instruments

Qudi (Sudifor)  serves as the lead instrument for accompanying in kunqu opera, which can be subdivided into female flute (cidi) and male flute (xiongdi). The female flute is usually played with xiaogongdiao (a pitch collection with its gong—fundamental—tone corresponding to the tone produced by the xiaogong fingering on the kunqu flute for sheng (the main male roles) and dan (female roles). The male flute is a bit thicker, a half-tone lower than the range of the female one, and is played for jing (the painted face male roles) and mo (mid-and old-aged male roles). Both flutes combined can realize modulation by rolling the gong note .

Qudi (Sudifor)  serves as the lead instrument for accompanying in kunqu opera, which can be subdivided into female flute (cidi) and male flute (xiongdi). The female flute is usually played with xiaogongdiao (a pitch collection with its gong—fundamental—tone corresponding to the tone produced by the xiaogong fingering on the kunqu flute for sheng (the main male roles) and dan (female roles). The male flute is a bit thicker, a half-tone lower than the range of the female one, and is played for jing (the painted face male roles) and mo (mid-and old-aged male roles). Both flutes combined can realize modulation by rolling the gong note .

Quxian, also called sanxian (Chinese three-stringed lute) is an instrument designed for accompanying in kunqu opera. It is a bit bigger than shuxian used by Suzhou pingtan (a regional variety of the shuochang and a musical performance art form popular in southern Jiangsu) artists, and a bit smaller than the sanxian used by dagushu artists in northern China. Quxian is used to beat rhythm and accompany melodies. Its tunes are varied from but harmonized with those of qudi’s, thus enhancing the richness of the kunqu accompaniment. Quxian, together with the flute and the drum, makes the three leading instruments for kunqu opera (“sanjiantou”).

Quxian, also called sanxian (Chinese three-stringed lute) is an instrument designed for accompanying in kunqu opera. It is a bit bigger than shuxian used by Suzhou pingtan (a regional variety of the shuochang and a musical performance art form popular in southern Jiangsu) artists, and a bit smaller than the sanxian used by dagushu artists in northern China. Quxian is used to beat rhythm and accompany melodies. Its tunes are varied from but harmonized with those of qudi’s, thus enhancing the richness of the kunqu accompaniment. Quxian, together with the flute and the drum, makes the three leading instruments for kunqu opera (“sanjiantou”).

Tiqin (two-stringed Chinese musical instrument in the huqin family) is nowadays occasionally used on kunqu stage and nearly becomes a lost art. It is a bit smaller than sanxian. Tiqin is among the early bowed stringed instrument used for opera accompaniment that expresses hidden bitterness and sadness. In the 54th chapter of The Dream of Red Mansions (Jia Chen Ben), Grandmother Jia (jiamu) asked Fangguan to sing the song Seeking the Dream, when the accompanists “only use tiqin and xiao (a vertical bamboo flute), while all the parts of dizi and sheng (mouth organ) are removed”, which can always breed empathy. This opened the new chapter of opera accompaniment led by bowed string instrument such as jinghu, gaohu, banhu and erhu.

Tiqin (two-stringed Chinese musical instrument in the huqin family) is nowadays occasionally used on kunqu stage and nearly becomes a lost art. It is a bit smaller than sanxian. Tiqin is among the early bowed stringed instrument used for opera accompaniment that expresses hidden bitterness and sadness. In the 54th chapter of The Dream of Red Mansions (Jia Chen Ben), Grandmother Jia (jiamu) asked Fangguan to sing the song Seeking the Dream, when the accompanists “only use tiqin and xiao (a vertical bamboo flute), while all the parts of dizi and sheng (mouth organ) are removed”, which can always breed empathy. This opened the new chapter of opera accompaniment led by bowed string instrument such as jinghu, gaohu, banhu and erhu.

Shuangqing is originated from ruan (Chinese plucked string instrument) with thinner and longer neck than ruan. The sound box of shuangqing is octagon-shaped with four pegs, four strings and thirteen or fourteen frets. According to A Sequel to Wenxian Tongkao in Qing Dynasty (qingchao xu wenxian tongkao), “shuangqing is in the ruan family and is an alto instrument. It is three chi and two cun long with an eight-cun deep peg box. Its sound box is one cun and four fen thick. It has three strings, two ranges and thirteen frets and it is played by plucking.”

