Updated: 2011-02-11 11:36
By Eric Jou (China Daily European Weekly)
leading chinese luthier taps on legacy of music to create works of passion
Wang Zhiming grew up in a family of instrument makers, but he is the only one who could actually play a violin. Wang, 51, has been making violins for more than 30 years. He grew up around violins and musical instruments. He is the third generation of instrument makers in his family, following his grandfather and father.
Wang Zhiming is the owner of the Beijing-based Lu Mi Strings music company, which makes high-end, made-to-order Chinese violins. Wang's factory currently employs more than 18 people and manufactures about 200 violins a month. Zhang Tao / China Daily
"My grandfather made and tuned instruments and my father made violins," Wang says. "My father learned to make violins following the German style and I learned to make violins from him."
Wang Zhiming's father never got the chance to learn how to play violins, but insisted that his son learn how to play and perform from the best teachers available in China.
At the age of 14, Wang, learned how to build and make his own violins in his father's workshop in Beijing. At 20, he started to learn under luthier Dai Gongqiang at the Beijing violin factory.
"My grandfather didn't have a chance to play the instruments he made and he never had the chance to give my father the opportunity to play," Wang says. "My father decided I had to learn how to play."
Wang joined the China Central Conservatory of Music and advanced his skills both as a musician and a luthier. Studying the traditional methods of instrument making from school and merging it with the German style that he learned from his father, Wang furthered his education. He took trips to Cremona, Italy, to learn from the home of the legendary Antonio Stradivari.
In 1987, he auditioned and joined the China Philharmonic as a violinist and fulfilled his father's wishes. Wang took some time off from playing with the philharmonic in 2000 to start his workshop, where he makes violins and other stringed instruments for sale.
With help from his father, Wang trained 10 employees in the art of luthiering. Now he has more than 18 employees making about 200 violins a month.
Wang's son is also a musician and luthier.
"My son is 21 and a student at the China Central Conservatory of Music," Wang says.
"He plays the viola and also knows how to make instruments, I don't know if he will take over the family business.
"But so long as he's happy, I'm happy."
Wang says dedicating his life to his trade has paid off.
"When I was growing up, practicing the violin was so boring I hated it," Wang says.
"But now that I look back at my accomplishments, I realize how worthwhile it was.
"I find incredible satisfaction in both performing and creating."
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