Muyu (‘wooden fish’)
- Alan R. Thrasher
Woodblockof the Han Chinese, used primarily to accompany Buddhist chant. It is carved from a block of mulberry, camphor, or other wood in the abstract shape of a fish—squat and wedge-shaped—often with stylized tail and scales. Its hollowed interior and frontal slit (extending 180° around the instrument) form the mouth. The instrument is usually lacquered red, but occasionally left unlacquered. It is struck with a padded or unpadded beater. Length and width range from about 5 to 60 cm, 7 to 16 cm being normal, but examples as large as 85 cm are found in some temples. Small muyu are carried in one hand during processions, while larger instruments rest on cushions set on special tables. At Buddhist temples in Beijing, Xiamen, and elsewhere, elongated carved representations of fish (100 cm long or longer) are suspended near the entrance and used for signalling.
The muyu was first described in the ...