Shuangqing is originated from ruan (Chinese plucked string instrument) with thinner and longer neck than ruan. The sound box of shuangqing is octagon-shaped with four pegs, four strings and thirteen or fourteen frets. According to A Sequel to Wenxian Tongkao in Qing Dynasty (qingchao xu wenxian tongkao), “shuangqing is in the ruan family and is an alto instrument. It is three chi and two cun long with an eight-cun deep peg box. Its sound box is one cun and four fen thick. It has three strings, two ranges and thirteen frets and it is played by plucking.”

Sheng (mouth organ) is a wind instrument made of gourd. In Kunqu operas, sheng consisting of seventeen vertical pipes is often used to accompany dizi, which serves to produce “basic tunes”. According to Yangzhou Huafang Lu (The Pleasure Boats of Yangzhou), “the sheng player is behind dizi player, and sheng can also play the role of suona”. When enhancing the richness of sound and producing soothing rhythm, sheng can prolong the music when the singer takes a breath so the tunes won’t stop.

Sheng (mouth organ) is a wind instrument made of gourd. In Kunqu operas, sheng consisting of seventeen vertical pipes is often used to accompany dizi, which serves to produce “basic tunes”. According to Yangzhou Huafang Lu (The Pleasure Boats of Yangzhou), “the sheng player is behind dizi player, and sheng can also play the role of suona”. When enhancing the richness of sound and producing soothing rhythm, sheng can prolong the music when the singer takes a breath so the tunes won’t stop.

Haotong was used in army in ancient China. It can only produce monotone with magnificent and deep sound. In kunqu opera, it is used to present the scene of execution and shifan luogu (a traditional drumming and blowing genre).

Haotong was used in army in ancient China. It can only produce monotone with magnificent and deep sound. In kunqu opera, it is used to present the scene of execution and shifan luogu (a traditional drumming and blowing genre).

Ban (clapper), also known as tanban (literally “sandalwood clapper”) or paiban, is a percussive instrument made of wood. Typical materials used for it are three flat pieces of zitan (red sandalwood) or huangyangmu (yellow poplar wood).

Ban (clapper), also known as tanban (literally “sandalwood clapper”) or paiban, is a percussive instrument made of wood. Typical materials used for it are three flat pieces of zitan (red sandalwood) or huangyangmu (yellow poplar wood).

Erhu can be traced back to Tang dynasty over 1000 years ago, known as Xiqin. It is a traditional bowed instrument. Erhu, literally “two-stringed huqin”, is also known as nanhu (literally “southern huqin”) or wengzi. It is a major bowed instrument (caxian instrument) among the Chinese ethnic instruments.

Erhu can be traced back to Tang dynasty over 1000 years ago, known as Xiqin. It is a traditional bowed instrument. Erhu, literally “two-stringed huqin”, is also known as nanhu (literally “southern huqin”) or wengzi. It is a major bowed instrument (caxian instrument) among the Chinese ethnic instruments.

 Qimao is a percussive instrument in the gong family made of bell metal (a type of bronze). It is a specially designed high-pitched small gong. Its metal disc is relatively thick and inclined, with a 20-centimeter diameter approximately. The center of the disc is a bit higher but there is no boss on it. It is beaten with a gong pad and often shows up in luogu (percussive instrument) qupai (fixed tone-tune) and shifan luogu (a traditional drumming and blowing genre).    

 Qimao is a percussive instrument in the gong family made of bell metal (a type of bronze). It is a specially designed high-pitched small gong. Its metal disc is relatively thick and inclined, with a 20-centimeter diameter approximately. The center of the disc is a bit higher but there is no boss on it. It is beaten with a gong pad and often shows up in luogu (percussive instrument) qupai (fixed tone-tune) and shifan luogu (a traditional drumming and blowing genre).

 

 

Xingwang (literally “prosperity”) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. It is made up of sopranino and bass geda luo (knobbed gong) on each side. The sopranino one is called “xing”, and the bass “wang”. The sound of wang is similar to that of bianzhong (an ancient musical instrument made of bells), full and loud. In kunqu performance, xingwang is often used in qupai music such as putianle (the whole world celebrating) and dakaimen (opening the gate) to evoke solemnity.

Xingwang (literally “prosperity”) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. It is made up of sopranino and bass geda luo (knobbed gong) on each side. The sopranino one is called “xing”, and the bass “wang”. The sound of wang is similar to that of bianzhong (an ancient musical instrument made of bells), full and loud. In kunqu performance, xingwang is often used in qupai music such as putianle (the whole world celebrating) and dakaimen (opening the gate) to evoke solemnity.

 Xiao, also known as dongxiao, is made of bamboo. It can produce silken, soft and light sound without many changes of strength. However, the sound of xiao is very unique, which can travel a long distance. It is renowned for creating long, delicate and elegant music. 

