You are here > Home > Quick Navigation > Music & Dance >


Instrumental music in China is played on solo instruments or in small ensembles of plucked and bowed stringed instruments, flutes, and various cymbals, gongs, and drums. The scale has five notes. Bamboo pipes and qin are among the oldest known musical instruments from China; instruments are traditionally divided into categories based on their material of composition: skin, gourd, bamboo, wood, silk, earth/clay, metal and stone. Chinese orchestras traditionally consist of bowed strings, woodwinds, plucked strings and percussion. The oldest written music is Orchid in Seclusion, attributed to Confucius. The first major well-documented flowering of Chinese music was for the qin during the Tang Dynasty, though the qin is known to have been played since before the Han Dynasty.

In ancient China the position of musicians was much lower than that of painters. Therefore music theory was not very well developed. But almost every emperor took the folk songs seriously. They sent officers to collect the folk songs for inspecting the popular will. The one of Confucianist Classics, Shi Jing (poets), contained lots of folk songs during 800 BC to about 300 BC.

Traditional Orchestral Instruments

  • Woodwind and percussion
    dizi, sheng, paigu, gong, paishao, guanzi, bells, cymbals
  • Bowed strings
    erhu, zhonghu, banhu, jinghu, gaohu
  • Plucked strings
    qin, sanxian, yangqin, zheng, ruan, konghou, liuqin, pipa

Chinese vocal music has traditionally been sung in a thin, nonresonant voice or in falsetto and is usually solo rather than choral. All traditional Chinese music is melodic rather than harmonic.

Quick Navigation

New Article