This type of music has come down to us as an oral tradition from masters to students, although written scores that combine numbers and symbols representing pitch and finger techniques respectively have been in use for nearly two thousand years.
For instance, the earliest scores for guqin we still have today were from the third century.
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Up to the beginning of the twentieth century, classical music had always belonged to elite society and it was not popular among ordinary people.
Today it is really for everybody who enjoys it, and professional musicians playing Chinese classical music are as common as elsewhere in the world.
However it is almost impossible to play directly from the score without first having learnt from a master.
In traditional China, most well–educated people and monks could play classical music as a means of self-cultivation, meditation, mind purification and spiritual elevation, union with nature, identification with the values of past sages, and communication with divine beings or with friends and lovers.
They would never perform in public, or for commercial purposes, as they would never allow themselves to be called “professional musicians”.