Chinese Music has been made since the dawn of Chinese civilization with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC – 256 BC). Today, the music continues a rich traditional heritage in one aspect, while emerging into a more contemporary form at the same time. There are many musical instruments that are integral to Chinese culture.
The ‘guzheng’ 古筝 [gǔzhēng] (zither with movable bridges), also called ‘zheng’ 筝, is a Chinese plucked zither. It has 18-23 or more strings and movable bridges. The guzheng is the ancestor of several Asian zither instruments, such as the Japanese koto, the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh.
The ‘guqin’ 古琴 [gǔqín] (bridgeless zither), also called ‘qin’ 琴, is the modern name for a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has been played since ancient times, and is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as “the father of Chinese music” or “the instrument of the sages”.
The ‘sheng’ 笙 [shēng] (vertical flute) is a mouth-blown free reed instrument consisting of vertical pipes. Traditionally, the sheng has been used as an accompaniment instrument for solo suona or dizi performances. It is one of the main instruments in kunqu and some other forms of Chinese opera.
The ‘xiao’ 箫 [xiāo] is a Chinese vertical end-blown flute. It is generally made of dark brown bamboo. The xiāo is a very ancient Chinese instrument usually thought to have developed from a simple end-blown flute used by the Qiang people of Southwest China. The modern six-hole form of the instrument goes back to the Ming Dynasty.
The ‘erhu’ 二胡 [èrhú] (alto fiddle or bowed lute) is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, and sometimes known in the Western world as the “Chinese violin” or a “Chinese two-stringed fiddle”. It is used as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. It is the most popular of the huqin family of traditional bowed string instruments used by various ethnic groups of China. A very versatile instrument, the erhu is used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, such as in pop, rock, jazz, etc.
The ‘pipa’ 琵琶 [pípá] (pear-shaped plucked lute) is a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments. The pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for nearly two thousand years in China. Several related instruments in East and Southeast Asia are derived from the pipa; these include the Japanese biwa, the Vietnamese đàn tỳ bà, and the Korean bipa.
The ‘dizi’ 笛子 [dízi] is a Chinese transverse flute. The dizi is a major Chinese musical instrument, and is widely used in many genres of Chinese folk music, as well as Chinese opera, and the modern Chinese orchestra. Traditionally, the dizi has also been popular among the Chinese common people, and it is simple to make and easy to carry.
The ‘konghou’ 箜篌 [kōnghóu] is an ancient Chinese harp. The main feature that distinguishes the contemporary konghou from the Western concert harp is that the modern konghou’s strings are folded over to make two rows, which enables players to use advanced playing techniques such as vibrato and bending tones. The two rows of strings also make it suitable for playing swift rhythms and overtones.
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