Jen Ho's - Chinese drum arts
By Shanzi Chen
Translated by Ann Lee
Xian Jen Ho Bell Drum Factory
171, ZhongZheng Rd, Xinzhuang City, Taipei
(02) 2992-7402, (02) 2991-2468
In certain circles, Taipei
County's Xinzhuang City has created a nice
little reputation for itself, thanks to the
handmade Chinese drums created by the Xian
Jen Ho studio there.
Xian Jen Ho was founded 82 years ago by Mr.
Wang Guei-zi (a.k.a. A-Tun) and is today run
by a member of the second generation, Mr.
Wang Xi-kuen, who has embraced the skills
and artistry of Chinese drums. The founding
Wang originally had no intention of encouraging
his children to follow in his footsteps, because
of the labor-intensive, very challenging skills
required. About 20 years ago, however, A-Tun
abruptly passed away, plunging the family
business into crisis. As the eldest son, Wang
Xi-kuen didn't want all of his father's hard
work to go to waste, so he plunged into the
production of Chinese drums, investing his
time and energy to learn from scratch.
Fortunately, Wang's sincere
efforts have paid off, making Xian Jen Ho
famous throughout the local community and
further abroad, as the studio has received
continuous requests from around the world.
The studio's most famous drum to date is a
two-sided bass drum with a 126-centimeter
diameter. The Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche
appointed Xian Jen Ho to fabricate this creation
to sit within a temple atop a 5,000-meter
peak in Nepal.
Chinese drums come in many
types and are used for various purposes, including
religious uses in Buddhism, Daoism, Zen Buddhism
and Lamaism. Specific drum shapes and sounds
can have different meanings while, on a secular
level, the drums are used for festivals, stage
productions, even for exercising, or simply
celebrated as a folk art.
Regardless of purpose, a drum
starts to take shape with the cutting off
of fat from the drum skin. Then the drum body
(barrel) is made. After a membrane (drum leather)
covers its body, the drum is tested (known
as "stepping") and finely tuned--a
process entirely done by hand and taking a
few days, but necessary for high-quality,
While it's hard to believe
that a drum skin fastened with copper nails
can make good, lasting sounds, Mr. Wang says,
"The greatness of the drum can be proven
through time, just like the drums my father
made. Their sounds are still steady and powerful,
even after 70 years or more, so you can see
how diligent he was when he made them."
Other ancient drums from all over the world
are also displayed in the cultural center
next to the factory. To really feel what personality
a drum has and appreciate the varied sounds
they make, Wang also advises, "Drums
are not to be looked at; you should hit them
to see what kind of feeling the sounds portray."
Wang's commitment to Chinese
drum culture is ubiquitous at Xian Jen Ho.
Visitors who enjoy listening or drumming themselves
will love this place. For the uninitiated,
this is also a great learning experience.
Regardless of who visitors are, Xian Jen Ho's
culture center and factory welcome both individuals
and groups for tours.
Other related activities:
"Happiness. Beauty": Taipei Cultural
Festival Activity--The Miracle of Drums in
Xinzhuang, Jen Ho Drums Cultural Exhibition,
In addition to many website articles about
Xian Jen Ho, a book about the studio's history
and heritage was published by the Xinzhuang
City Culture Center of Arts. For more book
information, call (02) 2276-0182.