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Chhing (tʃɪŋ), a set of finger cymbals integral to Cambodian theater and dance ensembles, is characterized by its bowl-shaped design, measuring approximately 5 centimeters in diameter. Crafted from a bronze alloy, which may include iron, copper, or even gold, Chhing is connected by a cord running through its center.

Consisting of two equal parts, these cymbals are skillfully struck together in a cyclical pattern, serving as the rhythmic heartbeat and melodic regulator—the “timekeeper” of the ensemble.The rhythmic cadence of Chhing involves alternating accented closed strokes with unaccented open “chhing” strokes, creating a captivating auditory experience.

The name “chhing” itself is likely onomatopoeic, echoing the resonant sound of “Chhing Chheup” associated with its open strokes. In the realm of Kun Khmer, Chhing harmonizes seamlessly within the Vong Pleng Pradal, the boxing orchestra led by the accomplished Sralai.Traditionally, Cambodian ensembles, complementing court dance, masked plays, and shadow plays, feature an array of vocalists and instruments.

These instruments include gong chimes, reed instruments, metallophones, xylophones, drums, and, of course, Chhing. The melodic landscape of Khmer music finds its rhythmic pulse through cyclic patterns skillfully realized on both drums and Chhing.

Historical evidence of Chhing dates back to the flourishing classical art of Angkor, spanning from the ninth to the fifth centuries. Scenes carved on the temple walls depict celestial dancers adorned with their musical instruments, prominently featuring the distinctive presence of Chhing. This enduring testament to Chhing’s significance underscores its timeless role in Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage.

Chhing in action in the Khmer Traditional music performed by a man with disability at the Bayon Temple of Siem Reap Province