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. Chinese Name
Dizi Flute 竹 / Bamboo 笛子
Bawu  Reed 竹 / Bamboo 巴乌
Guan or Guanzi Double Reed 竹 / Bamboo 管 or 管子
Hulusi Reed 匏 / Gourd 葫蘆絲
Sheng Reed 匏 / Gourd
Suona Double Reed 嗩吶
Xun Clay / Ceramic
Guqin Zither 絲 / Silk 古琴
Guzheng Zither 絲 / Silk 古箏
Zhengni Zither 絲 / Silk 筝尼
Huobosi  Lute 絲 / Silk 胡撥四
Huqin Bowed Family 絲 / Silk 胡琴
Konghou Harp 絲 / Silk 箜篌
Liuqin Lute 絲 / Silk 柳琴
Pipa Lute 絲 / Silk 琵琶
Ruan Lute 絲 / Silk
Sanxian Lute 絲 / Silk 三弦
 Yueqin Lute 絲 / Silk 月琴
Yangqin Dulcimer 揚琴


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