5 Amazing Chinese Instruments
China has a long and rich history spanning over three millennia alongside countless transformations and evolutions. As a result, Chinese culture has access to a wellspring of societies to add to what is one of the world’s most fascinating artistic traditions. In the musical world, China has produced truly unique works thanks to a wide variety of musical instruments that are as beautiful as they are complex.
With the Chinese New Year upon us once more, let’s take a look at China’s fantastic musical tradition. Kick off the year of the monkey right by discovering more about these amazing instruments!
The guzheng is a type of zither, a distant cousin of the guitar. Unlike the guitar, the guzheng is played on its back, usually while sitting. The guzheng also has 21 strings and bridges that can be adjusted to produce different pitches. The instrument has been around for over 2000 years and is considered a staple of Chinese folkloric and traditional music. It is unsurprisingly not the easiest instrument to learn.
The bawu is a reed flute that is usually constructed from bamboo. Much like the jazz flute or the classical flute, the bawu is played to the side of the face, and uses a similar method to produce sounds–a series of holes on the base. The bawu is a highly versatile instrument that is very simple to pick up initially. It’s a great place to get started with Chinese music.
The bianqing is definitely one of the weirder instruments to show up in Chinese musical history. Hung on horizontal metal poles, a bianqing is made of a series of L-shaped flat stones. Played much like a giant hanging xylophone, the bianqing produces high pitched chimes that are great accompaniments to a wider orchestra. It’s definitely on the easier side to learn, though on the downside the storage can be a bit space-consuming!
Another interesting instrument, the hulusi is a three-chambered reed flute. The instrument is segmented into a main chamber made of wood, and three bamboo stems of different lengths. The hulusi is traditionally from the south of China and was usually played by Thai immigrants and Yi communities in the area. It was played in old days by men wooing potential wives, so it would be a great skill to learn if another resolution is to find your soulmate!
The erhu is arguably one of the most famous Chinese instruments. Known by some as the “southern fiddle”, the erhu is very similar to its western cousin, the violin. The erhu only has two strings, though, and a small soundbox that is traditionally made of python skin. Despite its simple construction, the erhu is capable of a wide variety of sounds, and is a steep, but rewarding learning challenge.
Start off the Year of the Monkey the right way. Pick up one of these unique and amazing instruments now and spread your musical wings!