International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

28th ICTM Colloquium: From Musical Bow to Zithers Along the Silk Road (1–3 December 2022, Shanghai, China)

The 28th ICTM Colloquium titled From Musical Bow to Zithers along the Silk Road is expected to reveal a number of aspects important for further research on the history and use of string instruments in regions and areas connected to the Silk Road. The musical bow is an instrument often being placed at the beginning of instrumental developments, although it is not yet proven that this is the case. The musical bow may have been just one of many musical instruments that were used to create sound with specific features. 

The descriptions of musical bows found so far are pointing towards the cultures in Africa, yet there are plenty of musical bows found across Asia, which are not well known. There are also many deriving musical instruments found in current practice such as plucked idiophones (all types of jaw’s harps) and musical bows of different shapes with and without resonators. Zithers that come next to mind, such as the Thai phin phia or the Vietnamese dan bau, many multiple string goongs (tube zithers) of the highland communities of mainland Southeast Asia or various boat-shaped lutes that are principally related to zithers, as well as many zithers of the Middle East and Europe, harps and lyres that may be derivates of them in Egypt and other places respectively such as the Chinese kam, not to forget the sophisticatedly hammered zithers of the santur/yangqin type, are seemingly the other end of a long development. 

This colloquium challenges some previous descriptions and tries to overcome one-sided explanations of historical developments. It is a step into re-researching progression lines, connecting the idea of instrumental developments with the natural resources of large regions. Sound production, especially with musical instruments, is but one important aspect of the colloquium. Another aspect is to incite ongoing discussion on global changes in this regard and the role of ethnomusicology as a discipline with high responsibility to guide local decision-making and interregional cooperation for joint research. 

The colloquium will focus mainly on thought-provoking new ideas and on the gathering of as many as possible facts about the topic in order to provide a strong basis for future investigations. Its outcomes will be published timely thereafter and made accessible online.

In addition to an important exchange of scientific ideas in sessions, the colloquium will also offer a platform for workshops and concerts to encourage discussion and serve as examples.

The envisioned thematic frames include the following questions:

  1. How do human beings behave towards natural resources in their efforts to achieve their social goals through using simple chordophones such as musical bows and zithers? 
  2. What changes in acoustemological approaches when the use of simple chordophones such as musical bows and zithers is seen from different perspectives?
  3. How are these specific musical instruments performed?
  4. Which transmission methods, constructions, and local preferences are formed in different historical contexts?
  5. What are the developmental implications in an interregional exchange of knowledge about these specific musical instrument types?

Scale of the colloquium

15-20 scholars from China and abroad will attend the colloquium. 

Colloquium date

From 1 to 3 December 2022

Colloquium site

Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Shanghai, China / Online

Colloquium Language

Presentations will be mainly in English, with Chinese as an auxiliary language. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided by the Local Arrangements Committee.

Program Committee

  • Xiao Mei (China)
  • Pornprapit Phoasavadi (Thailand)
  • Razia Sultanova (UK/Uzbekistan)
  • Jasmina Talam (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Manfred Bartmann (Austria/Germany)
  • Saule Utegalieva (Kazakhstan)
  • Gisa Jähnichen (China/Germany)

Local Arrangements Committee

  • Xiao Mei
  • Chen Daiying
  • Xu Xin
  • Gisa Jähnichen


  1. Ahmad Faudzi Musib, Arthur Borman
    PhD, Putra University, Madeeh Musician
    Bidayuh Pratuokng and Pretong sound faculties in Sarawak
  2. Chinthaka P. Meddegoda
    PhD, University of the Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo
    From Surmandel to Taishogoto: South Asian Reputation of Zithers
  3. Gisa Jähnichen
    Prof. Shanghai Conservatory of Music
    Stick Zithers and Their Sound in the Regional Context of Mainland Southeast Asia
  4. Han Mei (韩梅)
    PhD, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro TN
    A Perspective on the Modernization of the Chinese Zheng through Reflections of my Study of Contemporary Koto Music
  5. Hans Brandeis
    PhD, Alumni of Free University Berlin
    The ‘Boat Lutes’ of Borneo
  6. Henry Johnson
    Prof, University of Otago, New Zealand
    Sounding Silk: Heritagization and Zithers along Japan’s Maritime Silk Road
  7. Jasmina Talam, Lana Šehović
    Prof. Academy of Music, University of Sarajevo, PhD. Academy of Music, University of Sarajevo
    The Practice of Playing Cymbals and Qanuns in Bosnian Cafes from a Historical Perspective
  8. Long Fei (陇菲)
    Independent researcher, China
    From a Musical Bow to Guqin
  9. Manfred Bartmann
    Assoc. Prof. University of Salzburg
    Pressing Down String and Plank: Playing Techniques to Convert a Zither into a Musical Bow and Vice Versa
  10. Palmer Keen
    independent researcher, Yogyakarta
    Striking the Bamboo Gong: A Survey of Indonesian Tube Zithers in the 21st Century
  11. Pornprapit Phoasavadi
    Assoc. Prof., Chulalongkorn University
    A Dialogue with a Lonely Zither: Social Applications and Symbolic Meanings of Jakhay from Thailand
  12. Wei Qingbing(韦庆炳)
    Master, Guangxi Arts University
    The Development of the One-string-zither from the Perspective of Southern China
  13. Roundtable: The Musics and Ecology of Bowed Half-tube Zithers in China and East Asia
    Organizer: Xiao Mei(萧梅)(Prof. Shanghai Conservatory of Music)
    Speakers:Xiao Mei(萧梅), Cui Xiaona(崔晓娜)(Prof. Hebei Normal University), Chu Zhuo(楚卓)(Assoc. Prof. Guangxi Arts of University), Xiong Manyu(熊曼谕)(Doctoral candidate.Shanghai Conservatory of Music)