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Object: Flute

Sep 27, 2018

Manufactured/made by He Le (approximate translation of Chinese writing on flute; one symbol is un-readable though)
20th Century
Material: Bamboo

This object is a wooden “Ti” flute made out of bamboo with Chinese writing on it. Flutes are thought to be one of the oldest musical instruments. A flute was found in China dating to 900 B.C. but the oldest known flutes have been found in Germany. These very early examples of flutes were made out of bone. Later versions were made out of wood or bamboo; today flutes can also be made of metal or plastic.


Dark bamboo wooden flutes. Image via Serenity Bamboo Flutes.

Flutes are part of the instrument family called woodwind. They are referred to as woodwinds because the original instruments were made out of wood and sound was produced by blowing wind through the instrument. The flute, and its smaller counterpart, called the piccolo which plays much higher notes, are only two of the instruments in the “flute family.”

In some instances, the physical appearance of the flute has changed over time. Originally it was a one-piece instrument, which is often still used today around the world. The westernized flutes that we see in concerts and symphonies in Texas and the United States have since been divided into three different sections that are inserted into each other to play. The amount of holes placed in the cylindrical tube-like instrument is another characteristic that has changed over time. The holes, which you cover with your fingers depending on the sounds that you want, and length of the flute have an impact on the music notes that come out of the flute when played.

We were not able to completely read the inscription on this flute…can you help us? Please leave us a comment below if you can read the inscription and let us know what it says. [Abby Goode, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Wei Hou – Chinese Wind Instruments

Additional Resources:
Hay, Katherine. 1980. East Asian influence on the composition and performance of contemporary flute music. University Microfilms International.

Lai, T. C., and Robert Mok. 1985. Jade flute: the story of Chinese music. New York: Schocken Books.

Li, Ming. 1995. Di-zi: the history and performance practice of the Chinese bamboo transverse flute. Thesis (Mus. D.)–Florida State University, 1995.

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