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date: 16 November 2019


  • Robert C. Provine
  • , revised by François Picard


Pear-shaped fretted lute of Korea, corresponding to the Chinese pipa and Japanese biwa. The body and neck are typically made of chestnut wood, the soundtable of paulownia. The five-string hyang-bipa (‘native bipa’, also known as ohyeon, ‘five strings’), together with the geomungo and the gayageum, was popular during the Unified Silla dynasty (668–935), which reportedly inherited the lute from the Goguryeo dynasty. The number of frets increased from five to ten during the Joseon dynasty; modern examples can have 20 frets or more, extending far onto the soundtable past the soundholes. The four-string dang-bipa (‘Chinese bipa’) was supposedly introduced during the Silla dynasty although it is documented only from 1076 in the history text Goryeo-sa; modern types have 12 frets or more and a range exceeding three octaves. Although considered defunct after about 1930, both types have been revived in the 21st century.

The hyang-bipa, according to the treatise ...

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