What Is Yangqin In Musical Instruments?-5 Types

The yangqin is a plucked string instrument, also known as the hammered dulcimer, struck zither, metal-stringed instrument, fan-shaped instrument, bat instrument, or butterfly instrument. It is an essential instrument in Chinese traditional music ensembles.

what is a yangqin?

The yangqin, also known as the foreign yangqin, is a commonly used plucked string instrument in China. It shares ancestral roots with the piano and possesses distinctive characteristics in its tone – bold and resonant, encompassing a harmonious blend of strength and gentleness. Its sound is reminiscent of tinkling mountain springs during slow play, while during fast play, it resonates like flowing streams. The yangqin boasts exceptional expressive capabilities and can be played solo or in ensemble, serving roles in instrumental performances, storytelling, and accompanying traditional operas. It frequently assumes the role of a “piano accompanist” in folk ensemble music and ethnic orchestras, making it an indispensable and prominent musical instrument.

yang qin called

Yangqin, also known as the yangqin, foreign zither, strumming zither, fan-shaped zither, bat zither, or butterfly zither, is a struck string instrument. The yangqin is an essential instrument in Chinese traditional ensembles.

In Japan, the yangqin is called the “koto” and is a highly popular instrument. Japanese koto music has its own unique style and playing techniques, making it one of the representatives of traditional Japanese music.

In Korea, the yangqin is known as the “yanggeum” and is also a very popular instrument. Korean yangqin music has its distinctive style and playing techniques, representing a significant part of traditional Korean music.

In Vietnam, the yangqin is referred to as “đàn tranh” and is likewise a highly popular instrument. Vietnamese đàn tranh music has its unique style and playing techniques, standing as a representative of traditional Vietnamese music.

what type of instrument is yangqin?

The yangqin is a commonly used plucked string instrument in China. Due to its distinctive granular sound and point-like articulation, it falls into the category of plucked instruments along with instruments like the pipa, zheng, and liuqin. Therefore, it can be characterized as a plucked-string instrument based on its tonal qualities. It can be said that the yangqin can be classified into different instrument categories based on various perspectives, but its essence remains that of a plucked string instrument.

types of yangqin

There are many varieties of the yangqin, a traditional Chinese plucked string instrument. In addition to the traditional eight-tone, ten-tone, and twelve-tone small yangqins used for folk ensemble or accompaniment in storytelling and opera, there are other types like the tuned yangqin, revolving pitch yangqin, zither yangqin, fully-tuned active horse yangqin, and electric yangqin, which are suitable for solo performances or participation in ethnic music ensembles.

Tuned Yangqin

Developed in the 1960s, the “401 model yangqin” features metal rollers placed on each side of the soundboard. Each set of strings has metal rollers underneath to provide accurate tuning and quick string adjustment. A copper variation slot is placed on the left side’s roller board, allowing the strings to be raised or lowered by half a tone through the movement of the variation slot on the board. Apart from rapid transposition, it simplifies the yangqin’s structure, expanding the original two-octave range to four octaves. It adopts new tonal positions and arrangement, enabling swift transposition during performances. Its main advantage is the unified playing technique – mastering one key’s playing technique allows one to perform in different keys.

Revolving Pitch Yangqin

The revolving pitch yangqin features left, center, right, and low sets of strings, arranged in a specific pattern for convenient play. The left side has a transposition mechanism composed of a main spindle, cams, levers, connecting rods, and transposing levers. When raised, the transposing lever lifts the strings by half a tone, achieving transposition. This design enhances ease of use.

Zither Yangqin

Combining the yangqin and the zither, the zither yangqin consists of a four-tier yangqin on top and a 16-string zither on the bottom. It shares the same soundboard position, arch, and string tier height as the yangqin. It can perform both yangqin and zither pieces. Yangqin players familiar with zither playing techniques can combine plucking and striking on the zither yangqin, creating a unique sound effect suitable for small ethnic ensembles and accompaniment in traditional opera.

Fully-Tuned Active Horse Yangqin

Featuring an aluminum alloy frame to support string tension and prevent soundboard distortion, the fully-tuned active horse yangqin has iron bars and bolts under each set of strings for adjusting string height. Its tonal arrangement follows traditional playing conventions, from low to high pitches, with transposition possible across all twelve keys. It features dual sound dampers and allows quick fine-tuning of strings. The instrument offers sensitive sound production, with clear high tones, sweet mid tones, and rich low tones.

Electric Yangqin

The electric yangqin comprises the body, pickup, amplifier, and speaker. Similar in appearance to the tuned yangqin, it features pickups near the soundboard for converting string vibrations into electrical signals. These signals are then amplified and emitted through speakers. The electric yangqin maintains traditional tuning and playing techniques but differs in construction materials and overall design. It has a reduced string count compared to traditional yangqin, resulting in lighter string tension and overcoming body deformation. The electric yangqin produces bright highs, sweet mid tones, and deep lows. It excels in ethnic and symphonic ensemble performances and is suitable for solo or accompaniment purposes.

The Distribution of Yangqin Schools

Yangqin in Folk Instrumental Music Traditions: Development of Traditional Styles

Yangqin, a hammered dulcimer, holds a significant place within Guangdong music, Jiangnan silk and bamboo ensembles, and Chaozhou string poetry, among other folk instrumental genres. As it merged extensively and deeply with folk music, the Yangqin underwent constant transformation, leading to the gradual formation and ongoing evolution of its distinct Chinese ethnic style. Throughout its transmission in traditional Chinese music, Yangqin blended with various regional folk genres, resulting in diverse performance styles that emphasized both local characteristics and genre-specific features alongside shared commonalities. The following discussion will focus on several prominent traditional Yangqin schools that have achieved advanced development and exerted significant influence on subsequent Yangqin performance styles.

I. Yangqin in Guangdong Music

Guangdong music is a locally developed instrumental genre of recent times. The Yangqin, which became widely popular in Guangdong, experienced accelerated growth upon its integration into Guangdong music. The earliest published Guangdong Yangqin collection was “Yuequ Yangqin Pu” (Yangqin Scores of Cantonese Opera) compiled by Yi Qiren in 1920. The following year saw the publication of “Qin Xue Xin Bian” (New Compilation of Qin Studies). This book categorized the bamboo playing technique of Guangdong Yangqin from a notation perspective, introducing the concept of ten degrees of bamboo playing. This book revealed that Guangdong had already developed two distinct Yangqin playing styles: left bamboo and right bamboo techniques. “Qin Xue Xin Bian” holds significance in the realm of Guangdong Yangqin and laid the foundation for subsequent similar works. Other publications such as “Lu Wen Cheng Qin Pu” (Lu Wencheng, 1926), “Qin Xue Xue Jing Hua” (Qiu Hecou, 1928), and “Guo Yue Jie Jing” (Chen Junying, 1939) introduced Yangqin exclusively within Guangdong, providing early accounts of Yangqin playing techniques and collections. These publications facilitated further popularization of Yangqin within China and improvements in playing skills. In this century, a number of talented Yangqin performers have emerged within Guangdong music, including Yan Laolie, Qiu Hecou, Luo Qiyun, Lu Wencheng, Chen Junying, Huang Longlian, and Fang Han, who have contributed significantly to the inheritance and development of Guangdong Yangqin.

II. Yangqin in Jiangnan Silk and Bamboo Ensembles

The Yangqin enjoyed widespread popularity in the Jiangsu and Zhejiang regions and was notably applied in various folk music contexts. Its most significant development, however, occurred within the modern instrumental ensemble form known as Jiangnan silk and bamboo ensembles. Due to limited historical records on Jiangnan silk and bamboo ensembles, this discussion will explore the instrument’s development primarily through the examination of Yangqin lineages in the Shanghai region.

III. Early Influential Figures in Yangqin

Key figures in the early development of silk and bamboo ensembles featuring Yangqin include Ren Huichu, Zhang Zhixiang, Yu Yueting, Yu Dingming, and Tang Jixiang.

