Ended Friday on a good note by going to River Hongbao with my parents to bask in the new year spirit! It was 初七 and most importantly, the main objective of going to River Hongbao was to support my ex-CCAs, PL GUZHENG & XMS GUZHENG, in their CNY performance! It was sort of a last minute decision. I saw the fb post a while back, but decided I didn’t have time to go. However, I felt more and more guilty as I hadn’t seen my instructor for the longest time and I didn’t have time to visit him on teachers’ day or anything. Told my parents about it and they encouraged me to go so I sort of just squeezed in time on the Friday night amidst all the FYP shit. And I went.

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It was so crowded!!! I’m honestly very happy because River Hongbao (春到河畔) holds the most and best CNY memories for Celia and I. Every year when we were young we would go there WITHOUT FAIL to play Uncle Ringo and take photos. The flying chairs was our favourite ride and we would run around reciting the 12 Chinese zodiacs in order. My mum would dress me up in CNY clothes before going. Sometimes Celia’s mum would have a stall there selling Chinese New year decorations and both of us (4 years ago then) would help her boost business by shouting, “来买啊! 来买啊!” repeatedly AND IT REALLY WORKED. Because we were so cute looool.

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The light installations were really pretty. Ever since we grew up, we stopped coming to River Hongbao and I haven’t been to River Hongbao for about 5-6 years already. It honestly feels good to be back.

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Super excited for the performance because its two schools combined and being the alumni of both schools (I transferred halfway), I must say it was honestly quite heartening to see both schools working together to present 3 excellent pieces because it never happened during my time! This is the first time both schools came together. I remembered how badly I wanted this to happen back then because I had friends from both schools LOL and I was so mad torn between choosing my loyalty hahhaa SO I wished we had a united performance or something.

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A close up shot! It was really awesome and some of the songs I didn’t play before when I was serving the ensemble. I saw Phan laoshi (my teacher in charge too) hahaha I think she didn’t recognise me because when I called her she took a while to process and there was this awkward silence. LOL.

Oh and there was a fireworks display before the performance!!! It was really pretty…I didn’t expect it. Oh well but it bought them some time to set up the guzhengs on stage while the audience was busy watching the fireworks.

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Guzheng is a Chinese instrument that I used to play in my younger days. Seeing them play just made me realise how much I miss being on stage. 10 years of connection with Guzheng was a really wonderful time for me, and to feel not attached to the instrument is impossible. I’m not sure how to even put my love for the instrument into words, you probably have no idea. I grew up with the instrument. It was there for me on my toughest days, when I was struggling with exams; it was there on my happiest days, when I was rewarded with distinction for my music exams and when I was playing solo for the first time. It has been with me throughout childhood, puberty, and into my preteen years. From 7 to 16 years old I played it and I have never thought of quitting.

Even though Guzheng has about zero role to play in my life now, but my heart still aches whenever I thought about how my skills must have been deteriorating with the passing of each day. The melody just rang in my ears and inside my heart it feels bitter because I know I cannot turn back time. I cannot go back to the carefree days where I feel beyond happy just putting on my performance gown. I have worn a few costumes; some in white and blue, some in purple. I remembered how hard we practiced along the corridors for SYF. I remembered trainings were 4 days a week and we still had to come back to school on Saturdays. And as if that wasn’t enough, I still had private guzheng lessons outside school on Sundays. I remember the greasy feeling of eating with my fake nails on. Then the annoying part where you go to the toilet but you can’t wash your hands because 你不想弄湿胶布 (it will be very mafan later). I remembered the fear we had when we went into classes without memorising the scores, because my instructor is fierce as fuck. He’ll throw your books out of the class if you play a single note wrong. On top of that, there’s 音准, 节奏, 拍子, 动作 and all the other expectations to note of when playing😂…I remembered how we fitted into our costumes before SYF and how I had to carry the heavy guzheng from the 4th floor to the 1st floor USING STAIRS in my dumb dress. I was so loser back then hahhaa I didn’t even know why I didn’t take the lift. I remembered I was so scared I’ll step on my long dress then crash to the bottom of the staircase HAHA. I remembered the earliest memories, when the 7 years old me first sat before the guzheng and my legs couldn’t even touch the freaking ground.

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One of the many performances in secondary school.

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Xinthesis II. One of my most memorable performances. The first was Guzheng in Harmony.

