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Images from The Beede Gallery

P'i p'a, China, ca. 1850

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NMM 2401.  P'i p'a, China, mid-19th century. P'i p'a side view 1 P'i p'a side view 2 P'i p'a back view

NMM 2401. Pi pa, China, ca. 1850. Short-necked lute. Four strings. Four convex frets at upper end of fingerboard. Wooden body with ivory and mother-of-pearl ornamentation. Name literally translates "to play forward" and "to play backward." The earliest documented method for playing the pi pa, found in Liu Xis Shih Ming (Explanation of Names), dates from the Late Han Dynasty (206-220 AD). The pi pa name, originally referring to a variety of long- and short-necked, plucked lutes common to cultures along the Silk Road, developed into its classic form around 350 AD. Chinese folk tradition often presents the pi pa as an improvised instrument, created at a time of need to express the emotion of its countrys people. This is reflected in traditional pi pa music, which conveys epic stories through the musicians playing technique. Experienced listeners recognize phrases conjuring images of trickling waterfalls, explosive battles, and the sound of the wind. Played vertically with finger picks or the fingernails. Beede Fund, 1978.


Front and Side Views of Pegbox

Front of pegbox and fingerboard
Front of pegbox

Side view #1
Side view #2

Bridge and Tailpiece

Bridge

Tailpiece

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