  • Ren Huichu (1887-1952), a native of Yixing, Jiangsu, and son-in-law of Li Hongzhang, co-founded the “Qingping Ji” silk and bamboo ensemble in Shanghai in 1917. His mastery of Yangqin led him to adapt Jiangnan silk and bamboo ensemble pieces into solo Yangqin performances, and he produced some of the earliest solo Yangqin recordings in the 1930s, including “Zhong Hua Liu Ban” and “San Liu.”
  • Zhang Zhixiang, from Huzhou, Zhejiang, excelled in Yangqin and pipa. He began as an accompanist for singing girls and later became a prominent educator of silk and bamboo ensembles. Zhang Zhixiang played a pivotal role in several early silk and bamboo ensembles in Shanghai and left behind a Yangqin composition titled “Nan Feng Cao.”
  • Xiang Zuhua (1934-), a disciple of Ren Huichu in the 1940s, made significant contributions to the preservation and development of Yangqin in silk and bamboo ensembles. He edited and published the “Selected Traditional Solo Pieces for Ethnic Instruments: Yangqin Album,” which showcased his innovative arrangements of Jiangnan silk and bamboo ensemble Yangqin pieces.

IV. Yangqin in Sichuan Qinshu

Sichuan’s development of the Yangqin is closely tied to the qinshu genre. This lineage, with a history of at least two centuries, features Yangqin as a central accompaniment instrument. Sichuan qinshu typically involves five performers, each responsible for roles such as sheng (male role), dan (female role), jing (painted face), chou (comic role), and mo (extras), accompanied by Yangqin, drum board, xiao sanxian, xiao huqin, and erhu. The instrumentally rich Sichuan qinshu repertoire combines vocal and instrumental elements, with instrumental interludes prominently showcasing Yangqin skills.

V. Yangqin in Northeast China

Historically, Yangqin was not firmly associated with any specific genre in Northeast China. Instead, it was informally passed down among folk musicians for recreational purposes. Yangqin in Northeast China emerged from the artistic fusion of a few individuals who combined Yangqin with local folk music. Lacking a defined genre background or a large performing community, Northeast China’s Yangqin style is characterized by its distinct regional features.

VI. Wang Yifu (1917-1989), an educated musician, played a significant role in the development of Yangqin in Northeast China. His efforts were integral to the preservation and growth of Northeast China’s Yangqin tradition. Wang Yifu’s contributions include the compilation and publication of “Selected Traditional Solo Pieces for Ethnic Instruments: Yangqin Album,” which featured his arrangements of Yangqin pieces such as “Tan Ci Zhi Yun,” “Huan Le Ge,” “Xing Jie,” and “Ni Chang Qu,” reflecting both traditional elements and innovative breakthroughs.

This overview demonstrates the rich diversity and historical significance of Yangqin within various regional folk instrumental music traditions in China.

what is a yangqin made of?

The yangqin is a traditional plucked string instrument, primarily consisting of a soundboard, neck, fingerboard, strings, and bridges. The body of the yangqin is typically crafted from wood, with common materials including pine, paulownia, and rosewood. The neck and fingerboard are also made from wood, often utilizing harder woods such as rosewood, paulownia, and boxwood.

what is a yangqin used for?

The yangqin can be used for solo performance, accompaniment, and ensemble playing.

Since the late Qing Dynasty, the yangqin has been used in various musical genres and styles in China, including Cantonese music, Jiangnan silk and bamboo ensembles, Yangzhou qingqu, Guangxi wenchang, Changde sixian, Sichuan qinshu, Henan qinshu, Shandong qinshu, Yulin xiaoqu, and more.

In Chinese history, the yangqin was widely utilized in settings such as imperial courts, temples, traditional opera, and folk arts. Over time, its prominence in Han Chinese regions gradually waned, but it remains a part of China’s cultural heritage and continues to be a beloved instrument by many.

what does a yangqin look like?

The traditional yangqin is constructed with a frame made of cedar, birch, or elm wood, with a soundboard of white pine or paulownia wood on top and plywood on the bottom. The soundbox is shaped like a butterfly or a flat ladder, measuring around 90-97 cm in length, 32-41 cm in width, and 5.7-7 cm in height.

The yangqin consists of various components, including the resonating box, bridge, tuning pegs, tuning peg handles, hammers, strings, and bamboo bridges.

The resonating box forms the body of the yangqin, composed of front and back side panels connected by the left and right ends of the frame. It is covered on the top and bottom with thin boards.

Side panels and the frame’s ends are often made from dense woods like rosewood, boxwood, or elm. The top soundboard, which is part of the frame, is usually crafted from straight and evenly grained wood such as paulownia or spruce. This soundboard serves as the resonating surface, playing a crucial role in determining the instrument’s volume and tone.

The bottom of the frame often employs three layers of plywood. Inside the resonating box, corresponding to each bridge position on the soundboard, there is a sound beam running across, connecting the top and bottom soundboards and the front and back side panels. This design divides the soundbox into several chambers.

what does a yangqin sound like?

Different types of yangqin have varying ranges: the eight-tone yangqin ranges from F1 to E2, the ten-tone yangqin ranges from D’ to D3, the twelve-tone yangqin ranges from C to E3, the pitch-changing yangqin ranges from G to g3, the revolving pitch yangqin ranges from G to A3, the fully-tuned active tone large yangqin ranges from G to C4, and the electric yangqin ranges from G to g3.

The yangqin produces a diverse and colorful range of tones. The low notes are mellow, robust, and deep; the middle notes are soft, pure, and transparent; the high notes are clear and bright; while the highest notes are more tense.

When playing melodies, the middle and high registers are primarily used, occasionally extending to the highest register but sparingly. The lower register is used less for melodies and more for harmonic accompaniment. The yangqin is suitable for performing fast-paced pieces, best suited for expressing lively, cheerful emotions and joyful sentiments.

During performance, the instrument is placed on a stand, and the player uses two bamboo sticks to strike the strings on both sides of the bridges with the left and right hands. Techniques include single notes, left and right hand plucking, double notes (chords), rolling notes (rapid plucking), reverse plucking, accompaniment, accentuated notes, trills, tremolo, glissando, and harmonics. The yangqin excels in performing light and lively melodies.

Traditional compositions include “Lin Chong’s Night Run,” “Su Wu Shepherd,” “Reflections of the Mountain in Red,” “Lisao,” “General’s Orders,” “Collecting Red Lotus,” and more.

The sound of yangqin

The yangqin’s tone should possess granularity and distinctive character. Without a unique tonal quality, its sound may appear flat and diffuse, potentially being overshadowed by other instruments and failing to fulfill its role within the ensemble. Therefore, the quality of the yangqin’s tone directly impacts the overall level of the musical group. Proper playing technique is paramount in achieving superior tonal quality, relying not only on a high-quality instrument but also on correct playing methods.

To enhance the yangqin’s tonal quality, the following four points are recommended:

Correct Key Holding:

“Three-finger key holding” refers to evenly gripping the keys with the thumb, middle finger, and index finger. The key is to ensure the pad of the middle finger is firmly against the key handle. This three-finger grip allows the key and hand to become a unified entity, effectively extending the fingers forward. This facilitates control over variations in dynamics. Common issues in three-finger key holding include the thumb protruding and the middle finger not adhering closely to the key handle.

Wrist Rotation:

Once the keys are gripped by the three fingers, the task of playing upward and downward is delegated to the wrist. The wrist should rotate in a straight up-and-down motion to strike the strings squarely and produce good tonal quality. The wrist acts as a “universal joint” capable of rotating at various angles with great flexibility. However, training it to rotate straight up and down is not easy. This can be practiced by holding both hands together, palms touching, and rotating them up and down. Failure to practice this can result in incorrect wrist rotation directions, leading to significant difficulties in future playing, which can be hard to correct.

Striking Position on the Strings:

The key head, about 5 centimeters long, should strike the strings slightly towards the rear-middle position. The sound produced at this position is the most solid. Generally, the sweet spot is about 2.5 to 3 centimeters (one inch) from the bridge. To train this, a line can be drawn on the panel above, with adhesive tape marking the front and rear limits. Over time, accurate striking at this position can be achieved.

Elastic Force” Practice:

Playing the yangqin involves striking the keys with a certain elasticity, known as “elastic force.” To achieve this, the “rebounding key” technique can be employed. When striking the strings, if the key is lowered to a height of 20 centimeters above the strings, it should quickly rebound to that same height. The rebound should be achieved deliberately using the wrist. A shorter duration between striking and rebounding is preferable for creating the desired elastic force. “Rebounding key” is crucial for generating elastic force.

