Bianzhong is a kind of the percussion instruments in ancient China. It has pure silvery and lingering sound. Its long history dates back to the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BC), when a set of 3 bronze bells was common, though the earlier pottery type of the late Stone Age was unearthed in Shaanxi Province. From the 5th to the 3rd century BC the number of bells was increasing, mostly to 9 and a few to 13.
The largest set ever seen was from the tomb of Zenghou Yi (the 5th century BC) in Hubei Province. This archaeological find has become a focus of world academic attention. The set consists of 64 bells, hung in three layers. The upper ones are called niuzhong, i.e. bells with bronze loops for vertical suspension; those on the two lower layers are called yongzhong, i.e. bells with handles for suspension at a slight angle. Because of the bells shape two different pitches, a major or minor third apart, can be produced on any of the bells, depending on the two striking locations, the frontal or the lateral. 12 semi-tones are found in the set, with a total range of 5 octaves.
The inscriptions on the bells unite to form a literature of a large tone system, valuable sources for the study of the musical culture in the period of the Warring States (475-221 BC). With the construction for two different pitches from a single bell and the unique casting technology, the bianzhong has established itself as the eighth wonder of the world.
This miniature set of bianzhong bells are reproduced for your collection. Try play with it for some simple music.