Friday, September 26, 2008

List of traditional Chinese musical instruments

Traditional Chinese musical instruments comprise a wide range of string, wind, and percussion instruments. Traditionally, they were classified according to the materials used in their construction.

The Eight Sounds

The eight categories are: silk, bamboo, wood, , metal, clay, gourd and . There are other instruments which may not fit these classifications.


Silk instruments are mostly string instruments . Since the very beginning, the Chinese have used silk for strings, though today metal or nylon are more frequently used. Instruments in the silk category include:


*Guqin - 7-stringed zither
* - 25-stringed zither with moveable bridges
*Guzheng - 16-26 stringed zither with movable bridges
*Konghou - harp
*Pipa - pear-shaped fretted lute with 4 or 5 strings
*Sanxian - plucked lute with body covered with snakeskin and long fretless neck
*Ruan - moon-shaped lute in five sizes: gaoyin-, xiao-, zhong-, da-, and diyin-
*Liuqin - small plucked, fretted lute with a pear-shaped body and four strings
*Yueqin - plucked lute with a wooden body, a short fretted neck, and four strings tuned in pairs
*Qinqin - plucked lute with a wooden body and fretted neck
*Duxianqin - plucked zither with only one string


*Huqin - family of vertical fiddles
*Erhu - two-stringed fiddle
*Zhonghu - two-stringed fiddle, lower pitch than erhu
*Gaohu - two-stringed fiddle, higher pitch than erhu; also called ''yuehu''
*Banhu - two-stringed fiddle with a coconut resonator and wooden face, used primarily in northern China
*Jinghu - two-stringed fiddle, very high pitched, used mainly for Beijing opera
*Jing erhu - ''erhu'' used in Beijing opera
*Erxian - two-stringed fiddle, used in Cantonese, Chaozhou, and nanguan music
*Tiqin - two-stringed fiddle, used in ''kunqu'', Chaozhou, Cantonese, Fujian, and Taiwanese music
*Yehu - two-stringed fiddle with coconut body, used primarily in Cantonese and Chaozhou music
*Daguangxian - fiddle used primarily by the Hakka, in Taiwan and Fujian
* - two-stringed fiddle used in the traditional music of Hunan
*Datongxian - two-stringed fiddle used primarily in the traditional music of southern China and Taiwan
*Hexian - large fiddle used primarily among the Hakka of Taiwan
*Huluqin - two-stringed fiddle with gourd body used by the Naxi of Yunnan
*Huluhu - two-stringed fiddle with gourd body used by the Zhuang of Guangxi
*Maguhu - two-stringed fiddle with horse bone body used by the Zhuang and Buyei peoples of southern China
*Tuhu - two-stringed fiddle used by the Zhuang people of Guangxi
*Jiaohu - two-stringed fiddle used by the Gelao people of Guangxi, as well as the Miao and Dong
*Sihu - four-stringed fiddle with strings tuned in pairs
*Sanhu - 3-stringed ''erhu'' with an additional bass string; developed in the 1970s
*Zhuihu - two-stringed fiddle with fingerboard
*Zhuiqin - two-stringed fiddle with fingerboard
*Leiqin - two-stringed fiddle with fingerboard
*Dihu - low pitched two-stringed fiddles in the ''erhu'' family, in three sizes:
**Xiaodihu - small ''dihu'', tuned one octave below the ''erhu''
**Zhongdihu - medium ''dihu'', tuned one octave below the ''zhonghu''
**Dadihu - large ''dihu'', tuned two octaves below the erhu
* - another name for the ''xiaodihu''
*Cizhonghu - another name for the ''xiaodihu''
*Gehu - four-stringed bass instrument, tuned and played like cello
*Diyingehu - four stringed contrabass instrument, tuned and played like double bass
*Laruan - four-stringed bowed instrument modeled on the cello
*Paqin - modern bowed instrument
**Dapaqin - bass ''paqin''
*Niutuiqin or ''niubatui'' - two-stringed fiddle used by the Dong people of Guizhou
*Matouqin - Mongolian two-stringed "horsehead fiddle"
*Xiqin - ancient prototype of ''huqin'' family of instruments
*Yazheng - bowed zither; also called ''yaqin''
*Zhengni - bowed zither; used by the Zhuang people of Guangxi
*Aijieke - four-stringed bowed instrument used in Xinjiang; similar to ''kamancheh''
*Sataer - long-necked bowed lute used in Xinjiang


*Yangqin - hammered dulcimer of varying strings struck using two bamboo hammers
* - ancient zither, struck or plucked with a stick