 Xiao, also known as dongxiao, is made of bamboo. It can produce silken, soft and light sound without many changes of strength. However, the sound of xiao is very unique, which can travel a long distance. It is renowned for creating long, delicate and elegant music. 

Biqi gu (water chestnut drum) is a percussive instrument made of leather. It is also known as huai gu and dian gu and used to accompany performance or non-theatrical singing of sheng and dan. Biqi gu serves as a good accompaniment for light singing in the hall. It is seldom learned and played by modern orchestra.

Biqi gu (water chestnut drum) is a percussive instrument made of leather. It is also known as huai gu and dian gu and used to accompany performance or non-theatrical singing of sheng and dan. Biqi gu serves as a good accompaniment for light singing in the hall. It is seldom learned and played by modern orchestra.

Xiaoluo (small gong) is a percussive instrument made of bronze, often seen in the tingtang xi (literally “hall play”). It is also know as xiluo (literally “happy gong”) or neiluo (literally “inner gong”). Its sound is mighty and sonorous with a bit of wit. In kunqu ensemble, sopranino suspended xiaoluo without boss is usually used.

Xiaoluo (small gong) is a percussive instrument made of bronze, often seen in the tingtang xi (literally “hall play”). It is also know as xiluo (literally “happy gong”) or neiluo (literally “inner gong”). Its sound is mighty and sonorous with a bit of wit. In kunqu ensemble, sopranino suspended xiaoluo without boss is usually used.

Guan (double-reed pipe) is the name of a musical instrument, known as “bili” in ancient time. It is a wind instrument that originated from Guizi (today’s Kucha, Xinjiang). In Sui and Tang dynasties, it was used in Jiubuyue (nine kinds of music) and Shibuyue (ten kinds of music); in Song dynasty, there was a bili bu (bili department) in the jiaofang shisan bu (thirteen departments of court conservatory). According to Xu Wei’s Nanci xulu (a Ming history of drama), “now southern songs are sung to the accompaniment of dizi, guan, sheng and pipa”, which suggests that guan is among the traditional kunqu accompanying instruments. As described in Jichangyuan wenge ji (A Record of Hearing Singing in Garden of Ecstasy), “xiao and guan are essential for making chords…Xie Linquan was good at playing guan as an accompaniment instrument…” As some veteran artists recall, in the past, northern songs were sung to the accompaniment of guanzi, which was later replaced by suona. Guanzi is a wind instrument consisting of a wood cylindrical tube with eight holes on it (seven finger holes on the top and one thumb hole on the back) and a reed made from Arundo cane that is inserted into the top end of the tube. Guanzi is available in three sizes: the large, medium and small sizes with the full range of over two octaves. Its upper range sounds sharp and penetrating, the mid range smooth and loud and lower range deep and sustaining with a bit nasal voice. Guanzi is also blown for folk occasions and religious rituals.

Guan (double-reed pipe) is the name of a musical instrument, known as “bili” in ancient time. It is a wind instrument that originated from Guizi (today’s Kucha, Xinjiang). In Sui and Tang dynasties, it was used in Jiubuyue (nine kinds of music) and Shibuyue (ten kinds of music); in Song dynasty, there was a bili bu (bili department) in the jiaofang shisan bu (thirteen departments of court conservatory). According to Xu Wei’s Nanci xulu (a Ming history of drama), “now southern songs are sung to the accompaniment of dizi, guan, sheng and pipa”, which suggests that guan is among the traditional kunqu accompanying instruments. As described in Jichangyuan wenge ji (A Record of Hearing Singing in Garden of Ecstasy), “xiao and guan are essential for making chords…Xie Linquan was good at playing guan as an accompaniment instrument…” As some veteran artists recall, in the past, northern songs were sung to the accompaniment of guanzi, which was later replaced by suona. Guanzi is a wind instrument consisting of a wood cylindrical tube with eight holes on it (seven finger holes on the top and one thumb hole on the back) and a reed made from Arundo cane that is inserted into the top end of the tube. Guanzi is available in three sizes: the large, medium and small sizes with the full range of over two octaves. Its upper range sounds sharp and penetrating, the mid range smooth and loud and lower range deep and sustaining with a bit nasal voice. Guanzi is also blown for folk occasions and religious rituals.

Bo (cymbal) is a percussive instrument made of bell metal (a type of bronze). It was introduced from India in Northern and Southern dynasties. Bo is available in large, medium and small size, among which the medium-sized ones are more common. Large bo has a gloomy sound, usually used to accompany the performance of hualian (painted face). Small bo is often used along with the performer’s zoubian movement in martial plays.

