The yangqin, the Chinese Hammered Dulcimer, probably did not originate in China. It came from either Europe or Persia about five centuries ago and was adapted to fit Chinese music.
One theory says that the yangqin came to Chinese on the Silk Road. A second theory says it arrived in China with Portuguese traders in the 1500s. A third theory says the instrument was developed in China without foreign influence from an ancient stringed instrument called a Zhu.
However, it is a young instrument by Chinese standards, and was first heard during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). Later, it was commonly used in Chinese Operas. In Modern China, the yangqin is a major discipline in the College of Music.
The yangqin has over 100 strings that are struck with thin bamboo sticks that have rubber tips on one end. When struck with the rubber end, a soft sound is heard. When the strings are struck with the other end of the stick, without the rubber tip, a crisper sound is heard.
Around the world, there are many versions of the hammered dulcimer all designed and played in a similar fashion, but each country has its own distinct sound influenced by culture.
If you enjoyed learning about and listening to the yangqin, see The Pipa
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