Type: Free Reed > Aerophone.
Region: China > Far East Asia.
The sheng [in Chinese
p. shēng] is a Chinese free-reed bamboo mouth organ.
Although the age of this musical instrument is unknown, evidence is
shown in pictographs dating from 1200 B.C. In which the sheng is
complete with a gourd very similar to the current Southern Chinese
and northern Thai Naw. This instrument was originally used in court
music. These ancient sheng including the"yu" are depicted on the
wall paintings of the Dunghuang caves dating back to the 7'th and
Early History: During this period this instrument traveled through out many courts of Asia and according to some may have even reached Persia in the 10'th century. Documentation confirms that this instrument did not reach Europe until 1777 with Pere Amiot. The inventions of the reed organ, concertina, harmonica and accordions are direct descendants of the sheng.
Varieties: Although in China the sheng is identified with the Han culture. Identically similar varieties of this instrument can be found among China's minority cultures. Current development to modernize the sheng in China is ongoing. It is until quite recently the sheng became a virtuoso instrument. Regularly played in instrumental Chinese orchestras. Modern instruments maybe fitted with brass reeds, 30 or more pipes with metal wind chambers. Some contemporary instruments are fitted with keyboards.
Citations: New Grove Dictionary of Music by Stanley Sadie > Randy Raine-Reusch @ asza.com (sheng article).