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Making musical instruments in Suzhou

By Wen Yi( chinaculture.org )

Updated: 2011-03-01

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Making musical instruments in Suzhou

Suzhou, a city located in the south of Jiangsu province, has a long history of making musical instruments. Its techniques and the local characteristics of the instruments have made them famous at home and abroad. In 2008, the making of musical instruments in Suzhou was selected as one of China’s national intangible cultural heritages.

The manufacture of musical instruments in Suzhou dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), when bronze melting techniques in Wu State progressed. This led to production of bronze musical instruments. In 1964, nine chime-bells were excavated from Chenqiao Western Zhou Tomb in Jiangsu province. They are the earliest musical instruments in Wu discovered so far.

The making of musical instruments in Suzhou combines unique skills of several traditional handicrafts.

There are dozens of steps required, including wood cuts, wood working, polishing, carving, lacquering, inlay and tuning. Although today some processes are done by machine, most still are done by hand.

In every step, the makers try to achieve perfection. Each instrument must have a good quality of sound, as well as decorations pertaining to ethnic heritage.

The representative works of this cultural heritage include Erhu, Ruan, Guzheng, Pipa, Konghou and Bianzhong, as well as instruments with “Su” (abbreviation of Suzhou) in their names like Su Di, Su Xiao, Su Gong, Su Drum.

Suzhou’s musical instruments contain much cultural and artistic significance, as well as priceless historical value.

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