©The UK Chinese Ensemble 1998-2010

Silk String Quartet

Europe's Premier Chinese String Quartet. Winner of PRS Foundation (for New Music) Awards for Performance Groups 2007

New in its style and unique in its instrumentation, the Silk String Quartet is an exciting professional Chinese string group based in the UK. It comprises the four best classically trained Chinese virtuoso musicians based in Britain, rich in Chinese and Western musical experience and with international reputations. They have pooled their talents in order to pursue creative music projects and collaborations. The Silk String Quartet plays new music - some especially commissioned - as well as their own interpretation of traditional pieces. Their music is principally Chinese in origin, but they also enjoy educational and collaborative projects across a range of musical cultures.

Established in Spring 2006, the Quartet has gained its profile as one of the Europe's best professional Chinese music ensembles for classical and contemporary music. The group has been invited to play on the prestigious stages of world music at WOMEX 2006 in Spain, and at WOMAD 2007, both in the UK and in Gran Canaria. In addition to performing widely in Europe (including in Holland, Germany, France, Spain, Ireland and Sweden), the Quartet's UK concerts have included such venues as London's Royal Opera House, Southbank's Purcell Room, Duke's Hall, St George's in Bristol, the Sage Gateshead in Newcastle and at the Manchester, Brighton and Guildford Festivals. The Quartet's debut CD (top 3 ARC Music 2007-08) has been highly acclaimed and was featured by BBC Radio 3. The group's collaborative projects since 2007 have included shows with the acclaimed multimedia opera spectacular "Monkey: Journey to the West" (with Blur/Gorillaz singer Damon Albarn), in Paris' Théâtre du Châtelet (2007) and in London's O2 Center (2008-09); with cellist Matthew Barley including works by Peter Wiegold November 2008); with the Chamber Music Company featuring Judith Weir and Tan Dun's works (Dec 2008) as well newly commissioned music with pianist Lang Lang and London Symphony Orchestra (April 2009); a Chinese-Scottish-Western music project with double bass player Emma Smith and composer Jim Sutherland, supported by Arts Council of Scotland, and toured Scotland in summer 2010.

Audio and video samples

The Quartet's performance with The LSO String Ensemble at LSO St. Lukes

In That Remote Place

Dance of the Cavalry

One Undivided

The Quartet's performance with piano star Lang Lang at LSO St. Lukes

Mao Mao Yi

Dance of the Yao People

For further videos and photos of the Quartet's performance with piano star Lang Lang at LSO St. Lukes, see:

LSO Space and select Dragon Songs
LSO flickr
LSO:Lang Lang

Waterscape Silhouette

Three and Six

Purple Bamboo Melody


"...the idea of combing these stringed instruments is as new as silk is ancient... amazing timbres and playing techniques... evokes all the nuances of human emotions..." November 2007, Ethnotempos, France

"...this beautiful CD of four excellent performers...flows brilliantly...with an interesting timbre and a rich sound..." November 2007, World Music Magazine, Italy

"It's a great privilege to work with the Silk String Quartet... They are absolutely amazing musicians..." - Lang Lang interview April 2009, see www.lsospace.co.uk

Main members of the ensemble

Cheng Yu - pipa (4-stringed lute) and qin (7-stringed zither)
Founder of the Quartet, currently teaches pipa and guqin at SOAS, University of London, former soloist in the China Central Orchestra of Chinese Music, Beijing, and holds BMus., MMus. and PhD degrees.

Sun Zhuo - guzheng (21-stringed zither)
Holds BMus. and MMus. degrees from the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing and now completing her PhD on guzheng music at SOAS.

Wang Xiao - erhu (2-stringed fiddle)
Former lead musician with the Henan Provincial Chinese Music Ensemble and a graduate of the Wuhan Conservatory of Music.

Zhou Jinyan - yangqin
Former member of the prestigious Beijing Plucked Strings Ensemble with a BMus honours degree from the China Conservatory of Music, Beijing.

For more information or a promotional CD, please contact Cheng Yu.
The Silk String Quartet is supported by the PRS Foundation for New Music.

Profile highlights

The Silk String Quartet & Emma Smith (SSQ & ES): 2011 Autumn tour and future concerts

We are delighted to announce that our SSQ & ES project won two separate grants in 2009 and 2010 from Arts Council of Scotland (www.scottisharts.org.uk/). The funding will enable us to experiment and develop a broad, new musical repertoire drawing from old and new Chinese and Scottish music as well as newly commissioned compositions. This adventure will bear fruit in the Autumn of 2011 with a tour in Scotland and performances in England. Look out for our Autumn 2011 News and Event for schedules.

Following the successful adventures of SSQ’s cross-cultural projects with world class musicians including pianist Lang Lang (2009), pop singer/composer Damon Albarn’s “Monkey: Journey to the West” at the O2 (2008-09), cellist Matthew Barley (2008), the Quartet has now moved on to yet another interesting East vs West musical exploration – The Silk String Quartet and Emma Smith – Chinese strings and Western double bass. Our specific interest is to work on new interpretations of traditional and modern Chinese and Scottish music to present a unique and fresh programme to audiences in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

For details see the Projects page.

Main activities and projects for 2009

For details of the Quartet's activities, please see the Updates and Events page.

Main activities and projects for 2008