Bayin or Eight Fold System

The Bayin [八音] “eight tone” classification system is used to classify musical instruments according to what materials they were made from. However, the Chou-Li [Rites of Chou] an anonymous treatise compiled from earlier sources in about the 2nd century BC, had the following order: metal, stone, clay, leather, silk, wood, gourd, and bamboo.

The same order was presented in the Tso Chuan [Commentary of Tso] attributed to Tso Chiu-Ming, probably compiled in the 4th century BC. The bayin system is correlated to the eight seasons and eight winds of Chinese culture, autumn and west, autumn-winter and north-west, summer and south, spring and east, winter-spring and north east, summer-autumn and south west winter and north, and spring-summer and south east, respectively.

Bayin or Eight Fold System
Instrument Category Bayin
Dizi Flute 竹 / Bamboo
Koudi Flute 竹 / Bamboo
Bawu Single Reed 竹 / Bamboo
Guan Double Reed 竹 / Bamboo
Hulusi Single Reed 匏 / Gourd
Sheng Single Reed 匏 / Gourd
Suona Double Reed 竹 / Bamboo
Xun Vessel 土 / Clay
Guqin Zither 絲 / Silk
Guzheng Zither 絲 / Silk
Zhengni Zither 絲 / Silk
Huobosi Lute 絲 / Silk
Huqins Bowed Family 絲 / Silk
Konghou Harp 絲 / Silk
Liuqin Lute 絲 / Silk
Pipa Lute 絲 / Silk
Ruan Lute 絲 / Silk
Sanxian Lute 絲 / Silk
 Yueqin Lute 絲 / Silk
Yangqin Dulcimer 絲 / Silk


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