©The UK Chinese Ensemble 1998-2010

Cheng Yu

Born in Beijing and formerly a pipa soloist with the Central Orchestra of Chinese Music in China, Cheng Yu is a renowned pipa lute and guqin zither virtuoso, ethnomusicologist and specialist in Chinese music. She studied the pipa from the age of 7 from her father (a Pudong pipa master) and the guqin zither from the age of 14, graduated with distinction from the Xi'an Conservatory of Music and won several top prizes for her pipa performances. Based in London since the 1990s, she gained scholarships for her MMus and PhD degrees in ethnomusicology at SOAS, University of London. She is a co-founder of the UK Chinese Music Ensemble (1998), the London Youlan Qin Society (2003) and the award-winning Silk String Quartet (2007).

Besides performing regularly in Europe and the UK, appearing in venues such as the Purcell Room, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal Opera House and at the WOMAD, WOMEX and Edinburgh Festivals, Cheng Yu has been actively involved in contemporary and cross-culture/genre music collaborations with musicians such as pianist Lang Lang, Cellist Matthew Barley, Damon Albarn and composers including Tan Dun, Zhou Long, Philip Glass, Peter Wiegold and Gabriel Prokofiev. Her project (2005-7) to recreate the 5-stringed pipa (lost since the 8th century) with new music has won her awards from ACE, AHRC and Women in Music and premiered in London, Beijing, Seoul and Taipei. Cheng Yu has performed with orchestras including the London Sinfonietta (1996), the Lyon Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain (2001-2), the Avignon Orchestra (2003-4), the Edinburgh String Quartet (2004-5), the Grand Union Orchestra (2002-11), The Emperor String Quartet (2008), the London Symphony Orchestra and Lang Lang (2009), the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (2014), and Club Inégales 2015 - 2018. She established the UK's first China-West Mixed orchestra - the Flowing Water Ensemble - with a new work premiered in London's Hackney Empire Theatre. In summer 2018, she successfully directed the week-long First London International Guqin Festival, which was awarded funding from several organisations, including Arts Council England, and drew musicians and scholars from over a dozen countries. She lives in London and teaches pipa and guqin music at SOAS, University of London.

Please see the Projects, UKCE Performance, the Silk String Quartet and the Silk and Bamboo Ensemble pages for details of the many concerts and recitals by Cheng Yu, the UK Chinese Ensemble, the Silk String Quartet and the Silk and Bamboo Ensemble.

Cheng Yu's many published recordings include her pipa and guqin solo albums and a number of CDs with the UK Chinese Ensemble and in collaboration with musicians from other parts of the world

Video samples

Guqin and piano performance, Cabaret Theatre, Hippodrome, May 2018

Dance of the Yi People (Yizi Wuqu)

Wang Zhaojun


Cheng Yu playing Flute and Drum at Sunset (Xiyang Xiaogu) with the pianist Lang Lang at LSO St. Lukes:

Cheng Yu playing Snow in Sunny Spring (Yang Chun Bai Xue):