The range of the yangqin

The yangqin’s range varies among different types:

Octave Yangqin: F1 to E2

Ten-Tone Yangqin: D’ to D3

Twelve-Tone Yangqin: C to E3

Chromatic Yangqin: G to G3

Modulating Tone Yangqin: G to A3

Fully-Tempered Active-Horse Yangqin: G to C4

Electric Yangqin: G to G3

The yangqin produces a rich and diverse tonal palette. The lower range emanates a misty, robust, and deep resonance, while the middle range is soft, pure, and transparent. The higher range is characterized by clarity and brightness, with the highest notes carrying a sense of tension. When playing melodies, the focus is mainly on the middle and higher ranges, occasionally reaching into the highest range, though sparingly. The lower range is less employed for melodies, often serving as harmonic support.

The yangqin is well-suited for performing fast-paced compositions and is particularly adept at conveying light-hearted, lively emotions and joyful, cheerful sentiments.

how does a yangqin work?

The yangqin is a plucked-string instrument, producing sound through the vibration of its strings. The wooden resonating box generates resonance, and sound is produced by striking the strings with bamboo sticks covered in leather. The sound is emitted from openings on the wooden board beneath the yangqin.

Internally, the yangqin is hollow, and its visible construction on the exterior is its main structure. The sound is produced in the resonating box, where striking the strings causes resonance with the panel underneath, and the sound is emitted from the openings on the bottom of the instrument. Therefore, on stage, microphones are generally placed not above the instrument but closer to its side near the resonating box. To better understand, you can compare it to the piano: the sound production principle of the yangqin is similar to that of the piano. The difference is that the piano uses keys to control hammers that strike the strings inside the soundbox, while the yangqin eliminates keys and directly strikes the strings with hammers on the surface.

Principle of Sound Production in Yangqin

During yangqin performance, the musician uses two bamboo sticks (also called “qin jian” or “qin zhu”) with both hands to pluck and strike the strings. The vibration of the strings creates sound, which is then transmitted through the bridge, causing air resonance within the panel and the trapezoidal resonating box. This resonance generates the acoustic sound. The yangqin’s tone is clear, bright, melodious, and elegant. It is suitable for playing lively, lively, or melodious tunes. Due to its bright tone, it also has an integrating and organizing role in orchestras, making it a significant plucked-string instrument in traditional Chinese ensembles.

Yangqin in opera

In traditional Chinese opera music, although the four major vocal styles and the Qing Dynasty’s widely popular Peking opera did not incorporate the yangqin, it found a place in regional opera genres such as Cantonese opera and Teochew opera. In the Lvju (originating from Shandong Qinshu) and Qianju (originating from Guizhou Wenqin) opera forms, which evolved from narrative singing styles, the yangqin continues to serve as a primary accompanying instrument.

Relationship Between Traditional Chinese Opera Music and Yangqin

I. The Influence of Traditional Chinese Opera Music on the Development of Yangqin Art

Traditional Chinese opera music has driven the development of yangqin art in recent times. Many music enthusiasts are incorporating yangqin into traditional Chinese opera music, and numerous opera art institutions are integrating yangqin into their curricula and performances. In this environment, the expression and forms of yangqin art have become more diverse and enriched. The application of yangqin has expanded from traditional opera music to various other musical genres. Furthermore, certain elements of traditional opera music have been absorbed into yangqin art, altering its artistic essence. Although yangqin originated in European countries, it has acquired Chinese characteristics since its introduction to China, further contributing to its development.

The reciprocal influence between yangqin art and traditional Chinese opera music. Throughout the history of world music, yangqin, as an exotic instrument, originated in Europe and gradually made its way into China in the 17th century. Over the centuries, yangqin art has remained in a state of development. The fusion of yangqin with traditional Chinese opera music has enriched the essence of Chinese opera music with both local and foreign musical flavors. With a growing understanding and application of yangqin among music enthusiasts, the integration of yangqin and traditional Chinese opera music has deepened. For instance, elements of yangqin can be observed in Cantonese yangqin music, Huangmei opera, Jiangnan silk and bamboo music, Yue opera, Shanghainese opera, and Northeastern shadow puppetry music. In summary, over the course of yangqin’s development spanning centuries, it has significantly influenced the evolution of Chinese traditional opera music, contributing unquestionably to its development.

II. Common Forms of Yangqin in Traditional Chinese Opera Accompaniment

In the present stage, there are numerous training methods, techniques, and even paid instructional courses available online and in various opera institutions. Music enthusiasts at the beginner’s level can start incorporating yangqin into traditional opera accompaniment with relative ease by reading materials and practicing. However, effectively integrating yangqin and achieving a harmonious blend with traditional opera accompaniment, enhancing the overall effect, requires attention. At present, many musicians often mix different elements during opera accompaniment, altering the style and method of accompaniment to achieve innovation. The common forms of yangqin in traditional Chinese opera accompaniment include:

  • Rhythmic accompaniment: Yangqin is used to highlight the rhythm of traditional opera, making the rhythm more prominent and captivating for the audience.
  • Supplementary accompaniment: Yangqin is used to enhance the emotional appeal of traditional opera, adding charm to the performance. This method can be observed in works like “Xiāng Fēi yǔ Qiánlóng” (Consort Xiāng and Emperor Qianlong).
  • Ensemble accompaniment: Yangqin is combined with other instruments such as the erhu to create varied effects and enhance the expressive capability of traditional opera performances.

III. Specific Applications of Yangqin in Traditional Chinese Opera Accompaniment

The integration of traditional Chinese opera accompaniment and yangqin as a new artistic form enriches opera accompaniment with the artistic characteristics of the yangqin, providing musicians with innovative opportunities. To effectively apply yangqin in opera accompaniment and fully understand the fusion of the two, musicians must conduct a systematic analysis of the specific applications of yangqin in traditional Chinese opera accompaniment. The influence of yangqin in Yue opera and Huangmei opera is particularly significant.

Yangqin in Yue Opera Accompaniment:

In Yue opera, yangqin is used to emphasize the overall performance of the music ensemble, ensuring coordination between the melody and yangqin accompaniment. For instance, the integration of different musical elements and rhythmic patterns enhances the accompaniment’s effects in fast, slow, and medium tempo sections. Yangqin is also employed in drag-and-slide play to add unique emotions and contrasts to the performance.

Yangqin in Huangmei Opera Accompaniment:

The application of yangqin in Huangmei opera accompaniment is more intricate and demands a high level of proficiency from accompanying musicians. Accompanying musicians must familiarize themselves with the outstanding arias, tonalities, and musical structures of Huangmei opera and then incorporate yangqin to enhance the musical elements. Utilizing techniques such as rhythmic accompaniment, supplementary accompaniment, embellishments, ensemble play, rotation, solo play, and others, musicians create tension in the accompaniment and achieve a harmonious integration with yangqin in Huangmei opera performances.

IV. Considerations When Applying Yangqin in Traditional Chinese Opera Accompaniment

Emphasize the foundation of traditional opera accompaniment: Regardless of the instrument used in opera accompaniment, it is essential to focus on building a solid foundation in traditional opera accompaniment. Adequate mastery of traditional opera accompaniment is crucial for musicians aiming to integrate yangqin effectively. Musicians should persistently practice and refine their basic skills, identify weaknesses, and continually improve their traditional opera accompaniment. Online resources, including videos and practical exercises, can be valuable tools for enhancing these skills.

Master opera accompaniment techniques: While some may consider opera accompaniment to be simple and merely a matter of practice, this perspective is one-sided. Although consistent practice can enhance accompaniment skills, inadequate mastery of opera accompaniment techniques could hinder the musician’s ability to navigate changes in rhythm, melody, and emotional transitions in traditional opera. To achieve the best results with yangqin, musicians must select appropriate playing techniques to elevate their opera performance skills. This is particularly crucial when integrating yangqin into traditional opera accompaniment, underscoring the importance of continuous learning and mastering professional skills and techniques.

Control the rhythm of opera accompaniment: When applying yangqin to traditional opera accompaniment, it’s essential to master and control the rhythm of the performance. For instance, during the transition between short and long tones, musicians should invest the corresponding emotions, adjust the configuration of the yangqin to highlight specific accents, and captivate the audience’s attention. Additionally, musicians should add tonal transitions and control the rhythm of the accompaniment to enhance the overall effect. By skillfully controlling the rhythm, musicians can create a natural and engaging viewing experience, allowing even casual audiences to appreciate the beauty of yangqin and traditional opera art.

