Type: Edge-blown > Aerophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.111.12
Pa Yin: Bamboo 竹.
Region: Far East Asia.
Specimens: 3 in collection.
Acquisition Sources: Rene Hugo Sanchez, China. Randy Raine-Reusch, China.
Description: The xiao (simplified Chinese: 箫; traditional Chinese: 簫; pinyin: xiāo; Wade–Giles: hsiao, pronounced [ɕi̯ɑ́ʊ̯]) is a Chinese vertical end-blown flute. It is generally made of bamboo. It is also sometimes called dòngxiāo (simplified Chinese: 洞箫; traditional Chinese: 洞簫), dòng meaning “hole.” An ancient name for the xiāo is shùzhúdí (豎竹笛, lit. “vertical bamboo flute”, [ʂûtʂutǐ]) but the name xiāo in ancient times also included the side-blown bamboo flute, dizi.
The xiāo is a very ancient Chinese instrument usually thought to have developed from a simple end-blown flute used by the Qiang people of Southwest China in ancient period. Related end blown notched flutes include the Japanese Shakuhachi, and Hocchiku, the Vietnamese Tiêu, the Korean Tungso and Danso. Today Xiao are aavaialhe in the keys of F, G, D, and middle C being the lowest note with all fingers covered. Xiao in other less common keys are available.
Varieties: The qin xiao (simplified Chinese: 琴箫; traditional Chinese: 琴簫) is a version of the dongxiao, which is narrower and generally in the key of F with eight smaller finger holes, used to accompany the guqin. The narrowness of the qin xiao makes the tone softer, making it more suitable to play with the qin which is a very quiet instrument and a normal dongxiao will drown out its low volume.
The nanxiao (simplified Chinese: 南箫; traditional Chinese: 南簫), “Southern xiao”), sometimes called chiba (Chinese: 尺八, “foot-eight,” an old name still used for the Japanese shakuhachi) is a short xiao with open blowing end used in the Nanyin, the local Fujianese opera from Quanzhou. Typically, the end incorporates a part of the root of the bamboo.
Construction: More traditional xiao have six finger holes, while most modern ones have eight; the additional holes do not extend the instrument’s range but instead make it easier to play notes such as F natural. There are a further four [sometimes two or six] sound holes situated at the bottom third of the length of the xiao. The blowing hole is at the top end, it may be cut into a ‘U’ shape, a “V” shape, or at an angle [with or without bone/ivory inlay].