Notes of ancient instrument bianzhong ring out in space
Housed by the National Museum of China, a set of bianzhong, or ancient Chinese chime bells, charms many visitors. The set contains thirteen bells and each is able to ring double tones, offering a unique musical experience that dates back several thousand years.
Dating back to China's Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), the chimes were unearthed in Xinyang, central China's Henan Province in 1957. A team consisting of music masters went to the location at the time and played "Dongfanghong," a folk song paying tribute to late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, on the bianzhong.
In 1970, China's first man-made satellite Dongfanghong-1 was successfully launched, and it played the song "Dongfanghong" while in orbit. The music, which sounded very much like bianzhong, was then sent to China National Radio and aired for all to hear.
Although the music resembled the ringing of the ancient chime bells, according to China Academy of Space Technology, researchers actually made a special musical device to mimic the original song with electronic music.
The unearthing of the bianzhong has forever changed the world's understanding of ancient Chinese music. The connections with China's first communications satellite Dongfanghong-1 adds even more charm to this piece of music heritage.