Lusheng-making Technique of the Miao Ethnic Group
Lusheng is the Chinese name for a musical instrument with multiple bamboo pipes, each fitted with a free reed, which are fitted into a long blowing tube. It most often has five or six pipes of different pitches, and is thus a polyphonic instrument. It comes in sizes ranging from very small to several meters in length.
Lusheng is used primarily in the rural regions of southwestern China, where it is played by ethnic groups such as the Dong and Miao. Performers often dance or swing the instrument from side to side while playing.
County in Guizhou Province is an important Lusheng production base. In addition to some musical knowledge, the making of Lusheng also requires the craftsmen to know some physics and mechanics. Traditionally, the craftsmen in Leishan make Lusheng by using bellows, hammers, brass, axes, chisels, saws, drills, bitter bamboos, Chinese wood oil and calcareousness (some have replaced it with latex).
In Leishan, the making of Lusheng is taught by example, without any written records.
In Daguan County of Yunnan Province, Lusheng is produced mainly in areas where the Miao people are living. The Lusheng there are made from bitter bamboos, birch barks, firs, and sheet coppers with such tools as Chinese knives, saws, planes, drills, hammers, knives and furnaces.
Traditionally Lusheng has six pipes of different pitches. But Wang Jiefeng, a Lusheng-making master in the Daguan area, innovated Lusheng by adding two and four pipes to it, making it an instrument with eight or ten pipes of different pitches. He also increased the proportion of the lead when smelting brass for the Lusheng, which makes the reeds in Lusheng more elastic and the sound more dulcet. From then on, the Lusheng made by Wang gained great popularity and fame among the Miao villages around the borders of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces.
Unfortunately, there are fewer craftsmen who are capable of making Lusheng skillfully like Master Wang Jiefeng in the area.