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date: 29 October 2020


  • Alan R. Thrasher


Categorical term for Chinese gongs, each preceded by a prefix to designate type, size, or regional variant. Chinese gongs are made from ‘resonant bronze’ (xiangtong), an alloy of approximately 77 parts copper to 23 parts tin. They are hammered into various dish-shaped or basin-shaped structures, with the rims turned back.

Gongs are mentioned in Tang dynasty literature (618–907 ce) by onomatopoeic names such as sha (shaluo) and zheng (zhengluo). The encyclopedia Tongdian (801 ce) reports that gongs ‘like large copper plates’ were introduced into China from Central Asia (Xiyu) and in use two centuries earlier. Recently, however, a more ancient gong (of unknown name) was found in a Han dynasty tomb (206 bce–220 ce) in Guangxi province. This instrument is about 32 cm in diameter with a large flat central striking area (about 22 cm), moderately sloping shoulder (about 5 cm), and a narrow rim through which three suspension rings are attached. Among later archaeological finds, most notable is a large gong from a 13th-century ...

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