Pipa (琵琶 )

Maker: Jiu-cheng

Date: 19th century

Geography: Guangzhou (Canton), China

Culture: Chinese

Medium: Wood, ivory, bone, gut

Dimensions: 37 1/16 × 8 7/8 × 1 7/8 in. (94.2 × 22.5 × 4.7 cm)

Classification: Chordophone-Lute-plucked-fretted

Credit Line: The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889

Accession Number: 89.4.52


The term pipa has been known since the 3rd century B.C. It originally described the playing motion of the right hand: p'i, "to play forward" (left), and p'a, "to play backward" (right). In addition to its use in the opera and in story telling ensembles, the pipa has a solo repertoire of highly programmatic, virtuosic music.