The Pipa is a plucked string instrument. Sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with four strings.
It has been played for nearly two thousand years in China, and belongs to the plucked category of instruments . Several related instruments in East and Southeast Asia are derived from the pipa; these include the Japanese biwa, the Vietnamese Mon ton, and the Korean bipa.
The name "pipa" is made up of two Chinese syllables, "pi" and "pa " . These are the two most common ways of playing this instrument.
"Pi" is to push the fingers of the right hand from right to left, thus more than one finger can be used at a time striking multiple notes, and "pa" is to pull the thumb of the right hand from left to right, in the opposite direction. The strings were originally played using a
large plectrum in the Tang Dynasty, then gradually replaced by the fingernails of the right hand. Since the revolutions in Chinese instrument making during the 20th century, the softer twisted silk strings of earlier times have been exchanged for nylon-wound steel strings, which are far too strong for human fingernails, so false nails are now used, constructed of plastic or tortoise-shell, and affixed to the fingertips with the player"s choice of elastic tape.