Type: Chordophones > Lutes >
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The [in Mandarin: 月琴 in Pinyin: yuèqín] is a plucked box-lute chordophone played by the Han Chinese. Known to the English-speaking world as the ‘moon lute’. It’s name derives from the characters for ‘moon’ [‘yue’] and ‘stringed instrument’ [‘qin’]. Through out Far East Asia it is known under names from neighbouring cultures gekkin [in Japanese, wolgeum [in Korean], or la-ch’in.
It is perhaps best known for its role in Beijing Opera music, but it is also an auxiliary instrument in several regional instrumental and opera ensembles both in northern and southern China. Prior to 1926, the yueqin was a prominent instrument in Cantonese instrumental ensembles. But it has since fallen out of its prominent position. It does not seem to be an instrument of choice in the conservatory- and concert hall-based modern Chinese music movement.
Construction: The yueqin is a composite lute made by joining together a flat circular resonator, short neck and a peg box. The circular hoop of wood that constitutes the sidewall of the resonator is slightly less than [5.08 cm or two inches in depth] and its soundboard and back are two thinly-shaven, glued-on wooden boards for the front and back.
Near the bottom of the soundboard there is a firmly attached string fastener that doubles as a bridge. The fretted fingerboard having only nine raised frets. The fretted fingerboard is only [10.16 cm or four inches, in length] and terminates with a wood nut. Three of these frets are glued to the fingerboard, and the six frets on the soundboard are each divided into two columns.
One end of each of the instrument’s four nylon [traditionally silk] strings that is looped around a tuning peg. The other end is secured to the bridge on the soundboard. Near the bottom of the soundboard there is a firmly attached string fastener that doubles as a bridge. The pegbox, carved from the same piece of wood as the neck, has two or four large friction pegs penetrating it from each side. It is capped with a simple ornamental piece of wood.
Citations: Bibliography: Huang, Jinpei. 2002. “Ensemble: Guangdong Yinyue.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 217-221. Liang, Mingyue 1985, Music of the Billion: An Introduction to Chinese Musical Culture. New York: Heinrichshofen ; Alan R. Thrasher 2000. Chinese Musical Instruments. Oxford: Oxford University Press ; 1984. “Yueqin [yueh-ch’in].” NGDMI v.3: 887 ; Websites: Metmuseum.org / Yueqin ; Grinnell College Collection / Yueqin ;