9,000-year history of the Chinese flute, in music

About 30 flutes of different styles and eras will be used in a performance to take audiences through the history of Chinese flutes.
“Heavenly Tune of Chinese Flute” Ti Gong

About 30 flutes of different styles and eras will be used in a performance to take audiences through the history of Chinese flutes, from the first made of wing bones of red-crowned cranes 9,000 years ago to the modern day.

“Heavenly Tune of Chinese Flute” with flutist Tang Junqiao and her colleagues opens at the Shanghai Symphony Hall on September 15 and runs through September 20. 

Without any lyrics, it will be a pure instrumental showing with music being the only language, according to Tang, who initiated the program. 

With the flute playing the leading role, it will be a crossover work with the participation of traditional Chinese orchestra, symphony orchestra and multimedia support. 

The program was first staged in May at the Shanghai Majestic Theater. But this version has been tailored for smaller concert halls.

Ti Gong

Without any lyrics, the performance aims to take audiences through the history of Chinese flutes.

While keeping the story and music, new audio effects, multimedia support and stage settings have been created.

About 30 flutes will be used in the performance with some of them replicas of the flutes made from wing bones of red-crowned cranes.

The bone flutes were unearthed at the Jiahu Relics site in Henan Province in the late 1980s and are said to be up to 9,000 years old, suggesting the bone flute was China’s oldest musical instrument as well as the world’s oldest wind instrument.

Zhao Songting, the renowned flutist, was invited to play the bone flute when they were first discovered in the 80s.

He later made a replica bone flute and planned to perform on stage but died in 2001.

Zhao’s student Tang is following in her teacher’s footsteps.

With the help of flute maker Wang Jianhong, she and her colleagues tried to replicate a six-hole flute from the No. 253 Tomb of the Jiahu Relics.

They used materials that included rosewood, China fir, bamboo and resin.

“It took us about a year, with repeated experiments, tests and comparisons with the audio data, to find the voice closest to that of the original bone flute,” says Tang. 

“Fortunately, we succeeded in the trials with bitter bamboo and resin synthetic materials.

“The finished flutes sound very similar to that in the recording, but have better intonation.”

Two special concerts will be provided free to children from special schools on September 13 and 14, with an aim to help them approach and enjoy Chinese music and art.


Ti Gong

Tang Junqiao plays the leading flute in “Heavenly Tune of Chinese Flute.”

Performance details

Date: September 15-20, 7:45pm
Tickets: 120-480 yuan
Tel: 4008-210-522
Venue: Shanghai Symphony Hall
Address: 1380 Fuxing Rd. M

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