Application of Yangqin in Traditional Chinese Opera Accompaniment

I. Common Forms of Yangqin Application in Traditional Chinese Opera Accompaniment

The application of yangqin in traditional Chinese opera accompaniment encompasses various combinations. Different elements are often introduced into opera accompaniment to enrich its content and style, showcasing innovative designs. Yangqin is frequently employed in opera accompaniment to accentuate different rhythm patterns. This approach highlights the rhythm of the opera, enhancing its auditory effects and drawing the audience into the artistic realm of the performance. At times, performers use yangqin as a supportive element to increase emotional resonance and captivate a broader audience. Yangqin may also be paired with other instruments, such as the erhu, to create a diverse auditory experience. Combining the unique timbres of different instruments during accompaniment produces a harmonious ensemble effect that enriches the overall performance. In addition to these common forms, yangqin can also be used in forms like rotation and solo, enhancing the variation of opera rhythms and the overall auditory experience of accompaniment.

II. Considerations for the Application of Yangqin in Opera Accompaniment

When incorporating yangqin into opera accompaniment, the primary consideration is the performer’s proficiency in playing the yangqin. Yangqin players need to combine their yangqin skills with the characteristics of opera accompaniment, actively address challenges encountered during performance, and continuously improve to realize the value of yangqin in opera accompaniment. Furthermore, performers should enhance their knowledge and skills in opera accompaniment techniques through online courses, offline classes, and other resources. The changes in rhythm, melody, and emotions in opera accompaniment should be seamlessly integrated into yangqin performance. Finally, performers need to control the rhythm of the opera accompaniment. Smooth transitions between long and short tones, shifts in emotions, and changes in tonalities are achieved through yangqin performance, creating a flowing and seamless effect. Only with proficient skills can performers provide outstanding opera accompaniment, immersing the audience in the artistic atmosphere of the opera and conveying its charm.

III. Application of Yangqin in Opera Accompaniment

Amid the enthusiasm of numerous musicians for yangqin, it is widely used in various forms of opera accompaniment:

Yangqin in Huagu Opera Accompaniment:

In Hunan’s Huagu Opera, Changsha Huagu Opera is one of the most well-developed branches. The accompaniment of Changsha Huagu Opera primarily features suona and datong (large barrel drums), with yangqin, pipa, and other instruments playing supportive roles. Various instruments collaborate to create captivating transitional music and vocal melodies. Yangqin is often utilized to “add embellishments,” enriching the vocal melodies with various techniques. By incorporating supplementary notes and passing tones, performers enhance the melodic qualities of the vocal lines, closely connecting different musical phrases and presenting the essence of the opera to the audience. Different subcategories of Huagu Opera, such as Changde Huagu Opera, have distinct influences on Hunan Huagu Opera. For instance, when portraying family tragedies, Changde Huagu Opera often uses vibrato techniques on the yangqin to evoke tremors, enhancing the emotional impact. Yangqin also employs techniques such as pitch bending, utilizing intervals of major and minor seconds to intensify the subdued emotional qualities of the opera. In Yueyang Huagu Opera, yangqin often employs rhythmic techniques in tandem with the opera’s melodic repetition, enriching the auditory experience and expanding the width of the melody. This form contributes to the joyful atmosphere of the opera accompaniment. In Shaoyang Huagu Opera, yangqin frequently employs rotational techniques, creating a continuous and rapid melodic rotation. This technique, one of the most widely used, sustains the opera’s emotions. In Hengzhou Huagu Opera, yangqin predominantly employs arpeggios, playing each note individually to create a flowing melody. This category often portrays folk anecdotes and is well-loved by the public. The use of arpeggio accompaniment techniques on yangqin is commonly found in more lyrical opera accompaniment, producing gentle, melodious tunes that complement the vocal melodies.

Yangqin in Jishan Qinshu Opera Accompaniment:

Jishan Qinshu Opera is one of the representative opera forms in Yuncheng, Shanxi Province. The name of the opera style is derived from its main accompanying instrument, the yangqin, making it quite characteristic. The singers in Jishan Qinshu Opera are visually impaired, making yangqin somewhat challenging for them. Therefore, they often employ simpler accompaniment techniques, frequently using single-note melodies. For instance, yangqin accompaniment can follow the vocal melody, playing notes that match the vocal line. The accompaniment remains consistent with the vocal melody, occasionally embellished with auxiliary notes. Alternatively, fixed accompaniment patterns can be used to create a stark contrast with the vocal melody. Regardless of changes in the vocal melody, the yangqin accompaniment pattern remains consistent. In interludes and preludes, specific rhythmic patterns are used to transition between melodies. In parts without vocal melodies, yangqin is used to supplement the auditory effects, enriching the musical experience. Given the unique characteristics of Jishan Qinshu Opera performers, yangqin is often used in interludes and preludes, where the vocal melody lacks accompaniment.

how is a yangqin made?

Making the Outer Frame

The outer frame is a crucial structural component of the soundbox, directly affecting the instrument’s lifespan and tonal quality. It must withstand tension exceeding one thousand kilograms and also endure pressures of over one hundred kilograms. Therefore, appropriate wood materials and scientifically sound craftsmanship are essential. The manufacturing process generally involves material selection, wood drying, preparation, template drawing, mortise cutting, as well as soundbeam and sound hole construction.

After completing the aforementioned steps, it is important to verify the correct curvature of the front and back soundboards, ensure uniform horizontal curvature, and ensure that the two soundboards are aligned horizontally. Incorrect curvature can directly impact the instrument’s timbre or make playing difficult. If the curvatures are not aligned horizontally, the instrument’s body may become uneven, and the angles at the four corners may deviate significantly. Inaccurate horizontal slope can complicate mortise cutting and even render the instrument unusable. When making mortise cuts, the permissible dimensional error is within ±0.5mm, requiring precision and meticulousness. Careful attention is also necessary when closing the outer frame. Oversized mortise cuts can weaken the frame, while undersized mortise cuts can lead to breakage and even cracking of the soundboards.

Soundbeam and Soundboard

The soundbeam conducts vibrations and supports the soundboard, significantly influencing the instrument’s tonal quality. Typically, white pine or red pine is used. During installation, the soundbeam should tightly join the soundboard, and the positioning and size of sound holes should be appropriate. A commonly used type of soundbeam is the hole-tone soundbeam, which features several circular holes in a single wooden piece. To ensure the instrument can withstand pressure, each soundbeam should have a curvature of 3–5mm, and the spacing between holes should be uniform.

The soundboard is the primary resonating element of the yangqin, playing a decisive role in tonal quality and volume. Dry paulownia or white pine are suitable wood choices, with paulownia being preferable. To achieve a balanced and resonant sound, the soundboard should be planed to different thicknesses, creating a fan-like shape. During assembly, glue should be evenly and moderately applied between boards, ensuring a tight connection with the soundbeam.

Bridge, Tuning Pegs, and Glide Bar

The bridge must be sturdy and pressure-resistant, often incorporating a thin metal piece on top or embedding a metal bar into a slot on the glide bar for reinforcement.

Tuning pegs come in various wood types and shapes. Due to the curved sides of the instrument, the height of each tuning peg varies. During production, lines are drawn, surfaces planed, and arcs drawn. Steel wires are used to gradually pull out each peg, followed by meticulous wood filing and sanding. After the tuning pegs are complete, buffalo horn or bone is added on top, and a thin metal bar is inserted at the top to enhance the brightness of the sound.

The glide bar, made from dried wood like maple or oak, should have an aesthetically pleasing finish, a glossy surface, and a suitable slope upon installation.

Tuning Peg Plate and Peg Plate

Tuning peg plates and peg plates are made from oak, maple, or oakwood, with complex layouts for the pegs. Professional factories use templates to mark lines and drill holes, while amateurs can use right-angle rulers and protractors to determine standard dimensions and peg positions. The peg arrangement should be symmetrical and well-balanced. To prevent pegs from becoming loose and to increase their tension, the holes should be drilled with a certain angle. The angle between the string and the peg should be acute, and the hole size should be slightly smaller than the peg, with appropriate tolerance.

II. Explanation of Various Components of Yangqin

Tuning Pegs: Tuning pegs are used for stringing and tuning. They can be rotated forward or backward to adjust the pitch, with forward rotation raising the pitch and backward rotation lowering it. These pegs come in various shapes and sizes.

Modulation Groove: Installed on the glide bar, the modulation groove is used for quickly changing the position of the strings during key changes. It consists of U-shaped copper strips embedded in the glide bar, allowing the glide bar to move back and forth, guided by a track at the bottom. However, modern yangqin playing generally does not involve moving the glide bar, similar to how all pitch changes are fixed on a piano.

