Music was generally passed without writing it down so records are scarce. The earliest known record of solo zheng scores is actually found in a Japanese manuscript from around the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). The first modern attempt to document and publish guzheng music in particular came in the 1920s. (Lau 2006). A man named Huáng Shí (黃石) published a lithograph entitled Zhōngzhōu Gǔ Diào (中州鼓調) which contained three Henan zheng pieces in a modified form of gōngchěpǔ (工尺谱) notation. Huáng added beat and rhythm markings to the notes to make the structure of the music clearer.
Another man, Wei Ziyau (魏子猶, Wèi zi yóu), created but did not publish a set of 10 or so Henan zheng pieces in a mimeograph he titled Zhōngzhōu Gǔ Diào (中州古調). He did distribute to those he knew.
It wasn’t until 1938 that a set of zheng musical scores was published widely. Liáng Tsài-píng (梁在平) published “Proposed Zheng Scores” (擬箏譜, Nǐ zhēng pǔ) which contained 15 zheng pieces in gōngchěpǔ notation. Liáng’s work was noticed and sparked documentation efforts that continue to this day.
Thousands of songs have now been collected, created for, and adapted to be played by guzheng. Below is a sortable table of over 350 famous songs alongside what translated titles are available. Songs range from ancient classics hundreds of years old through folk music and on to newer compositions from the 1900s to 2000’s. Click on the links to Youtube or guzheng.cn to hear the songs. Guzheng.cn is in Mandarin but provides videos, recordings, and sheet music among other things. 曲谱 will help you find sheet music.
Approximations of each song's difficulty is in the "Level" column. Players of Chinese instruments can sit for exams produced by the Central Conservatory of Music (中央音樂學院). These exams run from the simplest, 1, to the most complex, 10. 10 is also referred to as “Performance” level. To pass a level 1 exam students must play several Level 1 songs; to pass level 2, several level 2 songs, and so on. Songs that I do not have level information for are listed as "Ungraded".
I have also added a column for Attribution, that is, where these songs come from. Most are identified with a region of China, each with its own musical style. Some songs are so old and widespread they are listed only as “Ancient”, while others are adaptations of foreign songs. When a song is more closely associated with a person than with a region the person’s name is listed.
All of this information comes from published books of songs, exam materials, as well as names of songs pulled from guzheng theses. Sources are described in the "Sources" blind.
Different versions of the same song exist. They can be made more or less complex or they can be played in different styles. For simplicity I have combined these entries with commas.
If you have level information for any of the ones marked "ungraded" or you feel the grading numbers given to a given song are too far off, please send me an email and I'll make changes.
Below are the sources used to create this table. Abbreviations appear in the downloadable version. Right-click or long-tap a link and select "Open in new tab".
CC: Carol Chang, Guzheng Professional, Forum Posts
Chen: The zheng : a Chinese instrument and its music, Thesis
CMD: Chinese Music Dictionary Guzheng Music Volume 1 (华乐大典·古筝卷 乐曲篇（上）), Book
CNOS: China National Orchestral Society Guzheng Grading Album, Vol 1-4, Books
CYCS: California Youth Chinese Symphony, Group
hkgz: Hong Kong Guzheng Performer's Association, Group
Kwok: Zheng : a Chinese zither and its music, Thesis
Li Meng: Gu Zheng Exam Scores selected by Li Meng, Book
NGT: New Guzheng Tutorial, Book 2, Book
QG: Qing Guzheng, Private Teacher, UK
ZnX: Zhang Jing and Xuling Yinfang's Practical Tutor, books 1 and 2., Books
ZCA: Zimei Chinese Culture and Art Academy, Group
A copy of the table can be viewed and commented on here: Google Drive