ZENGHOU YI BIANZHONG: COLLECTED BELLS FROM THE TOMB OF YI, MARQUIS ZENG
The largest collected bells ever found was from the Tomb of Yi, Marquis Zeng (5th century BC) in Sui County, Hubei Province. The set consists of 64 zhong bells and a bo bell (a gift from King Chu), 2,500kg, hung in three layers, the upper for niuzhong (bells vertically suspended), and the middle and the lower for yongzhong (bells hung at a slight angle). On each, two pitches, a major or a minor third apart, can be produced by striking its two different parts, the frontal or the lateral. 12 semi-tones can be heard in most part of the set, with a whole range of 5 octaves. Its valuable inscriptions, over 2,800 Chinese characters in all, unite to form a literature of an unknown temperament system. From the inscription we know that Kingdom Zeng had special names for each of the 12 pitches, and that there existed a complete set of 12 tones, each with its own name, of which we are only familiar with 5, i.e. gong (do), zhi (sol), shang (re), yu (la), and jiao (mi).
CHUNYU: BRONZ IDIOPHONE
Striking idiophone. This instrument, 30-80 cm in height, is made of bronze. On its top is a plate-shaped lid, on whose center a tiger, or a horse, or an ape-like animal, or a phoenix, is cast as a ring so as to be hung with a string on a wooden frame for the striking of the instrument. Patterns of tortoise or fish are also cast on its lid, some even with patterns of dragon or mountain on the lower part of the instrument.
TONGGU: BRONZE DRUM
Struck idiophone. The entire drum is a bronze cast. It is believed that the instrument came from a kind of bronze cooking pot. A later type was excavated from a tomb in the 3rd or the 4th century BC, in Xiangyun, Yunnan Province. The modern types prevalent in Guangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and Hunan provinces vary in their sizes, shapes and decorative patterns. Most are found in Guangxi region from excavations and private collections.
The largest so far, known as “the king of world bronze drums”, is kept in Guangxi Museum, 165 cm in diameter and over 300 kg in weight. On the top surface is cast a small frog; all over the drum are delicate and exquisite patterns of cloud and thunder, of fish-like dancers, and of a boat race.
The instrument symbolized the power and property of the ruling class of minority ethnic groups in antiquity. It was used in sacrificial rites, banquets, communications, battle formations, weddings, funerals, singing and dancing, and as rewards or tributes as well.
QIN: SEVEN-STRING ZITHER
Plucked chordophone. The seven-stringed zither is the silk category in Chinese ba-yin classification. Each part of the instrument has a special name. Celebrated collectors used to carve their names and inscriptions on the rear board. The common tuning of the strings is C-D-F-G-A-c-d, with its range over four octaves. On the front sound board are thirteen hui (studs), commonly inlaid with shells, gold or jade, respectively and symmetrically lined on the positions of 1/2，1/3，1/4，1/5，1/6，1/8 of the string length. By means of the hui on the sound board, various harmonics and stopping tones can be produced. Primitively simple, elegant and full of lingering charms, its tone qualities are variable: deep and vigorous in the low register, pure and mellow in the middle, and bright and delicate in the high. In addition, harmonic tones give listeners a crystal-clear feeling. Sophisticated in playing techniques, the qin is often used for solos or in duets with the vertical dong-xiao flute.