A theoretical study of the vibration and acoustics of ancient Chinese bells

J Acoust Soc Am. 2003 Sep;114(3):1622-8. doi: 10.1121/1.1600727.


In this paper, the acoustics of an ancient Chinese bell, which was made some 3000 years B.C., is studied theoretically. In ancient times, a set of the bells was used as a musical instrument. Unlike a western church bell and an ancient Indian bell, an ancient Chinese bell has two interesting acoustics. First, two tones can be heard separately as the bell is struck at two special points. The interval between the two pitches is always a minor or major third. Second, tones of the bell attenuate quickly, which is necessary for a musical instrument. So, an ancient Chinese bell is sometimes called a two-tone bell or a music bell. Although a three-dimensional model should be used to simulate the acoustics of the bell, a simplified model proposed in this paper does give some insight. Based on the lens-shaped cross section of an ancient Chinese bell, two tones of an ancient Chinese bell can be simulated by the vibration of a double-circular arch and the quick attenuation of tones can be simulated by acoustics of a cylinder with the lens-shaped cross section like a double-circular arch. Numerical results on the vibration and acoustics of the models are presented.