Li Shuming: innovative protector of the Yueqin-making craft

Yueqin is a kind of traditional music instrument of Chinese people. Yuein Chinese literally means moon, and Qinrepresents the stringed plucked instrument. Yueqintogether is the four-stringed moon-shaped Chinese mandolin.

Located in central Yunnans Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Nanhua County was known as Zhennan Prefecture in ancient times. Here, the Zhennan Yueqin has risen to fame across the province since the Qing Dynasty(1644-1912). Now, the craft of making Zhennan Yueqin has been put into the list of the provincial-level intangible cultural heritage. And Local Yi people like to play Yueqin as accompaniments to their singing and dances during celebrations and festivals.

Born in 1963 in Chahe Village, Nanhua, Li Shuming has showed his artistic talents in singing, dancing and playing music instrument since childhood. Among all the instruments, Yueqin has given him a deep impression.

Li Shuming was raised in a carpenter family and is skilled in making Zhennan Yueqin. Starting 1997, Li has improved his skills of making Yueqin. Now, the instrument he makes is regarded as the best in the province. In 2010, Li was designated as the provincial-level inheritor of the craft of making Zhennan Yueqin.

According to Li, it takes at least half a month to make a Zhennan Yueqin. He is very picky about the raw materials including the wood, strings and paint in order to make high-quality Yueqin. The making is very complicated and goes through more than ten procedures. From dissecting the wood to designing and carving patterns, from painting to stringing, every step is completed manually. Hence a low output each year.

To pass on the craft, Li receives dozens of apprentices, some of whom has already become masters. The Zhennan Yueqin Li makes not only sells well in China, but also is popular in foreign countries. On behalf of Yunnan, Li has participated in exhibitions held in first-tier Chinese cities like Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. And he is making innovative efforts in protecting and inheriting the craft of making Zhennan Yueqin.