings were a deep dark
color, taut, round, bright, and lovely.
Unfortunately his son did not inherit his enterprise and it has not been
passed down to us. In recent times there
is a Mr. Lu (魯) of Shaohsing,
who together with Mr. Shen studied with Li Shih-ying (李世英). Mr. Shen was known to have excelled his
teacher and Mr. Lu was not their equal.
The Li family are famous for making strings from (as early as) the time
of the Northern Sung. They transmitted
this art for hundreds of years. Now
their descendents no longer keep up this art.
The ch’in is used to play ancient melodies and nowadays those who are
fond of it are few. As
a result few
strings are sold per year. Thus few have
studied string making and the art has been handed down in none too masterly a
Shaohsing in Chekiang