Instrumental Music Classes

The oldest known scheme of classifying instruments is Chinese and may date as far back as the second millennium BC. It grouped instruments according to the materials they are made of. Instruments made of stone were in one group, those of wood in another, those of silk are in a third, and those of bamboo in a fourth, as recorded in the Yo Chi (record of ritual music and dance), compiled from sources of the Chou period (9th-5th centuries BC) and corresponding to the four seasons and four winds.

The eight-fold system of pa yin, from the same source, occurred gradually, and in the legendary Emperor Zhun’s time (3rd millennium BC) it is believed to have been presented in the following order: metal (chin), stone (shih), silk (ssu), bamboo (che), gourd (piao), clay (t’u), leather (hoes), and wood (mutt) classes, and it correlated to the eight seasons and eight winds of Chinese culture, autumn and west, autumn-winter and NW, summer and south, spring and east, winter-spring and NE, summer-autumn and SW, winter and north, and spring-summer and SE, respectively.