The xun is one of the oldest musical
instruments in China, with a history of approximately
7,000 years. Whilst there are many types of Xun
(Stone, bone, ceramic, earthenware, wood, bamboo,
lacquer and others; the Xun has two main categories:
Stone/ceramic and bamboo / lacquer.
Whilst the uninitiated may think this
quite a weird instrument, it is very popular
in China and is often incorporated into
modern musical compositions. This is because
of its deep and mellow sound, which is
likened to the human voice.
Below are some introductory pieces of
music - so go judge for yourselves!
Meng (5.25) - Pursuing Dreams
Jiangnu (8.22) - A girl named Meng
Jiangnu - properly a girl named
Peng Chuan (5.36) - A boat with
day I lost my love (4.50) - Xun
is concerted with cello in this
Ge (5.36) - Song of the Chu State
(in today's Sichuan Province)
Shang (4.05) - A famous tune from
the Tang Dynasty
Xun: History and
It is said that the
xun originated from the hunting tool of the stone
meteor. During ancient times, people often tied
a stone or mud ball to the rope that was used
for hunting wild animals. The people would then
throw the ropes, with the stones wrapping around
the animal's limbs, bringing them down, Hence
the name of stone meteor. Some of the balls were
hollow, and so made many sounds when thrown. Most
people found these hollow balls enjoyable and
learned how to blow air into them. Gradually,
the stone meteor became the musical instrument
known as the xun.
The earliest xun was made of stone
or bones, but later it became earthen. Also, the
forms varied in many ways. For example, it could
be shaped like a ball, a pear, a fish, or a flat
circle or ellipse.
The xun is an egg-shaped, windpipe instrument.
Initially it had only one hole, but afterwards
it gained more holes. Finally at the end of the
3 century BC a six-holed model appeared.
Professor Caozheng from the Chinese Conservatory
of Music has been trying to imitate the ancient
earthen xun since the end of the 1930s .
Later, Professor Chenzhong at the Tianjin Conservatory
of Music created a new version with nine holes.
The new instrument not only has kept the original
form and tones, but also has expanded its range
and become louder. The nine holes are arranged
in a free order, which is convenient for performing.
Very soon, Zhao Liangshan, one of the professor's
students from the Song and Dance Ensemble of Hubei
Province, developed another new type with ten
holes, which was suitable for alt (high octave)
The xun instrument was usually used in making
royal music in Chinese history. There are two
kinds of xun. One is shaped like an egg (smaller
but louder) and the other is often played along
with another kind of pipe instrument called a
chi, an ancient Chinese musical instrument that
is made of bamboo. Some descriptions about the
xun can be found in shijing, the earliest form
of poetry in China.
Xun Myth and Legend
"There's a legend about
Xun. Long time ago, there was a young man
who had a fervent interest in Xun, and a
beautiful lady named Huanghe (also the name
for the Yellow River) heard his music and
fell in love with him. But her father didn't
like him because he was too poor. The young
fellow missed the lady so much that he died
of illness. His heart turned into a red
diamond after his death. A craftsman passing
by picked up the diamond and took it to
the market for sale. The lady liked it very
much and bought it. One day, the lady thought
of the fellow when she was looking at the
diamond and burst into tears. To her surprise,
the heart broke into pieces when the tears
fell upon it. So an old saying came into
being -- The heart never dies until it sees
Check out some of the Xun tunes here.
This interesting website has great resources
for Xun: http://www.taoxun.com/
The whole website is only in Chinese language,
so you may need to click around a bit
and use your initiative : -)
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Below: Reunion tribute 2006 Live - excellent music