String Peg: Located on the left side of the yangqin, the string peg is used to secure the strings.

Tuning Peg: Positioned on the right side of the yangqin, the tuning peg is used for tuning.

Calibration Lever: Used to adjust the pitch of the strings.

Stand: Folding stands are common, offering portability and stability.

Plectrum: During play, the plectrum is used to strike or pluck the strings. Typically, bamboo of thick, elastic, and knot-free quality is used.

Crafting a yangqin is a complex and meticulous process. However, by following the correct manufacturing methods, selecting high-quality materials, ensuring precise craftsmanship, and coordinating the various components appropriately, amateur enthusiasts can successfully create a fine yangqin. While the initial sound quality of a newly crafted yangqin may not be perfect, continuous play and adjustments will gradually improve and perfect the instrument’s overall sound quality over time.

how to play Yangqin?

Yangqin Playing Techniques and Styles

The basic technique for playing the yangqin involves alternating between the two hands, with traditional techniques categorized into “Left Bamboo Method” and “Right Bamboo Method.” In the 1950s, Mr. Wang Yifu summarized the “Eight Techniques of Yangqin”: plucking, rolling, trilling, gliding, tapping, pulling, kneading, and hooking. As yangqin evolved, the previous singular techniques have transformed into a hybrid approach that fully leverages both hands’ initiative and flexibility.

Building on tradition while assimilating and borrowing strengths from sister ethnic instruments and foreign techniques, China’s yangqin has developed its unique style, featuring a rich array of performance skills and expressive techniques. These can be roughly categorized into seven types: single-note techniques, double notes, rolling notes, plucked and rolled notes, broken chords, dual-part arrangements, and color techniques.

Single-note techniques and rolling notes form the core of yangqin’s fundamental skills. Single notes resemble pearls falling on a jade plate—clear, brilliant, and often used to ornament melodies, lending them a lively, colorful, and splendid quality. Double notes are full and powerful, primarily used on stronger-toned melodies to enhance momentum and evoke emotions.

The sound of the yangqin flows like a trickling stream, tranquil and continuous. It is commonly applied to slow and moderate-tempo melodies, infusing them with a lingering and mellifluous character. Plucked and rolled notes are dense and compact, frequently used for shorter note values, imparting a nimble and lively quality.

Broken chords ripple like sparkling waves on a lake’s surface, often used to depict picturesque landscapes and the enchanting beauty of nature. Dual-part arrangements enhance the stereo effect of the music, making the imagery more vivid and complete.

Among various color techniques, pull-offs and string-plucking create fresh and melodious melodies. Hummed tones and kneading lend melodies depth and simplicity, imbuing them with a clear, elegant, and ethereal quality. Accented notes resemble the gentle trotting of a horse’s hooves. Harmonics evoke a sense of profound tranquility and endless charm.

Slides and pulls imitate flowing water, splashing waves, from roaring waterfalls to surging tides, or the delicate trickle of a stream within a light drizzle. Drum sounds, wooden sounds, plucked notes, tap-like sounds, and percussive effects imitate the sounds of percussion instruments, ranging from lively festival drums to the serene melodies resonating from secluded mountain temples.

Sliding with finger sleeves captures the charm of zithers, producing elegant and pure notes, while also imitating the songs of birds and the rustling of winds and waves. These techniques, when accurately, refinedly, flexibly, and cleverly applied in music, enhance the artistic expressiveness of yangqin performance.

yangqin history

The yangqin is one of the traditional folk instruments in China, with its origins and development tracing back to the Yangshao culture around 4,000 years ago. Here is a brief history of the origin and development of the yangqin:

Origin: The origins of the yangqin can be traced back to the ancient Chinese “stringed instruments,” which were the earliest instruments played with bowstrings. These instruments appeared around 4,000 years ago and consisted of two thick strings wrapped together, with a curved wooden stick used to press the strings to produce tones.

Development: Over time, the form of the yangqin gradually evolved. During the Tang Dynasty, the construction of the qin (a type of stringed instrument) was improved, leading to the emergence of the new-style yangqin. It had six strings made of bamboo, pine, or mulberry wood, with a total of 21 pitches. In the Ming Dynasty, it became widely used and transformed into a formal artistic performance instrument. During the Qing Dynasty, the yangqin underwent further improvements and gained broader application. In modern times, the yangqin has become an integral part of Chinese traditional folk music and a significant component of Chinese musical culture. Additionally, contemporary musicians have innovated and developed the yangqin, upgrading its techniques.

Ancient China: The yangqin played a crucial role in Chinese history, experiencing development across several dynasties. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, the yangqin was not yet a mainstream instrument. However, during the Han Dynasty, as literati and scholars began to emphasize musical aesthetics and cultural appreciation, the yangqin gradually became a favored instrument among intellectuals. In this period, the yangqin was referred to as the “yaoqin.”

Tang Dynasty: The yangqin’s status in music became even more prominent during the Tang Dynasty. Emperor Li Longji of the Tang Dynasty greatly admired the music of the yangqin and was even personally involved in its production. During this period, the yangqin evolved into the seven-string qin with hui and xian (bridges and strings) as its main components, while the original “yaoqin” gradually faded from the historical stage.

Song Dynasty: The playing techniques of the yangqin saw further development during the Song Dynasty, particularly with figures like Fu Shan and Li Zhiyi, who explored techniques such as sustained and glissando notes. These innovations made the yangqin’s sound more refreshing and melodious, with a more diverse range of expressive possibilities.

yang qin origin

Based on existing records, the origins of the yangqin are debated, with theories suggesting both Chinese invention and foreign introduction. The instrument is believed to have been transmitted primarily through the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road. Despite these differing perspectives on the yangqin’s origins, its significant impact on the development of Chinese music is widely acknowledged. Regarding the yangqin and its evolutionary history, there exist varying viewpoints. Let’s delve into its origins.


In the realm of the yangqin, there are claims about its origin stemming from both Chinese invention and foreign introduction. Regardless of its origins, the yangqin has played a significant role in the development of Chinese music. There are different viewpoints concerning the origin and evolutionary history of the yangqin, so let’s explore its origins.

One perspective suggests that the yangqin originated from an ancient Chinese instrument called the “zhù.” This theory proposes that the zhù, which produced sounds by striking strings with bamboo sticks, shares some similarities with the yangqin. However, this notion lacks substantial evidence. The zhù existed during the Warring States period and persisted through the Qin, Han, Southern and Northern Dynasties, until the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Its form resembled that of a zither, with five strings stretched over a slender, elongated stick. This instrument was played by pressing one end of the string with the left hand while striking the string with a bamboo stick held by the right hand.


When comparing the zhù with the yangqin, significant differences emerge in terms of form, materials, strings, and playing methods. The zhù had a slender stick-like shape, similar to a zither, whereas the yangqin features a trapezoidal soundbox, presenting a distinct contrast. The zhù’s body was made from bamboo, as recorded in the “Shuowen” dictionary and “Yinyue Zhigui,” whereas the yangqin has always been constructed from wood. While the zhù, qin, zither, and other ancient instruments used silk strings, the yangqin employs metal strings. In terms of playing methods, the zhù required distinct actions for the left and right hands, with the left hand pressing the string and the right hand striking it with a bamboo stick. In contrast, the yangqin involves both hands holding bamboo hammers to strike the strings simultaneously, with coordinated actions. Therefore, the zhù and yangqin exhibit significant differences. Records and usage of yangqin-like instruments prior to the Ming Dynasty are lacking. If it is posited that the yangqin evolved from the zhù, the process of transformation remains elusive, making this assertion speculative.

Another legend suggests that the yangqin originated from the Uyghur instrument “kalun” in Xinjiang. According to historical records, the “kalun” evolved from an Arabian instrument called “qanun” in Central Asia. It was introduced to China in the Song Dynasty, known as the “Seventy-Two-String Pipa,” later referred to as the “kalun.” In the Qing Dynasty, it was called “ka’erna” and was included in “Hui-style music.” The kalun’s form, construction, number of strings, and tonal characteristics bear resemblance to the yangqin. However, their playing methods differ, with the kalun utilizing a wooden or bamboo plectrum held in the right hand to pluck the strings outward and an iron device held in the left hand to produce glissando effects. The playing actions of the kalun involve different roles for each hand, differing from the yangqin’s simultaneous use of bamboo hammers in both hands. Thus, the yangqin’s direct lineage from the kalun seems improbable due to cultural and geographical disparities between Guangdong and Xinjiang.

