Chinese Musical Instrument

Chinese musical instruments have a long history. It can be confirmed from the unearthed cultural relics that there are a variety of musical instruments as far as the pre-Qin period, such as bone whistle unearthed in Zhejiang Hemudu cultural relics, Jiahu bone flute in Wuyang county(舞阳县), ocarina in Xian Yangshao culture relics, chimestone and python skin drum in Anyang Yinxu culture relics, chime, stone-chime, Jian drum, panpipe, Sheng, bamboo flute, Se discovered in tomb of Yi , Suixian county(随县)… These ancient instruments show the wisdom and creativity of the Chinese nation. Each of them produces a different and unique sound and effect.

1.Erhu(Chinese two-stringed fiddle) 二胡

Erhu began in Tang dynasty and was known as haegeum, which has a history of more than one thousand years. Also called two-stringed Huqin, it is one of the most popular bowed string instruments with a unique nationality.

In the Northern Song dynasty, there was a high level of performance. In the Northern Song dynasty, horsetail Huqin appeared. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Huqin had spread throughout the nation, and became the main instrument of folk opera accompaniment and instrumental ensemble. In modern times, Huqin changed its name to Erhu. Now it is popular as a solo instrument.
During your trip to China, Erhu performance maybe most likely to be see because it is often played non-professionally for entertainment in public parks and streets.

Classical melody

Moonlight on the Second Spring(二泉映月), Horse Racing(赛马), A Happy Night(良宵), Ting Song(听松), Celebrating the Spring Festival(闹春)

2.Guzheng (Chinese Zither) 古筝

Guzheng is a native ancient folk instrument along with the long culture of China. Also known as Han Zheng, Qin Zheng, Yao Zheng and Luan Zheng, Guzheng is one of the unique and oldest Chinese musical plucking instruments in China. It has a beautiful tone, a wide range of vocal range and rich performance skills, so it is very popular among the masses. The most commonly used one are 21 strings.
As early as the Warring States period from the 5th century BC to the 3rd century BC, it was widely spread in the region of Qin State (now Shaanxi), and also known as the Qinzheng. So it has a history of more than 2,500 years.

It is commonly played for Chinese opera, concert performances, and in traditional music ensembles mostly by female musicians. The skilled players can make sounds that can evoke the sense of waterfall, thunder, and even the scenic countryside.

Classical melody

Fishing Boat Sings the Evening(渔舟唱晚), High Mountain and Running Water(高山流水), The Moon over the Han Palace(汉宫秋月), Jackdaw Playing in the Water(寒鸦戏水), Fighting the Typhoon(战台风).

3.Dizi (Chinese bamboo flute) 笛子

Chinese bamboo flute is an ancient Chinese musical instrument and is the most representative national-featured Chinese instruments. It is one of the most commonly used woodwind instruments in Chinese traditional music, which is generally divided into Qu flute in the southern, Bang flute in the northern, and alto flute between the two.

Before the Han dynasty, Dizi mostly refers to the vertical flute, and since Qin and Han dynasties, Dizi was the common name of the Xiao(a vertical bamboo flute) and flute. Since the Qing Dynasty, it has been used for theatrical performance.
Its body has six finger-holes, one blow-hole, and an extra hole between them covered by a thin membrane of reed. Due to easy making and playing, it is very popular among the common Chinese people than other music instruments.

Classical melody

Journey to Suzhou(姑苏行), Spring Visiting Xiang Jiang River(春到湘江), Joyful Reunion(喜相逢), Pastoral Flute(牧笛), A Young Buffalo Boy(小放牛), New Song of the Herdsmen(牧民新歌), Oriole Shows Its Wings(黄莺亮翅)

4.Pipa(Chinese lute) 琵琶

The pipa is a traditional east Asian plucked instrument that has a history of more than 2,000 years. It is made of wood with four-stringed and pear-shaped body. The earliest instruments known as “pipa” appeared in the Qin dynasty in China.

