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¬¬¬  Struck Instruments  ¬¬¬



Struck instruments accommodates all percussion instruments, both tuned and untuned. Chinese Percussion instruments have a rich timbre. Today many are included in western music.






The ban is a type of clapping stick (ban: flat board). Used in Peking opera, the ban is two pieces of wood, which are struck together. They produce a bright crisp sound.





The bangu is a single-headed frame drum (ban: flat board; gu: drum). To play, the player strikes on this central area with a pair of bamboo sticks. The bangu leads the percussion section in the instrumental ensemble of Peking opera.





The bangzi began to be popular with the rising of that opera in north China in the early period of the Qing dynasty (1645-1911). Made of hard wood, this instrument can produce a solid sound.





The bianqing (bian:colleeted; qing: chime stone) is a lithophone. It is usually made of stone, however some have benn made of bronze or jade. Dating back to the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BC), its earliest appearance was in music and dance, later religious observances and grand banquets. A bianqing recovered from Zenghou Yi's tomb (1978, Hubei), dated to about 400 BC, consists of 41 limestone notes chromatically tuned.








 The bianzhong is a set of collected bronze bells (bian: collected; zhong: bell). Dating to the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BC), sets of 3 bronze bells was common. Earlier pottery Bells were used during the late Neolithic Age. Over time the sets increased in numbers usually sets of 9 or 13. The largest set ever found, 64 bells hung in three layers, came from the tomb of Zenghou Yi (5th century BC). With the construction for two different pitches from a single bell and the unique casting technology, the bianzhong has established itself as the eighth wonder of the world.








The bo is a pair of bronze cymbals. They have a clear and forceful tone quality. This instrument is used in Peking Opera.





The dap dates back to the 4th-6th century AD. It is an essential instrument in the music of ethnic minorities. In performance the left hand holds the drum by its rim, while the right-hand fingers (not the thumb) beats the membrane. By striking the centre or the rim, sounds of different pitches and timbres can be produced. Metal rings attached inside the frame can be shaken to add to the accompaniment.








The gu comes in different sizes and different pitch. It is played with a set of drumsticks. In the earlier centuries, this instrument was used in the war field. In music it is used to portray majestic scenes and to create vibrancy. Besides the usual beating of the drum surface, the running of the drumsticks along the sides of the gu is commonly used in many musical pieces.








Chinese gongs are made of high-tin bronze, hammered into a sifter shape.  Its central resonating area is either flat or convex. Origins date back to the early Western Han period (206 BC-24 AD). The largest type (over 120cm in diameter), called da chaoluo, with the name from its deep and grave tone, is used in weddings, funerals and temple ceremonies. The smallest goujiao luo (dog-call gong), only 8cm in diameter, can often be seen in theatre instrumental ensembles in southern Fujian province. 





The muyu is a woodblock or slit drum (mu: wooden; yu: fish). It was used originally to accompany Buddhist chants. The muyu is carved from a block of wood and into the shape of a fish, and then its interior section is hollowed. Sound is produced by striking it with a timber mallet. Today the muyu are made in sets of differing pitch and used to enhance the accompaniment.





The paigu is a set of five medium-sized different pitched barrel drums (pai: row; gu: drum). The pitch of each drum can be controlled either by the devices on both ends changing the tension of the drumheads or by rotating the shell upside down on the frame to allow use of the opposite head, which can be tuned in a different pitch when needed. Thus ten different pitches are available on five drums.





Pengling is a pair of small bells (peng: collide; ling: bell). In performance the player, with one bell in each hand, strikes each other at their rims. The instrument has a delicate, clarion and melodious tone. It is a colouring rhythmic instrument, either in ensembles, or in theatre music, bringing an effect of peaceful dreams.


Shimian Luo



The shimian luo is a set of suspended gongs (shi: ten; mian: piece; luo:  gong), usually in sets of 10 – 13. In performance the right hand strikes with a padded beater, while the left hand controls the lingering sound. These gongs have no strict tuning standard. They are colouring instruments in Chinese folk ensembles.








The tanggu is a medium-sized barrel drum. Its name meaning hall drum (tang: hall; gu: drum).  It has four metal rings on the frame of the drum allowing it to be suspended on a frame. It is struck with a pair of wooden beaters. Tone quality can be modified by moving the point of striking closer to the centre of the surface. Varying dynamics can be achieved.





The tonggu is a bronze drum, the same as that found in Vietnam. In China, its early existence is in the late Spring and Autumn period (6th century BC) in Yunnan region, close the boarder to Vietnam. In the past it was used in sacrificial rites, banquets, communications, battle formations, weddings, funerals, accompanying singers and dancers, and as rewards or tributes as well. Different tones can be produced by striking either the central area or the rim; the former sounds deep and sonorous and the latter clarion and loose. In performance a wooden barrel is often seen with its mouth towards the drum as a resonator.





The yunluo is small gongs in a set, usually 10 in different pitches, suspended vertically in a wooden frame. Gongs are struck with a small beater. Yunlou can have up 38 gongs. Mallets are used to produce different tonal effects; one sound is a solid clang and the other soft and drifting. The yunluo is mostly seen in instrumental ensembles, and recently for solos as well.





Reference – Various Internet sites & “The Diagram Book of Chinese National Instruments”, 1997 China. ISBN 7-80553-394-6