The guqin (Simplified and Traditional Chinese: 古琴, Hanyu Pinyin: guqin, Tongyong Pinyin: gu-cin, English: ancient zither); also known as the qixian qin (Simplified and Traditional Chinese: 七弦琴, Hanyu Pinyin: qixian qin, Tongyong Pinyin: chi-sian cin, English: seven-stringed zither); sixian qin (Simplified Chinese: 丝弦琴, Traditional Chinese: 絲弦琴, Hanyu Pinyin: si-xian qin, Tongyong Pinyin: cisian cin, English: silk-stringed zither); or simply qin, (Simplified and Traditional Chinese: 琴, Hanyu Pinyin: qin, Tongyong Pinyin: cin, English: zither)) is a Chinese zither, and the oldest Chinese stringed instrument with an unbroken playing history. Among themselves guqin players generally call their instruments qin, a practice which will be followed here; people who do not play it are more likely to call it the guqin.
The qin has what are probably the oldest written playing instructions for any instrument now in use. The music is generally simple but profoundly moving when played well.
The qin has been seen for centuries as having almost mystical qualities upon both the players, for whom it is both a means of developing and a demonstration of highly developed personal qualities, and upon its audiences, being credited with the ability to entrance animals, convince rulers of their unworthiness, and even cause enemy forces to withdraw. There are also numerous references to it in poetry and others in novels and short stories.
Certain groups, the ‘lower orders of society’, Buddhists and foreigners, have been seen as unworthy to play the qin by the Daoist literati. Today the instrument and its music are the subject of widespread controversy about the instrument itself, in particular the types of strings to be used, playing style and aesthetics and the context of performance.