Bamboo mainly refers to woodwind instruments, which include:


*Dizi - transverse bamboo flute with buzzing membrane
* - end-blown flute; also called ''dongxiao''
*Paixiao - pan pipes
* - ancient transverse bamboo flute
* - ancient notched vertical bamboo flute with three finger holes; used in Confucian ritual music and dance
* - modern transverse flute with as many as 21 holes
*Dongdi - wind instrument of the Dong people of southern China
*Koudi - very small transverse bamboo flute


* - cylindrical double reed wind instrument made of either hardwood or bamboo ; the northern version is also called ''guanzi'' or ''bili'' and the Cantonese version is also called ''houguan''
*Suona - double-reed wind instrument with a flaring metal bell; also called ''haidi''
* - ''suona'' reed and bocal played melodically, with or without amplifying horn

Free reed pipes

*Bawu - side-blown free reed pipe with finger holes
*Mangtong - end-blown free reed pipe producing a single pitch


Most wood instruments are of the ancient variety:

* - a wooden box that tapers from the top to the bottom, played by hitting a stick on the inside, used to mark the beginning of music in ancient ritual music
* - a wooden percussion instrument carved in the shape of a tiger with a serrated back, played by hitting a stick with an end made of approximately 15 stalks of bamboo on its head three times and across the serrated back once to mark the end of the music
* - a rounded woodblock carved in the shape of a fish, struck with a wooden stick; often used in Buddhist chanting
* - clapper made from two flat pieces of wood; used in ''shuochang'' and Beijing opera
*Paiban - a clapper made from several flat pieces of wood
*Bangzi - small, high-pitched


The "stone" category comprises various forms of stone chimes.
*Bianqing - a rack of stone tablets that are hung by ropes from a wooden frame and struck using a mallet


*Bianzhong - 65 to 100 bronze bells hung on a rack, struck using poles
*Fangxiang - set of tuned metal slabs
*Nao - may refer to either an ancient bell or large cymbals
**Shangnao - ancient bell
* - cymbals
* - gong
*Yunluo - literally "cloud gongs"; 10 or more small tuned gongs in a frame
*Shimianluo - 10 small tuned gongs in a frame
* - ancient bell
**Weichun - ancient hanging bell
* - long, straight trumpet without valves


*Xun - ocarina made of baked clay
*Fou - clay pot played as a percussion instrument


* - free reed mouth organ consisting of varying number of bamboo pipes inserted into a gourd chamber with finger holes
* - ancient free reed mouth organ similar to the sheng but generally larger
* - ancient free reed mouth organ similar to the sheng but smaller
*Hulusi - free-reed wind instrument with three bamboo pipes which pass through a gourd wind chest; one pipe has finger holes and the other two are drone pipes; used primarily in Yunnan province
*Hulusheng - free-reed mouth organ with a gourd wind chest; used primarily in Yunnan province


*Daigu - - large drum played with two sticks
**Huapengu - flowerpot-shaped large drum played with two sticks
*Huzuo Dagu
*Huzuo Wujia Gu
* - small, high pitched drum used in Beijing opera
*Biangu - flat drum, played with sticks
*Paigu - set of three to seven tuned drums played with sticks
* - medium-sized barrel drum played with two sticks
*Huagu - flower drum
*Yaogu - waist drum
*Zhangu - war drum; played with two sticks
*Bajiao gu - octagonal tambourine used primarily in narrative singing from northern China
*Yanggegu - rice planting drum
*Bofu - ancient drum used to set tempo
*Jiegu - hourglass-shaped drum used during the Tang Dynasty
* or ''taogu'' - a pellet drum used in ritual music


* - an ancient flute made of bone
*Lilie - reed wind instrument with a conical bore played by the Li people of Hainan
*Lusheng - free-reed mouth organ with five or six pipes, played by various ethnic groups in southwest China and neighboring countries
*Kouxian - Jew's harp, made of bamboo or metal
*Muye - tree leaf used as a wind instrument

Playing contexts

Chinese instruments are either played solo, or collectively in large orchestras or in smaller ensembles . Normally, there is no conductor in traditional Chinese music, or use of musical scores or tablature whilst in performance. Music was generally learned orally and memorized by the musician beforehand, then played without aid, meaning totally accuracy and teamwork is required. But nowadays, music scores can be used, or a conductor if the number of musicians is large enough for that need.

1 comment:

Admin said...

Serpent. An instrument with certain extra-musical overtones and in the right hands a lethal weapon in your armory to beguile your beloved. Just don't overdo it, the effects can be earth-shattering!