Popular Chinese Musical Instruments

Popular Chinese Musical Instruments

China is home to many new and unique instruments, as the country’s rich history of music has seen it adopt instruments from many different cultures. Since 2000, China’s state media have issued music appreciation awards for traditional Chinese instruments, dance, opera, and musicians every year. By 2011, China had over 6,000 musical instruments, of which 80% had been recorded for the first time.

Chinese musical instruments are distinct in their rich tradition and history. Some of the most popular include the erhu, guanzi, sheng, xiao, and zheng, but there are countless others. Here’s a closer look at six of the most common:


Have you heard of a Chinese musical instrument called the zheng? It has a storied history, and in China, the zheng is considered the “national instrument,” as it is believed to have been the first musical instrument of any kind to be played in China. The zheng is so revered that it is considered sacred in China, and the instrument is used extensively in Confucian rituals.

The zheng, or zither, is the Chinese national instrument. It has a history reaching back more than 3,000 years, with many variations of the instrument dating back to ancient times. Today’s most common type is the Chinese zheng, which consists of three metal strings, a gourd, and a bridge. It produces a high-pitched sound when air is blown through the gourd, which resonates with the strings.


Xinchang Xiao (Chinese: 新场小) is one of the most popular Chinese musical instruments. The history of this instrument can be traced back to ancient China, and the earliest written records about this instrument can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Period (771-476 BC). The name Xiao, meaning small, and the instrument itself have both been derived from the name of the instrument. Xinchang xiao, one of the oldest of all Chinese musical instruments, was described in a Chinese (or Wu) Guihua (黄华), a collection of ancient Chinese poems, and in the Book of Rites.


Sheng is one of the popular Chinese musical instruments. Sheng is a transverse flute, one of the oldest musical instruments in the world. In the modern era, Sheng has come into its own, being one of the most beloved instruments in traditional Chinese music performance.

The Sheng is an ancient Chinese vertical flute. Typically, they are used to accompany singing or dancing, although some also play purely for melody. But what makes them unique among flutes is their ability to produce several notes simultaneously. Some will hum and whistle, while others will actually make complete octaves, like two flutes playing at once. There aren’t very many Shengs being played today, but in China, they are still being passed down from father to son as traditional instruments. The Sheng is highly skilled to play, and they require close attention to each note’s placement.


While music has delighted people for thousands of years, the guanzi has become one of the most popular Chinese musical instruments. The guanzi is a traditional Chinese bamboo flute with a design identical in shape to the water bird it is named after. The guanzi, which has a history spanning over 2,000 years, has become more popular recently, especially among the younger generations, because of its fun and upbeat sound.

Guanzi is a group of traditional Chinese musical instruments. The guqin (古琴) is the most common guanzi instrument, although there are many other guanzi instruments such as sheng (shenghu), erhu (erhuqin), and guzheng (guzheng), zhonghu (zhonghuqin) and pipa (Pippa).


The Erhu or Chinese violin is among China’s most popular musical instruments. The instrument is distinguished by its combination of plucked string instruments and bowed string instruments. (The instrument has a metal bar attached to the bridge, which is held between the index and middle fingers on both hands and is used to pluck the strings.) The Erhu, like the majority of Chinese instruments, is a three-stringed instrument, with a single string running the length of the body and two additional strings running up the neck and terminating in a sound hole.

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