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Hmong reed pipe (qeej), 1975 - 1995
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Object statement
Reed pipe (qeej), bamboo / wood / metal / plastic / string, maker unknown, Southeast Asia, [1975-1995]
The Hmong people are a marginalised minority displaced geographically from their original homeland of China. The Hmong are called Miao in China, although not all Miao people are Hmong. There are Hmong communities in China, Southeast Asia and western countries. The Hmong reed pipe (qeej) is an important cultural symbol on a material level. It is the best known of the Hmong instruments and keeps the shared tradition and cultural identity of the geographically scattered Hmong alive. Determination to retain their cultural and ethnic identity is a characteristic common to communities of Hmong people.

Music is an essential part of Hmong life. The qeej (reed pipe) is unique in that every note or sound corresponds to the spoken word of the Hmong language. However, few people understand the highly stylised and ritualistic language. Generally it is only the elders of a clan or master qeej players who understand the encoded message.

The qeej is traditionally played at funerals, weddings and Hmong New Year celebrations. Music played at New Year celebrations is joyful, wishing people good fortune in the coming year, but it is the funeral ritual where the qeej is most significant. The qeej 'speaks' a language that is thought to communicate to the spirit world. The core belief of the Hmong people is ancestor worship and belief in the ancestral afterworld. The music replicates the Hmong language, narrating the journey of the dead spirit into the afterworld. Elaborate funeral rites must be observed to facilitate the spirit's journey to join the ancestors in the afterworld or to be reborn.
TThis reed pipe was made in Southeast Asia between 1975 and 1995.

The Hmong reed pipe (qeej) is a free-reed multiple pipe musical instrument, with the pipes played horizontally. It is a solo instrument, although drums will intermittently accompany the qeej at a funeral. Qeej pipes vary in length from just over half a metre to 1½ metres and are measured precisely. The body is carved out of wood and hollowed. The mouthpiece is generally made of copper. The ties that secure the reeds and body together are usually made out of tree bark. Sound is produced by eight copper blades inserted in the instrument. The copper blades vibrate when the player exhales or inhales, and the desired notes are produced by correct finger placement. This Hmong reed pipe is typically Hmong and differs from other reed pipes in that it has a longer mouth piece and six reeds attached to the blower.

The qeej is traditionally played at funerals, weddings and Hmong New Year celebrations. In the funeral ritual the qeej 'speaks' a language that communicates to the spirit world. There are hundreds of ritual funeral songs including: the song to be born again (thawj thiab); the song showing the way (qhuab ke); the last breath reed music (qeej tu siav); the song to help the person mount the horse for the heavenward journey (qeej tsa nees) and the song to raise the body to help it on its way to the spirit world just before burial (qeej sawv kev).

The qeej is played exclusively by men. Becoming a qeej master is time-consuming and requires excellent recall of the precise note-fingering of each of the hundreds of songs in the qeej repertoire. Even an amateur qeej player needs a fairly large repertoire of songs as a funeral can last for several days. Ritual swinging, circular and acrobatic movements can accompany the music. The Hmong people believe that the spirits of ancestors continue to influence the daily lives and welfare of descendants. The descendants offer food and observe the proper rituals to worship and remember the ancestors.
This qeej was donated by the Hmong community through the Hmong Society's New South Wales branch.

A small community of Hmong people migrated to Australia in the late 1970s as a result of the takeover by Communist forces in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Most of the subsequent immigrants from Laos came to Australia under the Australian Government's Family Reunion Program.

 This text content licensed under CC BY-NC.

Description
Reed pipe (qeej), bamboo / wood / metal / plastic / string, maker unknown, Southeast Asia, [1975-1995]

A Hmong reed pipe (qeej) consisting of black plastic mouth piece and six bamboo tubes of varying lengths set into a wooden wind chest. The pipes are bound together with bands of bamboo or rattan and adhesive plastic. Black plastic tape is wrapped at regular intervals around the wind chest and the end of each pipe. A piece of string is attached below the mouth piece and at two places around the bamboo pipes. Attached to the string near the mouth piece is a small wooden toggle that can be placed into the mouth piece when the qeej is not being played. Stoppers are inserted in the lower end of five narrow pipes in yellow, black, blue, brown and cream plastic.

Made: South East Asia; 1975 - 1995
Marks
No marks.
2007/101/1
Production date
1975 - 1995
Height
675 mm
Width
72 mm

 This text content licensed under CC BY-SA.
Acquisition credit line
Gift of the Hmong Community Sydney, 2007
Subjects
+ Southeast Asian cultures
+ Musical instrument design
+ Traditional music
Short persistent URL
Concise link back to this object: http://from.ph/366407
Cite this object in Wikipedia
Copy and paste this wiki-markup:

{{cite web |url=http://from.ph/366407 |title=Hmong reed pipe (qeej) |author=Powerhouse Museum |accessdate=20 October 2014 |publisher=Powerhouse Museum, Australia}}


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