It wasn’t that the road was smooth sailing, happy and that’s why I loved guzheng so much. In fact, it was the total opposite of that. Guzheng brought me the most suffering I swear. I have cried over it countless times, investing lots of feelings into it. It was a lot of physical and mentally draining hard work. Physical because we have to carry our guzhengs ourselves, move from venue to venue, and at the same time take care of logistics (how many guzhengs, how many spare strings to bring etc) and mentally, it was demanding to meet the expectations of my instructors and the also OUR own expectations. The picture below (chang er ben yue) was during a 12-page piece. We had to memorize every single note for 12 pages, mind you. And as if that wasn’t enough: being the lead player, I also faced constant pressure during the solo parts I had (without my friends there to back me up). I remembered breaking down at backstage lots of times for fearing of not meeting my own expectations. Most of all, I did not want to disappoint my dear friends and family sitting in the audience who has came all the way to support me. It was tough struggling with that at 15.

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Xinthesis II performance, during the set of Chang Er Ben Yue, 2012.

I remembered how we—the whole ensemble hustled and suffered, because we hella took guzheng very seriously. Trainings were damn frequent and being in performing arts has always been very demanding (those who were in band/chinese dance would also relate!!). I practiced 2 hours every day since I was 10, and it continued for a few years this way. Thankfully, as I grew older, my skills grew too. I sold my first guzheng when I was 15 and I cried. I sold it to trade it for another better guzheng for my very first competition at Singapore Conference Hall. Guzheng taught me to suffer, it taught me resilience, it taught me discipline—not to be late, not to complain, to submit to authority; and most of all it taught me love and self-expression.

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台上十分钟,台下十年功。I am always reminded by this phrase even when I grow up and venture into my career because I want to remember that I have to put in 10 times the effort of whatever results I hope to reap.

I think I have always enjoyed the feeling of being on stage. Sure people can call it attention seeking but I see it more as a form of an art and feeling thankful for the applause. Like Lady Gaga said, I too live for the applause because it is what I work hard for, I loveee it when people appreciate guzheng and the melody I create. Being on stage is fun, tiring, and most of all the greatest satisfaction. People might have stage fright, and trust me, I get nervous once in a while too, but the excitement can never override the anxiety. I can’t imagine losing the ability to play the Guzheng. Ever. I think I’ll rather lose my ability in designing than lose my ability to play the Guzheng. But both are my prized skills set that I treasure a lot and I do tie some sort of my identity to them.

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National Competition Rehearsal, Singapore Conference Hall, 2013.

I remembered I was the first player to compete and it was so stressful because it means my performance would sort of set the standard of the overall competition!! I remembered going on stage, bowing and yet the lights blinded me I couldn’t even see the panel of judges. It was a solo piece and I was really alone. The hall was so quiet and it was literally how those novels usually describe silence—you can hear a pin drop.

However, when I look back about it now, the competition has became one of my prized experiences (in my top 10 list) because it is very very rare and valuable.

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Julia, Mr Thum (my instructor) and me, 2012.

I think nobody can ever understand how I feel regarding guzheng unless they’re my guzheng mates that attended CCA/classes with me. Sadly few of them are really in my contacts now. I only contact Julia, Jingwen and see some of my PL mates occasionally now, and all of them are the friends that can understand what I’ve been through that’s why I appreciate them a lot, especially Julia!

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Mr Thum and I, 2016. That night at River Hongbao. Time flies 😦

When I looked at this picture it struck me that I’m growing up faster and faster and he’s getting older (though still very capable and talented teacher hahaha). It’s very nostalgic. I can’t even explain my gratefulness because he’s one of the best teachers I’ve encountered in my whole lifetime, if not the best. When I was watching the performance my mum asked me, “你会想要回去回味以前的时光吗?” At that point I almost choked because I told her, yes I do crave it. Everyday.

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Another group of friends in my music school whom I was very close to last time. Sadly we seldom keep in contact now (only via Instagram haha) I still value the memories a lot cos they were the people that shared the same amount of passion towards Guzheng. I think this is the only exception where I’m willing to show pictures from my preteen years 🙂

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Competition day!!! PS/ I saw ming fang that day at river Hongbao hahaha

Few of people that I interact with today knows about my involvement with this precious instrument. It’s either they know a little, but few or no one knows the full story behind it. The thought of it saddens me because I feel that if you don’t know my background with guzheng, you don’t really know me. That’s kinda why I asked everyone that knew me after 2013 (the time I stopped learning guzheng) to read this post. To be honest, there are many lovely friends who came into my life after guzheng wasn’t a phase of my life anymore. It aches to see that they don’t know such an important part of me and I really would love to share it with them. Those who have been with me through primary and secondary school knew how obsessed I was with the CCA ok HAHAHA i treat it very seriously. It was was one of the greatest things that defined me in the past. It was a part of me. To share in this feeling with someone will be my greatest joy. Typing this really makes me wanna cry so I shall stop talking about Guzheng here..

Till then x.x if you have any thoughts on this post comment down below! I love receiving comments 🙂