Fish drum

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The Elder Zhang Guo holding a fish drum

The Fish Drum (simplified Chinese: 鱼鼓; traditional Chinese: 魚鼓; pinyin: yu gu) is a Chinese percussion instrument. The name actually designates two rather different instruments, a membranophone and an idiophone.


The membranophone fish drum is the symbol of Elder Zhang Guo, one of the Eight Immortals. This drum is a long and slender piece of bamboo with a dried fish skin stretched over one end. Two smaller pieces of bamboo resembling golf clubs are used as Castanets.[1]


Wooden fish

There is also the idiophone, which is also called a wooden fish. This type of fish drum is used to accompany performers of changben or Chinese narrative ballads. They would accompany their singing on a yugu drum. It is also used as a drum to accompany cantonese opera. This drum is an idiophone, where the whole body of the instrument vibrates to produce sound. It is a small piece of wood carved into the shape of a fish, with a slit along the length of the body. This drum is then struck by a mallet to produce sound. A much larger version, with much more ornate decoration, symbolizing a mythical fish, whose sounds is supposed to attract divinity, is used in Taoist and Confucian ceremonies. This version of the drum, also struck by a mallet, is hit at regular intervals during Confucian and Taoist ceremonies to mark the intervals of prayer. It is connected with the use of rain prayers and prayers connected to death rites.

[2] [3][4]


  1. ^ "The Eight Immortals". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland for 1916, Reduced to HTML by Christopher M. Weimer, August 2002. 
  2. ^ Liu, Fei-Wen (2010). Asian Ethnology. pp. 241–264. 
  3. ^ "China: Bells. Instruments From East Asia On Display". National Music Museum. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  4. ^ Blades, James (1992). Percussion Instruments and Their History. Bold Strummer. p. 115.