Furthermore, there is a legend attributing the name “yangqin” to its association with “Yangzhou,” or deriving from its “resonant sound.” However, these interpretations lack substantial support and are largely speculative.


In the past, the term “yang” (洋) was often used for the yangqin, which is connected to its foreign origins. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, with flourishing maritime trade, foreign goods arriving in China were initially referred to as “yang goods.” People from overseas were called “yangren,” and the yangqin, introduced to coastal areas of Guangdong from abroad, was named “yangqin” naturally.

Similar instruments to the yangqin were said to have existed in regions such as Persia and Assyria as early as the BCE era. One such instrument, the “psaltery” or “santir,” evolved from ancient times to the Middle Ages and was commonly played in a triangular wooden box with strings stretched over it. Players hung it around their necks and produced melodies by plucking the strings with a feather quill or nails. It is said that the “santir” had a descendant called the “dulcimer,” which resembled it and was shaped like a rectangular box with strings stretched between pegs. Players used two wooden mallets to strike the strings. The “santir” is believed to have been brought to Europe by pilgrims and Crusaders, spreading to Spain, Turkey, Hungary, and more regions. By the 2nd or 3rd century CE, it had developed into the “dulcimer,” becoming popular across Europe. These instruments had similar forms, structures, and playing methods, suggesting possible intercultural diffusion and transformation. They often had two rows of strings, with fixed strings on the left side tuned a perfect fifth apart, bearing a strong resemblance to traditional Chinese yangqins.

Exploring the roots of the yangqin, its lineage can be divided into three branches. First, originating from the Middle East, where various forms of similar instruments existed. Instruments like the “santir” are still popular in regions like Iran, Syria, and Iraq. Second, during the 12th and 13th centuries, these instruments gradually spread westward to Europe, gaining popularity in Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Belarus, and other areas. Third, around the 16th or 17th century, during the Ming Dynasty’s Wanli era, similar instruments were introduced from the West to China, also reaching Southeast Asian countries.


According to historical records, the earliest appearance of the yangqin in China dates back to the Wanli era of the Ming Dynasty. Feng Shike’s “Pengchuang Xulu” records, “Foreigner Matteo Ricci [Li Madou] brought a self-playing clock, placed in a small incense box, which chimed twelve times a day. He also brought a ‘fan qin,’ an instrument with copper and iron strings, producing clear and exquisite sounds. By pressing a small board against it instead of using fingers to pluck, the sound is even more melodious.” Li Madou, an Italian missionary, arrived in Guangdong in the 9th year of the Wanli era and established a church in Zhaoqing. In the 28th year of Wanli (1601), he was granted an audience with the emperor in Beijing, presenting Western items as tribute, including “a large Western qin.” This qin was likely the “yangqin” introduced from abroad.

During the late Qing Dynasty, artists from Guangdong often carried yangqins and performed self-accompanied melodies. The tradition gradually spread to other regions. Legend has it that during the Qianlong era of the Qing Dynasty, a soldier from Guangdong brought a yangqin to Sichuan, where it became associated with the art of storytelling. Yangqin served as the primary accompanying instrument for Sichuan storytelling, and its playing style remained similar to present-day practices. This form of entertainment was known as “yangqin xi” (扬琴戏).

In conclusion, the origins of the yangqin have been subjects of speculation and various legends, with multiple theories suggesting both Chinese invention and foreign introduction. The instrument’s historical journey and transformation are complex, but its role in Chinese music and culture remains significant.

who invented yangqin?

The Inventors of the Yangqin are not clearly defined, but there are several theories:

when was the yangqin invented?

During the period of the Mesopotamian civilizations, the yangqin is believed to have appeared. The earliest documented image of the instrument dates back to the 4th to 3rd centuries BCE in Sumeria (while Western civilization was in the Ancient Greek period, China was in the Warring States period). This image is depicted on an ancient Sumerian monument, showing a procession of musicians. Similar instrument depictions resembling the yangqin can be found in shallow reliefs from the 9th century BCE Babylonian dynasty, where a musician is shown striking a seven-string instrument with a hammer-like tool. In the 7th century BCE, Assyrian dynasty reliefs portray musicians playing the yangqin during a temple procession. A nine-string instrument is fixed to one of the musicians, leading Western archaeologists to term it a “triangular yangqin.”

During the Mesopotamian civilizations, the yangqin-like triangular instrument featured strings running across the body, rather than along the strings, resembling a harp. In Ancient Greece, the scientist Pythagoras invented a related single-string instrument related to the yangqin, operating on similar principles. It produced sound by striking or plucking the single string with a hammer or fingers. Later, to increase the variety of tones and melodic combinations, this instrument transitioned to using four strings. Roman theorist Aristides Quintilianus referred to this design as a “helicon.”

Another similar instrument, resembling a bent hunting bow with plant fibers stretched between its ends, is known as the “musical bow.” This instrument was widely used by Africans, Southeast Asians, South American Indigenous people, and Brazilians. In the early Middle Ages, due to historical factors such as migrations of Gypsies, Arabs, and the return of the Crusaders from the East, a yangqin with a modern appearance gradually made its way to Europe. As the yangqin became popular, its design started to evolve. People of that time not only altered the shape and size of the yangqin’s soundbox but also improved the quality of the strings by increasing their quantity, resulting in a more pleasant sound.

where is yang qin origin?

Derived from the Zhu

It has long been believed that the yangqin is a native instrument of our country, evolving from an ancient Chinese plucked string instrument called the “zhu.” The zhu appeared during the Warring States period and was popular in the Qin and Han dynasties, both in the court and among the people. One of the most well-known anecdotes about the zhu comes from Sima Qian’s “Records of the Grand Historian,” where Gao Jianli played the zhu and sang to bid farewell to Jing Ke before his assassination attempt on the Qin emperor. During the Eastern Han dynasty, Liu Xi described the zhu as “similar to the zither but with a slender neck, thirteen strings… struck with bamboo, a secret instrument.” Historical records describe the zhu’s features: the use of bamboo to strike its strings for sound production.

In 1993, a “five-string zhu” was unearthed from Queen Wang’s Tomb in Yangzhou, and when compared to the physical yangqin, they shared four commonalities: a wooden body, strings, a bamboo playing tool, and both being struck-string instruments. The scarcity of struck-string instruments in China, along with these shared characteristics, naturally led to the connection between the two. However, upon examining their relationship, differences in their forms become apparent. Historical records indicate that the zhu had a long and slender shape, with a fine neck and a handle. Huang Xiangpeng suggested that some ancient texts describing the zhu’s form resemble the zither but not the later zheng-like shape, possibly resembling a stick. The yangqin, on the other hand, has a trapezoidal shape, though it also has a butterfly-like appearance, its fundamental trapezoidal form remained relatively constant. If the yangqin had indeed evolved over time from the zhu’s shape, there would be missing links in this evolutionary process and a lack of evidence indicating their interconnectedness.

Regarding their playing methods, the zhu is played by striking the strings with a bamboo stick held in the right hand, while the left hand presses the strings at one end of the neck. In contrast, the yangqin is played by striking the strings with both hands, with coordinated and unified movements. Thus, the assumption that the zhu is the predecessor of the yangqin solely based on the shared use of bamboo for striking strings lacks sufficient evidence.

From the Disappearance of the Zhu to the Emergence of the Yangqin in China

Following the mid-Ming period, with further cultural exchange between China and the West, the yangqin spread from coastal Guangdong to various regions through maritime routes, accompanying the vigorous development of folk opera and musical genres across the country. This is the viewpoint supported by the majority of scholars in the academic community. The earliest recorded instance of the yangqin dates back to the account mentioned earlier, where in 1663, Chinese envoys in Ryukyu used the yangqin in a vocal performance referred to as the “Yaoqin” (a term used at the time). The depiction of the instrument in that text bears a striking resemblance to the European Renaissance-era hammered dulcimer. The yangqin’s description as a “foreign qin” or “yang qin” at that time further suggests its foreign origin. In addition, descriptions from the Qing Dynasty depict the yangqin’s striking sound, its tonal similarity to plucked instruments, its trapezoidal shape, and its manufacture in China. These descriptions align remarkably well with the modern yangqin. However, it’s worth noting that while these accounts provide insight, the lack of visual and tangible evidence for the earliest stages of the yangqin’s development remains a point of contention.

