Enquiry about object: 3017

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Chinese Bamboo, Horn & Bone Sheng Instrument

19th century

length: 41.5cm



private collection, UK.

This Chinese wind instrument known as a sheng comprises a light, lacquered, wooden base from which seventeen bamboo reeds of varying length protrude. The mouth piece, the highest two reeds and their air inlet in the base have bone mounts. A polished horn ring encircles the bamboo reds to keep them in place.

The sheng is one of the oldest known Chinese wind instruments – the earliest images to depict the sheng date to around 3,000 years ago. Sheng instruments were used also in Vietnam and Japan. A Japanese sheng (ho sho in Japanese) dated 1849 and collected by Isabella Stewart Gardner that is very similar other than for the base is illustrated in Chong & Murai (2009, p. 415).

The example here has excellent patina and clearly dates to the nineteenth century. It comes from a private English collection and was acquired in the UK.

The horn hoop which holds the bamboo ‘reeds’ together.

A sheng player from an early Chinese Christian poster.

See here.


Chong, A, & N. Murai, Journeys East: Isabella Steward Gardner and Asia, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2009.

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