Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Payin: SÍ 絲 Silk.
Inventor: Lü Wencheng [1898–1981].
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The liuqin [in Chinese: 柳琴 in pinyin; liǔqín] is a four-stringed Chinese lute, having a pear shaped body.
Etymology: Throughout history, the liuqin had gone by various names, firstly the liuyeqin [柳葉琴] meaning willow-leaf-shaped instrument.
This was the original term for the liuqin, which is visibly an abbreviation of the term liuyeqin. The other reference to the liuqin is the tu pipa [土琵琶], literally meaning unrefined pipa, because of the aforementioned diminutive size and resemblance of the liuqin to the pipa.
Origins: The liuqin evolved over time since its debut in Dynastic China and Qing Dynasty China. The two-stringed liuqin remained in use for much of dynastic China from the Qing Dynasty until the late 20th century.
This version had two strings and was only used for accompaniment purposes in traditional operas. The earliest precursor of the modern four-stringed version of the instrument appeared and experienced popularity during the Qing Dynasty.
Construction: Historically the liuqin was commonly made of willow wood [Salix alba L.] or [in Chinese: 柳 in Pinyin: liǔ] literally meaning “willow”. Professional quality instruments were constructed from red sandalwood [Pterocarpus santalinus] or [in Chinese: 紫檀 zǐtán] or North Indian rosewood [Dalbergia sissoo]. In contemporary versions, however, the front board is made of tong wood [桐木] and for the reverse side, of red sandalwood, as comparable to historical types.
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