No one can say for sure when and where the story of the violin began. By the end of the 1800s, the consensus was that it came into being between two important dates in history, the first voyage of Columbus in 1492 and the birth of Shakespeare in 1564. Many believe its creation was in Europe but that is not the case. In fact, its birth was in the East, and it migrated into Europe by way of the Silk Road. By exploring the Eastern World of Bowed Instruments, I aim to shine light on a topic not often discussed among modern violinists. By discussing the birth of the earliest Eastern violin, each instrument’s development and impact on society will be examined. The countries in which these bowed instruments will be further discussed throughout this thesis include; China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Java, India, and Iran. Additionally, the instrument’s crucial part in society will be discussed. Accordingly, the research done to support the development of Eastern bowed instruments has been supported and collected from numerous historical books, journals, paintings and diagrams, as well as first-hand accounts. For an instrument of such beauty as the violin, it is incredible that something so exquisite could have risen from strands of horsehair, pieces of wood and woven gut. In fact, primitive forms of string instruments are widespread, developing more slowly compared to other types of instruments such as the flute, which requires less materials. The earliest theory was that the bow originated from the hunter’s bow. One could see the pitch of the bowstring change with the tension, creating pathways to experiments. Actually, the modern-day violin came into being around 1577, created by Andrea Amati in Italy. Amati’s shape formed the foundation of the violin as we know it today. String instruments can be classified into the group chordophones and broken into three categories: plucked, struck and bowed. Each sorting uses strings to produce sound but differs in 5 the way in which it is produced. In this thesis, bowed instruments will be examined, as this is more relevant to the modern-day violin. The search for the birth of the violin led to a new world of disarranged lineage, research and alternative models set forth over thousands of years. Taking a closer look as these unconventional and sometimes strange instruments can unlock the secrets of our violin past.

To the next generation of string players,

Sarah Ann Bogen


Asian instruments, Non-western bowed instruments

Document Type


Year of Completion



Dale Stuckenbruck

Academic Department