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Gold Lacquered Bofu Drum with Polychrome Painted Dragon-among-Clouds Design

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: gold lacquer on drum

This percussion instrument (called a bofu) is fashioned in the shape of a small barrel drum. The present example has a gold lacquered frame and drum faces with polychrome painted dragon and cloud motifs. The top of the frame is mounted with a pierced mask in the form of a coiling dragon holding a ring and with an attached braided cord of yellow silk. The drum was usually stored on a gold lacquered pedestal. During performance, the silk braided cord was hung around the neck of the player who beat the drum faces with his palms to produce sound.

Both the bofu and jiangu were drums classified under the category of leather instruments, one of the eight classes of musical instruments. They were played to mark the beginning and end of each section during the performance of the musical ensemble (Zhonghe shaoyue) in the Qing court. To mark the end of a section, the jiangu would be sounded once to signify that all instruments should come to a halt. To mark the beginning of a section, the jiangu would be hit thrice to usher in other instruments. Every beating of the jiangu would be echoed by two beatings of the bofu.


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