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.

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Music with Two Strings

October 18, 2016

If you Google the name for this two stringed instrument, you may find the same name is used for girls names and a railroad that runs between Beijing and Shanghai. Jing is for the capital and Hu for Shanghai.

Since Chinese is a tonal language, each word is pronounced in a different tone.  The word is also written differently in Chinese when used for a girl’s name or the railroad.

京胡
for the musical instrument


Beijing-Shanghai

The Jing-Hu I’m writing about is a two-stringed instrument often used with Beijing Opera. The Jing-Hu first appeared during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912).  In the 17th century the strings were made of silk. Today, they are often made of steel or nylon.  The Jing-Hu is the smallest of the Chinese fiddles and is related to the larger Erhu.

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 [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Pipa and Wu Man Wu

July 1, 2014

The Chinese pipa is a four stringed lute—or Chinese guitar—with a pear-shaped body. Historical records reveal that the pipa first appeared during the Qin Dynasty (222 – 206 BCE), and become one of the most popular stringed instruments in China surviving more than two-thousand years.

Traditional Chinese music has been traced back 7,000 to 8,000 years. For centuries this music was heard primarily by the royalty and high government officials.

But by the Tang Dynasty, records indicate this music had spread to the common people.

Traditional Chinese musical instruments can be divided into four categories: stringed instruments, percussion instruments, plucked instruments, and wind instruments.

Wu Man Wu is recognized as the world’s most famous pipa player and the leading ambassador of Chinese music. She was born 1963 in Hangzhou, China and moved to the United States in 1990. She has been nominated for a Grammy Award and in 2009 was asked to curate two concerts at Carnegie Hall.

Wu has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s major orchestras, including the Austrian ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Moscow Soloists, Nashville Symphony, German NDR and RSO Radio Symphony Orchestras, New Music Group, New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

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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.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

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The Myth of China’s Queen Mother, Shi Wang Mu

July 25, 2013

To the Chinese, Hsi Wang Mu is the Queen Mother of the  West (Western China), an important figure of Chinese mythology.

It is believed that the myth of the Queen Mother goes back almost three thousand years, but the earliest recorded history was found from the Chou Dynasty (1122 – 222 BC) and was written in the second century BC.  It appears she may have been a real queen of a Western Chinese state and stories of her life become legend over hundreds of years turning into magical myths.

One of the older stories is about Hsi Wang Mu and the celestial archer, where she asks him to build her a palace of jade in the western sky. His reward was a pill made from the peaches of immortality, which ends in tragedy and heartbreak.

It is said that Hsi Wang Mu had nine sons and twenty-four daughters with her mate, Tung Wang Kung.

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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.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Hammered Dulcimer

February 26, 2013

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, discover The Pipa

_______________

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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The Music of China – the Erhu

September 25, 2012

An erhu is a Chinese two-stringed instrument similar to a fiddle. The erhu has a thin, slightly reedy sound. Since the erhu is so widely used, foreigners see it as an example of Chinese music.

The erhu

However, once you recognize the sound of an erhu, it can usually be readily picked out from other musical instruments, because it is unique.

The history of the erhu spans more than a thousand years. The first erhu was heard during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD).

Since the traditional Chinese character for “erhu” indicates it has two strings, the erhu has probably changed little over the centuries. Alternate names for the erhu include huqin or hu, and Westerners sometimes call the instrument a “Chinese violin”.

If you enjoyed learning about and listening to the erhu, discover Mao Wei-Tao’s Chinese Yu Opera

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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.

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The Sheng, one of China’s Oldest Musical Instruments

August 23, 2010

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 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.  The tubes are connected to shape like a gourd.

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.  Source: Sheng (instrument) – Wiki

If you want to learn more about Chinese music, see the Jing-Hu

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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