huapen gu

Contextual Associations

The huapen gu is a double-headed membranophone of the Han Chinese. ‘Huapen gu’ translates as ‘flowerpot drum,’ in reference to the distinctive shape of the drum shell. It is painted a bright red with stylized representations of dragons. The drum is mostly found in modern Chinese chamber and orchestra ensembles, but one is pictured in Stephen Jones' book Folk Music of China (p. 250) as part of a folk Daoist ensemble.


The shell of this drum appears to be made from a solid block of wood hollowed out internally to approximately the same goblet shape as its exterior. The cowhide heads are stretched over both of the shell's open ends and held in place and tension with double rows of tightly spaced tacks. Unpadded stick beaters are used to strike the drumheads.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The shell is suspended vertically in its stand with the larger of its membranes facing up. The head is struck with two heavy wood beaters by a standing musician.


Thrasher (1984) states that the huapen gu is derived from the barrel-shaped tanggu. It appears to be of relatively recent origin, quite likely in the 20th century.

Bibliographic Citations

Jones, Stephen. 1995. Folk Music of China: Living Instrumental Traditions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thrasher, Alan R. 1984. "Tanggu." NGDMI v.3: 522.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Nation: China

Formation: Han

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.252.11 membranophone--individual double-skin conical drum, one skin used for playing

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - bulging-conical

Number and function of membranes: two, one for sounding and one for resonance

Membrane design: unframed

Membrane attachment: unframed membrane nailed to shell

Membrane tension control: none, tension set at time of manufacture

Sounding for membranophone: striking with two handheld beaters

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


24 in. height of shell 24.5 in. greatest width of shell 20.3 in. diameter of upper shell opening 12.5 in. diameter of lower shell opening

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin

Entry Author

Roger Vetter