The Info List - Bianzhong

--- Advertisement ---

(pronounced [pi̯ɛ́n t͡ʂʊ́ŋ]) is an ancient Chinese musical instrument consisting of a set of bronze bells, played melodically. These sets of chime bells were used as polyphonic musical instruments and some of these bells have been dated at between 2,000 to 3,600 years old. They were hung in a wooden frame and struck with a mallet. Along with the stone chimes called bianqing, they were an important instrument in China's ritual and court music going back to ancient times. Several sets of bianzhong were imported to the Korean court during the Song Dynasty. Pronounced in Korean as pyeonjong, the instrument became an important part in Korea's ritual and court music and is still in use. In Vietnam, the instrument, which was used in ceremonies in the court at Huế, is called biên chung. The instrument's name is pronounced henshō in Japanese.


1 Archaeology 2 See also 3 References 4 Further reading 5 External links


Zhong Bell from Spring and Autumn period; excavated in 1978 from the storage pit in Taigongmiao village, Baoji city, Shaanxi province

Among the most important sets of bianzhong discovered are a complete ceremonial set of 65 zhong bells, found in a near-perfect state of preservation during the excavation of the tomb of Marquis Yi, who died ca. 430 BCE.[1] Yi was the ruler of Zeng, one of the minor states under control of the major State of Chu. This region is now part of the present-day Hubei province. Although tuned bells have been created and used for musical performance in many cultures, zhong are unique among all other types of cast bells in several respects. They have a lens-shaped (rather than circular) section, the bell mouth has a distinctive "cutaway" profile, and the outer surfaces of the large bells feature 36 studs or bosses, symmetrically placed around the body in four groups of nine. This special shape gives zhong bells the remarkable ability to produce two different musical tones, depending on where they are struck. The interval between these notes on each bell is either a major or minor third, equivalent to a distance of four or five notes on a piano.[2]

Musicians performing on a modern replica of Marquis Yi's bell set in Hubei Provincial Museum

The bells of Marquis Yi—which are still fully playable after almost 2,500 years—cover a range of slightly less than five octaves but thanks to their twin-tone capability, the set can sound a complete 12-tone scale and can play melodies in diatonic and pentatonic scales.[3] The bianzhong chimes of Marquis Yi
Marquis Yi
are mounted on intersecting racks set at 90 degrees to each other, consisting of two pairs of massive wooden beams, with three smaller beams (carrying the highest bells) mounted on top of the upper beams. The beams are separated and supported at their ends and intersections by six bronze human figurines with upraised arms and wearing swords; the upper three figures are slightly smaller than the lower, which are cast on their own elaborately decorated bronze pedestals. The ends and intersection of each pair of beams are fitted with decorated bronze caps and front part of the brackets supporting the largest bells are cast in the shape of animals. The longer pair of main beams are provided with extra support in the middle in the form of two slender bronze columns.

The Jin Hou Su bianzhong in the Shanghai Museum

In 1992, Ma Chengyuan, director of the Shanghai Museum, purchased the 3,000-year-old Jin Hou Su bianzhong (晉侯穌鐘) from the Hong Kong antique market. The bells had been looted from the tombs of the rulers of the State of Jin and smuggled out of China. The bells are now listed by the Chinese government as one of the first 64 national treasures forbidden to be exhibited abroad.[4] These bells usually have inscriptions on them from which scholars use as references for studying ancient Chinese writings (also known as Bronzeware script). Another related ancient Chinese musical instrument is the bianqing, which was made of stone rather than metal.

A collection of various porcelain wares from the Kangxi reign (1661-1722) of the Qing dynasty. A porcelain bianzhong is seen on the top middle.

