In the Zhou Dynasty, instruments were divided by the material they were made of: metal, stone, string, bamboo, calabash, clay, leather and wood. Among these eight categories, Sheng is a “calabash instrument”. Six Sheng were unearthed from the Zeng Hou Yi mausoleum, each consist of a calabash chest and several arundo pipes. Sound is made by the vibration of the reed pieces that are on the bottom of the pipes when air is blew into Sheng.

There are 14 holes on the Sheng chest. Pipes are supposed to be plugged into these holes. Beside the one showing in the picture, there are also Sheng with 12 holes or 18 holes. All the six Sheng from the Zeng Hou Yi’s mausoleum are painted in black and decorated with yellow and red patterns. Their smooth sound used to harmonize the sounds made by percussion instruments in an ancient court orchestra.


  • Title: Color Lacquerd Sheng
  • Location: Unearthed from Leigudun Tomb (No.1 ), Suizhou, Hubei
  • Medium: Lacquer
  • Excavation Date: 1978
  • Dynasty: Around 433 B.C. (the East Zhou Dynasty and the early Warring States Period)
  • Dimensions: Length of the chest: 22 cm; diameter of the widest part:9.5 cm; top diameter: 3.25 cm.

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