Labour of love turns into lucrative venture for local guqin maker

Ng Chung Sing says he has made over 30 guqin since starting his hobby. — Pictures by Farhan Najib
Ng Chung Sing says he has made over 30 guqin since starting his hobby. — Pictures by Farhan Najib

IPOH, Nov 10 — What started out as a hobby has turned into a lucrative business for yoga instructor Ng Chung Sing.

The 51-year-old started making guqin, a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument, in 2013 after falling in love with the instrument.

“I could not afford to buy it then, so I decided I will make one for myself.”

Speaking to Malay Mail when met at his home in Simpang, the Universiti Malaya trained chemist said he learned how to make the guqin through YouTube.

Ng said he learned how to make the guqin through YouTube.
Ng said he learned how to make the guqin through YouTube.

Guqin has been played since ancient times and has traditionally been favoured by scholars and the literati as an instrument of subtlety and refinement.

Ng said the instrument has also been associated with Chinese philosopher Confucius.

“Unlike guitar, which provides entertainment, guqin is more for calming the mind.”

It can be a tedious task to make the instrument.

Ng said it can take between six months and a year just to complete one.

“It takes a long time as we need to wait for the paint to dry,” he said, adding that a guqin is coated with 20 layers of paint.

“Mind you, this is not the normal paint we get off the shelf but natural tree bark paint that is imported from China,” he said, noting that the paint would oxidise into a dark colour once it is exposed to the air.

How much does a guqin cost, you might ask?

The guqin has been played since ancient times and has traditionally been favoured by scholars as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement.
The guqin has been played since ancient times and has traditionally been favoured by scholars as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement.

Ng said so far, a guqin that fetched the highest price was made by a master in China, costing a whopping 400 million yuan (RM240.5 million).

“For me, the highest I sold was at RM40,000 and the lowest was RM15,000,” he said.

Since starting his hobby, Ng has made more than 30 guqin.

“I sold most of it to enthusiasts in China. Locally, the market is not much,” he said, adding that the quality of the guqin is measures by the quality of sound it makes.

“The wood used to make the instrument will determine the sound quality. Normally, I use two types of wood — tong wood, the Chinese parasol tree, or shan mu, an old or ancient wood because most of the sap and moisture have been dried up over time.”

The 51-year-old started making the Chinese traditional music instrument in 2013 after falling in love with the instrument.
The 51-year-old started making the Chinese traditional music instrument in 2013 after falling in love with the instrument.

Ng said he gets his supply of wood from China.

“It is sold online,” he said.

Those interested in viewing his work, can contact him via his Facebook page.

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