The dizi (笛子) is a Chinese side-blown wind instrument made of bamboo. Since it is easy to learn and light to carry, it is also one of the most popular instruments in China. It is widely used in Chinese folk music, opera, an orchestra, and pop music.
The Dizi has a very simple structure: 1 blowhole, 1 membrane hole, 6 finger holes, and two pairs of holes at the bottom to hang decorative tassels and balance the pitch.
What makes the dizi so special is the "Mo-cong" (membrane hole). The Mo-Cong was invented in the Tang Dynasty by Liu Xi and named the instrument "Seven Star Tube". What makes the Mo-Cong special is its thin membrane covering called "dimo". The material used for this is a tissue-like shaving of reed (made from the inner skin of bamboo cells). It is made taut and glued over the membrane hole, usually with a substance called "ajiao", an animal glue from donkey. You can also use garlic juice to serve as the dimo, but should not be considered as a long term replacement.
When the dizi is played, the membrane vibrates. It can produce a bright tone but can also make sure the sound can be heard from long distances. According to what Liu Xi said, the purpose of his invention was "to help produce better tone quality". The membrane can be adjusted to suit different needs.
The history of the dizi dates back to the Stone Age. At the time, after men had hunted animals, people would dance and sing around the bonfires to celebrate. Some would drill holes in the animals' bones and blow it to create a sound. This is the earliest "Bone Dizi". Gradually, people found it is easier to make dizis using bamboo and some books about the instrument started to be written. In the early periods of the instrument's existence, "di" was the common term for both the xiao and dizi. Gradually people classified them by how they were played. The xiao is blown with the instrument vertical and the dizi is blown with the instrument horizontal. Some have tried to adapt the pan flute by adding the concept of the dizi into it and by doing so, it creates a larger range of sound which can, in some cases, enhance the performance.
There are two different kinds of dizi in China: Beipai and Nanpai. Generally slim and having a long figure, the beipai is found in Northern China and is referred to as "Bangdi". The pitch of it is also higher and the tone is brighter. The dizi in southern China is called qudi. The sound of it is more mellow and light yet the musical pieces played with it tend to be slower and less energetic.