Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Shawms.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Bayin: 竹 Bamboo.
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The guan [in Chinese: 管; pinyin: guǎn; literally: “pipe” or “tube”] a Chinese double reed wind instrument. The Northern Chinese version is called guanzi [管子] or bili [traditional: 篳篥; simplified: 筚篥]. The Cantonese version of the guan is called a houguan [喉管].
History: The earliest use of the word guan can be traced back to Zhou Dynasty records, where it refers to end-blown bamboo flutes such as the xiao or paixiao. The earliest double-reed instrument appears in the late Zhou Dynasty and is referred as hujia [胡笳; literally “reed pipe of Hu people”] because it had been introduced from the northwestern region of China.
During that time, the hujia was employed as a musical instrument in the military for signalling and is depicted in early Chinese poetry as raucous and barbaric. It is classified as a bamboo instrument in the Pa Yin the ancient Chinese classification system.
Development: The guan developed further after the hujia in the Tang Dynasty. This was due to the flourishing music and art culture that were influenced by the Silk Road trade. Like the hujia, it was likely adopted from whom the Chinese generally call the Hu [nomadic] people.
The guan became an important leading instrument in the court and ritual music. At the height of the Tang Dynasty, the guan, alongside many other instruments was introduced to neighbouring countries, where the guan’s descendants [called piri in Korea and hichiriki in Japan] are still used today.
Acoustics: Unlike other instruments in the double-reed family of woodwinds which mostly have conical bores, such as the Chinese suona or the Western oboe, the guan has a cylindrical bore, giving its distinctive mellow, yet piercing buzz-like timbre.
Citations: Bibliography: Guan article ~ New Grove Dictionary by Stanley Sadie ; Websites: Randy Raine Reusch @ asza.com [Guanzi article] ;