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Old Pipa (Chinese Lute)
Item No. 19427

20th Century, N/A, China
41" x 12.5" x 8.5"
( 104.14 x 31.75 x 21.59 cm)
(H x W x D)

This plucked Chinese string instrument is a pipa, sometimes called the Chinese lute. The pipa has been played for nearly two thousand years in China. Several related instruments are derived from the pipa, including the Japanese biwa, the Vietnamese đŕn tỳ bŕ, and the Korean bipa, which is no longer used. Composed of a pear-shaped wooden body with an extremely long neck, the pipa’s four strings are stretched across a series of thin horizontal wooden bars. Four extend from to top to adjust the strings.
The neck of this pipa ends in a decorative curved shaft in the form of the top of a ruyi. The ruyi is a traditional decorative motif which is composed of two parts: a head in the shape of cloud, heart, or, lingzhi (a Chinese "herb of spiritual potency" and "mushroom of immortality”) and a long handle in the shape of a flat S. The term ruyi means "as you wish" in Chinese, and a ruyi, along with decorating motifs upon it, conveys fu, or good wishes such as longevity, blessing, good fortune, and prosperity. Thus, this instrument with a cloud shaped ruyi is made to convey good wishes.

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