For over two millennia, the distinctive tones of the Chinese pipa have enchanted and delighted audiences. This four-stringed instrument belongs to the plucked category and features a pear-shaped wooden body with a number of frets that can range from twelve to twenty-six. Also known as the Chinese lute, it has become an iconic symbol of traditional Chinese culture and continues to captivate music enthusiasts to this day.
To create the characteristic sounds of a pipa instrument, its four strings must be adjusted to a 5-6-1-2 setup. Here, the fifth and sixth strings exist in unison, creating a comforting harmonic. The first string is designed to reach the highest musical note and will be the most prominent heard, while the fourth string is played with more mellowness for an underlying bassline.
The pipa is a device used to make captivating melodies. It must be held aloft to be played, with the right hand controlling the strings while the left holds them at the desired pitch. Usually, it is plucked using two fingers – the thumb and index – but a small plectrum may be used as well. Through these techniques, one can create beautiful music with the instrument.
In a journey that began in Central Asia, the pipa made its way to Chinese soil sometime in the 3rd century BC. This stringed musical instrument has long been cherished and celebrated in Chinese culture, with records of its presence on the written page as far back as ancient literature.
During the era of the illustrious Han Dynasty – from 206 BC right up to 220 AD – the resonant sound of the pipa was heard at court, slowly rising in status until its ultimate pinnacle of popularity in the golden age of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), where it was often strummed in enchanting musical performances for the royal court and in breathtaking royal gardens.
The pipa, which was brought to existence during the Tang Dynasty, traveled beyond China into Japan, Korea and Vietnam. As its journey progressed, this instrument eventually reached far-off parts of the continent – and even farther beyond Asia, leading to its global recognition.
In contemporary times, the pipa is widely acclaimed in both Asia and the Western hemisphere. Its rising fame is evident as it continues to be heard in many parts of the world.
Post time: 2023-06-25