Bo (cymbal) is a percussive instrument made of bell metal (a type of bronze). It was introduced from India in Northern and Southern dynasties. Bo is available in large, medium and small size, among which the medium-sized ones are more common. Large bo has a gloomy sound, usually used to accompany the performance of hualian (painted face). Small bo is often used along with the performer’s zoubian movement in martial plays.

Suona (Chinese double-reeded horn) has eight holes on its pipe (seven finger holes on the top and one thumb hole on the back). Upper range of suona sounds sharp and loud when mid and lower range sound deep and robust. Suona can be used to express strong emotions. In kunqu opera, suona is usually used for sanban (unmeasured rhythm) of beiqu (the northern system of kun music) and luogu (percussive instrument) qupai (fixed tone-tune).

Suona (Chinese double-reeded horn) has eight holes on its pipe (seven finger holes on the top and one thumb hole on the back). Upper range of suona sounds sharp and loud when mid and lower range sound deep and robust. Suona can be used to express strong emotions. In kunqu opera, suona is usually used for sanban (unmeasured rhythm) of beiqu (the northern system of kun music) and luogu (percussive instrument) qupai (fixed tone-tune).

Danpi gu (single-skinned drum) is a percussive instrument made of leather and got its name since only one side of the drum is stretched over by animal skin. It is usually used in plays dominated by roles of jing and mo. It serves as both a conductor and an accompanying instrument in the ensemble.

Danpi gu (single-skinned drum) is a percussive instrument made of leather and got its name since only one side of the drum is stretched over by animal skin. It is usually used in plays dominated by roles of jing and mo. It serves as both a conductor and an accompanying instrument in the ensemble.

Daluo (large gong) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. Its sound is full, deep, rich and sustaining, which can be used to invoke emotions and strengthen the rhythm during the performance. Typically it is beaten in plays dominated by laosheng (old male roles) and hualian (painted-face roles), and martial plays.

Daluo (large gong) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. Its sound is full, deep, rich and sustaining, which can be used to invoke emotions and strengthen the rhythm during the performance. Typically it is beaten in plays dominated by laosheng (old male roles) and hualian (painted-face roles), and martial plays.

Pipa is the name of a traditional Chinese instrument. It is a stringed lute originated in West Asia and arrived in China during the Sui dynasty, known as quxiang (bent-neck) pipa with only ledges but no frets, played by a plectrum. Then in Tang dynasty, a musician named Fei Luoer borrowed the frets of ruan and affixed them on pipa, then the pipa played today came into being, which has a history of around 1600 years. According to Xu Wei’s Nanci xulu (a Ming history of drama), “now southern songs are sung to the accompaniment of dizi, guan, sheng and pipa”, which suggests that pipa is among the traditional accompanying instruments for kunshan tune at early time. Since Ming and Qing dynasties, musicians have been playing pipa with four ledges and thirteen frets, of which the backboard is typically made of hongmu (rosewood), wumu (ebony), zitan (red sandalwood) or huali (padauk), when the belly is made of tongmu (paulownia). The four strings of pipa are tuned A, D, E and A respectively and its full range is 3 octaves and a half. Its lower range sounds deep and full, mid range bright and upper range very clear. There are many fingering techniques: for right hand, there are tan, tiao, jiatan, gun, shuangtan, shuangtiao, fen, gou, mo, shu, kou, fo, sao, and lun; while for left hand, there are rou, yin, daiqi, xu’an, jiaoxian, fanyin, tui, wan, chuo, and zhu. Both hands combined can produce various chords.  

Pipa is the name of a traditional Chinese instrument. It is a stringed lute originated in West Asia and arrived in China during the Sui dynasty, known as quxiang (bent-neck) pipa with only ledges but no frets, played by a plectrum. Then in Tang dynasty, a musician named Fei Luoer borrowed the frets of ruan and affixed them on pipa, then the pipa played today came into being, which has a history of around 1600 years. According to Xu Wei’s Nanci xulu (a Ming history of drama), “now southern songs are sung to the accompaniment of dizi, guan, sheng and pipa”, which suggests that pipa is among the traditional accompanying instruments for kunshan tune at early time. Since Ming and Qing dynasties, musicians have been playing pipa with four ledges and thirteen frets, of which the backboard is typically made of hongmu (rosewood), wumu (ebony), zitan (red sandalwood) or huali (padauk), when the belly is made of tongmu (paulownia). The four strings of pipa are tuned A, D, E and A respectively and its full range is 3 octaves and a half. Its lower range sounds deep and full, mid range bright and upper range very clear. There are many fingering techniques: for right hand, there are tan, tiao, jiatan, gun, shuangtan, shuangtiao, fen, gou, mo, shu, kou, fo, sao, and lun; while for left hand, there are rou, yin, daiqi, xu’an, jiaoxian, fanyin, tui, wan, chuo, and zhu. Both hands combined can produce various chords.

