Chime Stones of Zeng Hou Yi

Hubei Provincial Museum

Hubei Provincial Museum
Wuhan, China

Chimes stones were invented in the late primitive period. Their sound is not resounding as that of chime bells yet chime stones sound brighter and clearer. In the Shang Dynasty, people started to use chime stones and chime bells as dominate instrument and the two went into great popularity in court music in the Zhou Dynasty.

32 chime stones were unearthed from the Zeng Hou Yi mausoleum. These chimes are polished marble or granite pieces with broken-line upper edges and curving bottom edges. Most of them are marked with numbers and musical alphabet. Each piece is one musical scale and all 32 pieces are arranged by pitch. Together they make scales that cover more than two octaves, each of 12 semitones.

The chime stones are divided into two groups, hung on a bronze chime frame. On both side of the frame are two imaginary beasts made of bronze, each a combination of the head of dragon, the neck of crane, the trunk of bird and the feet of turtle. Two beams are welded to the beasts, each inlaid with golden clouds, and on their both ends are openwork carvings of dragons. On the beams there are 34 bronze rings. 32 pothooks were used to hang chime stones to the rings.

The number of the chimes on this set and the delicacy of the design are both in the top rank amongst chime stones unearthed so far.


  • Title: Chime Stones of Zeng Hou Yi
  • Location: Unearthed from Leigudun Tomb (No.1 ), Suizhou, Hubei
  • Medium: Bronze, Stone
  • Excavation Date: 1978
  • Dynasty: Around 433 B.C. (the East Zhou Dynasty and the early Warring States Period)
  • Dimensions: Height of the frame: 109 cm; length: 215 cm.

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