In Chinese, "gu" means old and "qin" means "musical instrument". Historically, guqin was rendered as "qin" in most ancient texts. Because its long history, it has during the last 100 years been widely called guqin.
The qin or guqin is a musical instrument favored by Chinese scholars. It is a stringed instrument, resembling a Western zither. The body, or sounding box, of a qin was usually made of two different types of wood. The upper section was made of tong wood and the lower part of zi wood. It was originally a five-stringed instrument, but it is believed that as early as the Zhou dynasty two further strings were added. All surviving qin are seven-stringed.
It is China's oldest stringed instrument, with a history of some 3000 years. Chinese music has a long history, and its essence is best expressed on the guqin. In Imperial China, a well educated scholar was expected to be skilled in four arts:
Qin (the guqin)
Qi (the game of Go)
Historically, the guqin has been viewed as a symbol of Chinese high culture and the instrument most expressive of the essence of Chinese music. There are over 150 guqin handbooks extant, which contain more than 3,000 pieces of music as well as essays on the theoretical aspects of the guqin and its music.