The zither family

This seven-stringed zither without bridges is the most classical Chinese instrument with over 3000 years of history. The guqin is often referred to as the instrument of sages for the purpose of enriching the heart and elevating human spirit. Confucius was a master of this instrument. The Guqin has historically been regarded as one of the most important symbols of Chinese high culture. However, because the classical musical education of this kind has never been widely spread to the general public, only a small number of people in China could play the instrument.


Guzheng is a Chinese zither with movable bridges and 16 - 25 strings. In the same family there are the Japanese koto, the Vietnamese dan tranh, the Korean kayagum, and the Mongolian Yagta.

The lute family

A four stringed lute with a pear-shaped body. The instrumentalist holds hte pipa upright and play the five small plectra attached to each finger of the right hand. The pipa is originated from HuZhong in China and its history can be dated back at least 2000 years and developed from pentatonic to full scales. This instrument has extremely wide dynamic range and remarkable expressive power.


Liu Qin
Liu Qin is a smaller version of pipa with four strings and is played with a piece of spectrum. It sounds similar to mandolin, and is used to accompany instrument for folk songs and local opera. However, in recent decades, Liu Qin is gradually gaining its place as a soloist instrument. 


In Chinese, San Xian literally means three strings. It is a long necked lute with three strings without frets.  Similar to Er-hu, the sound-body is made of round wooden box covered with snake skin. San Xian is often used for accompanying folk songs and local opera and it’s most popular in the north.


Ruan is commonly referred to as "Chinese guitar". It is an ancient four-stringed moon-shaped lute with long and straight neck and various number of frets, It is sometimes said to be the old version of Pipa. The Ruan is mostly used for Peking opera. In the recent decades, it has an increase appearance in modern Chinese orchestra. There are a family of ruan of various size including "Zhong Ruan" (middle Ruan) and "Da Ruan" (large Ruan) used in the same sense as viola and cello in western orchestra.

Yue stands for moon in Chinese. Yue Qin can be translated to as moon-instrument. It is actually a moon-shaped lute with shorter neck and four strings, played with a spectrum, used for accompanying local operas. "Yue" stands for "the moon" in Chinese.


The harp family

is one of the most ancient Chinese music instruments and the structure of it looks similar to the harp.
The performing skill is diversified. Besides right-hand techniques, the left hand can play vibratos, glissandos, etc.
The tone quality is mellow and graceful and has a typical Chinese flavour.

~ Compiled by Boon Sin Ler

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