Type: Idiophones > Percussion > Metallophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.221.42
Bayin: 石 shi / stone.
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The fangxiang [in Chinese: fang xiang 方响 or fang hsiang 方響 in Chinese, pinyin: fāngxiǎng] is organized and suspended [bianxuan]. It is a metallophone that has been used for over 1,000 years. The fangxiang is the only instrument type that is found in the Stone category of the eight sounds. It was first used in the Liang Dynasty [502—557 CE] and then standardized in the Sui and Tang dynasties mostly for court music.
History: In ancient times, the fangxiang was a popular instrument in Chinese court music. It was introduced to Korea, where it is called banghyang [hangul: 방향; hanja: 方響] and is still used in the court music of Korea. A similar instrument used in Japan is called the hōkyō [kanji: 方響]. The first time that fangxiang shown up in Liang Period in the Northern and Southern Period [502-557].
During the Sui and Tang dynasties [581-840], the instrument got developed and became popular in the court. There were many famous fangxiang performers at that time, including Xianqi Ma and Bing Wu. Also at that time, there were many poets making ancient Chinese poems to accompany with the fangxiang performance.
Expansion & Development: In the 1980s, the fangxiang was expanded to include 51 soundboards. The soundboards were arranged based on twelve-tone equal temperament and double scale arrangement. On the top lane, it is the C# scale, and on the bottom lane it is the C major scale ranging from f to C4. The shelf used for holding those soundboards can rise up and fall down for the convenience of performing.
The new design of the fangxiang sounds clear and melodious, and it is really good for accompaniments in the Chinese traditional orchestra music. For example, in the music “The Great Wall Capriccio”, it is used to sound like a bell. The fangxiang was used by the American composer Lou Harrison in his Music for Violin with Various Instruments: European, Asian and African [1967, revised 1969]. Harrison had taken research trips to Japan and South Korea 1961 and Taiwan 1962.
Citations: Bibliography: Fangxiang [方响] Websites : China Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013 ; Archived from the original on 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2013-09-17 ; The Oxford Companion To Music by Percy Scholes 1956 ed. Oxford University Press. p. 481 ; Chinese Musical Instruments by Alan Thrasher 2000 New York, Oxford University Press Inc, p. 16. ISBN 0-19-590777-9 ; Marching to the beat of a Chinese drum Retrieved 23 September 2013 Translation from “方响 [fāng Xiǎng] .方响_百度百科. Web. 17 Sept. 2013 ; Linfair Records / R2G Music. ASIN B005M1DUPE.