The zheng has a long history in China, the earliest appearance dates back to the Warring States period (476 to 453 BC). Originally setup with 12-strings, during the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD), the instrument has since expanded to 13-strings; in the 1950s, the instrument further expanded to include 21 or 25 strings. The zheng is mostly used for ensemble playing or as an accompaniment to ‘narrative song’, which is a traditional Chinese musical genre that combines literature, music and performance. A Mournful Cry (2011) resembles the ‘narrative song’ tradition by asking the zheng player to recite a poem by Li Qingzhao in the style of sprechgesang, a spoken-singing style that Arnold Schoenberg used widely in his Pierrot Lunaire, whilst playing the zheng. The Chinese title of this piece is adopted directly from the poem Suzhongqing (literally meaning ‘A Mournful Cry’), which depicts the poet’s longing for her departed husband.