History of the Sheng and other free-reed instruments

Hi Viljo Mannerjoki,

With regards to your questions………….

There is no solid evidence regarding when is Sheng invented. The Sheng, also called the Chinese mouth organ, is one of the most ancient traditional Chinese instruments that is still in common use today. This instrument existed as far back as 3000 years ago. It is popular among the Chinese people in the Yin Dynasty (1401 – 1122 B.C.). Therefore, we can conclude that Sheng exists during this period. (You might find some information from some of the websites in my “Links” webpage)

“Huang” is the Chinese word for the reed.

In the early days, Sheng was being brought to Persia through the Silk Road. In 1777, a France Missionary introduced the Sheng to Europe. In 1780, a Denmark Reed Organ maker improved the Reed Organ based on the theory where sound is produced from the Sheng reed. In 1810, a France instrument maker manufactured the Organ. In 1821, the Harmonica was invented in the Germany. In 1822, the Accordion was invented. All these free-reed instrument was inspired by the Chinese Sheng.

That’s all and thanks for your questions. Without your questions, I wouldn’t know that I missed out so much history about these instruments which are inspired by the Sheng.

If you are going to get a Sheng for yourself, please make sure that you get it from a proper musical instrument shop. As you know you might get cheated in buying a poor quality Sheng. Be sure to examine the Sheng carefully before you purchase it. A basic 21-reed Sheng should have the basic workmanship standards which looked like those Shengs in my website!

Take care & keep in touch!

Chris Lim

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