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Various Artists: Treasures Of Chinese Instrumental Music: Plucked String Instruments

Treasures Of Chinese Instrumental Music: Plucked String Instruments

Various Artists

Yangqin also known as the dulcimer was delivered to China since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), it was initially popular in Guangdong province and later on spread widely to other provinces.  It was mostly used as the accompanied instrument of various operatic music, folk singing and talks.  After development, it was also used for solo and ensemble music.  It has a wooden ladder shape sound box, which is mounted with strings over the bridges.  It is performed with bamboo strikers and has a clear and melodic tone colour.  It can be played up to more than two octaves in the scale.  Nowadays, it is developed on the size and the number of string and bridge.  It can be played four octaves in chromatic scale.

Liuqin is so called, because it has a willow-leaf shade sound box.  It is an instrument of the operatic music spread along the northern Jiangsu, southern Shandong and Anhui.  The original liuqin has only two strings, seven frets and use a plectrum to pluck on the silk strings.  Nowadays, it is developed to have four strings and twenty-four frets in chromatic scale.  The silk strings are reformed to steel-nylon strings.  It is now the chief soprano plucked instrument of the ensemble.

Yueqin is developed from the ancient instrument called ruan.  It is widely spread in many districts and be used as the accompanied instrument of various operatic music, folk singing and talks.  After development, it was also used for solo and ensemble music.  In the Beijing Operatic Music, it is used together with the jinghu and jingerhu to form the "Three Majors".  In the Yi minorities of the southwest district, their yueqin is called the xianzi.  In general, the sound box of the yueqin is a wooden round shape one, we can also find some octagons.  It has seven frets and four silk strings in two groups of perfect fifth.  Each group has two strings tuning in the same pitch.  Nowadays, it is reformed to have twenty-four frets in chromatic scale and the silk strings have changed to steel-nylon string.

Sanxian is also called xianzi and is developed from the xiantao of the Qin dynasty.  It was named sanxian since the Yuan dynasty (A.D. 1280-1368) it is widely spread in Han nationality and certain minorities.  The Han one has a wooden ellipse shape sound box covered with skins in both sides.  The long stem (handle) is the finger broad with no frets on it.  Around the mid-nineteenth century, the artist MA San-feng of Gaoyang, Heibei province, reformed the small sanxian and initially develop the large sanxian which was well received by the northern artists.  Since then, two kinds of sanxians spread simultaneously and formed the music style of north and south.  Small sanxian was then call quxian and be used in the southern China.  Large sanxian was then call shuxian and be used in the northern China.

Ruan is a kind of plucked instrument derived from Zheng, Zhu and Konghou since Han dynasty (140-87 B.C.) It bears a round wooden sound box and a long stem, which has four strings and twelve frets.  It was called pipa at that early time.  Later on, it was renamed Qinpipa or Yueqin.  At Tang dynasty, it was developed to have thirteen frets and be called ruanxian.  It is now generally called ruan and mostly has three to four strings with frets in chromatic scale.  Nowadays, it has developed into xiaoruan, zhongruan, daruan and diruan.  Each of that bears twenty-four frets and become a set of plucked instruments in the ensemble.  The zhongruan and daruan are commonly used in solo, accompaniment and orchestral works.

Gupa is a kind of plucked instrument derived from the pipa by CHENG Wu-jia.  The form of it is similar to that of the pipa but the sound box is a little bit larger and all the intervals are separated by frets unlike that of the pipa which is separated by xiangs and frets.  It is so called the gupa because it is alike to the pipa.

Konghou is a king of plucked instrument, which had three designs the horizontal, the vertical and the Phoenix head in the ancient times.  These three kinds of konghou had already failed to pass down to us.  In 1930s, Shanghai Ta Tung National Music Research Institute has copied it from the old design, but cannot popularize.  In 1970s, scholars and manufacturers based on the distinguishing features of the harp and the characteristics of the traditional instruments developed a new kind of konghou.  This new instrument bears seventy-two strings in heptachord.  Its range is a1-b3 and is commonly used for solo, accompaniment and orchestral works.

Track List


  • 01.  Su Wu Tending Sheep
  • 02.  Fifth Brother To Graze Sheep
  • 03.  Song Of The Border
  • 04.  Misery Of Lady Zhaojun
  • 05.  Beautiful Taxkorgan
  • 06.  Waving Dance Of Tujia Tribe
  • 07.  Mountain Red
  • 08.  Canal Of Happiness
  • 09.  Spring Comes To Yi River
  • 10.  Bizika Festivity (Dance Of Tujia)
  • 11.  Sword
  • 12.  Watch The Sunrise In Taishan


  • 01.  All Happiness
  • 02.  Old Eight Phrases
  • 03.  Ospreys Sporting With Water
  • 04.  Waves Washing The Beach
  • 05.  Sorrow In The Changmen Palace
  • 06.  Beneath The Silvery Moonlight
  • 07.  Descending Curtain
  • 08.  The Hungry Horse Ringing The Bell
  • 09.  Autumn Missing
  • 10.  Sleeping Lotus
  • 11.  Camel Bells Along The Silk Road
  • 12.  Fisherman Song Of The SongHua River
  • 13.  Farewell At Yangguan
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