Henan bone flutes date from 6000 BC. AD | Life | chinadaily.com.cn


Henan bone flutes date from 6000 BC.

Updated: 2011-09-06 07:58

By Zhang Zixuan (China Daily)

One of the 16 Jiahu bone flutes in the collection of the Henan Museum. Supplied to China Daily

Henan bone flutes date from 6000 BC.

Editor’s Note: Every week we look at a work of art or cultural relic that highlights Chinese heritage.

Music is as old as humanity and has taken on as many forms as human evolution.

In 1987, 16 bone flutes dating from around 6000 BC. These bone flutes, the oldest known musical instruments in the country, are much older than the flutes discovered in Mesopotamia and appeared 2,000 years earlier than in Egypt.

In ancient times, superstition and witchcraft were invoked to explain natural phenomena, and bone flutes were used as a means of connecting God and humans in sacrificial rites.

The Jiahu Bone Flutes, now kept in the Henan Museum and still playable, are made from the wing bones of red-crowned cranes and are approximately 8 inches long. They are open and their finger holes vary from five to eight, although most have seven. The best preserved is 22 cm long and has seven holes.

Several halfway markings have been discovered on some of these bone flutes, indicating that the number of holes and the distances between them were accurately measured and changed before drilling, to ensure that they fit. accorded with the musical scale in which the flutes were intended for a function.

Once these flutes were made, a smaller hole was sometimes drilled next to a few finger holes to correct for the deviation of the intonation. This technique is still used in Chinese violin making.

“The discovery of the Jiahu bone flutes improved our understanding of Chinese music history stretching back 10,000 years,” said Xiao Xinghua, a Chinese music expert who has studied bone flutes for more than 10 years.

But the discovery of the Jiahu bone flutes also leaves many mysteries unsolved, Xiao adds. For example, the finger holes are only 0.1 to 0.3 cm in diameter. How were such small and smooth holes drilled? What kinds of tools did flute makers use?

Another riddle concerns the mathematical abilities and musical temperament of the flute makers. It was only if both had existed to a high degree that they could have determined the number of finger holes on each flute and their spacing so that all of the finger holes were positioned to provide the perfect intonation. on bones of varying length and thickness.

China daily

(China Daily 06/09/2011 page18)


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