Inspired to recreate the guqin

For the last month, I’ve been practicing the guqin 古琴 a little more. In time for the Prunus mume that opened and faded, I finished learning 梅花三弄 (Three Variations on the Plum Blossom). Now, I’m working on 流水 (Flowing Water), which is significantly more difficult.

Anyways, I got inspired to make another guqin. The one I’m playing on was made ten years ago based off of 與古齋琴譜 (Abiding with Antiquity Guqin Manual, 1855, tr. Binkley). The main problem with it is that there is string buzz when playing the lower notes at the end of the soundboard due to a progressively smaller string-soundboard angle. To deal with that problem, I mathematically modeled the descriptions from the Guqin Manual with modifications, interpolated surface curvature, extrapolated the dimensions of the bridge, figured equal string spacing along the bridge curvature function, and added a compound radius to the length of the instrument to keep the angle constant in the tail end. And instead of cutting out the pattern in 1/16-inch increments, I am using 1/32-, 1/64-, and 1/128-inch depth changes depending on the location. Hopefully, this works out better.


  1. Scott Pavageaux

    Dear Danny, I am looking to build my first Guqin and need help on the dimensions. Any information would be willing to give would be greatly appreciated.

    All the best, Scott

    • Good to hear from you. I mapped out the dimensions from Yuguzhai Qinpu, and then tweaked it. I recently started taking lessons, and my teacher said the top needs to be a little more rounded, so you might want to modify. Also, I had the chance to finally meet Jim Binkley, who translated the original construction text. His impression was exactly the same as mine–that the author of the Yuguzhai probably never made a guqin before. Following the directions precisely (what I did the first time) ended up yielding an instrument that doesn’t play well. Feel free to e-mail me: Where are you located, and what inspired you?

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