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date: 15 November 2019


  • Alan R. Thrasher
  • , revised by June L.F. Lam


Mouth bow of the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan, notably high mountain dwellers such as the Bunun, Tsao, Tsou, Paiwan, and Rukai, and plains peoples such as the Ami and Puyuma. The Chinese name gongqin is a generic term for the mouth bow; local names include fusili (Ami) and latok (Bunun). Its name, shape, and structure differ regionally but basically it has a curved bamboo stave. Among the Ami, the curve is hook shaped (with a sharp curve at the top of the instrument), whereas among the Tsao it is nearly a half circle. The bow is generally about 45 to 65 cm long and is traditionally strung with wax-coated hemp, vine, or other natural fibre. The Bunun, however, have used a steel string since the 19th century. Various methods are used to secure appropriate string tension. For certain bows, a short length of slotted bamboo is slid between the bow and string at the top end and used to vary the tension by its position. On other bows, the top end is forked in order to hold a bridge, which can be a piece of corn husk or charcoal wedged between string and stave. The Tsou and Ami uniquely add a short loop of string at the lower end between the string and the stave to tighten and define the string’s vibrating length. The upper end of the bow is held to the player’s mouth, which acts as a resonator, and overtones are produced by varying the mouth cavity’s capacity and shape with the tongue; the lower end of the bow is held by the left hand, and the string is plucked by the right hand. The fundamental pitch can be changed by varying either the string’s tension or its vibrating length using the index, middle, and ring fingers of the left hand. The ...

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