Also:       p’ai-pan      ban      pan      chundu      

Title: The Chinese Opera: Arias from Eight Peking Opera; Fu Hsing Opera Academy, Taiwan. Label: Lyrichord. Format: LP. Catalog#: LLST 7212. Track: A-5.

Title: demo: Chinese ban; Wu Baofu, paiban, bangu. Format: DV.

Contextual Associations

The paiban (‘pai’ means ‘to strike’; ‘ban’ means ‘flat board’) is a concussion idiophone of the Han Chinese. It is used in the percussion section of the Beijing opera ensemble (see 'Jingju (Beijing Opera) Ensemble from China') and played along with the bangu drum by a single musician. The paiban is also used in some regional instrumental ensembles, such as the Jiangnan sizhu, and in some of regional folk Daoist ensembles, as can be gleaned from pictures in Stephen Jones' book Folk Music of China (see photos on pages 105 and 258).


The paiban consists of three long rectangular blocks of hardwood, one of which is slightly thicker than the other two. All three blocks have two small holes drilled through them at about one-third their total length from one end. The thicker block and one of the thinner ones are tightly tied together near one end with silk cord, effectively making them into a single block. The single thin block is then attached loosely to the thicker composite block with a strip of cotton cloth that is threaded through the above-mentioned holes.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The middle of the thick composite block of the paiban is grasped in the player’s left hand with his thumb between it and the thin block, which hangs slightly askew. With a staccato flick of the performer’s wrist, the ends of the two blocks come into contact and produce a clear, dry, woodblock-like sound. Typically, the leader of the percussion section accompanying Beijing opera handles the bangu, paiban, and tanggu, often playing the first two simultaneously (in which case he uses only one beater for the bangu). As can be seen and heard in the accompanying video clip, the sound quality of the bangu and paiban are very similar, and when played in rapid alternation with one another they sound like a single instrument. In Beijing opera performance practice the paiban is sounded in combination with the daluo, xiaoluo, jingbo, and bangu to perform labeled rhythmic patterns called luogudianzi (‘gong and drum rhythmic patterns’), which are used to accompany dramatic stage action such as flamboyant entrances, battles, and acrobatics (listen to audio clip). At other times, such as during arias, the paiban/bangu player simply marks the beat.


Clappers similar to the paiban date back to the Tang dynasty (7th - 10th centuries CE), although they had a greater number of blocks and were played with both hands. The paiban as pictured and described here evolved at a later date. 

Bibliographic Citations

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

Liang, Mingyue. 1985. Music of the Billion: An Introduction to Chinese Musical Culture. New York: Heinrichshofen.

Thrasher, Alan R. 1984. "Paiban [p’ai-pan]." NGDMI v.3: 3-4.

Witzleben, J. Lawrence. 1995. ‘Silk and Bamboo’ Music in Shanghai. Kent: Kent State University Press.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Nation: China

Formation: Han

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.11 idiophone--concussion sticks or stick clappers: two or more are struck against each other

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: block - oblong bar

Sound objects per instrument: two sounded collectively

Resonator design: no resonator

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: concussing - direct

Sound exciting agent: colliding sonorous objects

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


10.6 in. length

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Roger Vetter, Toby Austin