Seven-stringed Qin (Chinese Musical Instrument)


Seven-stringed Qin (Chinese Musical Instrument)

Tang Dynasty

Tang dynasty, dated 724

Lacquered wood

長109.8 幅17.0


National Treasure

This is a seven-stringed instrument called a qin that was made in Tang China and brought to Japan during the Nara period in the 8th century. It is made of paulownia wood coated in black lacquer. The Japanese koto is an instrument with 13 strings, each of which has its own bridge, limiting each string to one note. With the qin however, the strings are pressed down with the fingers in different locations, making each string capable of producing a range of sounds. Embedded in the fingerboard of this qin are thirteen round pieces of shell that indicate where the strings are to be depressed. The piece that protrudes from one end is where the strings would be passed through and anchored, while the underside of the instrument has two sound holes that run parallel to the strings.
Inside the hollow body is an inscription in ink noting that the instrument was made near what is now Chengdu in Sichuan province in 724, when Emperor Xuanzong ruled Tang China. It is the oldest qin in the world for which both the time and place of manufacture are known, and so holds an extremely important place in the history of East Asian music.

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