1950s Chinese "Lion Dance" Shigu Drum

No offense to the wonderful percussion store in Brandon, VT -- but we now have the most righteous drum in the area! I picked this up at the antiques mall in Quechee, where it was hiding in their basement "furniture spillover" area. I knew I needed it. You know I needed it, right? It's giant -- at 26" across the head and swelling to about 32" across its belly.

I have no idea what to call this type of drum (update: apparently they're called "shigu"), but you see them in Lunar New Year celebrations in where they're the main rhythm element of the "dragon dance" and "lion dance" teams. Considering that this has lovely paintings of Chinese-style lions (and firecrackers, and those strange fabric balls), I'm assuming it probably belonged to lion dancers, no?

The modern People's Republic began in 1949, so this has to date after that. It's obviously pretty old, but my guess is it could be from anywhere between the 50s and the 70s. I'll bet it's on the earlier end, though, considering the wear and tear and old hardware.

The "holes" are for tensioning-up the head before tacking it on. Note the line of nails below the big brass "tacks" -- those are what initially held the head in place before the tacks were driven in.

The other side is in worse shape but it's still awesome.

Inside you can see the barrel construction (which was wrapped in gessoed canvas and then lacquered) and also some very strange springy-looking devices.

What they heck is all that for? Anyone with an idea -- please let me know. I'd love to have it working properly. Update, here -- just Google it, of course!


Ruth said...

I own one as well, same size in black with different decor - lettering and flowers. It has the same interior 'wires', for acoustics I've always assumed. I have been researching trying to price it to sell. It also shows age and wear, but the sound is robust and deep.

Ruth said...

This should be a link to image of my Chinese New Year lion drum:

Brent said...


How much are you asking for your drum?