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date: 14 November 2019


  • Alan R. Thrasher


End-blown flute of the Han Chinese, used in court rituals. Pictographs from the late Shang dynasty (c12th century bce) show what appears to be a small panpipe-type instrument, with bamboo pipes in a single raft bound together in the middle with fibre or cord. While disagreement exists as to whether this image represents a panpipe or two or more end-blown flutes bound together, the pictograph was ultimately equated with the character yue commonly interpreted as a panpipe. Yet, the about 3rd-century bceZhouli text indicates that the yue is a single end-blown flute with three fingerholes; the name might simply have been transferred to an instrument of this type. The yue retained this end-blown form into the 12th century ce, when it was included in a large imperial gift to Korea. As employed nowadays in government-sponsored Confucian rituals (notably in Taiwan), the yue has become an unplayed ritual flute, a lacquered bamboo tube without notch or fingerholes, carried by young male dancers....

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Asian Music