Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Notched.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Specimen: Three in collection.
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The xiao [traditional Chinese: 簫 simplified Chinese: 箫; pinyin: xiāo; Wade–Giles: hsiao, pronounced [ɕi̯ɑ́ʊ̯] is a Chinese vertical notched flute. It is generally made of bamboo. It is also sometimes called dòngxiāo [洞箫; 洞簫], dòng meaning “hole.” An ancient name for the xiāo is shùzhúdí [豎竹笛, lit. “vertical bamboo flute”, [ʂûtʂutǐ]. The name xiāo in ancient times was also applied to the side blown flute, the dizi.
History: The xiāo is a very ancient Chinese instrument it is usually thought to have developed from a simple end-blown flute used by the Qiang people of Southwest China in ancient period. In the oral traditions of the Xiao, its sound is said to resemble the sweetness of the Phoenix’s call, the King of Birds in Chinese belief. The Xiao is held in high regard due to its long ancient history.
Construction: Xiao are mostly made of bamboo, the best being ‘black bamboo’ or 紫竹; zizhu. Sometimes, the xiao is made of solid wood that has been carved and hollowed out. They can either be made plain, or have a horn inlay at the at the bottom end. Or various inscriptions along the shaft.
Usually, nylon wire bindings along the shaft are wrapped on which attempts to stabilize the bamboo and prevent cracking. Some players tie a tassel to dangle from one of the lower sound holes, purely for decorative purposes.
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