The sheng is a woodwind instrument of Chinese origin. It is a free-reed aerophone that commonly uses 17 bamboo pipes to produce sound, although chromatic variations with 36 pipes also exist. The player uses a mouthpiece at the base of the sheng to vibrate the free reeds inside the vertical pipes. Many variations on the sheng are constructed today, including instruments with metal pipes.
History of the Sheng
The sheng is one of the most ancient musical instruments that still exists today. There is no evidence of a specific inventor but early historical records suggest that the sheng existed during the Yin dynasty over 3,000 years ago. At this time and also during the Zhou dynasty (1046 - 256 BC), the sheng was likely used as a ceremonial instrument for the nobility or Chinese counts and played only by China’s most skilled musicians. Its distinctive sound gradually became symbolic of traditional Chinese folk and Chinese classical music. The sheng’s unique sound is cherished as a cultural instrument of great heritage in China today. It has been suggested that the introduction of the sheng to Western Europe during the 16th century may have influenced the designs of the organ, accordion and harmonica that were all developed in the subsequent two centuries. Modern uses of the sheng include traditional folk songs and it is also a fixture in the Beijing opera.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£200 - £400

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How to Play

A Chinese mouth-blown free reed instrument with vertical pipes, played by blowing air into the pipes and pressing the keys.

In Popular Music

The sheng has not been used in western popular music unless uncredited on popular recordings. The sheng is also mostly unused in classical music but is a traditional wind instrument in China and Asia where it can often be a feature of Chinese operas.

Famous Players

Wu Wei, Wu Man, Hu Jianbing

Close Relations

Hulusi, Suona
Video Credit: Philharmonia Orchestra
Understanding the Sheng










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