Music in Ancient Chinese society
Music was always a part of chinese culture. It was used in many things such as dance, ceremonies, banquets, rituals, entertainment, and more. Music along with other things was molded into ancient society. Today, many people still play these instruments and dedicate their lives to study them.
1. Pipa 琵琶
The pipa (琵琶) is one of the most played Chinese instruments today. It is commonly described as a four stringed plucked lute shaped like a pear and played vertically. It is named by how it is played; pi (琵) meaning played forward, and pa (琶) meaning played backward. A lute that looked like the pipa was seen in the Indian Kusana scriptures in the first century ad. That is why it is likely that the pipa may have been introduced to China from India or Central Asia. The pipa has more than 2000 years of history in China.
Because of its beauty, the pipa is used in many wuxia dramas and hanfu photo shoots. One of the historical four beauties of China is always drawn with a pipa.
The pipa became known in China by the second century ad.
Pipa is usually made of rosewood or paulownia wood.
2. Guqin 古琴
The guqin (古琴) is considered to be one of the most ancient and Classical Chinese instruments in Chinese history. The guqin is a seven stringed zither like instrument. Many people often name it the Chinese zither. The guqin has over 3000 years of history. It is commonly played on a table and is portable.
This instrument was invented around the Zhou dynasty in 1046 BC. Guqin like the pipa, has an unspoken beauty in sound and physical beauty so, it is also played and used in hanfu photo shoots. When one sees the guqin, they get a very calm feeling. It is sometimes referred to as the father of Chinese music.
Chinese people also believe that a tribe leader in the mythological period named Fuxi, invented the guqin. In ancient times, the guqin was just named qin. Gu meaning ancient was added for clarification.
Guqin is typically made of 桐 or Chinese paulownia. It's strings can be made of silk, nylon, or metal.
3. Xiao 箫
The Xiao (箫) is the ancient Chinese flute. It is one of the oldest instruments from China but is relatively played less and is less popular than the guqin and pipa. The xiao flute is commonly made of bamboo. Another very similar Chinese flute instrument is the dizi. Their only difference is that the xiao is pitched lower than the dizi.
The xiao flute first emerged in the Han dynasty and was possibly imported from the Qiang people from present day north western China.
4. Guzheng 古筝
Guzheng (古筝) is the modern version of guqin but is played more nowadays. Videos of people playing guzheng in public have become popular.
The oldest guzheng model had 13 strings and was possibly from the warring states period (475-221 BC).
The guzheng emerged and thrived in the qin dynasty.
Some classical songs include The butterfly lovers (梁山伯与祝英台), Jasmine (茉莉花), Fisherman's song at dusk, and others.