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Zeng Houyi Bells: Gem of Ancient Chinese Art

The set of bells, set of chimes and other instruments excavated from the tomb of Zeng Houyi, who was a Warring States duke in Suixian County (now Suizhou City in Hubei Province), are the largest-scale ancient percussion instruments found so far. The musical instruments were discovered in the central chamber, which was the biggest, and the second biggest, the eastern chamber.

Among the musical instruments found was a bell used for tuning other instruments, a ten-stringed plucked instrument, five Se (a zither-like instrument) with 25 strings each, two Yu (or Sheng) and one hanging drum. The other instruments found were three Xiao (a reed instrument consisting of a bundle of 13 flutes, each of different thickness), two Chi (a flute with a closed tube, blown transversely, with the air exit on top, and the five finger holes open “forward”– toward the player. The method of playing the Chi, by opening and closing holes, bespeaks a close relationship with the ocarina), seven 35-stringed Se and a small drum. The most distinguished among them were Zeng Houyi bells — the gem of ancient Chinese Art:

The Zeng Houyi Bells (big photo)ZenghouyiBells

The Zeng Houyi bells are a three-tiered set which has 65 refined bronze bells, including a large Jian drum (90cm in diameter, the drum was suspended from a framework in such a way that the drum head faced the striker), one set of bells and one set of chimes. They formed the three sides of a rectangle.

The musical range of the Zeng Houyi bells, which can carry the main melody as well as the harmony, was more than five octaves, and of these three distinct groups have 12 complete notes each.

All the musical instruments excavated from the Zeng Houyi tomb show superb craftsmanship and function surprisingly well. Indeed, some could not be surpassed even today.

Bells Music list:

The Chime of Bells Music: A Chu Air

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The Chime of Bells Music: Ode To The Orange

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The Chime of Bells Music: Melody of Chu

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The Chime of Bells Music: Clouds

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The Chime of Bells Music: Mourning For Ying

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The Chime of Bells Music: Oracle

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The Chime of Bells Music: Heroic Air of Chu

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The Chime of Bells Music (Chinese Song): The Osprey

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The Chime of Bells Music (Chinese Song): The Song of The Yue People

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The Chime of Bells Music (Chinese Song): Song to Righteousness

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The Chime of Bells Music: Schu Palace Banquet Music

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One Response to “Zeng Houyi Bells: Gem of Ancient Chinese Art”

  • Rebecca says:

    Hello,

    I’m writing in the hope that you could help me in acquiring a large resolution image of the Bells of Marchioness or the Zeng Houyi Bells for an art book publication by Phaidon Press in London, UK.
    Any help in locating an image of one of these would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards,

    Rebecca