Many musical instruments common in the US are also used in Taiwan – however, the country’s traditional instruments help form a fusion of musical genres. The music scene in Taiwan is not only influenced by historical Chinese culture, but also shaped by the island’s various indigenous tribes. Here are a few traditional musical instruments you may not have heard of.
Particularly popular with the Atayal, Amis, and Bunun tribes, the jaw harp is classified as an aerophone – a musical instrument that produces sound by causing a body of air to vibrate without the use of strings or membranes. It is made from bamboo slivers, sometimes copper, and a piece of string. Players put a string in their mouths while pulling the string with their hand, using breath control and mouth movements to create different notes.
Easiest to compare to a violin, the erhu is hexagonal in shape, has only two strings, and is held upright when played. It used to be common to use the skin of a python as the front cover of the instrument; However, this is no longer the case. The erhu is said to produce both melancholic and happy music with great expression.
Confucius’ favorite instrument, the guqin, is often referred to as the instrument of the wise – the elite of Chinese society once considered it one of four arts that all educated people must master. As such, it was unavailable to the general public for many generations, but is now used in various modern cultural events. The guqin is a seven-string zither, meaning its strings are the same length as its soundboard.
Outwardly most comparable to a harp, the konghou first appeared around 600 BC. in written texts. Its popularity waned for some time, and it took a lot of research and experimentation to reproduce it in an accurate way. Since then, however, it has regained popularity as its smooth, elegant tones go perfectly with traditional Chinese music.
Learn more: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/taiwan/articles/10-taiwanese-musical-instruments/