Podcasts: Images

A New World of Sound: PRISM Saxophone Quartet and Music From China

 Activities of the Twelve Months

The oldest Chinese instrument heard in this concert is the pipa, a lute with a pear-shaped body and a bent neck. It was brought into China along the Silk Road from Central Asia as early as the third century. Nearly all of the galleries’ images of the pipa depict it in the hands of divine beings or their attendants. This cave painting from western China, created between 600 and 800, shows one of the Buddhist celestial beings known as feitian, who perform for the Buddha. This feitian plays the kind of Central Asian lute that would later become the Chinese pipa.

Seated Musician (detail). Kizil, Xinjiang province, China; Tang dynasty, 600-800. Wall painting, pigment on stucco. Gift of Arthur M. Sackler, S1987.265

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