Taiwan: Traditional Musical Instruments
Many musical instruments common in the US are also used in Taiwan – however, traditional instruments in the country help to form a fusion of musical genres. The music scene in Taiwan is not only influenced by historical Chinese culture, but also molded by the various aboriginal tribes of the island. Here are a few traditional musical instruments you might not have heard of before.
Lubuw (Mouth Harp)
Especially popular with the Atayal, Amis, and Bunun tribes, the mouth harp is classified as an aerophone – a musical instrument that makes sounds by way of causing a body of air to vibrate, without the use of strings or membranes. It is made with slivers of bamboo, sometimes copper, and a piece of string. Players will place one side in their mouth while using their hand to pull on the string, using breath control and mouth movements to create different notes.
Most easily compared to a violin, the Erhu is hexagonal in shape, has only two strings, and held upright when played. Previously, it was traditional to use the skin of a python as the instrument’s front cover; however, this is no longer the case. The Erhu is said to produce both melancholy and cheerful music with great expression.
Confucius’ instrument of choice, the Guqin is often referred to as the instrument of the sages – the elite of Chinese society once considered it to be one of four arts that all educated people must master. As such, it was unattainable to the general public for many generations, but is now used in various modern cultural events. The Guqin is a seven-stringed zither, meaning its strings are the same length as its soundboard.
Most comparable in appearance to a harp, the Konghou first appeared in written texts around 600 BC. Its popularity fell off for quite some time, and much research and experimentation were needed to reproduce it in an accurate fashion. However, it has since regained popularity as its soft, elegant tones are a perfect fit for traditional Chinese music.