FONG SHOU KONG HOU – A Phoenix Bird Head
The name of Fong Shou Kong Hou was based on the decoration on the instrument’s neck.
Fong Shou means the head of the Phoenix Bird.
At the beginning of the Dong Jin Dynasty (317 – 420 A.D.), the
Fong Shou Kong Hou was introduced into China from India, as traders traveled through the Middle East
or Asia Minor along the Silk Road. In India, this instrument called the Vina disappeared
gradually during the Gupta Dynasty (300 – 500 A.D.). Yet the traditional Vina was retained in Burma,
Cambodia, and Java to the present day. In Burma, its name was the Tsuan.
During the 53rd year of the reign of Ch’ien Lung (1788), the Burmese Ambassador donated a Tsuan to the
Emperor as a gift. The traditional design of the Vina is also the Fong Shou Kong Hou.
The Fong Shou Kong Hou has a long neck with pins on the side. These pins were placed on the Kong Hou to
tie the strings. However, some of the Fong Shou Kong Hous were without pins; the strings were
simply tied up at the neck of the instrument. The sound box on the bottom was shaped like a boat.
Pictures of the Flying Apsaras in the caves of Dunhuang to this day show one type of Fong Shou Kong
Hou with only one string tied on the beak of the Phoenix at the neck. The Apsara in flight holds the
neck of the Kong Hou in one hand and plucks the string with another, probably using one or two fingers.