As top of the drum are bamboo pipes

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Last updated: May 17, 2019

As you roam the streets of Hong Kong, you hear and see these most wonderful instruments.

They are like nothing you have heard in India, Mesopotamia, or even Greece! But what are these instruments? How are they made? What makes what sound? Moreover all, where did they come from? We will answer all of these questions, along with many more. Now, let’s dive into the sound waves of Hong Kong!The xun was uncovered along the Yangtze River and the Yellow River. A xun is like a clay egg with ten holes. It can produce an eerie sound with a tone similar to a human voice. The xun is a type of aerophone, or a wind instrument. Another aerophone is the xiao, which appeared during the Han Dynasty. The xiao is said to remind people of a glowing moon during a frosty autumn night. The instrument’s structure is like a long flute with made of bamboo.

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There are six key holes, and on the side of the xiao, there are other holes to adjust the sound. In addition to the xun and xiao, the sheng is another aerophone. The sheng consists of a bowl-like drum made of metal or wood on the bottom, with a blowing tube coming out of the side of the drum. Coming out of the top of the drum are bamboo pipes of different sizes, with the tallest pipes on opposite sides. The sheng sounds bright and sweet, like a morning bird chorus. The pipa is one of the oldest and most popular instruments in China. The pipa is a lute, similar to a guitar.

The musician holds the pipa upright and plays with five small picks on each finger. The pipa has extremely wide dynamic range and consequently has a  rich and expressive sound. Compositions of the pipas music were passed down from master to student over many years. While many music sheets have become lost over time, some still exist today. The guzheng is a zither which is a musical instrument with a flat wooden sound box with many strings stretched across it, placed horizontally and played with the fingers and a pick..

By the Tang Dynasty, the number of strings had increased from five to thirteen on the guzheng, and the bamboo had been dismissed by wood for the frame. The old silk strings were replaced by nylon strings, which are still being used today for newer versions of the guzheng. The Zhong bells were found by Chinese archaeologists in the tomb of King Yi of the Zeng State in 1978, the same year the earliest forms of Sheng were discovered .

The Zhong Bells of King Yi of the Zeng State are a complete set of percussion instruments that mirrors the flamboyant life of the nobles, as well as the adeptness in bronze casting in ancient China. The Zhong Chimes are built flat with sharp corners like two tiles pieced together. In conclusion, the xun, xiao, sheng, pipa, guzheng, and Zhong Bells are very important in china’s history. China even provides some of the earliest traces of music making. Some of the most ancient instruments have been retained, transformed, or revived throughout the ages, and many are in common use even today. Hopefully, these wonderful instruments of chinese history will live on for evermore.

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