Origin of ancient court instruments of the Kofun Period

Haniwa (clay terracotta replicas of) musical instruments have been recovered from ancient tumuli of the Kofun. It is likely that the musical assemblage seen in the tumuli either has common roots with, or are derived from those found on the mainland Chinese continent with common roots, and may have been sourced from contemporaneous the Korean kingdoms.

The close connections may be evinced from a reading of the following excerptThe Musical Notations of Korea and Japanby Lee Ji-sun, from Chap VII, p. 173 C M Y K, “The History of Ancient Japanese Musical Notations”
“From an early age, the geographical conditions of Japan allowed for the introduction of various cultures and goods from China, Korea and its western neighbors. Part of this phenomenon was music, a wide range of foreign music and instruments was introduced to Japan. The Nihon Shoki, a Japanese history book, contains records about musical exchanges between Korea and Japan, such as when the Silla Kingdom sent delegations for the funeral of a Japanese emperor in the middle of the 5th century CE, when a group of musicians-inresidence who had been sent from Baekje Kingdom was replaced with a new group in the 6th century, and when the music of the three Korean kingdoms (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla) were performed in the Japanese imperial court in the 7th century. Known askomagaku,the music of the Korean kingdoms has been passed down to this day, forming an important part of Japanese court music. Musicians, instruments, and manuscripts will naturally follow when music is introduced to other countries. Agayageum, a 12-stringed zither played in the music of Silla, has been preserved with the label “shiragikoto”in the Sho – soin1 imperial repository in Japan. Instruments offered by an envoy from Joseon have also been preserved. There is a record that an envoy presented ten instruments on his visit to Nikko in 1655, and of them, a chuk, an eo, a so, and a seul have remained in the treasure house of Rinnoji Temple. No solid records have been discovered as to whether Korean scores were introduced to Japan, let alone used. It is reasonable to assume, however, that they were used to transmit Korean music. Though extant Japanese music manuscripts bear no direct relation to ancient Korean manuscripts, Chinese notational systems introduced to the two countries may shed light on a possible relationship. Furthermore, there are some manuscripts that were written separately in the two countries but share similar features, and others that are completely different, which may illustrate both common and unique features of the manuscripts of the two countries. In this chapter, I will examine the relationships between the notations of Korea and Japan by examining the history of ancient Japanese notations, from court music to various genres of popular music, and comparing them to their Korean counterparts.
A variety of musics came to be performed in the Japanese imperial court, from Korean music in the 5th century C. E. to those of China and its western neighbors. The repertoire of Japanese court music was established in the beginning of the Heian period (794-1192 CE) and has been passed down with the name of gagaku. This period was the heyday of Japanese imperial culture, and the music of gagaku also flourished. The music was performed not only for court events and festivities, but also for social gatherings of the imperial family and the aristocracy, who played a leading role in the publishing of a number of manuscripts. …
All of the above observations demonstrate that, although the Chinese had some influence on Korean and Japanese notations, a number of notational systems of Korea and Japan were created in their own cultures. Most government-published manuscripts of Korea added Yuljabo, Oeumyakbo, and Gungsangjabo to Jeongganbo, while popular music chiefly adopted Hapjabo and the mnemonic system. In particular, Oeumyakbo, a unique Korean form of notation, is not found in China or Japan. In Japan, notation with instructions for performing techniques was far more common, both in court music and in popular music, than notation identifying pitches.
In Korea, Jeongganbo and Yuljabo are still commonly used, making it easy for performers to understand music, whereas in Japan, different notational systems have developed for different genres, so it is difficult to interpret them unless one is well acquainted with those genres of music. Also, unlike in Korea, strict mensural notation has never been actively used in Japan, which may be ascribed to the fact that in that country, vocal music is more developed than instrumental music and that free rhythm is widely practiced.”
As for ultimate origin of the Japanesekotoand Koreangayageum, a number of theories exist.
The assemblage of musical instruments found in the Japanese tumuli, despite having been sourced from the Korean kingdoms, resembles that of the Qin dynasty and the koto is said to be closely related to either the earlierzhuor theseprototypes of theguzhenginstruments of the Chinese Qin.
A possible origin of thekoto / gayageumin theseinstrument
Thesewas one of the most important stringed instruments to be created in China, besides theguqin. Thesewas a highly popular instrument during theWestern ZhouandSpring and Autumn period. The se was an instrument associated with the nobility. As early as the Zhou Dynasty, thesewas used to play ritual music for the performance of sacrificial offerings. InHubei, thetomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng(在公元前400年代后期)的一个宝库cient Chinese instruments, including a complete set of bronze bells,se,guqin(plucked zither), stone chimes, and a drum.
This assemblage is similar to the haniwa musical assemblage found in the Japanese tumuli of the Kofun period, pictured below. Bronze bells (pellet or jingle bells) can be seen attached to costumes ofhaniwaclay figurines, and some of the statues seem to be of singers. Onehaniwadepicts a musician playing a barrel drum with a stick, while the other figure (scroll to the top to see) is seated with a five-stringed board zither across his lap.