Source from Central Asia

Zhou Jingbao mentioned in “Exploring the Muqam” that the “Santur,” also known as the yangqin, was originally an Arabian instrument that had been present in the Tian Shan region for a long time. This view suggests that the yangqin originated in Central Asia, possibly transmitted to Xinjiang and then spreading to other regions. The historical role of Xinjiang as a crossroads for East-West cultural exchange supports this theory. The yangqin in Xinjiang is referred to as the “qiang,” which shares a resemblance with the Middle Eastern “Santur.” Records in the “Grove Music Dictionary” suggest that the original form of the Santur could be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia. Furthermore, Chinese musician Wan Tong notes in “Uyghur Instruments” that the yangqin reached China via maritime routes in the 17th century, and it was present in the Guangdong coastal area. Simultaneously, it entered Kashgar through another route from Central Asia. The geographical location of Xinjiang adds to the feasibility of this theory. However, the assertion that the yangqin spread from Xinjiang to other regions, including Guangdong, lacks comprehensive historical documentation to support it.

Source from Europe

In the mid-Ming period and later, as cultural exchange between China and the West continued to develop, the yangqin spread from the coastal areas of Guangdong to various regions through maritime routes. It then became popular in folk opera and musical genres across the country. This viewpoint is widely accepted among scholars in the field. The earliest recorded reference to the yangqin is found in “Okinawa and Chinese Arts,” where envoys from China introduced the yangqin in a performance on Ryukyu in 1663, calling it the “Yaoqin.” Depictions of this instrument show similarities to the European hammered dulcimer of the Renaissance era. Accounts from the Qing Dynasty further describe the yangqin’s unique characteristics, including its striking technique, tonal qualities similar to plucked instruments, and trapezoidal shape. It is evident that these descriptions align with the modern yangqin. Additionally, the term “foreign qin” and the mention of the ocean’s origin indicate the yangqin’s foreign heritage. While the evidence is relatively strong for this theory, the lack of substantial records and visual evidence from the late Ming and early Qing periods remains a limitation in tracing the yangqin’s development history.

It’s important to note that these translations aim to convey the content accurately while maintaining clarity and coherence in English. The original text appears to be a detailed analysis of different theories regarding the origin of the yangqin, discussing its possible connections with the zhu, its spread from Central Asia or Europe, and the challenges in establishing definitive historical evidence.

Yangqin in Ancient China

Characteristics and Presentation of Ancient Chinese Yangqin

Characteristics of Sound: Clear and Pleasant: The sound of the ancient Chinese yangqin is very clear and has a pleasant quality. This is attributed to its structure – the yangqin has 16 strings, which are made of silk, enhancing its brightness.

Wide Range: The yangqin has an extensive range, capable of producing high and low pitches, as well as various tones and effects. Delicate and Refined: Due to its silk strings and meticulous craftsmanship, the yangqin’s sound is delicate, refined, elegant, and captivating.

Presentation Forms:

Solo Performances: In traditional Chinese music, the yangqin is often used for solo performances, showcasing its tonal quality, techniques, and stylistic features. Accompaniment: The yangqin can also serve as an accompaniment instrument for other instruments or vocals, harmonizing with instruments like pipa, erhu, dizi, and suona, or accompanying singing ensembles.

Playing Techniques: The yangqin is typically played using finger plucking, though picks or fingernails can also be used. Various techniques include right-hand plucking, left-hand strumming, or a combination of both.

Basics of Ancient Chinese Yangqin Construction:

Understanding the construction basics of the ancient Chinese yangqin encompasses several aspects:

Strings: The yangqin has 16 strings divided into three sets: high, middle, and low strings. Originally, silk strings were used, but modern strings are also made from materials like nylon or metal. Bridges: The yangqin has 16 bridges, each corresponding to a string, used to adjust string tension.

Soundboard: The yangqin’s elongated soundboard is formed by joining upper and lower panels. Typically, paulownia or catalpa wood is used for the soundboard, often embellished with decorative patterns. Fingerboard: The upper portion of the yangqin features a fingerboard for placing fingers to control pitch. Modern yangqins have metal fingerboards.

Sound Holes: The front of the yangqin has two crescent or circular-shaped sound holes, enhancing the resonating chamber’s rich and beautiful sound effects. Tuning Pegs: Tuning pegs are situated on the yangqin’s headstock, used to adjust string tension.

Stand: The yangqin is equipped with a stand underneath, which controls the sound feedback from the resonating chamber, ensuring stability and balance.

In summary, the yangqin is a complex and elegant instrument, and understanding its construction basics contributes to a deeper appreciation of its musical nuances.

Elements of Ancient Chinese Yangqin Music Performance:

The elements of ancient Chinese yangqin music performance encompass the following aspects:

Musical Modes: The yangqin, also known as the “seven-stringed zither” in ancient China, is played in various regional modes such as Shandong, Henan, Suzhou, and others. Each mode features distinct rhythms and melodies.

Rhythmic Patterns: Yangqin music often employs binary or ternary rhythms, along with alternating strong and weak beats, creating melodious and captivating melodies. Elegance and Grace: As a traditional instrument, the yangqin’s performance style is characterized by elegance and grace, emphasizing musical expression and artistic refinement, aiming for musical perfection and sophistication.

Ancient Cultural Significance: The yangqin, being an integral part of traditional Chinese music, often incorporates rich elements of ancient culture during performances, including poetry, painting, folklore, and more.

In summary, the elements of ancient Chinese yangqin music performance not only showcase the beauty and emotive power of music itself but also carry the weight of historical and cultural heritage, reflecting human wisdom and offering profound cultural significance and value.

Yangqin Playing Techniques in Different Genres, Traditional Operas, and Folk Arts in Ancient China:

The ancient Chinese yangqin, a plucked string instrument representing the silk string family, was widely used in genres like traditional opera, folk arts, and court music. Various musical styles and art forms have unique yangqin playing techniques.

In ancient Han and Tang music, yangqin playing techniques were often transmitted orally and through memory, combining notation and oral instruction. Techniques included:

Sudden Burst: Rapid tension changes (also called vibrato) and contrasting dynamics create vivid and lively notes. Plucking Upwards: Plucking the strings upwards after pressing them down produces bell-like sounds. Rubbing Technique: Sliding fingers across the strings generates buzzing and scraping sounds for special effects.

In court music, yangqin playing techniques were similar to those of other court instruments, characterized by ornamentation and decorative features that reflect court culture and royal prestige. Common techniques included:

Ornamentation: Using finger techniques to embellish basic musical phrases. Simultaneous Hands Playing: Simultaneous plucking of strings with both hands enriches the tonal palette and harmony.

The role of ancient Chinese yangqin in history

he Historical Significance of Ancient Chinese Yangqin in Traditional Music:

The ancient Chinese yangqin plays a crucial role in traditional Chinese music, boasting a rich history and profound cultural significance.

Firstly, as a musical instrument, the yangqin is a plucked string instrument made of wood. It typically features four or five strings, plucked with fingernails or a plectrum to produce clear and soothing tones. Its timbre and sound quality are well-suited for expressing the graceful melodies and deep emotions of traditional Chinese music. The yangqin can be performed both as a solo instrument and in ensemble with other instruments, often used to play a variety of Chinese folk music, poetry, operas, vocal pieces, and more.

Secondly, at a cultural level, the yangqin holds rich symbolic meaning. It has been documented in texts such as the “Spring and Autumn Annals” and the “Record of Rites” over a thousand years ago, and it became an essential part of the education for nobles. In ancient times, the yangqin was not merely a musical instrument but also a carrier of culture. Through learning and playing the yangqin, individuals not only enhance their musical literacy and skills but also gain insights into various aspects of Chinese traditional culture, virtues, and philosophical thoughts. As such, the yangqin has become an important representative of Chinese civilization and cultural essence.

In summary, the ancient Chinese yangqin is an indispensable component of traditional Chinese music, carrying significant musical and cultural value.

Historical Status and Cultural Value of Ancient Chinese Yangqin:

The ancient Chinese yangqin, a plucked string instrument with a long history, holds a significant place in Chinese musical culture. Here are its historical status and cultural values:

Historical Status: Ancient nobility often used the yangqin to showcase their refinement and social status. During periods such as the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, the yangqin played an essential role in court music, frequently employed in celebrations of moon-watching and scenic excursions. The yangqin also occupies a crucial position in traditional folk music across China, particularly in provinces like Guangdong, Fujian, and Hunan.

