Where did this Chinese musical instrument originate?

May 30, 2017

The yangqin, the Chinese Hammered Dulcimer, probably did not originate in China. It might have arrived from either Europe or Persia about five hundred years ago and was adapted to fit Chinese music.

One theory says that the yangqin came to China on the Silk Road. A second theory says it arrived 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.

By Chinese standards, it is a young instrument and was first heard during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644), and has been commonly used in Chinese Operas since then.

In fact, 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 cultural differences.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

Advertisements

Chinese long history is rich in calligraphy, music, poetry, and painting

May 13, 2015

UNESCO says the Guqin represents China’s foremost solo musical instrument tradition. Legend says that the Guqin has a 5,000 year history compared to Chinese writing that dates back nearly 3,000 years.

The body of the Guqin is a long and narrow sound box made of Catalpa wood with two holes, one large and one small. The large hole is called the “phoenix pool” and the small one the “dragon pond”.

This seven-stringed instrument was played by noblemen and scholars and was not intended for public performances. Twenty years of training were often required to become proficient.

Since it is known that Confucius played the Guqin, the instrument is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as “the father of Chinese music” or “the instrument of the sages”.

For millennia, the strings of the Guqin were made of various thicknesses of silk.

However, in recent times, the silk has been replaced with nylon wound around steel strings. Some say without silk, the Guqin doesn’t sound as rich.

The Guqin was one of four subjects the ancient scholars perfected. The other three were chess, calligraphy and painting. For centuries many Chinese felt China was so civilized due to these practices that no other country would bother them. Why bother to study how to fight wars? Why spend what it would take to keep the military modern and strong?

Then in 1794 came the White Lotus Rebellion (100,000 rebels killed), followed by the Opium Wars (50,000 killed), the Taiping Rebellion (20 million killed), The Nian Rebellion (75 thousand killed), Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (500 thousand killed), Miao Rebellion (75,000 killed), Hui Rebellion (millions killed), the Du Wenxiu Rebellion (1 million killed), the Dungan Revolts (8 to 12 million killed), the Boxer Rebellion (more than 100 thousand killed), the Sino-Japanese War (10 thousand killed), the Xinhai Revolution (almost 200 thousand killed), China’s Civil War between the Communists and Nationalists (8 million killed), and Japan’s invasion of China during World War II (15 to 20 million killed).

Compared to what China suffered, during the 8-year long American Revolution, total casualties were less than 60 thousand, and in the 4-year long American Civil War there were 620 thousand casualties.

That explains why—when the gunpowder settled in 1949, after 155 years of revolution, civil war and war—after Mao came to power, he launched a series of reforms with the goal to make China strong again to stop the revolutions and invasions. These reforms ended with the Cultural Revolution—1965 – 1976, with about 1.5 million killed and millions of others suffering imprisonment, seizure of property, torture or general humiliation.

During this period, the Guqin fell out of favor as the literati were persecuted as the scape goats of China’s long suffering.

______________________________

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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The Hsiao (Xiao) – Chinese flute music

July 15, 2010

The most popular flues in China are the Dizi and the Hsiao (Xiao), which rhymes with “cow”. I wrote about the Dizi, which is a transverse flute, in March.

The Hsiao is longer than the Dizi and is used to play classical Chinese music and solo music. The Hsiao has eight holes for fingers.  The other two Hsiao flutes are the Dong Hsiao from Southern China with six holes for the fingers and the Qin Hsiao, which is used mainly to accompany the ancient seven-string Chinese zither.


Xiao Solo by Zeng Gege – Mooring by the Autumn River at Night

Chinese flutes with finger holes have been traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).  These flutes have been made from the bones of birds or animals, from stone and jade. the Dizi became common later in the western region of the Han Dynasty.

If you enjoy listening to Chinese music, you may also enjoy the Chinese opera. See Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

 


Several thousand years ago in China there was Music

January 2, 2018

The first few weeks of 2018 will focus on China’s long history starting with the earliest known musical instrument found in China.

Music in China is traditionally associated with ritual observances and government affairs.

In 1999, Chinese archeologists unearthed what is believed to be the oldest known playable instrument, a seven-holed flute fashioned about 9,000 years ago from the hollow wing bone of a large bird.

To establish the age of the flute, a U.S. chemist at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory analyzed data from carbon-14 dating done in China on materials taken from the site. “The flutes may be the earliest complete, playable, tightly-dated, multinote musical instruments.”

The 9,000-year-old flutes were “exquisitely-crafted” from the wing bone of a red-crowned crane.

In The Book of Songs, an ancient collection of Chinese poetry from the 11th to the 7th century BC, the three-hole Yue is the most frequently mentioned wind instrument, but by the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD), the Yue had all but vanished.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi,
the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

About iLook China


The Differences between Chinese and Western Operas

June 13, 2017

JadeDragon.com says, “Chinese opera is uniquely different from Western opera – whether Mozart or Wagner. There are so many details: origins, storylines, costumes, facial painting, stage rituals and customs, character types, and so on, not to mention musical usage that makes Chinese opera a unique form.”

For instance, Peking Opera is a combination of several styles of Chinese opera. The metamorphosis started during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)  about two-hundred years ago.

Peking Opera focuses on historical events, legends about emperors, ministers, generals, geniuses, and great beauties.

Performances are a combination of singing, dialogue, pantomime and acrobatic fighting and dancing.

Today, Peking Opera is considered the highest expression of Chinese culture.

The origins of Peking Opera did not begin in Peking (Beijing).  The opera had its start in the Chinese provinces of Anhui and Hubei.

Experts say the opera was born in 1790 and was originally staged for the royal family and only then for the public.

There are thousands of these operas that cover the history and literature of China. Peking operas can be divided into two categories.

“Civil” operas focus on singing while “Martial” operas feature acrobatics and stunts.  Some are a combination of both.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline