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Studying Guzheng in China(University/Professionally)

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Joined: 31 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:25 pm    Post subject: Studying Guzheng in China(University/Professionally) Reply with quote

Hi everyone!

My name is Chris and I'm a Canadian who has been living in China since 2008. After discovering the guzheng in May of 2009, I made the huge decision to dedicate my life to music. This post is intended to help anyone/everyone who wants to study the guzheng in China(whether professionally or not). Here is my experience/guide:

Right off the bat, if you want to do an undergraduate degree in guzheng performance, you can. Yes, it sounds crazy: a degree concentrating solely on guzheng. Here is how you do it.

1) All universities require you to have a minimum Chinese language ability. This is proven through passing a test called "HSK". In the old testing system, you will need at LEAST a Level 3 to be accepted to a bachelor's degree. Most need level 4, 5 or 6. For Shanghai Conservatory of Music, you will need a level 4. Central Conservatory of Music is level 5 from what I remember.

2) There are many conservatories throughout China: Xi'an, Shenyang, Chengdu, Wuhan, etc. There are also "vocal colleges" which offer degrees in how to TEACH guzheng. The best universities to learn guzheng are: Central Conservatory and Shanghai Conservatory. Both offer many, many chances to perform. They also have the best professors and the best ability to get you known.

3) Both Shanghai/Central offer undergraduate degrees and senior/general advanced classes. If you wish to study guzheng for a term or two, you can study general advanced classes(you need no previous education aside from High School).

4) The entrance exams to both universities are extremely, extremely difficult. I have seen firsthand what these guzheng players are capable of and I can guarantee they are better than you(and by a long shot). They have played songs which are rated much higher than level 10 and do so with absolute ease. These students are rejected for not being good enough. Here is the good news(or bad, depending): if you are a foreigner(especially visually, meaning non-asian), your chances of passing the exam are a lot higher than others. They never gave me specifics, however I believe if you can successfully play a level 9 song(with perfect tone, speed, etc.) than you should make it in. Again, nothing guaranteed.

With all of this in mind, here is my suggestion on how to go about studying the guzheng at a university such as Shanghai/Central:

1) Study Chinese, pass HSK 5. You can do it at home or in China, it is up to you. Some people can do it in 3 years, some in 6 months. It depends on your dedication and language ability. Of course, some of you naturally speak Mandarin(so it shouldn't be too much of a problem).

2) Apply for the Chinese government scholarship. They have full and partial scholarships. Apply for the full one(I got accepted for it). They will pay you something like 1500yuan a month as well as covering all of your insurance costs, tuition and books. Yes, it's that good. It's done all online now, but contact your local Chinese embassy/consulate for details.

3) Contact the universities you are applying to: without their approval(which comes from the specific professor you will be studying under for 4 years), you can not be accepted. IF your guzheng level is good enough, you could make a recording and send it to them by email along with your plan/application details. If not, you can always go and study advanced study at the university for a term or one year to get in good with the professor/university. That's how I went about doing it.

4) By applying through the government scholarship, you do NOT need to pass the entrance exam. This means you don't need to have a certain guzheng level such as 10+(I played 渔舟唱晚 - fisherman at dusk - for the recording submission). This also means you do NOT need to have really good music theory skills/listening/writing music skills, etc. Trust me when I say that the entrance exam is NOT easy - it is not just guzheng skills. Furthermore, it is all in Chinese. Do yourself a huge favour and apply for the Chinese government scholarship.

5) Lastly, if for some reason you don't receive the scholarship, then most universities have their own scholarships(as well as the cities/provinces they are located in). Tuition is very expensive(32000yuan a year and up), so you will be best off getting some type of scholarship. These are not easy to receive and are only partial(a few thousand yuan off a year).

6) If you do receive the scholarship and find you can not survive on 1500 yuan a month(it is impossible), then you also have the chance to teach English part-time by finding your own students and tutoring or through private schools. Warning: THIS IS ILLEGAL ON A STUDENT VISA. DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK(THIS IS NOT MY ENDORSEMENT). It definitely pays the bills though, and in a city like Shanghai, you will need around 6000 yuan a month if you intend on eating well(such as cooking your own pasta, making sandwiches, etc.). If you don't eat well, you will get sick like I did.

7) China is an amazing place, but is also has major downfalls. Pollution is awful, many places/habits are considered very dirty by Western standards and culture shock is a MASSIVE problem to deal with. With that in mind, you will find out who you truly are by living abroad(I did).

I really hope this guide helps you somewhere, sometime, somehow. It is a complicated, long and difficult process. However, if this is what you want to do, it can be done.

If there are any questions, please let me know and I'll do my best to answer.

Good luck!

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Joined: 14 Feb 2006
Posts: 185

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow, chris, this is a great, informative post. thanks for posting this!
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Joined: 23 Sep 2011
Posts: 3
Location: England

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:32 am    Post subject: Theobald Reply with quote

The reason why a great man is great is that he resolves to be a great man.
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Joined: 01 Oct 2012
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Sir,

Thank you for the information! I have no hope yet of applying in China for a scholarship, because I don't have any education on the Chinese language.

But thanks for this! I hope to learn the guzheng so I can teach it at my university someday. :)
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