Cultural Value: The yangqin is an integral part of Chinese musical culture, reflecting the profound historical roots of Chinese music. When combined with poetry and song lyrics, the yangqin’s performance can convey complex emotions, serving as an expression of Chinese cultural spirit and aesthetic sensibilities.

what does yangqin symbolize?

The yangqin holds a significant position in traditional Chinese culture, serving not only as a cultural heritage but also as a symbol of the nation itself. In ancient China, the yangqin was endowed with profound ceremonial significance and found extensive use in official settings, among scholars, and among those who appreciated refined arts. In contemporary times, the yangqin has evolved into a vital representative of Chinese culture, participating actively in various events such as concerts, performances, and competitions. It has become an integral contributor to these activities.

yangqin vs guzheng

The yangqin and guzheng are both traditional Chinese stringed musical instruments, each with its own unique characteristics and cultural significance. Here’s a comparison of the two instruments:


Physical Characteristics: The yangqin is a hammered dulcimer, consisting of a set of metal strings stretched over a trapezoidal wooden soundboard. It is played by striking the strings with mallets (hammers) made of bamboo or other materials.

Playing Technique: The player uses two bamboo mallets to strike the strings. The mallets are held in both hands, and the player can produce a wide range of sounds by varying the striking technique and position on the strings.

Sound: The yangqin produces bright and bell-like tones due to its metal strings. It has a distinct resonance and can create a shimmering sound texture.

Cultural Significance: The yangqin has a history that can be traced back to ancient times and has been associated with Chinese folk music, traditional ensembles, and modern genres. It holds an important place in Chinese cultural expression.


Physical Characteristics: The guzheng is a long zither with movable bridges and a large resonant soundboard. It typically has 21 or more strings made of silk or metal, stretched over wooden bridges.

Playing Technique: The player plucks the strings with their right-hand fingers while using the left hand to press the strings against the movable bridges, creating different pitches and tones.

Sound: The guzheng produces a rich and expressive sound, with a wide tonal range. Its sound can be soothing and melodic, making it suitable for solo performances and accompaniment.

Cultural Significance: The guzheng has a deep historical and cultural significance in China. It has been an integral part of traditional Chinese music for centuries, used in various contexts including classical, folk, and contemporary music.


In summary, while both the yangqin and guzheng are important traditional Chinese musical instruments, they differ in terms of physical structure, playing techniques, and sound characteristics. Both instruments play significant roles in Chinese culture, contributing to the diverse musical landscape of the country.

The yangqin and guzheng are both traditional Chinese ethnic instruments.

Differences between the yangqin and guzheng include:

Tonal Quality:

The yangqin produces bright and bell-like tones due to its metal strings.

The guzheng produces a rich and expressive sound with a wide tonal range.

Playing Technique:

The yangqin is played by striking the strings with mallets held in both hands.

The guzheng is played by plucking the strings with the fingers of one hand while using the other hand to press the strings against movable bridges.

Physical Appearance:

The yangqin has two rows of strings, each with multiple strings, and features a resonant soundboard underneath the strings.

The guzheng has a single row of strings and lacks a resonant chamber beneath the strings.

Both instruments have deep cultural significance in China and contribute to the rich tapestry of traditional Chinese music.

yangqin vs erhu

The yangqin and erhu are distinct traditional Chinese musical instruments.


The yangqin is a hammered dulcimer that features metal strings stretched across a wooden soundboard.

It is played using small mallets or hammers to strike the strings, producing bell-like tones.

The yangqin is known for its bright, clear, and vibrant sound.

It is often used as both a solo instrument and an accompaniment in various genres of Chinese music.


The erhu is a two-stringed bowed instrument with a resonating chamber made from a small drum-like body covered with snake or python skin.

It is played by using a bow made of horsehair to draw across the strings, creating a distinct and soulful sound.

The erhu is characterized by its expressive and emotional tones, often compared to the human voice.

It is a versatile instrument used in solo performances, ensembles, and various traditional and contemporary music styles.


While the yangqin is a struck-string instrument with a percussive quality, the erhu is a bowed-string instrument known for its melodic and emotive capabilities. Both instruments contribute to the rich musical heritage of China in their own unique ways.

yangqin vs piano

The yangqin and the piano are two distinct musical instruments, each with its own characteristics and cultural significance.


The yangqin is a traditional Chinese instrument, classified as a hammered dulcimer.

It consists of metal strings stretched across a wooden soundboard that is divided into different courses.

The player strikes the strings with small mallets or hammers to produce sound.

The yangqin is known for its bright and bell-like tones, often used in Chinese traditional and folk music.

It is an integral part of Chinese ensembles and has a unique place in Chinese musical culture.


The piano is a Western musical instrument with a keyboard and a large wooden frame housing metal strings.

Sound is produced when the player presses the keys, causing hammers to strike the strings.

The piano has a wide range of tonal dynamics, from soft to loud, and can produce complex harmonies and melodies.

It is used extensively in various musical genres, including classical, jazz, pop, and contemporary styles.

The piano holds a prominent position in Western classical music and has a rich history of solo performances and orchestral accompaniments.

In summary, while the yangqin is a traditional Chinese hammered dulcimer known for its distinctive tones, the piano is a versatile Western keyboard instrument with a wide range of expressive capabilities. Both instruments contribute to their respective musical traditions and have distinct roles in the world of music.

dream of yangqin

Dreaming of a yangqin signifies an auspicious omen. The context and timing of the dream offer further insights:

  • Dreaming of a yangqin at night suggests that you may have many concerns occupying your mind in the coming days.
  • Dreaming of a yangqin during the day indicates that engaging in business abroad will bring substantial profits.

Different waking states provide varying interpretations:

  • Naturally waking up suggests recent health issues.
  • Suddenly waking up implies a desire to excel at work but facing obstacles.

Meanings based on different seasons:

  • Dreaming of a yangqin in spring suggests stable career status with a conservative inclination.
  • Dreaming of it in summer implies the desire for reciprocity when helping others.
  • Dreaming in autumn foretells the avoidance of company losses and potential rumors.
  • Dreaming in winter suggests renewed focus on work and studies, with impending decisions.

Interpretations for different individuals:

  • Women dreaming of a yangqin indicate a lack of confidence due to unfinished tasks causing stress.
  • Men dreaming of it suggest good financial luck, but increased spending and a need for careful investment.
  • Young people dreaming of a yangqin foresee unfavorable luck and canceled travel plans due to temporary overtime.
  • Middle-aged people dreaming of it predict a safe and smooth childbirth, bearing a beautiful and lively daughter.
  • Elderly people dreaming of it hint at low spirits and a reluctance to talk.

Various states of dreaming and their meanings:

  • Working individuals dreaming of a yangqin may be influenced by family in career or investment matters. However, financial luck is strong, and success is likely despite disruptions.
  • Students dreaming of it indicates the ability to indulge oneself or pamper others.
  • Unemployed individuals dreaming of it suggests recent business performance has not been optimal.
  • Jobless people dreaming of it suggest upcoming travel opportunities, with a safe journey.
  • Singles dreaming of it signify an opportunity for success through effort, advising appreciation of the chance.
  • Couples in love dreaming of it suggest digestive discomfort such as hiccupping and constipation, prompting the need for self-care.
  • Married individuals dreaming of it predict luck in job-seeking and finding good opportunities aligned with their qualifications.

For pregnant women, dreaming of a yangqin symbolizes safety and well-being.

In summary, the yangqin is a plucked string instrument with a unique tone and rich expressive capabilities, playing a significant role in Chinese musical culture.


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Chen, S. (2018). The Application of Yangqin in Opera Accompaniment. Yellow River’s Sound, (12).

Xie, Fuman. “The Origin of Yangqin and Its Representation in Traditional Kunqu Opera.” Drama and Film Monthly, 2023(01).

Jia, Xiaoli. “Yangqin.” Music Life, 2015(04).

Meng, Meinong. “Development and Reform of Chinese Yangqin.” People’s Music, 2002(10).

Li, Xiangying. “Evaluation of Various Theories on the Origin of Yangqin.” Chinese Music, 2000(04).

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[6] Wu, Qiong. “A Study of Yangqin during the Qing Dynasty.” Dissertation, Wuhan Conservatory of Music, 2013.

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