The Bipa is a pear-shape lute that is a traditional Chinese musical instrument.

Dang-pipa and hyang-pipa
Tang dynasty pipa
15th century hyang-pipa
Illustrations from the 15th century Korean work Akhak Gwebeom showing a Tang-style pipa, and a Joseon Dynasty folk pipa. Dang-pipa was played with a plectrum, while the hyang-pipa was played with fingers (or finger-attachments).
An old Chinese bipa dated 1893.

In the past, there were two types of bipa: the hyang-bipa (향비파 / 鄕琵琶) and the dang-bipa (당비파 / 唐琵琶). Both are from China The latter is imported from Tang dynasty.

The bipa fell out of use in the early 20th century. Attempts to revive it initially failed in 1988/89 due to fact that there are no existing professional players [1] but recently was successful. The recreation uses the existing modern Chinese pipa as a basis and the two modern bipa types were constructed almost exactly like pipa but modified to the Korean form, even with the use of fake nails and techniques. The difference is in the reintroduction of the two soundholes on the front. As well as this, the other type uses five strings. The strings used are of nylon, rather than the metal-nylon used for the Chinese pipa.

A version of the hyangbipa is also used that follow more closely to the original lines, not made like Chinese pipa, using silk strings and being plucked with bare fingers or with a stick. This is used for more traditional music and sanjo.

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  1. ^ Professor Lee Sung-chun (1936 - 2003) made an attempt in 1989