It is an important folk instrument for solo, accompaniment and ensemble, which sounds in a way that touches the strings. When playing, the musician holds the instrument upright with left hand on the string, and with five small plectrums attached to each finger of the right hand.The Chinese lute has spread to other parts of east Asia and developed into the existing Japanese lute, Korean lute and Vietnamese lute.

Nowadays, pipa musicians mainly play on the stage or at special parties or restaurants. The pipa is known as the “king of Musical Instruments” in China. It has been constantly changing and improving in the past thousand years, and has left many excellent works in the long history.

Classical melody

Fortress Song(塞上曲), The House of Flying Daggers(十面埋伏), King Chu Doffs His Armor(霸王卸甲),Gold and Sand(大浪淘沙) , Zhaojun Departs the Frontier(昭君出塞), White Snow in Spring Sunlight(阳春白雪)


Drum is a traditional percussion instrument of China. From the unearthed relics, it can be confirmed that the drum has a history of about 4500 years. In ancient times, drums were used not only for sacrifice and dance, but also for cracking down on the enemy, driving out the beast, and being a tool for timing and alarming. Now, drums are more widely used in many occasions, such as ethnic bands, operas, music and dance, boat and lion dance, festival and assembly, labor competition and so on.

Drum is composed of drum head and body. Player use two bamboo or wood sticks to beat the drum. There are many kinds of drum instruments in China, including waist drum, big drum, Tanggu drum, flower-pot drum and so on.

Classical melody

Dragons Rising And Tigers Leaping(龙腾虎跃), CH’IN WANG P’O CHN YEH(秦王破阵乐), Triumphal Return of Fishing Boats (渔舟凯歌), Decisive Battle between Chu and Han(楚汉决战)

6.Guqin 古琴

Guqin, also known as heptachord(qixian-qin) , is a traditional plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument with a history of at least 3500 years. It is sometimes regarded by the Chinese as “the father of Chinese music”. As the oldest plucked instrument in China, guqin is a treasure of Chinese culture and a representative work of both oral and intangible heritage.

Guqin has a very broad artistic expression, clear, simple, mellow and rich in penetration and texture. Before giving a performance, players should take a shower and burn incense in the room to keep their minds peaceful and concentrate to ward off evil spirits. They pluck the string by right hand and press by left hand.

Nowadays, only a small number of people can play the instrument because it is hard to learn and easy to forget, and the connotation of melody is also hard to understand.

Classical melody

Guangling Verse(广陵散), High mountains and Running water(高山流水), Wild Geese on the Sandbank(平沙落雁), Dialog Between Fisherman And Woodcutter(高山流水), Moon on Guan Mountain(关山月), , Plum-blossom in Three Movements(梅花三弄)

7.Suona 唢呐

In the 3rd century, the Suona was introduced into China from Persia and Arabia. Suona is a kind of Chinese national musical instrument of blowpipe, and also a folk instrument widely spread throughout China.

It has a keen and resonant sound, whose conical body is made of wood, with a copper tube with a whistle at the upper end, and a copper bell mouth covered at the lower end, so Suona is also called Laba.

In the past, it was used as accompaniment in the blowing songs, yangko dance, drum music, local Quyi and oper. Now it has become a unique solo instrument, and is also used as accompaniment for ethnic group ensemble or opera, song and dance.

Classical melody

Birds Paying Homage to the Phoenix(百鸟朝凰), The Happy Family(全家福), Raising the Bridal Seda(抬花轿), A Flower(一枝花), Beating Down the Dates(打枣), Shandong Bass Drum(山东大鼓)

8.Xiao 箫

Xiao, a very old Chinese wind instrument, is a vertical flute with blow-hole at one end used by the Qiang people of Southwest China in ancient period.

Xiao has a long history with graceful and mellow sound, suitable for both solo and playing and chamber music ensembles. It is usually made of bamboo, with blow holes on the top. More traditional Xiao have six finger holes, while most modern ones have eight.

