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date: 13 November 2019


  • Robert C. Provine
  • , revised by Yu Hui


Generic term for various historical Chinese plucked-string instruments, usually translated as ‘harp.’ The word konghou appears in the official history of the Han dynasty (Qian Han Shu) with reference to 111 bce. The earliest iconographical evidence of the konghou appears in the Wei, Jin, and Southern/Northern dynasties (220–589 ce). The term was used for describing instruments in non-Chinese ensembles performing at courts of the Sui (581–618 ce) and Tang (618–907 ce) dynasties. In 1996 and 2003, archaeologists discovered several konghou harps from the 5th and 7th centuries bce, respectively, in the Uigur automous region of Xinjiang. As konghou refers to plucked-string instruments from numerous cultures as disparate as India and Korea, it almost certainly does not denote a distinct classification of instruments and perhaps not even a sub-class of string instruments. The word was modified in three ways: wo-konghou (‘horizontal konghou’), shu-konghou (‘vertical konghou’), and ...

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