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Chinese Musical Instruments


 
 
From time immemorial, China is a country full of developed instrumental art. According to the materials for making Chinese instrument, ancient Chinese people in Zhou Dynasty use Bayin(八音) as a general name for Chinese instrument. Bayin, literally, means eight categories of musical instrument in ancient orchestra, for example: metal, stone, clay, hide, silk, wood, gourd and bamboo. Now, many Chinese people classify them on the basis of performance way like Chui, Da, Tan and La.
History of Chinese Musical Instruments

1). Remote Antiquity (BC6000----BC1711)
According to the practicalities unearthed now, some wind instruments appeared earlier than others. In Wuyang, Henan, Chinese people found a flute made of bone which was the earliest Chinese musical instrument by far. Besides, some percussion instruments belonging to old time also were found.
2).The Pre-Qin Dynasty (BC711----BC256)
This period was the first summit in the history of Chinese musical instruments. During this important period, Bayin system was defined. Guqin, as a solo instrument, came on to the history stage and got very popular immediately. But, as it is said on the historic records, percussion instruments were the main instruments at that time. Chime-bells from the Tomb of Marquis Yi of the Zeng State, one of percussion instruments, had a great influence in the musical history of China. 
3). Qin, Han, Sui and Tang Dynasties (BC221----AD960)
Chinese Musical Instruments prospered during this period. With the communication of Sino--foreign culture, plentiful foreign instruments were introduced to China. As a result, stringed instruments had an unprecedented development. In addition, music score of Guqin was appeared in Tang Dynasty; during late Tang Dynasty, Cao Rou created a simple music score which made Guqin music pass down by generations. Pipa was the most important instrument in Tang Dynasty. 
4). Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties (960----1840)
Bow Instrument had a great development during this period. Meanwhile, traditional Chinese opera also profited from the introduction and widely use of Bow Instrument. At the end of the Ming Dynasty, dulcimer was introduced to China from Persia. Guqin divided into numerous schools. Court music was replaced by the folk music.


Functions of Chinese Musical Instrument

In general, ancient Chinese musical instruments have double functions. On the one hand, they are tools for playing music; on the other hand, they are instrument of production. Sometimes, they were used to deliver several certain messages in daily life. For example, when people go out to battle, they will beat a drum; when they beat gongs during a battle, which means troop needs to be back to military camp; when a gong is beat on the street in old days, that means important officials are coming; when a drum is beat in front of a government office in feudal China, that means a court trial will be started.



 

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