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I found the character 敫 whose definition apparently is "ancient musical instrument" according to Wiktionary.

However, the English Wikipedia's List of Chinese musical instruments doesn't seem to include either it or an instrument whose name includes that character. The closest name (by pinyin) includes "角".

I found a Baidu Encyclopedia page and a Chinese Wiktionary page, but I can't understand them (and Google translate doesn't help) or the information isn't there.

Does anyone know what instrument or class of instruments "敫" refers to?

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「敫」 does not have a solid basis for the meaning ancient musical instrument, but it looks like that meaning was derived from a transcription or translation error for a word which really did represent an ancient wind instrument. I'll present two interpretations as to where I think this translation originated from, and actually either interpretation arrives at the same conclusion.


First interpretation: this is a mistranslation of the Shuowen Jiezi definition.

《說文》:“敫,光景流也。从白,从放,讀若龠。”

「敫」: flowing sunlight. From semantic 「白」 and semantic 「放」. Read like 「龠」.

The ancient musical instrument definition is given at Unicode, and interprets the last sentence 讀若龠 as imparting both meaning and sound of 「龠」 (original character of 「籥」, as specified at the Wikipedia page as a kind of ancient flute), implying that 「敫」 (Zhengzhang OC: /*kleːwɢs/) is a rebus of 「龠」 (/*lowɢ/).

Actually, no such usage of 「敫」 as 「龠」 (籥) seems to be recorded in literature, so 讀若龠 should be interpreted as having a similar/same sound to 「龠」 rather than is a rebus of 「龠」. I would conclude that Unicode's English definition is wrong.

讀若X is a bit controversial in its interpretation, so there's probably more misunderstandings in some of Unicode's definitions.

For reference, Shuowen's definition of flowing sunlight is a phonetic loan, and its character analysis is incorrect. This definition probably refers to a word cognate to or the same as 「耀」 (/*lewɢs/) instead.

戰國
石刻
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詛楚文・淵湫
 
秦朝

enter image description here
日書乙種36
睡虎地秦簡
西漢

enter image description here
孫臏兵法
銀雀山漢簡


enter image description here

 

「敫」 is constructed from semantic 「皃」 (appearance, here representing something/someone else) and semantic 「攴・攵」 (to hit), indicating the meaning to strike/hit something or someone else. The bottom part of 「皃」 (儿・人) was later corrupted into 「方」.

「敫」 is the original character of 「撽」, and is a similar or the same word as 「敲」.


Second interpretation: 「敫」 was misidentified as 「㰾」 during data entry (they kind of look similar), which Unicode also gives a definition of

a kind of music instrument in ancient times

Thankfully, this definition has a more solid basis. From Zhengzitong:

《正字通》:“今樂器壎箎之屬有㰾子...”

Today (time of authorship of Zhengzitong), there are instruments of the type 「壎」 and 「箎」 (ancient wind instruments) called 「㰾子」...


References:

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  • 1
    Any idea what a「㰾子」may have looked like? – Mo. Jan 26 at 14:30
  • @user3306356 㰾 is a phonetic loan for 嘂, which is a large 塤 (variant character of 壎). You can use your imagination from this description: 《爾雅》注曰: ‘燒土為之, 大如鵝子, 銳上平底, 形如稱錘, 六孔, 小者如雞子, 大者曰嘂。 Alternatively, you can Google image search 壎. – dROOOze Jan 26 at 14:41
  • I guess the Erya annotation description translates to: Made from ceramic, as big as a (gosling or goose egg), the top is sharp, the bottom is flat, the shape is like a counterweight, with six air holes, ... – dROOOze Jan 26 at 14:51
  • 2
    Maybe like an ancient ocarina of sorts? – Mo. Jan 26 at 15:06
  • In a manner of speaking. "Ocarina" has a lot of different shapes, 塤/壎 certainly isn't just a random shape. If they sound similar, then I guess it is a kind of ocarina (they seem to be classified as the same kind of instrument on Wikipedia) – dROOOze Jan 26 at 15:10

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