The Essentials of an Elegant Gathering

In this day and age, who has the time to drink (real) tea, listen to Chinese qin music and above all, poetry? It’s probably very far from the current social media consciousness. But remember this: as much as the body needs to be fed, so does the soul.


To know Chinese culture is to know the qin—a musical instrument that dates back to China’s prehistory. The tone of the qin allows its listener access to stillness, a moment of cessation from the physical world so that a glimpse of something vulnerable and precious may be revealed. The music is meditative, calling to mind the sounds of water, wind, rain, falling leaves and flights of birds, restoring the soul to nature.


Thanks to NASA, the aliens have already had a head start. Someone in outer space is listening:

In 1977, a recording of “Flowing Water” (Liu Shui, as performed by Guan Pinghu, one of the best qin players of the 20th century) was chosen to be included in the Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated LP recording containing music from around the world, which was sent into outer space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft. It is the longest excerpt included on the disc. The reason to select a work played on this specific instrument is because the tonal structure of the instrument, its musical scale, is derived from fundamental physical laws related to vibration and overtones, representing the intellectual capacity of human beings on this subject.  —Wikipedia


The sound of the qin is best suited to accompany the human voice. The human voice is poetic, speaking from the depth of life experiences. “Poetry saves lives” is not a casual statement. Many have come back from the brink of destruction, despair and oppression by reading or remembering a verse. William Ernest Henley’s Invictus is an example:

The poem was read by US POWs in North Vietnamese prisons. James Stockdale (United States Navy vice admiral and aviator ) recalls being passed the last stanza, written with rat droppings on toilet paper, from fellow prisoner David Hatcher. —wikipedia

Poetry is a thing that stays hidden and mute until needed. When we reach for it, it will accompany our journey for another mile. But we have to at least know that this lifeline exists and we must nurture it by reading or listening occasionally. No, it is not entertainment. It is meditation, it is yoga, it is spiritualism, it is love.


Tea (along with soy sauce, oil and vinegar.) is one of the seven necessities of Chinese life. One sees the practicality of soy sauce, oil and vinegar. But what about a leaf in a bowl of water? Perhaps it is medicinal. Perhaps it is ritualistic. But it is not a convenience nor a quick fix to satisfy thirst. Tea ceremony is a communal experience, to serve and be served with something exquisite and refined. It articulates a sensual language that rounds out the experience of an elegant gathering.


San Francisco Chinatown with its long dark history of immigrants working in the mines, the railroads and the Sacramento levees did not have the luxury of elegant gatherings. But it is here, in the same streets that laborers had toiled and struggled that a new art revival is happening. Tranquil Resonance Studio together with Clarion Music Performing Arts Center will present an evening of elegant gathering. David Wong, guqin master, will perform on the instrument with friends. Poet Clara Hsu will read in English and Chinese translations from the work of William Blake (English poet, 1757-1827) and Chinese and English translations of the work of Lao-Tzu (ancient Chinese philosopher, 604-531 BC). Gongfu tea will be served. There will also be an exhibition of Chinese paintings and calligraphy in the adjoining Galeria Clarion. It is time for the assiduous minds (if not exhausted bodies) to take a break from the daily challenges, the computer screens, cell phones and text messages and enjoy a moment of tranquility, guided by music and words, the beauty of Chinese paintings and the aroma of tea.

Music, poetry, art and tea may serve as a conduit into the essence of Chinese culture. Its aesthetic is built on purity. Its virtue is all-embracing. As Lao-Tzu wrote, “in it there are images…in it there are objects…in it there is a vital energy…in it there is trust.” —Tao-te Ching, passage 21


Chinese Music | Lao-Tzu |William Blake
An Elegant Tea Gathering

Clarion Music Performing Arts Center
816 Sacramento Street (entrance on Waverly Place)
San Francisco, CA 94108

July 28, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Tickets $20-$25 at