ISSN: 2625-378X


The Sistrum and the Stick Rattles Sabayi and Sachi

Long Fei [陇菲]

ASIAN-EUROPEAN MUSIC RESEARCH JOURNAL 5 (2020)     pp: 73-91     2020-06-30

Stichworte/keywords: sistrum, stick rattle, sabayi, sachi, ritual use

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[陇菲], L.F. (2020). The Sistrum and the Stick Rattles Sabayi and Sachi. ASIAN-EUROPEAN MUSIC RESEARCH JOURNAL, 5 , 73-91. doi:10.30819/aemr.5-9
doi = {10.30819/aemr.5-9},
url = {},
year = 2020,
publisher = {Logos Verlag Berlin},
volume = {5},
pages = {73-91},
author = {Long Fei [陇菲]},
title = {The Sistrum and the Stick Rattles Sabayi and Sachi},

This paper gives a brief outline of inherited links between various instruments. In doing so, attention is given to their spread and transformation process from an ancient Egyptian sistrum to a different type of a stick rattle1, also known as xi-stick or xízhàng in Chinese. This instrument once existed during the middle ages. In the process of time however, its use was witnessed in the Uyghur’s’ sabayi, the sachi and further to the Vietnamese sinh tien and the Japanese suzu.

These instruments can create a rapid succession of rattling and complex sounds, some of which simulating frogs croaking during tropical rainy seasons. Other sounds imitate the repeated thrum of rattlesnakes searching for a spouse. Depending on time and place, the former are linked with praying for rain and the latter with reproduction.

Thus, the rattles this study discusses are, among others, used in prayers for fertility and rain, peace and safety, healing rituals (curing diseases), for longevity. Furthermore, these rattles are sounded to ward off evil spirits, exorcise plagues and to keep poisonous animals away. All these resemble the mythological connotation to the copulating of Fuxi and Nuwa. Hence, they belong to the specific worldviews closely connected with the importance of reproduction in early times of humankind. They all involve fertility, death, reincarnation, eternal life, and the function of triggering trance, in which people seem to feel connected with heaven and earth, deities or ancestors.