- Alan R. Thrasher
Long-necked plucked lute of the Han Chinese. The name appears as either sanxian (‘three string’) or popularly as xianzi (‘string’, zi being a diminutive suffix). The sanxian is constructed of a long fretless neck of redwood or other hardwood, its lower end passing through a small oval (or square) soundchamber Distinguishing features include three elongated tuning pegs inserted laterally into a spatula-shaped peg box, strings of silk (more recently of nylon or steel), and covering of the soundchamber on both sides with python skin. The three strings, which hold a short bridge against the snakeskin head, are usually tuned to intervals of a 4th (between the low and middle strings) and 5th (between the middle and high strings), or vice versa. Other tunings are occasionally found as well. In performance, the soundchamber rests on the player’s right thigh, the neck extending out to the left at an upward angle. Strings are plucked using fingernails or a small plectrum....