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The traditional music of China
written by Ingo Stoevesandt

1. How centuries survive
How can someone put more than 3000 years of cultural and musical development in the sum of, maybe, twenty words? And how can we afford to reach out to a tradition that is so huge and rich and divers like the Chinese without loosing respect when we leave out details and try to summarize? There are many articles trying to introduce into the Chinese music, its musical forms and history, so I would like to do something else:  We always get astonished about the age of Chinese culture. And, even if we know little to nothing about the mythological “golden age” of early China, we still find many items and habits that survived until today, which also still represent the "essence" of Chinse music.  

This article tries to go back into these ancient times and ask for the first appearance of the musical instruments which are still alive today or did not change too much. In the former three decades mainly the years of Confucius and namely the 5th century BC have become the center of research as some majestic tombs have been found in the 1970ies.  

In those ancient days of Confucius a person was showing his state of social reputation and richness in musical instruments like bells and gongs belonging to his household. It is assumed to be sure that these musical ensembles consisiting of various instruments realy have been played and rarely just were used for representation purposes. Anyaway, if played or not, the instruments indicated the owner as to be highly respected, and this creates a relation to
the instrument which is comparable to the relation between a Samurai and his sword.
In many ethnicities of Asia we find the habit that people do not only own their personal instrument and never change it, they also get buried with their instruments so that noone else can play it after their death. In Southeast Asia, even today, owning a gong means you are highly respected and rich. The reason for this is not only that copper and bronze are still expensive today but also that using an instrument like this demands respect for the holy sounds it produces, the occasions where it is used within and of course the skills of playing this instrument in the appropriate way.
Owning an instrument was a state of higher reputation, equal to the respect of the intellectual challenge to play. 
So which kind of instruments appear if we picture these associations?

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