Xiao (flute)

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The xiao (, pronounced ) is a Chinese vertical end-blown flute. It is generally made of dark brown bamboo (called "purple bamboo" in Chinese). It is also sometimes (particularly in Taiwan) called dòngxiāo (), dòng meaning "hole." An ancient name for the xiāo is shùdí (, lit. "vertical bamboo flute", ) but the name xiāo in ancient times also included the side-blown bamboo flute, dizi.

The xiāo is a very ancient Chinese instrument usually thought to have developed from a simple end-blown flute used by the Qiang people of Southwest China. The modern six-hole form of the instrument goes back to the Ming Dynasty.


Xiao are today most often pitched in the key of G (with the D above middle C being the lowest note, with all fingers covered), although xiao in other less common keys are also available, most commonly in the key of F. More traditional xiao have six finger holes, while most modern ones have eight; the additional holes do not extend the instrument's range but instead make it easier to play notes such as F natural. There are a further four (sometimes two or six) sound holes situated at the bottom third of the length of the xiao. The blowing hole is at the top end, it may be cut into a 'U' shape, a "V" shape, or at an angle (with or without bone/ivory inlay.) Some xiao have the blowing end entirely cut off, so the player must use the space between their chin and lips...
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