The drum is a common percussion instrument. In China, the drum is an important instrument that has a very long history. It is not only an instrument but also a tool to convey messages in China.
Drum in China
China, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt and Ancient India are thought to be the place where the drum originated. In ancient periods, the drum was thought to be a holy instrument with which people could communicate to god. It was mainly used for fete, sacrifice ritual, hunting and war purposes. Since it has a powerful sound, people can hear it from far away or in noisy environment and for this reason, which is why it's so useful in the previously mentioned activities. Its sound can also be applied in activities such as timekeeping or as an alarm.
According to some 4500 year old unearthed relics, the earliest drum was made of clay. It evolved from clay jams and basins and gradually many different kinds of materials were used to make drums. The most common material was the skin of an alligator because they are considered to be a fierce and powerful animal, which matches the characteristic of the drum. Nowadays, the drum is no longer used in war, but it is a very important instrument in some traditional celebrations such as New Year's Day and weddings. In the traditional Chinese activity of "Dragon Boat Racing", the drum is essential to manipulate the rhythm of the rowing and enhance their morale.
The Chinese drum was supposedly invented by Han People. It also absorbed some features of other minorities and other nations such as Saudi Arabia and India.
Types of drum
Waist drum: The waist drum started to become popular in about 400 AD and is round in shape. Usually there are animal skins at the top and bottom and the body of it is often red. There are two iron hoops at the two sides of the drum. People hang it at their waist using a rope and play it with sticks. There is a famous Chinese opera called "Flower Drum Dance" which uses the waist drum in the performance.
Flower Pot Drum: The reason for this name is due to its shape; like a flower pot in a large size. The top of it is much wider than the bottom and it usually lays on the floor. It is widely used in Peking Operas, other local operas and other solo or instrumental ensembles.
Book Drum: The book drum is a small kind of drum. It is usually used in a traditional Chinese performance called "Storytelling". The sound of it is more emphatic and the storyteller uses the drum to show the development of the story and the characters' emotions.