Ancient Chinese Musical Instrument and Related Stories

Wang Ronghua

Beijing Budding Flower International Cultural Promotions Co., Ltd.


Plucking Instrument




Qin or Gu Qin: It was Shen Nong,
the Farming Deity who made the first “Qin”.
He chopped a candlenut tree into the body of
the instrument and twined silk threads as strings.
This “Qin” has five strings, both the head and
tail raised up a little bit and looks like the
totem of the time—“Kui” dragon,
which has only one foot.




The earliest master of Qin musician—Shi Kuang.
High Hills and Surging Waters—the story about Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi

Ji Kang and “Prelude to Guang Ling”.

 Sè: 《Pictures of Instrument in Rites of Zhou》says that the Se used for “Dynastic Hymns” (“Yǎ” in
Chinese),which is one of the three parts in 《The Book of Songs》had 23 strings and those for “Sacrificial
Songs” (“Sòng” in Chinese), another part in 《The Book of Songs》has 25 strings.


 Pipa: The so-called Pipa in history does not refer only to the instrument that is shaped like a pear with a
sound box and a neck, rather to a number of similar instruments like “Liǔ Qín”,“Yùe Qín” and “Ruǎn”, which
are all Pipa type instruments. The instrument was named by the way the right hand is playing, the plucking
forward is called “Pi” and backward is called “Pa”.
The story about Cao Miaoda
(“Sunny Spring and White Snow” )琵琶独奏-十面埋伏.mp3
 Zheng: There have been different  opinions on how it came into being.One opinion held that two persons
were grabbing at one a 50 string Se at the same time and scrambled for it, as a result,it broke in the middle,
the Chinese character for the behavior of scrambling is “争”,so people used this character to name the Se
that was broken from the middle and added a bamboo radical“?”—on top of it. out of water)
Kong Hou: We can see the Kong Hou in frescoes from Han to Northern Wei Period (206 B.C.-534), for
instance, the fresco in Cave 431 at Dunhuang Mogao Caves, as Shown on the right,is identical to thos
(harps) on the basso-relievo of Assyria.
 《Three Variations of Plum Flowers》

《Bamboo of Madame Xiang》
 It is said that in 115 B.C. Emperor Wu of
Han Dynasty married one of his relatives
to the king of Wusun State (where today’s Uzbenkstan is).
He ordered his craftsmen to make a new type of instrument, which had a
round sound box, 12 posts and 4 strings for the girl to be married. It was
called “Qin-Pipa” at that time, which is today’s Ruan.
 Wind Instruments
Flute:  in 1986-1987,  21 “Bone Flutes” 8000-9000 years ago
were discovered at Jiahu Village,
Wuyang County, Henan Province of China.
《The River》describes a sad story about a couple, and the husband died in the corvee in the army
service, the wife cried and wept by the river side where they parted.Tea Picking》used to accompany song and dance of the same name, which could be traced back to late Ming Dynasty.
Xun: It is one of the important wind instruments in ancient China, evolved from hunting weapons, either as
stones throwing at animals or for immitating bird
 《Lament on the Lost of the Ying Capital》 chirping to catch birds.

Suwu Herds Sheep
Sheng: Sheng is China’s ancient reed-pipe musical instrument, can produce harmonic sound。
The reed can freely vibrate in the frame, therefore, Sheng is the earliest instrument that uses
a free reed.As far back as Shang Dynasty some 3,000 years ago, there was a rudimentary form of
Princess Wencheng:
  Bowing Instruments
Erhu:Er Hu is a two-string lute,evolved from Huqin or Xiqin,which appeared in the Song Dynasty,
its bow was made of horse tail hair. 


Liang and Zhu:

Banhu: The Bitter Melody(苦韵):
 Percussion Instruments
 Bell: Bronze bell appeared in the Xia Dynasty; during Shang Dynasty from 16th to the 11th centuries BC,
there were different kinds of bells already.When it came to the Zhou Dynasty,bell, as a metal instrument was
ranked at the top of eight instruments,which was used at ceremonies at ancestor’s temple or at the king’s
 Chime Bells:Qu Yuan asked fisherman questions.
 Yangqin: The trapezoidal yangqin is a Chinese hammered dulcimer originally from the Middle East (Persia
(modern-day Iran)).


The General’s Command--
Grievance --