Ephemeral Mists' Musical Instruments


The Guanzi, originally from Kuche in Central Asia, is a double reed instrument which probably shared a past heritage with the Armenian Duduk. It was once under the name of bili and is now popularly called guanzi. Its deep and plaintive tone has given the instrument another name bili, which means the "sad oboe". The Tang poet BAI Juyi (772-846) wrote about its great effectiveness: Frost moon shines high on the wall of Runzhou, Such a night inspires the sound of oboe. In the hills and rivers motionless all become quiet, Fish are motionless and monkeys cry. During the Sui and Tang period (581-907) the bili was adopted commonly in court orchestras. In the music-teaching institute of the Song dynasty (960-1279) a section for the bili was set up. Because of its frequent leading position in the orchestra, it was also termed as touguan (the principal instrument). The type used in the folk music after the Song dynasty was mostly made of bamboo, and later of red sandal, and bound with metal rings or tin hoops on booth ends. The Guanzi that I own is made of redwood and has a very delicate, expressive, and sad tonal quality to it that I love.