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Music
Suona

The suona (嗩吶) is a Han Chinese shawm (oboe). It has a distinctively loud and high-pitched sound, and is used frequently in Chinese traditional music ensembles, particularly those that perform outdoors. It is an important instrument in the folk music of northern China, particularly the province of Shandong, where it has long been used for festival and military purposes. It is still used, in combination with sheng mouth organs, gongs, drums, and sometimes other instruments, in wedding and funeral processions. Such wind and percussion ensembles are called chuida or guchui.

The suona has a conical wooden body, similar to that of the European oboe, but uses a brass or copper mouthpiece to which a small double reed is affixed, and possesses a detachable metal bell at its end. The instrument is made in several sizes.

Part of the frescoes from Qiuci cave #38 of Baicheng County in Xinjiang province


The suona is believed to have been developed from Central Asian instruments such as the surnay or zurna, from which its Chinese name probably derives. It was originally introduced into China from central or western Asia. A musician playing an instrument very similar to a suona is shown on a drawing on a Silk Road religious monument in western Xinjiang province dated to the 3rd to 5th centuries, and depictions dating to this period found in Shandong and other regions of northern China depict it being played in military processions, sometimes on horseback.

The statue "angel flying to heaven" holding a suona, in Quanzhou Kaiyuan Temple

It was not mentioned in Chinese literature until the Ming Dynasty (1368¡V1644), but by this time the suona was already established in northern China.

Interestingly, the suona is also used as a traditional instrument in Cuba, having been introduced by Chinese immigrants during the colonial era. It is known there as trompeta china and is used in some forms of son and carnival music.

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