I made friends with a lot of musicians at the Nanjing Art Institute. I remember, in the summer of 1988, hearing an improvisational piece by zither-player Cheng Gongliang and a Dutch flutist. The flute would play for a bit, and then the zither would respond, tactfully, excitedly, harmoniously. That was the first time I got a feel for the moving tone of the zither; I understood the meeting of souls that could be attained through music. I began the Ancient Stringed Instruments series in 1990 based on the instruments of my musician friends. The zither belonged to Cheng Gongliang, the erhu belonged to Ma Youde, and the flute belonged to Cai Xinmin.
The shape of each musical instrument was borne of a pursuit of beautiful sound. I viewed the work as a unique way of putting music to paper – the music is hidden in the cavities of the instruments, waiting for us to hear it through visual means. The Ancient Stringed Instruments series is extremely simple and clean, and technically speaking, I reached a personal peak: to achieve the gradual fading from pure black to light gray required many repeat printings, removing dryness and dullness, and seeking out change within simplicity. I think that this rich simplicity goes beyond the requirements of shape, light and shadow to embody an aesthetic realm. Only through truly savoring it can I express the elegance of the instrument and the radiant character of the player. There are ten works in this series, and looking back on them now, they’ve stood the test of time.