The pipa (Chinese: 琵琶; pinyin: pípá, [pʰǐpʰǎ]) is a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments. Sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12 to 26. Another Chinese four-string plucked lute is the liuqin, which looks like a smaller version of the pipa.
The pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for almost two thousand years in China. Several related instruments in East and Southeast Asia are derived from the pipa; these include the Japanese biwa, the Vietnamese đàn tỳ bà, and the Korean bipa. The Korean instrument is the only one of the three that is no longer used; examples survive in museums, but attempts to revive that instrument failed.
The earliest mention of pipa in Chinese texts appeared late in the Han Dynasty around 2nd century CE. According to Liu Xi’s Eastern Han Dynasty Dictionary of Names, the word pipa may have…