About Us

Stringed instruments are among the most beautiful sounding instruments, and possess a unique, multi-faceted expressive capability. Their range of sound imitates the human voice, bearing extreme charisma both in aesthetic perception and emotional interpretation. The stringed instrument can also simultaneously perform fast-paced and highly ornamented pieces to enable skilled performers to spontaneously express various musical sentiments, from soft sweetness to dramatic tension. Stringed instruments also combine well with other instruments in ensemble performances.

The stringed instrument, as we know it today in western music history, first appeared around 400 years ago. Over the century, its status steadily rose, from originally being a folk instrument played by commoners to an instrument favored among aristocrats in royal palaces. Its high acceptance in various social levels demonstrates the uniqueness of its quality. As western music evolved over time, the importance of stringed instruments also increased. The development of instrumentals, the emergence of symphonies, and the popularity of concerto were all closely linked to stringed instruments. It goes without saying that stringed instruments, which can be found anywhere, such as imperial courts, orchestras, theatres, homes, and so forth, have become universally favored instruments nowadays. Among them, the violin, which bears expressive power, rich tone, and small, lightweight construction, is the most widely adopted stringed instrument.

The stringed instrument has indubitably attained legendary status in its four hundred years of history. In the early 17th century, the violinmakers of Northern Italy wrote the most glorious page in the history of musical instrument making. Their outstanding craftsmanship not only established a model for later generations to follow, but also created individual masterpieces that would be handed down to posterity as treasured heirlooms. In addition to their historical significance, these instruments also possess immense aesthetic beauty, and still attract considerable interest today from musicians, music enthusiasts, and musicologists.

Since 1990, the ChiMei Culture Foundation has been engaged in an unprecedented program of famous violin collections, focusing particularly on Italian violins. The Italian violin-making tradition was based on family businesses in which skills were handed down from generation to generation and through apprenticeship. From its birthplace in Cremona, the violin-making industry gradually expanded into numerous schools over time. The goal that Chi Mei set for itself was to acquire all works by important luthiers and their apprentices from each vioin-making school, so as to present a comprehensive picture of the development of the Italian violin-making tradition. Among its collection also includes instruments made by the distinguished Austrian luthier, Jacob Stainer (c.1617-c.1683), the four greatest French violinmakers, and the leading masters in Holland and Spain. It is undoubted that Chi Mei is building an ideal “Kingdom of Violins.” In terms of the transmission of skills from master to apprentice and the different national instrument-making traditions, one can trace the connections between Amati, his apprentices Stradivari and Guarneri, and their students, continuing down for a hundred years or more. Then there is the rivalry between instrument-makers in Italy, Germany and France. This collection makes it possible to view the violin-making tradition as a whole, transcending the boundaries of time and space, giving music lovers an opportunity to enjoy over a hundred famous violins brought together in one space-time.