Surviving specimens of the se have been excavated from places such as theHubeiandHunanprovinces, and theJiangnanregion of China, as well as inShandong, andLiaoning. These are all areas whose human populations have close genetic affinity with Japan during both the Yayoi and the Kofun periods of Japan. In Korea, a similar instrument calledseul, derived from these, is still used in the Confucian ritual music of South Korea, which is performed twice per year at theMunmyoShrine inSeoul.
According to one legend,伏羲created these. It is also believed that by the time of theXia Dynastythesehad already come into being. If so, the instrument may have a Silk Road and nomadic tribal provenance. The ancient Chinese historianSima Qianhad claimed that one of the Xia Dynasty emperors was Xiongnu.
Thezheng’semergence from these
According to one theory, the word for music,yue(), is composed of the characterssifor silk () andmufor wood (), and that is in fact a pictograph representation of the instrument. By theWarring States Periodca 475 BC, the early types ofguzhenghad emerged, developed from these. Thus, it is thought that theguzhengis essentially a smaller and simplified version of these(with less strings).
Another theory gives the origin of thezhengas an instrument split from these, and legend holds that one time Huangdi (Yellow Emperor, 2878 – 2768 BC) was entertained with music played on theseby his courtesans. As the Yellow Emperor listened he became more and more saddened by the music. He finally couldn’t bear to hear it anymore and ordered the instrument destroyed. Thesewas split in halves, each with 25 strings. Then during the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC), two uncultured brothers fought over ase. They ended up splitting the instrument again. This gave rise to thezheng, with 12 strings.
An origin of theguzheng, kotoandgayageumin thezhu
The early types ofguzhengemerged during the Warring States period (475 to 221 BCE) becoming prominent during the Qin period (221 to 206 BCE), and by the Tang Dynasty (618 CE to 907 CE), theguzhengwas arguably the most commonly played instrument in China.
According to the resource “All about guzheng“:
“Zhuwas an ancient percussion instrument made of bamboo and had 5 strings. There was historical account in the Eastern (Later) Han Dynasty (25 – 220 AD) thatzhengwas alsomade of bamboo and had 5 strings. Both instruments were cylindrical in shape with a narrow neck. Because of these similarities, some people theorize thatzhengwas adapted fromzhu当从strikin玩技术的进展g to plucking….
The likely scenario is thatzhengstarted out as a bamboo instrument with 5 or less strings and became popular during the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC). This theory appears plausible because the Chinese ideogram for “zheng”uses bamboo as its radical, and using the material it was made of as the radical was a common way of creating ideograms for Chinese musical instruments. Later on in the Qin Dynasty, it adopted the superior design of theseand increased to 12 strings to expand its tonal range and used a wooden box to achieve better resonance.”
According to a related theory, thezhengwas created by Meng Tian – a history book in the Sui Dynasty (581 – 618 AD) stated that “zheng, 13 strings, so called sound of Qin, invented by Meng Tian”.Meng Tianwas a general-cum-engineer in the Qin Dynasty who was ordered in 215 BC, byQin Shi Huangto set out against theXiongnutribes in theOrdos region, and establish a frontier region at theOrdos Loop. Given thatChinese walls were built to encroach upon large stretches of a grassland steppe-border lands of the peoples called “hu” by the Chinese, the border regions were active scenes of longstanding interaction between agrarian peoples and steppe pastoral nomads(the interactions were described byR.B. Marksas having a symbiotic relationship), and that China was used to incorporating surrendered Xiongnu and other nomads in its military, and its traditional policy of recruiting barbarian generals, andtribal horsemen into its militaryand“using barbarians to attack barbarians”(yi yidi gong yidi 以夷狄攻夷狄), Meng Tian (given his Mongol-Manchurian-sounding name), having been instrumental in the QinChinese state pushing into the Ordos steppe to try to control or eliminate the nomadic forces, may, himself have been a sinicized or descended from one of the barbarians living among the admixedHan-Xiongnu lands. In this case, thezhumay have had a more northerly source as a nomadic instrument from the Silk Road.
Zhuwas an ancient percussion instrument made of bamboo and had 5 strings. There was historical account in the Eastern (Later) Han Dynasty (25 – 220 AD) thatzhengwas also made of bamboo and had five strings. Because of these similarities, it was thought that thezhengwas adapted fromzhu当从strikin玩技术的进展g to plucking. Musicological studies in the late 20th century indicate that early bamboo tube zithers of the Silk Road ( Central Asian (southern Siberian)jadagan(Khakassia) –chadagan(Tuva) –yatga(Mongolian) instruments) might have been one of the prototypes of theguzheng, koto, gayageum, and theđàn tranh.


