Melodies from the depths of history: Musical heritages from ancient China

Warring States period (475-221 BC)

Updated: Feb 9, 2023 Print
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Bronze bell set of Marquis Yi of the State of Zeng

Instrumental music and musical dance in ancient China flourished during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BC), when a style was formed based on drum and chime music with plucked string accompaniment. The Bronze bell set of Marquis Yi of the State of Zeng, unearthed in Suizhou, Hubei province, in 1978, is an icon of this period, whose exquisite workmanship, accurate pitch, beautiful sound and scientific arrangement pronounce it a brilliant component of the world’s musical heritage.

Bronze bell set of Marquis Yi of the State of Zeng in the collection of the Hubei Provincial Museum [Photo/IC]

Dating to the early Warring States period (475-221 BC), the set consists of 65 pieces, which are arranged in three tiers and eight groups and are hung on an angled copper-wood shelf. There are a total of 3,755 inscribed characters on the bells, frame, and hooks, marking numbers, chronicles, pitch names and musical temperament theories. Each bell can play double-tones in third intervals. The range of the whole bell set spans five and a half octaves, and the central register has the full twelve semi-tones. The instrument can play music in five, six and seven-tone scales.


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