Saturday’s Instrument: Dizi, the Chinese Bamboo Flute

Dizi is a Chinese transversed instrument that sometimes is being referred to as Di or Hengdi. Dizi is a popular instrument in China that is being performed in Chinese Folk music and Chinese Opera and also has a place in Chinese modern Orchestra.


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Most Dizis are made of bamboo, which explains why dizi are sometimes known by simple names such as Chinese bamboo flute. However, "bamboo" is perhaps more of a Chinese instrument classification like woodwind in the West.


It has been discovered recently that some transversed flute instrument which resembles Dizi, has been in use in China from 9,000 years ago. The fragments of this instrument made from bones are still playable today. It is believed that there might have been some bamboo versions of this instrument in those days that could not survive until today.


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The Jiahu neolithic site in central Henan province of China has yielded flutes dating back to 7,000 BC - 5,000 BC that could represent the earliest playable instruments ever found. These flutes were carved with five to eight holes and are capable of producing varied sounds in a nearly accurate octave.



The Dizi az we know it today dates back to 500 B.C.E. some of the Dizi instruments made from bamboo have been found from 200 B.C.E.


Some of the most famous players of Dizi are:


  • Zhao Songting

  • Chen Yue

  • Yu Xunfa

  • Ron Korb

  • Lu Chunling

  • Liu Guanyue

  • Feng Zicun


Today Dizi has two main styles of playing. These two are divided into Northern and Southern styles. The Dizi used in northern style is a little shorter and has a higher pitch, it also has a brighter sound. But in the south it is mostly used in Opera plays, it is longer and has abetter melodic quality.


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Ron Korb born in Toronto, Canada, is the first renowned western musician playing Dizi along with numerous other world woodwinds.


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