Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Long > Fretless.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The ajaeng [in Hangul: 아쟁 Hanja: 牙箏] it is a Korean zither that is played with a bow. Derived from the Chinese yazheng [simplified Chinese: 轧筝; traditional Chinese: 軋箏].
Origins: On the Korean Peninsula, Chinese music started to be imported from the late 7th century before and after the unification of the three kingdoms. During the Goryeo Dynasty, Song’s court music was widely accepted. In 1430 ‘Uiryesangjeongso’, the organization for the arrangement of court music and ceremonies arranged the institution of the Goryeo Dynasty and included Ajaeng to the instrument of Dangak. On the ‘Five manners’ in the annals of King Sejong, it describes the appearance of “Ajaeng” The line was seven, and the left was broken, with catters placed on it.
Construction: The ajaeng with strings made of twisted silk, played by means of a slender stick made of forsythia suspensa wood. Traditionally the instrument is played with a bow from the same wood, although its playing surface is quite rough. Playing the ajaeng with violin bows is quite recent.
The original version of the instrument, and that used in court music [called the jeongak ajaeng], has seven strings, while the ajaeng used for sanjo and sinawi [called the sanjo ajaeng] has eight strings; some instruments may have up to nine strings.
Usage: The ajaeng is generally played while seated on the floor. It has a tone similar to that of a cello, but raspier. Some contemporary players prefer to use an actual horsehair bow rather than a stick, believing the sound to be smoother. The instrument is used in court, aristocratic, and folk music, as well as in contemporary classical music and film scores.
Citations: Bibliography: Stanley Sadie – New Grove Dictionary of Music ; Websites [wayback machine: Ajeang article from 2006] ;