Together with some friends he started a band called “Jazz Band” and they traveled trough Taiwan. After a short time later a fire destroyed their only saxophone. Saxophones were very expensive and rare in those days. The price of a saxophone was as high as the price of 1 acre of farmland. The creative and handy Lien-Cheng wanted to try and see if he could restore the precious instrument.
He decided to disassemble the damaged saxophone completely and rebuild all the elements one by one. To get the basic material to make the saxophone he even took copper from doors and melted silver coins as soldering material. In the process of making his first saxophone, he lost sight of his right eye when a piece of metal ricocheted.
Yet Lien-Cheng persisted and after a long time of research and a lot of experimenting he succeed to build the first Taiwanese saxophone. The buyer was a Filipino musician who offered a generous amount of money – enough to launch Lien-Cheng as a professional saxophone builder.
Until his death in 1986 Lien-Cheng passed his knowledge to numerous pupils. He was a very strict teacher who demanded perfection. He could not accept any errors, flaws and anomalies. When one of his students messed up big time he was so furious that the student got a beating and he promptly destroyed the saxophone. About 200 students completed their training from which many of them started their own businesses.
During the 70s, the Taiwanese saxophone industry peaked and 30 factories in Houli produced more than 30,000 instruments a year, representing about 1/ 3 of the world production.
The quality of saxophones was already so good that Yamaha wanted to work together with Lien-Cheng. Ultimately they could not agree on the proportions of the shares. An interesting detail is that the Yamaha saxophone builders had learned their trade in the LC factory.
The factories in Houli always manufactured saxophones and components for other brands, so they remained in the shadow. The Changs regret that “Jupiter” (which came from Yamaha) was the only independent Taiwanese brand that penetrated the global market.
The saxophone companies in Houli were mainly small family businesses, often with no more than 4 or 8 workers. Because of their small scale operations and little knowledge of marketing, they depended on agents.
In 1980 there was a big crisis when one of the greatest saxophone agents left and decided to produce saxophones on a larger scale in China. Many saxophone factories were wiped away as China began to rise very strongly. The Taiwanese saxophone builders could not compete with the extremely low Chinese wages and mass production. Of the original 30 factories in Houli only 13 remained.
Even though China certainly cannot match the quality of the Houli saxophones the Taiwanese saxophone makers were aware that they cannot risk a second surprise, so they called in extra help.
With the financial support of the Taiwanese government the “Lien-Cheng” factory could cooperate with the research institute that was established to support the Taiwanese saxophone industry with in-depth research with all the possible scientific and technical resources possible to study the best saxophones available, in order to create even better saxophones and ensure a stronger position for the legendary saxophone builders of Houli.
The efforts of the research have yielded great results and findings, and which led to the introduction of a new saxophone in 2009 for the European public.
Tsung-Yao, the grandson of Lien-Cheng (who was 13 when he made his first saxophone) and his wife, Tsai Jui- are leading the company that Lien-Cheng founded more than 60 years ago.
The Changs are no ordinary copycats – no – they want and they will match and even improve the saxophone quality – following the legacy of grandfather Lien-Cheng.
There is a close cooperation with saxophone technicians and players from Belgium, The Netherlands and the USA to guarantee that LC Sax can keep on innovating and producing quality saxophones.
The brand name is “Lien-Cheng or short “LC Sax”, that in honor of the man who is the father of the Asian saxophone industry.