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date: 14 November 2019


  • Han Mei


Bowed half-tube zither of China (ya: ‘creak’; zheng: ‘zither’). The instrument is mentioned in the Jiu Tangshu (‘Old History of the Tang Dynasty’, completed 945 ce) with the comment, ‘The yazheng is made to creak with a slip of bamboo, moistened at its tip’. An early illustration of the yazheng appears in Chen Yang’s Yueshu (‘Treatise on Music’) of 1104, showing a long zither with a slightly convex soundboard (closely resembling a zheng), approximately nine strings, and an L-shaped playing implement. Yazheng was also referred to as qin (a different character from the seven-string scholar’s zither) from the Song to the Ming dynasties. The 13th-century encyclopedia Shilin guangji (‘Comprehensive Record of the Forest of Affairs’) states that the instrument had seven strings, each with a movable bridge underneath. Da Qing huidian tu (‘Illustrations for the Compendium of Administrative Laws of Qing’, 1899) describes the yazheng as having ten strings played with a straight wooden stick....

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