Remarkable for its state of preservation and vivid colors, this rare five-stringed instrument called ch'in is constructed from a single piece of wood with a rectangular hole cut in the underside serving as a sound box. The important discovery of the tomb of Marquis I of Cheng (433 b.c.), which yielded the massive set of sixty-five bronze bells also included two types of lacquer zithers: one version with ten strings resembled the rectangular type held by the tomb figurine shown here. The second, narrower type, is very close in form, fine decoration, and number of strings to this example. Still being played, the ch'in is arguably the oldest continuous musical tradition in the world. Its unique notational system, which records detailed finger techniques that indicate timbral subtleties, has persisted since at least the T'ang dynasty. Popular since the time of Confucius (6th century b.c.), the ch'in has shared an intimate relationship with the lives and thoughts of the literati. The instrument of choice for traditional scholars, it offers a unique view of Chinese culture. The soundtrack playing in the gallery includes a section of "ancient" ch'in music.