China Travel Guide

Traditional Chinese Musical Instrument

Ancient Chinese believed that the music could purify people's minds. More than 3,000 years ago, ancient China had some 70 types of musical instruments. The royal family and aristocrats had their own orchestra. For them, music was also a way to display their power, position and taste distinguished from common people. However, as music was never limited to the upper social class, the musical trend gradually turned from solemnity to entertaining. Huge and complex instruments like the bronze chimes gave way to more lively and easy-play wind and reed instruments. The Tang Dynasty, one of the strongest and most prosperous empires in Chinese history, was a golden age for musical development. Many of the Tang emperors were musicians or composers themselves. With frequent cultural exchanges with other cultures, a large number of exotic instruments were introduced, altered and finally adopted into the family of Chinese traditional instruments. Chinese traditional musical instruments can be mainly classified into three categories, string, wind and percussion. Here is a brief introduce to typical Chinese musical instruments.

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Xun

Xun

Xun is one of the oldest musical instruments found so far in China with a history of more than 7,000 years. The instrument has been found along the Yangtze River and the Yellow River as Neolithic relics, and is believed very popular in ancient China. The ancestors used a kind of oval stone with naturally formed holes on it to hunt the preys. When thrown it at the animals, the stone produced a whistling sound as the air flowed through the holes, which could have provided inspiration for early win... More

 
Xiao

Xiao

The melody of vertically-played bamboo flute or Xiao in Chinese, reminds people of a lonely moon highly hanging in the sky of a frosty autumn night. The sound made of it is the sound of nature. Development The earliest Xiao appeared during the Han Dynasty (206B.C. -220A .D.), and it was then called Qiangdi, which was popular among the Qiang people in Sichuan and Gansu Provinces. In the 1st century BC, it became popular in the Yellow River region. Later, it was developed into an instr... More

 
Sheng

Sheng

Sheng is a kind of wind instrument in China. It has played an active role in promoting the development of Western musical instruments. In 1978, Paosheng, the earliest form of Sheng, were unearthed in Hubei Province in a royal tomb with a history more than 2,400 years ago. The development of the Sheng can be traced back to 3,000 years ago. The instrument is quite similar in form to another kind of instrument called the Paixiao. Development Sheng originally consists of several bamboo... More

 
Pipa

Pipa

Pipa has four-stringed lute with 30 frets and pear-shaped body. The musician holds the instrument upright and play with five small plectrums attached to each finger of the right hand. The history of Pipa dates back at least 2,000 years. This instrument has extremely wide dynamic range and is remarkably rich and expressive.   The original pipa comes to us from the second century BC. Poetry and drawings depict an instrument held horizontally and named for the forward (pi) and backwards (pa)... More

 
Guzheng

Guzheng

Guzheng originated during the Warring Period more than 2,500 years ago in China. The earliest known versions were constructed with a bamboo frame and used silk strings. Its scale was pentatonic, using the notes DO, RE, MI, SO, and LA with a major note for each of its five strings. Because Guzheng was developed in a region called ‘Qin Guo', its name became known as the ‘Qin zheng'. Development Guzheng became very popular in the imperial court and among the common people. H... More

 
Guqin

Guqin

Guqin is also known as the Seven-stringed Qin. The body is a long and narrow wooden sound box. Usually, it is 130 centimeters long, 20 centimeters wide and 5 centimeters high. The surface is generally made of paulownia wood or China fir, and has seven strings stretched along it. On the edges are 13 inlaid jade markers. Catalpa wood is used for the base, and there are two holes, one big and one small, which are named the ‘phoenix pool' and ‘dragon pond', to emit the sound.   Th... More

 
Erhu

Erhu

Erhu is one of the most popular Chinese string instruments. This two-stringed vertical fiddle has a long history of more than 1,000 years. Capable of making expressive and haunting sound, Erhu is extremely popular in China today as a medium for both traditional and contemporary music as well as plays an important role in both solo and orchestral performances. Characters Although hailed as a Chinese violin, Erhu is quite different from its western counterpart. There is a vertical post... More

 
Drum

Drum

Although its exact origin is still unknown, drum occupies a prominent place in Chinese culture. According to the ancient literatures, it might as old as Chinese history itself.   The existing earliest documentation of its application occurs in Oracle Inscriptions of the Shang Dynasty (1600B.C.-1100B.C.). As an old and wonderful form of art, the drum has been employed in almost every aspect of Chinese social life, including sacrificial and worshiping ceremonies, farming, and warfare. &nbs... More

 
Dizi

Dizi

For many Chinese people, the melody of the transversely-played bamboo flute or Dizi in Chinese, calls to mind a picture of a country cowherd riding a bull in the spring breeze. The gnarls in the long bamboo pipe have been eliminated. There are one blowing hole, one affiliated hole and six sound holes. The blowing hole is the first hole of the flute, where the air is blown in to make sounds. Next one is the affiliated hole, which is covered by the membrane of the bamboo or bulrush.   The a... More

 
Chinese Chimes

Chinese Chimes

Chinese Chimes are made flat with sharp corners like two tiles pieced together. So, the sound wanes faster, making it possible to organize the bells into groups and play them as a rhythm instrument. Zeng Houyi's bronze chimes are perhaps the greatest find among all the chimes unearthed so far in terms of the size and significance. Bells The bells fill a 60-square-meter area and a total weight of five tons. The heaviest one is 203.6 kilogram and is 1.5 meters tall, while the smallest ... More

 

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