Orchestral Set of Marquis Yi of Zeng (曾侯乙編鐘)

Zhou Dynasty, Warring States Period, 433 BC

Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan

       The Orchestral Set of Marquis Yi of Zeng (Zenghouyi) is the name given to an ancient musical instrument of bell set (bianzhong 編鐘) unearthed in 1978 in the Zenghouyi Tomb in Sui county, Hubei province, China. 

       The bianzhong are hung on two sets of wooden racks. One rack is 7.48 meters (24.5 ft) long and 2.65 meters (8 ft 8 in) wide. The other rack is 3.35 meters (11.0 ft) long and 2.73 meters (8 ft 11 in) wide. The two racks are perpendicular to each other.

       The instrument contains a total of 64 bianzhong, which are hung at three levels and are divided into eight groups. There are 19 bells in three groups at the top level, 33 bells in three groups in the middle level, and 12 bells in two groups at the bottom level. Gold-inlaid inscriptions on each bell present valuable information regarding early musical terms and performance, while a 65th bell with flat bottom called bo (镈) is dedicated by inscription from the king of Chu to Marquis Yi of Zeng, the deceased, and bears a date equivalent to 433 BC.

       The biggest bell is 153.4 centimeters (60.4 in) in height and weighs 203.6 kilograms (449 lb). The smallest bell is 20.4 centimeters (8.0 in) in height and weighs 2.4 kilograms (5.3 lb).

       Each bell can play two tones with three degrees’ interval between them. The tonal range of Zenghouyi Bells is from C2 to D7. In the middle area of the tonal range, it can play all twelve half tones. The wooden hammers used to strike the bells were also unearthed from the Zenghouyi Tomb.

zhou_zenghouyi-orchestral-set
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