Geographic Region: East Asia
Country of origin: South Korea
Is an Ensemble?: No
Related Instruments: Changgo,Puk,Kkwaenggwari,Korea: drumming
Author: Hae Joo Kim
The ching is the larger of two gongs used in Korean percussion music. It is made of brass and ranges in size from approximately 35 to 40 cm (13 to 16 in) in diameter, with an inward-sloping rim of approximately 8 to 10 cm (3 to 5 in) deep. It is approximately 3 mm thick. The size of the ching varies according to its usage: the ching used in p'ungmul nori (farmer's band music) is usually smaller than the ching used in court, Buddhist, or ritual music, in which cases it is sometimes referred to as the taegŭm (literally, "large metal"), as opposed to the kkwaenggwari, the small gong, which is sometimes known as the sogŭm ("small metal").
The ching has probably been in use in Korea longer than the smaller gong (kkwaenggwari).
In court music, and also in the contemporary genre of samul nori (concert stage-adaptation of p'ungmul nori), the ching can be seen being played in a seated position, sometimes held in one hand by a small cord looped through two holes at the top, or suspended on a wooden frame. In the genre of p'ungmul nori, the ching is carried around by its handle while the player engages in a procession or dance movements with the other percussionists. In the genre of sinawi (shamanic instrumental music), the ching may be held in the hand, not by its handle, allowing for more possibilities in sound quality. The ching is struck with a mallet, the head of which is wrapped in cloth, and thus it produces a soft tone.
See under Notation for Kkwaenggwari
The ching has probably been in use in Korea longer than the smaller gong (kkwaenggwari). It is featured in many genres of Korean music including shamanic, Confucian, Buddhist, military, and folk musics. In the military context of earlier times, the ching was used to signal retreat during battles.
Although the ching is seemingly the least "active" of Korean percussion instruments, especially compared to the relatively complex patterns played out by the changgo (hourglass drum), kkwaenggwari (small gong), and puk (barrel drum), it carries the vital role of underlining and punctuating the main beats in the cycles of changdan (rhythmic patterns) that give structure to the music. It not only provides a resonant base for the other instruments, its tone also sustains a unity within the ensemble as it "wraps" the sounds of the other instruments. Indeed many p'ungmul nori musicians consider the ching to be the most important instrument in a percussion ensemble.
See Korea: Drumming
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