The archaeological find of the Japanesehaniwafive-stringed koto-zither is of special significance because it has far fewer strings than the Sillan 12 stringed gayageum, and therefore appears closer to the five-stringedzhuas a prototype. The Kofun koto is thought to be earliest concrete representation of thewagon, orYamato-goto, a six-stringed zither with movable bridges found in Japanese Shinto music. It is thus possibly the earliest ancient prototype for the Japanesekoto.

埴轮墓坟时代是一个中欧的陶器ology that originates with the peoples of the ancient kingdom of Kaya. Both genetic and archaeological links between Kofun period Japan and the Kaya region have been established. Thekoto-like zither depicted on the 6th century haniwa given its similarity to, likely had its prototype in the Koreankayagumor common source. According to Samguksagi, a history of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, thekayagumis supposed to have been developed around the 6th century in the Gaya confederacy by King Gasil (also known as Haji of Daegaya) after he observed an old Chinese instrument (aguzheng?).He then ordered a musician named Ureuk to compose music that could be played on the instrument. Thekayagumwas then further improved by Wu Ruk during the reign of Jinheung in the Silla Dynasty. The ancientkayagumKing Gashil was called by several names, includingbeopgeum, pungnyu. It closely resembles the Japanesekoto. (To listen to music being played with this instrument, click on thisYoutube link.
With thehaniwa kotoas evidence, it is probable that thekotomay have been introduced much earlier as an instrument for ritual use such as during funeral ceremonies or to summon the spirits in early Shinto-like rituals. There still exists a two-stringed zither called theyakumo-gotowhich is still played inensembles in Shinto ceremonies(and a more recent adaptation called theAzuma nigenkin.
Thezhengis not to be confused with theqin. The earliest surviving qin in this modern form, preserved in bothChinaand开云体彩官网, have been reliably dated to theTang Dynasty. Chinese tradition also says theqinoriginally had five strings, but then two were added about 1,000 BCE, making seven. Central Asian music was known to have been imported into the imperial court, therefore, the history and provenance of theguzengandguqin可能是相同的——通过中亚。全国鞋业协会在ent times, Dun-huang was ruled by a tribal confederation called the Yueh-chih and then by the Xiongnu, known to Europeans as the Huns. Dun-huang was brought under Chinese rule by the Han dynasty but from early on, Dun-huang was an important center for trade between East and West. In the first through third centuries, Dun-huang was a route of the transmission of Buddhism as well as of cultural items and material goods from India, and other Silk Road cities. Musical assemblages were likely transmitted through this route, as they were an integral part of Buddhism, and Buddhist ideas of celestial beings, and beings worshipping the Buddha in song and dance (seeDunhuang art: Through the eyes of Duan Wenjieat p 153).
一个陶瓷amic figurine of a guqin player, from the Pengshan Tomb of Sichuan, dated Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD)

一个陶瓷amic figurine of a guqin player, from the Pengshan Tomb of Sichuan, dated Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), Nanjing Museum. Source:Wikimedia Commons

The depictions of instrumental bands of the Tang dynasty seem to be preoccupied with musical bands of Central Asian turkic origin, such as this one,Camel artifact carrying group of musicians

Source readings and references:
Kusano Taeko. “Classification and Playing Technique: A Study of Zithers in Asia”, in Asian Musics in an Asian Perspective. editors, Koizumi Fumio, Tokumaru Yoshihiko, Yamaguchi Osamu ; assistant editor, Richard Emmert. Tokyo : Heibonsha, c1977, page 13
Great walls and linear barriersby Peter Spring (see chap 17)
China: Its Environment and Historyby Robert B. Marks, p 74
“… among the 492 DunhuangMogao Grottoes, 240 caves feature singing and dancing, in which over 4,000 musical instruments, 3,000 players and over 500 various bands were painted.”
Chinese sculptureby Angela Falco Howard, writes of camel carrying musicians on a stage, and a “Hu” dancer. The musical bands are all foreign to China, and often called “Hu” by the Chinese. See alsoThe arts of Chinap 139 and Chinese artifactCamel carrying group of musicians

Leave a Reply