Wu Man and the Ancient Chinese Pipa

“Pipa superstar” [The Washington Post] Wu Man lives in San Diego, but performs in venues around the world—and she’s doing it on an instrument that was nearly forgotten by its native China.

During the 20th century, China lurched from revolution to civil war, foreign occupation, rapid industrialization, and famine, to the devastating effects of the Cultural Revolution. Widespread chaos rattled nearly every aspect of life, including the native music. Traditional instruments were relegated to the trash heap.

When the Central Conservatory awarded a master’s degree in Pipa Performance to Wu Man in 1987, it was a first for her instrument. At that point, its entire repertoire had dwindled to less than 30 solo pieces.

Today, Wu Man is placing the 2,000-year-old pipa at the cutting edge of music, with partners such as Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, jazz and bluegrass musicians, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Hear the story:

Noel Morris, host and producer

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