Commissioning Fund – Revitalising an ancient Chinese art

Creating new music composed for an ancient Chinese traditional instrument, a sound not heard for over a thousand years, is the exciting project from award winner Cheng Yu (pictured). The highly respected Chinese musician, who is now based in London, receives her award of £6000 from the Women in Music commissioning Fund for part of her project rediscovering an ancient form of the pipa, or Chinese Lute.

Cheng Yu is already a well established and internationally renowned soloist on the modern four string Chinese Lute and the guqin- a seven-stringed zither. She will use her award to commission new work from women composers for the five string pipa, an instrument that was “mysteriously lost” over a thousand years ago.

“I was so happy to receive this award, absolutely over the moon!” says Cheng Yu. “This means so much, not just for me but for three other women composers.”

Cheng Yu will commission work from Gillian Carcas from England, Xu Yi from France and Gyewon Byeon from South Korea. Like the modern instrument, the rediscovered beauty of the five stringed pipa will be enjoyed around the world as part of the great renaissance of interest in world music.

“I had little confidence in getting an award ,” said Cheng Yu, ” I left it so late applying, leaving it to the last three weeks! It means so much, not just to me but to the other women composers involved. We had planned to do this project for some time and now thanks to this award, it is finally possible.”

Cheng Yu was born in Beijing, China. At the age of seven she was taught to play the pipa by her father so well, she held her first concerts by the age of ten! Her dedication to traditional Chinese instruments culminated in winning the Outstanding Performer Award for the pipa at the Chinese Traditional Instruments competition in 1984 and she was elected Fellow of the Chinese Association of Musicians in 1986. In 1994 she co-founded the UK Chinese Ensemble and is dedicated to many educational activities around the UK.

Alison James

Further info: