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Title: demo: ching. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The ching is a Korean gong idiophone. In the past it was used as a military signaling instrument and for taech'wit'a, military processional music. Other longstanding contexts of usage are as part of ensembles accompanying court (where it was called taegum and used sparingly in the Rite to Royal Ancestors), Buddhist, and some regional shamanistic rituals, and for nongak (farmers' music). In the recently created concert genre of samullori, which evolved from nongak in the last few decades of the 20th century, the ching plays a prominent role (see ‘Nongak and Samullori Ensembles from Korea’). Due in part to its weight, it is nearly always played by a male musician.


The ching is a boss-less flat gong made of forged brass. The gong has a 3.5 inch deep lip or turned-back rim into which is drilled two holes for a handle made from cotton cloth (see detail image). The beater used to strike it is made from dowel of wood with a spherical padded head at one end.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The performer holds the ching by its cloth strap with his left hand (it can also be hung from a wood frame) while striking it with the beater held in the right hand. It is struck in the center of its face with considerable force, producing a soft attack followed by a complex wash of overtones that takes several seconds to decay (similar to the sound of the orchestral tam-tam) and ideally includes three undulations described as samp’aum (three-wave sound). The gong is often re-struck before the sound of the previous strike has decayed. In nongak performance the performer is typically standing or dancing when playing the ching; for samullori performances the gong is usually suspended vertically from a wooden stand and is struck by a seated player. Whether in nongak or samullori, the primary musical function of the ching is to accentuate the main beats of rhythmic patterns (sibi ch’a) played on the small kkwaenggwari gong. It is the driving pulse of a performance.


The earliest mention of the ching (under the name taegum) is in a late 15th century treatise, where it is reported as being used as a signal instrument in a royal ensemble. Although mention of folk bands appear in Chinese and Korean literatures from even before that date, the ching and other instruments are not mentioned or described in detail. As is so often the case, the socially elite individuals possessing the power to write and chronicle did not always concern themselves with, or possibly even know about, peasant culture and its musical facet.

Bibliographic Citations

Hesselink, Nathan. 2006. P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Howard, Keith. 1995. Korean Musical Instruments. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.

________. 2002. "Nongak (P’ungmul Nori." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 929-940.

Provine, Robert C. 1984. “Ching (i).” NGDMI v.1: 355.

Song, Kyong-rin. 1973. “Korean Musical Instruments.” In Survey of Korean Arts: Traditional Music. Seoul: National Academy of Arts, pp. 28-76.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Nation: South Korea

Formation: Korean

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.241.11 idiophone--bossed percussion vessel gong, flat gong (with flange), and intermediate types

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: plate - contoured with folded-over rim

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - stick with padded ball end

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


14.9 in. diameter

Primary Materials

strap - cloth

Entry Author

Roger Vetter, Toby Austin