In the second of two articles on violin making in China, Sisi Ye examines the schools teaching the art of lutherie to young people, where tuition can last up to ten years and a grounding in music theory is essential
In under 30 years, China has become the world’s leading manufacturer of stringed instruments. As we saw in the March 2021 issue (‘The Enterprise System’, pp48–51), there are large numbers of businesses, based in three main regions of the country, producing violins on a production-line basis. However, China also has numerous professional luthiers working independently on high-quality instruments, many of which have been highly successful at international violin making competitions. In the past, the only option for them to train was at Western violin making schools, but now they have several options in their home country. In addition, many of the graduates from these schools are employed by the larger businesses, where they help to keep the standards of workmanship as high as they can be. With five major active violin making schools, China nowadays offers probably the most degrees in lutherie of any country in the world.
Contrary to popular belief, the first violin making class in China dates back to 1951, when an Instrument Making Studio was established at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music (SHCM) by its vice dean, Tan Shuzhen. Tan began to learn violin making in the 1930s, from Western luthiers living in China at the time. He went on to teach violin making to professional carpenters, and this led him to found the studio…
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