Classical melody

A Moonlit Flowery Night on the Spring River(春江花月夜), Autumn Yearning at the Dressing Table(妆台秋思), The autumn Moon Over the calm Lake(平湖秋月), Plum-blossom in Three Movements(梅花三弄), Moon on Guan Mountain(关山月), Wild Geese over the Clam Sands(平沙落雁)

9.Hulusi 葫芦丝

Hulusi, a free reed wind solo instrument, is a kind of minority instruments originated in Dehong and popular among the Dai, Achang,Deang and Bulang minorities.

It is held vertically and has three bamboo pipes which pass through a gourd wind chest, whose center pipe has finger holes and the outer two are typically drone pipes. With simple, graceful, and elegant appearance, it has a unique and beautiful sound that is easy to learn and carry.

Hulus often used to play folk songs and tunes, most suitable for smooth melody of dance music. It has more prolonged sound and rich backup vocal, which can better express the thoughts and feelings of the players.It is popular with music lovers and tourists from home and aboard.

Classical melody

Moonlight under of Phoenix Tail Bamboo(月光下的凤尾竹), Stockage Village Love Stin(山寨情歌), Deep in Bamboo Forest(竹林深处), A Beautiful Place, Lusheng Love Song(芦笙恋歌), Peacocks and Phoenix Tail Bamboo(金孔雀和凤尾竹)

10.Sheng 笙

The Sheng is a traditional Chinese wind instrument consisting of vertical pipes, which is the earliest instrument that uses free reed in the world, and had played a positive role in promoting the development of western instruments.

At the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng in Hubei province, the earliest Sheng existing more than 2, 400 years ago were unearthed. During the Spring and Autumn Period, the Sheng was very popular along with Yu. With a delightful and lyrical sound, it is traditionally played as an accompaniment to Suona or Dizi, but also has the forms of ensemble and solos. In the modern large Chinese orchestra, it is used for both melody and accompaniment.

Classical melody

The Phoenix Spreads The Wings(凤凰展翅), Steppe Cavalry(草原骑兵), Happy water-sprinkling festival(欢乐的泼水节), Dance of the Yao People(瑶族舞曲), A Happy Song on Yi People(彝寨欢歌), Su Wu the Shepherd(苏武牧羊)

11.Chinese Chimes编钟

Chimes are large-scale musical instruments consisting of a set of bronze bells in the percussion family. They appeared in Western Zhou dynasty and flourished from the Spring and Autumn period to Qin and Han dynasties. China is the first country to make and use chimes.

These chime bells were hung in a wooden frame arranging in the order of tones and size and struck with a mallet to make different sound of music. Because each bell has a different tone, they can be struck by the sound spectrum melodically. Due to different times, the shape of the chimes is not the same, but almost all the body of the bell was painted with exquisite patterns.

In ancient China, chimes was a special instrument for the upper class, and it was a symbol of class and power. Several sets of chimes were imported to the Korean court during the Song Dynasty.

Classical melody

Chu Lag(楚殇), Greenish Willows(竹枝词), Orchid(幽兰), Moon and Flower in the Spring River(春江花月夜), Qu Yuan Asked for Crossing a River(屈原问渡), Plum-blossom in Three Movements(梅花三弄)

12.Sun 埙

Xun is one of the oldest ancient Chinese wind instruments originated in China about seven thousand years ago, which plays an important role in the history of primitive art in the world. It is egg-shaped with six holes, which was firstly made of stones and bones, and later of clay with a variety of shapes, such as circular, oval, spherical, fish and pear-shaped, etc. Pear-shaped are most common.

It was mainly played in the imperial courts in Chinese music history. The playing techniques are air blowing and tongue blowing. The sound of Xun represents a particular beauty, which combines with loneliness, desolate and elegance.

Classical melody

The Song of Chu(楚歌), Autumn Recollections(妆台秋思), Leave for the West Col(走西口), Su Wu the Shepherds(苏武牧羊), Almond Blossom in the Sky(杏花天影), Londonderry Air(秋夜吟)