A Chinese stringed instrument belonging to the lute family. Its history dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221--206 B.C.). The pipa has four strings, (normally tuned to A, D, E, A) a pear-shaped body made of hard wood (often mahogany), and its suface is covered with paulownia. The pipa measures almost four feet long and a foot across the belly. The neck normally has six ledges made of wood, horn, or ivory, and the belly has twenty-six bamboo frets. The strings are typically plucked with five fingers (using picks attached to the fingers) with the instrument held vertically in the lap. The pipa is thought of as the most expressive of the Chinese plucked string instruments and is often called the king of Chinese instruments.