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Saturday, September 26, 2009

ങ PIPA 琵琶

The Pipa (Chinese: 琵琶; pinyin: pípá) is a four-stringed Chinese instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments (弹拨乐器/彈撥樂器). Sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12–26. Although, like its smaller sibling, the Chinese liuqin, it may look like a lute, in fact, neither instruments have an actual neck, as the soundboard body spans the entire strings to the head of the instrument, making them actually a handheld zither. The pipa appeared in the Qin Dynasty and developed by the Han Dynasty. It is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for nearly two thousand years in China. Several related instruments in East and Southeast Asia are derived from the pipa; these include the Japanese biwa, the Vietnamese đàn tỳ bà, and the Korean bipa. The Korean instrument is the only one of the three that is no longer used. Attempts to revive the instrument have failed, although examples survive in museums.

The name "pípá" is made up of two Chinese syllables, "pí" (琵) and "pá" (琶). These are the two most common ways of playing this instrument. "Pí" is to push the fingers of the right hand from right to left, thus more than one finger can be used at a time striking multiple notes, and "pá" is to pull the thumb of the right hand from left to right, in the opposite direction. The strings were originally played using a large plectrum in the Tang Dynasty, then gradually replaced by the fingernails of the right hand. Since the revolutions in Chinese instrument making during the 20th century, the softer twisted silk strings of earlier times have been exchanged for nylon-wound steel strings, which are far too strong for human fingernails, so false nails are now used, constructed of plastic or tortoise-shell, and affixed to the fingertips with the player's choice of elastic tape.

A Tang Dynasty five-stringed pipa:
Prototypes of the pipa already existed in China in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC–206 BC). At that time, there were two types of pipa. One was straight-necked, with a round sound box constructed from lacquered Paulownia wood, and two faces mounted with leather. The other was believed to be inspired by the primitive forms of zheng, konghou, and zou. It also has a straight neck, a round sound box, and also four strings, along with twelve standards of notes. This model was later developed into the instrument known today as the ruan. The modern pipa is closer to the instrument which originated in Persia/Middle-East (where it was called barbat) and was introduced into China beginning in the late Jin Dynasty (265–420 A.D.).
By the Tang era, the pipa had become popular in the imperial court. It had a crooked neck, 4 or 5 silk strings, and 5 or 6 frets, and was played with a plectrum in a horizontal position. As the ages went by, the crooked neck was replaced by a straight one, the number of frets increased to between 14 or 16, and to 17, 24, 29, or 30 in the 20th century.

The pipa became a favourite in the Tang Dynasty, during which time Persian and Kuchan performers and teachers were in demand in the capital, Chang'an (which had a large Persian community). Many delicately carved pipas with beautiful inlaid patterns date from this period. Masses of pipa-playing Buddhist semi-deities are depicted in the wall paintings of the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang. [wikipedia]

8 muzika comments:

foongpc said...

Thanks for this informative post on pipa. I think your blog is an alternative to wikipedia! LOL!

Have you blogged about erhu, another Chinese instrument? I like the haunting sound of the erhu which I think is tougher to play than the Western violin.

CheaHS@n said...

Hi foongpc ~ Think I would do the short cut wouldnt want to reinvent the wheel picked up bits and pieces from wiki and few videos from Utube team em up. Have stand by a few pipa & other combination instruments for later posting. Yeah next would be erhu sourcing info & videos now. Btw I'm voting for Mariah Carey every week gone up 4th placing now.

Tricia said...

Very beautiful. I have 2 cd's that are of traditional asian (i believe Chineese?) music. I just love them. They are very relaxing to listen to. Great for dinner music or just when relaxing. She is a fantastic musician.

foongpc said...

Thanks for voting MC! She's currently at No.2! Woo hoo! Thanks to you again! : )

Looking forward to read about erhu. Pls remind me in case I miss that post! : )

CheaHS@n said...

Tricia ~ Glad you also appreciate Chinese classical music. Yes certain music are real soothing and also some are good for meditation.

foongpc ~ great to hear MC has reached #2 spot. Whoa will continue voting. Sure will buzz you once erhu is up.

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