The grand dame of plucked-string instruments, the pipa is one of the technically most comprehensive instruments in the Chinese orchestra.

The pipa is not native to China; the instrument was introduced to China through Asia Minor over 2000 years ago. As the instrument was foreign, its counterparts in the forms of lutes and mandolins can still be found in other parts of Asia and Europe.

In the 1950s, the pipa was adapted to meet up with the demands of a Western scale system. The steel string replaced the original silk string and artificial acrylic nails were introduced to pipa performance, creating much larger tonal colour and dynamic range.