Also:       xing      pengxing      shuangling      shuangqing      lingbo      

Contextual Associations

The pengling is a concussion idiophone of the Han Chinese. It is incorporated as an auxiliary instrument in the ensemble accompanying Beijing opera, as a punctuating instrument in some regional forms of instrumental ensemble music, and in Buddhist music.


The two halves of this instrument are made from a copper, zinc and tin alloy called xiangtong (‘resonant copper’) and are identical in size and shape. Their form resides on the boundary line between bells and cymbals; one of this instrument’s many names is, in fact, lingbo, or ‘bell cymbals.’ Compared to other Chinese cymbals, they lack a thin, broad and flat rim; instead, their rims are relatively thick and sloped. The two ‘bells’ are connected to one another with a cord the ends of which pass through small holes in their crowns and are secured with knots.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A pengling player holds the bells, one in each hand and with their openings facing upward, by their connecting string, pinching it between the thumb and index finger right next to the crowns. The player strikes the rim of one of the bells against the rim of the other and allows both to ring freely. This act of concussion yields a piercing chime. 


In all likelihood the pengling originated outside of China, possibly being introduced to western China (e.g., Tibet) from India around the 3rd century CE and appearing in the central plain by the Tang dynasty (7th - 10th centuries CE). (Thrasher, p. 32) Similar instruments, also likely of Buddhist Indian origin, are found on the Southeast Asian mainland.

Bibliographic Citations

Hsu, Tao-Ching. 1985. The Chinese Conception of the Theatre. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

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

Thrasher, Alan R. 1984. “Pengling.” NGDMI v.3: 32.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Nation: China

Formation: Han

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.142 idiophone--cymbals: vessel clappers with everted rim are struck against each other

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: clapping

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: plate - with concentric contouring

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: clapping

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


2.5 in. diameter

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Roger Vetter