China Underground > Chinese Music > Chinese Instruments > The Ding Bengba: A Unique Instrument of the Dai People

The Ding Bengba: A Unique Instrument of the Dai People

Last Updated on 2023/11/23

The “ding bengba” (玎崩巴) is a traditional Chinese instrument, deeply rooted in the cultural heritage of the Dai people (傣族) of Yunnan Province, located in southwest China. This instrument is a distinct example of the rich and diverse musical traditions that thrive in this region.

Description and Design

The ding bengba is a three-stringed plucked lute, showcasing the skilled craftsmanship of the Dai people. Its design bears a resemblance to the niutuiqin (牛腿琴), an instrument belonging to the Dong people. One of the most striking features of the ding bengba is its soundbox, which is slender and round-backed. This soundbox is crafted meticulously from a single block of Toona sinensis wood, a material chosen for its acoustic properties and durability.

To complete the instrument, a soundboard made of bamboo is used. This bamboo piece is carefully prepared by removing the skin, ensuring that it resonates well when the strings are plucked. The combination of Toona sinensis wood and bamboo gives the ding bengba a unique sound, distinguished by its clarity and depth.

Linguistic and Cultural Significance

The name “ding bengba” itself carries significant linguistic and cultural meanings in the context of the Dai people. In the Ruili dialect of the Tai Nüa language, part of the Southwestern branch of the Tai language group (also known in Chinese as the Dehong Dai language, 德宏傣语), the term “ding” (玎) is a reference to string instruments. Meanwhile, “bengba” (崩巴) translates to “fish.” This naming is likely influenced by the instrument’s fish-like shape, reflecting the close relationship between the Dai people’s daily life and their natural surroundings.

Geographical Distribution

The ding bengba enjoys popularity particularly in the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture (德宏傣族景颇族自治州) of western Yunnan province. This area is known for its rich ethnic diversity and cultural vibrancy. Additionally, the instrument is also prevalent in Lincang (临沧市), situated in the southwestern part of Yunnan. Its presence in these regions highlights the instrument’s importance as a cultural symbol and its role in the musical traditions of the local communities.

Featured image source: Youtube

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