China’s Mouth Organ—one of the oldest known musical instruments

If you look at the cover of the e-book for My Splendid Concubine, you might notice the dancing concubine is playing the Sheng. According to one source, the Sheng dates back as far as 1200 BC. Many Westerners also call it a “Chinese mouth organ”.

An early Sheng was discovered in Hubei Province in a Zeng royal tomb dating back 2400 years to the Zhou Dynasty (1111-222 BC).

The Sheng has also been found in Han Dynasty [206 BC – 220 AD] tombs in Hunan province.

The Sheng is a wind instrument with a bundle of between 17 and 37 pipes. Music is made by blowing and/or sucking the air through a tube connected to the base.

This instrument predates the organ, concertina, harmonica and accordion.

One source says that most modern Shengs have 17 pipes that produce crisp, melodious tones using a chromatic scale.  Sheng (instrument) – Wiki


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.


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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


5 Responses to China’s Mouth Organ—one of the oldest known musical instruments

  1. Behind the Story says:

    What an amazing instrument! I’ve never seen one played before. The woman in the second video is exceptionally skillful. Thank you for an enjoyable post.

  2. One of my musician figurines seems to be playing this instrument. They are actually just pre-Han.

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