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The Chinese Gong
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The Chinese Gong

The gong is a disk shaped piece of hammered metal that can vary in size. Most are constructed out of bronze or brass, but other metals such as copper and tin also have been used. Gongs usually have a central dome, but flat domes can be used as well. The rims of the gongs are usually turned-down.  Sound is produced by striking the metal with a knobbed beater. The gong vibrates at the center to produce a pitch, which is defined as either definite or indefinite.

There are three broad types of gongs:
1.    Suspended gongs are flat, circular discs of metal. They are suspended and held vertically.
2.    Bowl gongs resemble bells. They are bowl-shaped and rest on cushions.
3.    Bossed gongs have a raised center boss. They are often suspended and played horizontally.

The metal(s) used to create the gong is critical because it determines the quality of the sound. If the gong isn’t constructed properly, then the sound can either be flat, empty, or high pitched. When selecting a gong, it is important to note the type(s) of metal used and to test the quality of the sound.

Background of the Gong
The gong is the oldest percussion instrument that is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia or the Middle East. The earliest form of the gong was flat. However, the earliest documentation of this instrument in history was during the 6th century in China. The Chinese mentioned that the gong was introduced by foreigners of the Hsi Yu nation located between Burma and Tibet. Gong making became an art and was protected as a sacred family secret. Gongs came to represent the wealth and social status of a family.
From Asia, gongs spread to Africa and then the West. However, the form of the gong used by Western orchestras during the 1800s was the one developed by the Chinese. They had created a large, narrow rimmed gong of indefinite pitch.

The practice of Feng Shui utilizes the gong as a minor cure to bring good to the environment and rid of negativity. It is believed that the ringing of the gong is a way to communicate to the spirit world and invite kind spirits to protect the household. Gongs came to symbolize luck because it was thought of as lucky if the kind spirits came. Feng Shui also uses the sounds of the gong as a healing element. The pleasing sounds are believed to be able to relieve tension and anger during stressful situations. As a result, today gongs are found as a part of home and garden decoration.

Orchestras worldwide use the gong for its distinctive musical vibrations and powerful effect on the audience. It is not uncommon for orchestras to utilize multiple types of gongs at once. A beautiful instrument, it is also visually pleasing on stage.

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