 

Pengling (bell) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. It can be traced back to the Northern and Southern dynasties. It doesn’t have a fixed pitch but the sound is clear and sustaining. With its unique and elegant sound, pengling, which beats rhythm, is a typical accompanying instrument for kunqu performance or in orchestra.

Pengling (bell) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. It can be traced back to the Northern and Southern dynasties. It doesn’t have a fixed pitch but the sound is clear and sustaining. With its unique and elegant sound, pengling, which beats rhythm, is a typical accompanying instrument for kunqu performance or in orchestra.

Changjian is also known as zhaojun (army recruitment) and xianfeng (vanguard), with no finger holes on its pipe. It can produce very sharp and loud sound. Changjian has been used in army since Ming and Qing dynasty. In kunqu opera, it is usually used to present the courtly scene of the general taking command.

Changjian is also known as zhaojun (army recruitment) and xianfeng (vanguard), with no finger holes on its pipe. It can produce very sharp and loud sound. Changjian has been used in army since Ming and Qing dynasty. In kunqu opera, it is usually used to present the courtly scene of the general taking command.

Tang gu (literally “hall drum”) is a percussive instrument made of leather with both sides stretched over by animal skin. It is beaten by two sticks and can produce full and deep sound. In kunqu opera, it is beaten to precede the beginning of the opera and accompany the performance for qupai music that present happiness (xiqing), ceremonies (yanyue) and religious rituals (shenyue) as a leading instrument.

Tang gu (literally “hall drum”) is a percussive instrument made of leather with both sides stretched over by animal skin. It is beaten by two sticks and can produce full and deep sound. In kunqu opera, it is beaten to precede the beginning of the opera and accompany the performance for qupai music that present happiness (xiqing), ceremonies (yanyue) and religious rituals (shenyue) as a leading instrument.

Yueluo (literally “moon gong”) is a percussive instrument made of bell metal (a type of bronze). It has the shape of a round moon with crispy, short and sharp sound, which makes it in the category of sopranino xiaoluo. In kunqu ensemble, it is usually used to create festive atmosphere, together with zhongnao, drum and clapper.

Yueluo (literally “moon gong”) is a percussive instrument made of bell metal (a type of bronze). It has the shape of a round moon with crispy, short and sharp sound, which makes it in the category of sopranino xiaoluo. In kunqu ensemble, it is usually used to create festive atmosphere, together with zhongnao, drum and clapper.

 Maluo (literally “horse gong”) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. It is in the category of alto luo, and once was beaten during monkey tricks. In the kunqu opera Ruxiu ji—jiaoge (The Embroided Short Coat—Teaching Singing), maluo appears on stage. It is sometimes also applied in luogu (percussive instrument) qupai (fixed tone-tune) and shifan luogu (a traditional drumming and blowing genre).

 Maluo (literally “horse gong”) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. It is in the category of alto luo, and once was beaten during monkey tricks. In the kunqu opera Ruxiu ji—jiaoge (The Embroided Short Coat—Teaching Singing), maluo appears on stage. It is sometimes also applied in luogu (percussive instrument) qupai (fixed tone-tune) and shifan luogu (a traditional drumming and blowing genre).

Chunluo (also chailuo, literally “spring gong” or “firewood gong”) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. During folk festivals, Chinese people play it on walk-on-stilts shows, so it got another name “gaoqiao luo (stilts gong)”. It is flat shaped without boss, the diameter being about 20 centimeters. It is beaten with a gong pad, and often shows up in luogu (percussive instrument) qupai (fixed tone-tune) and shifan luogu (a traditional drumming and blowing genre).

Chunluo (also chailuo, literally “spring gong” or “firewood gong”) is a percussive instrument made of bronze. During folk festivals, Chinese people play it on walk-on-stilts shows, so it got another name “gaoqiao luo (stilts gong)”. It is flat shaped without boss, the diameter being about 20 centimeters. It is beaten with a gong pad, and often shows up in luogu (percussive instrument) qupai (fixed tone-tune) and shifan luogu (a traditional drumming and blowing genre).