See also[edit]

Bianqing Traditional Chinese musical instruments Traditional Korean musical instruments


^ Warring States Tomb of Marquis Yi ^ Alan Thorne & Robert Raymond, Man On The Rim: The Peopling of the Pacific (ABC Books, 1989), pp.166-67 ^ Cultural China website -- " Bronze
Chime Bells of Marquis Yi" Archived 2011-02-03 at the Wayback Machine. ^ 晋侯稣钟 [Jin Hou Su bells] (in Chinese). National Library of China. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

Lee, Yuan-Yuan and Shen, Sinyan. (1999). Chinese Musical Instruments (Chinese Music Monograph Series). Chinese Music Society of North America Press. ISBN 1-880464-03-9 Shen, Sinyan (1987), Acoustics of Ancient Chinese Bells, Scientific American, 256, 94. von Falkenhausen, Lothar. (1993). Suspended music: chime-bells in the culture of Bronze
Age China. University of California Press.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bianzhong.

Ancient Chinese Bells Six-tone scale in a 12-tone system Bianzhong
video from The Musical Instruments E-book (Archive copy)

v t e

Chinese bronzes


Bianzhong Ding (鼎) Dui (敦) Gu (觚) Guang (觥) Gui (簋) Hu (壺) Jia (斝) Jue (爵) Yi (匜) You (卣) Zun
(尊) or Yi (彝) TLV mirror

Individual artifacts

Da He ding Da Ke ding Da Yu ding Four-goat Square zun Guoji Zibai pan He zun Houmuwu ding Kang Hou gui Li gui Mao Gong
ding Min fanglei Shi Qiang pan Bianzhong
of Marquis Yi
Marquis Yi
of Zeng


Chinese bronze inscriptions Taotie Tomb of Fu Hao Tomb of Marquis Yi
Marquis Yi
of Zeng Xiqing Gujian

v t e

Traditional Chinese musical instruments

Silk (string)


Duxianqin Guqin Guzheng Konghou Liuqin Pipa Qinqin Ruan Sanxian Se Yueqin


Banhu Daguangxian Dahu Datong Dihu Diyingehu Erhu Erxian Gaohu Gehu Huqin Jiaohu Jing erhu Jinghu Laruan Leiqin Matouqin Maguhu Sanhu Sihu Tiqin Tihu Tuhu Yehu Yazheng Xiqin Zhonghu Zhuihu Zhuiqin


Yangqin Zhu

Bamboo (woodwind)


Dizi Koudi Paixiao Xiao


Guan Suona

Free- reed pipes

Bawu Mangtong

Gourd (woodwind)

Hulusheng Hulusi Sheng Yu



Guban Muyu Paiban Yu Zhu


Bianqing Qing


Bianzhong Fangxiang Gong Luo Yunluo




Alligator drum Bangu Bolanggu Jiegu Paigu Tanggu Zhangu


Gudi Kouxian Lusheng Xun

v t e


Background and terminology

Bell Bell-cot Bellfounding Bell-gable Bell tower
Bell tower
/ Campanile Bell-ringer Belfry Bourdon Campanology Church bell Full circle ringing Peal Ring of bells Strike tone Striking clock Zvonnitsa

Bell founders and foundries

Andrey Chokhov Bilbie family Franciscus Illenfeld Geert van Wou Gillett & Johnston Hatch bell foundry John Taylor & Co Juutila Foundry Kashpir Ganusov McShane Bell Foundry Meneely Bell Foundry Pieter and François Hemony Petit & Fritsen Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry Rudhall of Gloucester Whitechapel Bell Foundry


Agogô Altar bell Babendil Bianzhong Bicycle bell Bonshō Carillon Chime Cowbell Crotal bell Dead bell Doorbell Dōtaku Ghanta Glockenspiel Handbell Jingle bell Kane Ship's bell Standing bell Suzu Tintinnabulum Tubular bells

Ringing styles

Bell pattern Blagovest Bolognese bell ringing art Change ringing Canpanò Grandsire Method ringing Peal Russian Orthodox bell ringing Veronese bellringing art

Notable bells

List of heaviest bells Balangiga bells Bell of Good Luck Big Ben Freedom Bell Great Bell of Dhammazedi Great Tom Ivan the Great Bell Tower Japanese Peace Bell Justice Bell Liberty Bell Maria Gloriosa Mingun Bell Olympic Bell Sigismund Bell St. Petersglocke Swan Bells Tsar Bell World Peace Bells Yongle Big Bell


The Ringing World Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers Glockenmuseum Stiftskirche Herrenberg Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell
Museum Ringing Organisations Freedom Bel