Konghou, also called Kanhou, is an ancient plucked stringed instrument in China. There are mainly three kinds of Konghou: one is played lying flat, one is played upright and another one is the phoenix-headed Konghou.

As early as the Spring and Autumn (770-476BC) and Warring States (475-221BC) period, there appeared the rudiment ofKonghouplayed lying flat in the Chu Kingdom in southern China.

Konghouwas originally used in court music、and was used in Qingshangyue (a music genre) in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). It was used inYanyue(music played in court banquets) in the Sui Dynasty (581-618), and gradually prevailed among the ordinary people and in places inhabited by ethnic minorities.

Konghouplayed upright appeared in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) and got popular in the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties. It was generally played in rites and ceremonies.

The phoenix-headedKonghouwas introduced from India to the Central Plains of China in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), and was prevalent in the Sui and Tang Dynasties.

Konghou, with its sweet tamber and wide diapason, can be used to play not only cantus but also chord and has many advantages in both solo and tutti performances. It was an indispensable instrument in China's ancient royal courts. From basso-relievo in the Yungang Grottoes of Datong and Dunhuang murals we can see persons playingKouhou. This shows thatKouhouplaying was very popular in China a long time ago.


卧箜篌wò kōng hóu :played lying flat
竖箜篌shù kōng hóu  :played upright
凤首箜篌 fèng shǒu kōng hóu :phoenix-headed Konghou
楚国chǔ guó :Chu Kingdom
雅乐yǎ lè :court music