Labour of love making instruments

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WHAT started out as a hobby has turned into a lucrative business for yoga instructor Ng Chung Sing.

The 51-year-old started making guqin, a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument, in 2013 after falling in love with the instrument.

“I could not afford to buy it then, so I decided I will make one for myself.”

Speaking to Malay Mail when met at his home in Simpang, the Universiti Malaya trained chemist said he learned how to make the guqin through YouTube.

Guqin is played since ancient times and has traditionally been favoured by scholars and the literati as an instrument of subtlety and refinement.

Ng said the instrument has been associated with Chinese philosopher Confucius.

“Unlike guitar, which provides entertainment, guqin is more of calming the mind.”

It can be a tedious task to make the instrument.

Ng said it could take between six months and a year to complete one.

“It takes a long time as we need to wait for the paint to dry,” he said, adding that a guqin is coated with 20 layers of paint.

“Mind you, this is not the normal paint we get off the shelf but natural tree bark paint that is imported from China,” he said, noting that the paint would oxidise into a dark colour once it is exposed to air.

How much does a guqin cost, you might ask?

Ng said so far, a guqin that fetched the highest price was made by a master in China, costing a whopping RMB400 million (RM240.5 million).

“For me, the highest I sold was at RM40,000 and the lowest was RM15,000,” he said.

Since starting his hobby, Ng has made more than 30 guqin.

“Most of it I sold to enthusiasts in China. Locally, the market is not much,” he said, adding that the sound makes the quality of the guqin.

“The wood used to make the instrument will determine the sound quality. Normally, I used two types of wood tong wood, the Chinese parasol tree, or shan mu, an old or ancient wood because most of the sap and moisture have been dried up over time.”

Ng said he gets his supply of wood from China.

“It is sold online,” he said.

Those interested in viewing his work, can contact him via his Facebook page.