The pipa (琵琶) is a pear-shaped type of lute with four strings. It’s one of the most common Chinese musical instruments – varieties of pipa have been played in China for about two thousand years. Like many instruments now considered Chinese, its origins are in central Asia.
Demonstrating the pipa’s longstanding place in Chinese arts, the famous painting The Night Revels of Han Xizai by Gu Hongzhong (AD 937–975) shows the eponymous Mr Han and his friends listening to a pipa player (section reproduced above, see links below for whole painting). It was painted during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, shortly after the Tang Dynasty when the pipa first became popular amongst literati, aristrocrats and officials.
In the video below, Dong Nan (董楠) introduces the pipa and plays Spring Moonlight on the Flowers by the River (春江花月夜 often translated as Moonlit Night On The Spring River). The video was shot and edited by Jonah Kessel.
If you like heavy metal, you’ll probably enjoy the classic pipa piece linked below – “Ambush from all sides”.
More about the pipa and The Night Revels of Han Xizai
Danwei: The pipa: How a barbarian lute became a national symbol
Wikipedia: Pipa, Gu Hongzhong
Youku: Pipa master Liu Dehai playing the pipa classic “Ambush from all sides” (十面埋伏)
Youtube: Liu Fang playing the pipa classic “Ambush from all sides” (十面埋伏)
Kaixin blog: Moonlight on the Spring River (about the poem of the same name as the song)
ChinaCulture.org: Han Xizai at Night Dinner Painting Depicts Extravagant Life
Philmultic: A brief history of the pipa
This post belongs to Music