Guzheng artist Liu Le. [Photo provided to]

Liu Le, 32, is a well-known guzheng (Chinese zither) artist in China. He shows originality in his folk music research and has a distinctive performance style of his own.

Born in Xiangtan, Hunan Province, Liu started to learn playing guzheng when he was only 6 years old. With his talent and diligence, he progressed rapidly and won a major prize in a provincial-level competition when he was in primary school, thus making a big name for himself at first try.

In 1998, Liu was enrolled in the Secondary School attached to the Wuhan Conservatory of Music. From 2004 to 2012, he studied in the Shanghai Conservatory of Music for his bachelor's and master's degrees. In 2009, he participated in the national-level music competition and won the Golden Bell Award, the top prize for outstanding musical artists in China.

Currently, Liu teaches the guzheng major in the Department of Traditional Chinese Music of Zhejiang Conservatory of Music. After so many years, the musical instrument has become an integral part of his life and artistic career.

Liu Le performs with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. [Photo provided to]

A combination of tradition and innovation

Guzheng is an ancient plucked instrument with 21 or 25 strings, and the music played by it sounds natural and melodious with an indescribably free style. In addition to being a guzheng player and teacher, Liu is also a musical composer, creating many works that are widely popular.

His representative works in recent years include "Sleeves Dance," "Tonight," "You," "Romantic Breeze of Spring" and "A Fishing Boat at Dusk," all of which combine the elements of traditional Chinese music with the rhythm of modern life, constituting a unique school in the world of guzheng.

Liu believes that too many traditional elements in guzheng musical works will possibly turn off some of his young audience. "It is not that modern people do not respect traditions, but they find no sympathetic response from the musical works," he said.

Therefore, it is necessary to create some "bridging" works to first get a resonance among young audiences, who will gradually pay more and more attention to guzheng music and finally develop a passion for it.

As for the differences between young and old performing artists, Liu believes that the main difference lies in their individual performing styles. "In fact, the old generation of artists has no shortage of trend-setting ideas; at the same time, the young generation hasn't ignored traditions while focusing on innovation," he said, adding that the pursuit of what one needs and feels is the greatest concern of folk musicians.

Liu Le signs autograph for the audience after his recital. [Photo provided to]

A teacher to pass on knowledge and enlighten people

While studying at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Liu was deeply influenced by Professor Wang Wei, who not only imparted to him the performing techniques, but also taught him the way to conduct himself in society, and gave him guidance in the field of artistic aesthetics.

Now, Liu himself has become a teacher. He firmly acknowledges his tutor's ideas and tries to impart them to his own students. "As a teacher, in addition to imparting to the students performing experience and skills, it is more important for me to help them adopt an aesthetic view and find their inner world," he said.

He believes that, it is not important for students to play as many tunes as possible or pursue quick success, but it is important to improve their ability to appreciate works of art, to think, and to find problems and solve problems in the process of learning and playing.

Due to his hard work, Liu has recorded great achievements in teaching. More than 10 of his students have won prizes in national-level musical performing competitions, such as the Wen Hua Award and the Dunhuang Cup.

Liu Le performs at a recital. [Photo provided to]

Promoting traditional Chinese art to go global

According to Liu Le, Chinese folk music is enjoying prosperous development, with the number of guzheng learners increasing year by year. The fact that guzheng has been established as a major in Chinese art colleges and universities proves that the central government attaches great importance to the development of traditional folk music.

However, it has to be admitted that differences still exist in Chinese folk music. Liu hopes that, folk musicians of different ages and professionals can be more open and more inclusive for all sorts of issues, and create more works of art and, from a long-term and pluralistic point of view, contribute to the prosperity and development of Chinese folk music.

In the past seven years, Liu has played concertos many times with European and American symphony orchestras, including the French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Radio Orchestra, and Goteborg Symphony Orchestra, and also participated in a series of international music festivals.

Liu said that he could feel the "brilliant artistic sparks" produced by the multicultural integration during the activities. What impressed him most was when he participated in a temporary international band for a performance tour of 40 schools in Norway, during which his guzheng performances "sowed the seeds of Chinese culture among the local children."

He said he hopes the seeds will take root, sprout and grow vigorously in the future.

Liu Le performs guzheng solo at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. [Photo provided to]

A poster of Liu Le's guzheng performance abroad. [Photo provided to]

A poster of Liu Le's guzheng performance abroad. [Photo provided to]

Liu Le participates in the International Music Festival held in Warsaw, Poland. [Photo provided to]

Liu Le wins the Golden Bell Award for his excellent guzheng performance. [Photo provided to]

Guzheng artist Liu Le. [Photo provided to]

Liu Le and his teacher Wang Wei pose for a picture. [Photo provided to]

Liu Le and his students pose for a picture. [Photo provided to]

Liu Le gives a lecture at the University of Chicago. [Photo provided to]

Liu Le is elected one of the "Top 10 Outstanding Chinese Folk Musicians." [Photo provided to]

Liu Le holds a concert at an international music festival in Shanghai. [Photo provided to]

A childhood photo of Liu Le, in which he plays the guzheng. [Photo provided to]

Liu Le performs with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. [Photo provided to]

A screenshot of Liu Le's MV "A Fishing Boat at Dusk." [Photo provided to]