Professional Chinese musician Zhu Lei, plays the Pipa, a four stringed lute with a pear-shaped body made from willow and mahogany wood, during a performance by a touring quartet from the Tianjin Conservatory of Music located near Beijing, China. (John Schultz/Quad-City Times)

Zhu Lei’s smile flashed as her fingers flew over the strings of the pipa, a gourd-shaped instrument, Tuesday during a concert at Butterworth Center, Moline.

Four students from the Tianjin Conservatory of Music played traditional Chinese instruments in the library with its 18th century ceiling painting and ornate furnishings.

“We would like to improve the cultural exchange for the United States and the people of China,” leader Lin Jian, a board director of the Department of National Music and associate professor of music, said.

The event was hosted by the Quad-City Chapter of the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association and Davenport Sister Cities committee and sponsored by the Iowa Sister States.  

Musician Zhang Yan-qiu performed the sanxian, a three-stringed, long necked lute.

“This instrument has been around for 3,000 years and the body of the instrument is made of python skin,” Lin said.

Because of the wild animal protection laws, it is very hard to make the instrument nowadays, he said.

The performers usually begin their learning at 5 or 6 and they practice three to four hours a day.  

Zhu is enjoying the group’s two-week tour of the United States. “American friends are very friendly, very enthusiastic, very warm and we get along with everyone we meet,” she said.

The city desk can be contacted at (563) 383-2450 or newsroom@qctimes.com. Comment on this story at qctimes.com.

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