Excerpt from V. Listening to the Land
(hear the full work below)


Music Director Rossen Milanov, composer Zhou Tian, Min Zhang of Hangzhou Federation of Literary and Art Circles, and Executive Director Marc Uys introduce a gift of calligraphy written for Princeton Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of the US premiere of “Broken Ink.” Richardson Auditorium, Princeton, NJ.

Program Note

The poetry of the Song Dynasty (960–1279) has long been a staple in the Chinese culture, and Hangzhou, once the capital of Southern Song, has fittingly commissioned the acclaimed Chinese-American composer Zhou Tian to create a symphonic piece of music to celebrate the city’s magnificent cultural heritage. “Broken Ink,” a symphonic suite inspired by the poetry of the Song dynasty, “marries the Chinese traditions with the power of the Western symphony orchestra in an attempt to convey a sense of lingering poetic flavor in the 21st century,” says Zhou. In addition to the standard orchestral palette, the orchestration also includes traditional percussion instruments such as Tibetan singing bowls, tuned gongs, and a large Chinese bass drum.

The work contains five movements, each inspired by a particular poem as follows, with descriptions by the composer:


I. Hearing the Sound of the Rain and Bell

After “Bells Ringing in the Rain” by Liu Yong (987–1053)

Two lovers parting in the rain, drinking quietly in front of an old pavilion and a magnificent river while the sound of bell lingers


II. Watching the Tidal Bore

After “Watching the Tidal Bore” by Liu Yong

Watching the splendid tidal bore of the Qiantang River, a drunken man hears the sound of flute and drums


III. The Drizzling Rain at the Plum Season

After “Green Jade Cup” by He Zhu (1052–1125)

Seeking love in a town full of fluffy catkins from blooming willows


IV. The Mighty River Runs Eastward

After “First Ode on the Red Cliff” by Su Shi (1036–1101)

Recalling the Battle of Red Cliff of the Three Kingdoms while boat riding on the Yangtze River


V. Listening to the Land

After “Forever in Happiness (Reminiscing the bygone days)” by Xin Qiji (1140 –1207)

Remembering heroes when the end of a dynasty is near


Each movement of the suite can be independently programed and performed.

Broken Ink was commissioned by Hangzhou Federation of Literary and Art Circles. The score calls for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, clarinet in E-flat, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (4 players: vibraphone, marimba, tuned gong set, glockenspiel, tubular bells, crotale, tibetan singing bowls, tom-toms, snare drum, bass drum, triangle, mark tree, suspended cymbal, crash cymbal, Chinese cymbal, finger cymbals, traditional Chinese bass drum, tamtam, temple block), harp, piano (doubling celesta), and strings.


Recording of this work is available from

iTunes | Amazon | Spotify


Note: the revised score contains sections that are different from the recordings below


I. Hearing the Sound of the Rain and the Bell

II. Watching the Tidal Bore (with optional choir)

III. The Drizzling Rain at the Plum Season

IV. The Mighty River Runs Eastward (with optional choir)

V. Listening to the Land


Composer Zhou Tian in rehearsal with Alistair MacRae, principle cello of Princeton Symphony Orchestra on “Broken Ink.” Richardson Auditorium, Princeton, NJ. Photo: Princeton Symphony


© Copyright Zhou Tian / Zhou Tian Music
All rights reserved

Broken Ink (2013)

Commissioned by Hangzhou Federation of Literary and Art Circles

Duration: 30 minutes

Scoring: 3(picc).3(corA).3(Bs.Cl).3(cbn)/
4331/timp/4 perc/hp/pno(cel.)/str

31 December 2013, Hangzhou Grand Theatre, Hangzhou, China.
Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra
Yang Yang, conductor

US Premiere (Revised Version):
7 May 2017, Richardson Auditorium, Princeton, NJ.
Princeton Symphony Orchestra
Rossen Milanov, conductor

Recording: Pacific PCD6453
iTunes | Amazon | Spotify



AddToCartCL1 AddToCartDL1