Musical instruments of China

The musical instruments of china are very different to what you would expect to see. Many Chinese stringed instruments have been slowly developed over thousands of years. Many of them look like alterations of flutes and even combinations of other instruments found in the western world.

Within the world of music, there are instruments that we instantly recognise. There are drums, guitars, pianos, bass guitars, right down to the simple metal triangle. However, tons of musical instruments have been lost to the annals of history, mainly because more modern alternatives have come along. However, many of these instruments still hold a lot of traditional and cultural value, not to mention that a lot of these instruments offer truly unique sounds. 

In this guide looking at unusual, underground musical instruments, we focus on the traditional instruments of China. We aim to give you all the info you could need about each one, and who knows, maybe this will allow you to find the new sound you need. Without further delay, here are the musical instruments of China

Erhu

Erhu

The Erhu is a type of violin but looks very different from a conventional model. It features a drum resonator on the bottom of the instrument, usually made from a snakeskin membrane, and it can be played as a solo instrument or used as part of a small or large orchestra.

Pipa

Pipa

A Pipa is a stringed instrument modelled after the lute and is often called the 'Chinese Lute'. This instrument can be crafted in many ways and can have anywhere from 12 to 31 frets. This instrument is played by plucking the various strings and was played in modern music by bands like Bjork and Incubus.

Guqin

Guqin

The Gujin, or 'the instrument of the sages', is a long, seven-string, plucked instrument played in ancient Chinese culture. This instrument is without frets but has a movable bridge underneath each string. This instrument was showcased at the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony, and a version of this instrument called a Song Period was sold for $22 million in 2010.

Dizi

Dizi

The Dizi is a traditional Chinese flute that has been played in the Chinese orchestra for centuries. This flute is often carved from white or coloured bamboo and has a tissue-thin membrane made from reed. This instrument has been around in Chinese culture for over 9,000 years and remains a popular, lightweight instrument for the Chinese population to learn to this day.

Ruan

Ruan

The Ruan is a type of lute with a fretted neck, a circular body and four strings. This instrument was initially made with 13 frets and silk strings, but the modern Ruan is made with steel strings and 24 frets with 12 semitones per string. The traditional Ruan has an ivory fretboard, but this has been swapped for steel in more modern models.

Sanxian

 Sanxian

The Sanxian is another lute style instrument with a substantial, fretless neck, three strings and a small body commonly made from snakeskin. This instrument can be strummed or plucked and has a sound that is not too dissimilar to a Banjo.

Yangqin

Yangqin

The Yangqin is an instrument that will remind readers of a much larger, more complex xylophone. You also use a beater or hammer to play notes traditionally with bronze or silk strings to play this instrument. This instrument has a soft timbre and is also popular in Pakistan, India and Iraq.

Xun

Xun

The Xun is an egg-shaped instrument traditionally made from clay or bone and has been present in Chinese culture for over 7,000 years. The instrument is played like a flute, with a blowhole at the top and six finger holes around the instrument's body. This was an instrument that was used to play ambient music in palaces.

Liuqin

Liuqin 

The Liuqun is known as the Chinese Mandolin, comes in three, four and five-string variants. This instrument is very similar in size and shape to the Pipa and is commonly made of Willow wood. It was prominent within Chinese Opera and had a lower tone than the Pipa.

Suona

 Suona

The Suona, otherwise known as a Lada or Haidi, is a double seeded horn. This is typically formed from brass or copper and can produce a distinctive high pitched and loud sound. This instrument is suitable for Chinese folk music and military purposes.

Banhu

The Banhu is a distinctive looking two-string lute style instrument that looks like a key thanks to its long neck and two protruding tuning keys at the top. The body is commonly made from coconut shells, is played with a bow and is most commonly seen in Northern China.

Gong

Gong 

The Gong is easily the most recognisable Chinese traditional instrument. This is a large hanging cymbal typically made from bronze or brass that are played by the musician striking the metal disc with a hammer or mallet. There are sixteen varieties of traditional Chinese Gong in existence, and the instrument dates back to the sixth century.

Huqin 

The Huqin, or the Chinese Spike Fiddle, is another member of the bow-played instrument family. This instrument has a small octagonal soundbox and two strings. The three types of Huqin are the Erhu, the zhonghu and the gaohu.

Erxian 

Then lastly, we have the Erxian, yet another bowed string instrument. This instrument has two strings, a small, round soundbox, and a neck made typically from hardwood and is commonly adorned with a dragon head ornament. This instrument is most commonly associated with Cantonese music and Opera.

So there you go, China's most traditionally and culturally valued musical instruments. Who knew that there were so many beautiful instruments. What did you make of this list? Are there any instruments you would love to add to your collection? Let us know in the comments section below, and thank you very much for reading.

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