The Loudian Zitan five-string pipa, the Tang Dynasty (618-907)
The five-string pipa (Chinese traditional music instrument) is stored in the Shoso-in (しょうそういん), Nara city Japan.
Regarded as a cultural relic of the imperial level, this pipa, unlike an ordinary pipa with four strings, is the only one in the world with five strings. To be exact, it can be played as a guitar or as a three-string instrument.
Unfortunately, it failed to be handed down from the past generations and only could be seen in the Dunhuang frescoes where an immortal has one in hand. The shining mother-of-pearl inlay on the only extant five-string pipa shows that people in the Tang dynasty has already had inlaying skills and also exemplifies the prosperity of that time.
As one of the collections of the Emperor Shomu (724-749AD) of Japan, the pipa, along with other his treasures, was part of the Imperial Household Agency of Shoso-in. While thousands of treasures have been housed at Shoso-in, this pipa is the most valuable and precious one.