China cymbal

China cymbal
China type cymbals from three continents

In western music, china type cymbals are cymbals manufactured to produce a dark, crisp, trashy, and explosive tone. It is for this reason that they have been nicknamed "trash cymbals." Their origins can be traced back to the gong in both sound and shape, and thus they are given their name "china".

Meinl china type: Conventional bell, upturned rim. Here mounted bell up.

China type cymbals typically have a bell that is cylindrical or shaped like a truncated cone with its base the top of the bell, an outer rim that is turned up in the reverse direction to the main bow of the cymbal, little or no taper (change in thickness) from bell to rim, and an area including the inside of the bell that is unpolished. However some china type cymbals have only some or in some cases none of these distinguishing characteristics. The distinguishing feature of a china type cymbal is the one that is hardest to define: its sound. China cymbals are those whose sounds are derived from the Chinese, rather than the Turkish, tradition of cymbal making.

There are two or three tonal families of cymbals: Turkish, Chinese, and some would say European, although others would include the European family of tones as a development of the Turkish sounds. The best Turkish (and European) cymbals have a rich, swelling tone that some describe as "sweet". To western ears, the best china types have an abrasive, cutting sound that is described by western drummers as "trashy".

Detail of a conical bell

The families do to some extent overlap. Notably, pang and swish cymbals have some characteristics of china types, and some characteristics of traditional Turkish cymbals. On the other hand, the Sabian rocktagon cymbals and some Ufip models are considered china types while having none of the physical characteristics of the normal china type, while the Paiste crystal crash is considered a European cymbal despite its squarish bell.

Cymbal making in China is claimed to predate the development of the art anywhere else in the world. The most universally acclaimed cymbal alloy, bell bronze, appears to have been independently developed in China. Today in China a wide range of cymbals are manufactured of both traditional and imported patterns. Traditional Chinese types with distinctive names and sounds include chung, jing and water cymbals and many other types. In Western music these are all referred to as china type cymbals.

China clash cymbals

China type cymbals are available in a wide range of sizes from 27" down to 4", most types singly but some in pairs. Those of 12" or smaller are normally referred to in Western music as china splash cymbals. When used in a drum kit, they are regarded as effects cymbals and are used to give colour and variety.

In a drum kit, china type cymbals are sometimes mounted bell up, similarly to other cymbals, but more often bell down. When mounted bell down, the upturned rim becomes a downturned rim, allowing a normal stick technique to be used for both ride and crash patterns. This assumes that the bell is formed in the typical direction; Some china type cymbals (e.q. the Paiste 2002 Novo china) have an inverted bell and an upturned rim, and so must be mounted bell up to achieve this downwards rim orientation.

16 inch Stagg SH China Cymbal with bell down.




Conical (termed "square") bell rough finished on the inside; reversed edge.


Conventional rounded bell, reversed edge. The bell may be or may not be reversed.

Pang and swish

The swish and pang are specific sounds within the enormous range of china cymbals, developed as exotic ride cymbals but also used as crashes at higher volumes.

China splash

12" or smaller. Sabian refer to both their 12" and 14" nova chinese models as mini chinese.


A Sabian exclusive, an octagonal cymbal with a sound midway between a crash and a china. The cymbal is manufactured as round and cut to shape after all-over lathing. Available in 16", 18", and as the 10" Rocktagon splash.

Sticking Techniques

There are numerous methods of playing a china Cymbal, which can vary depending on the genre of music played. For example, in modern metal music, players generally tend to play using the shoulder of the stick rather than the tip for a more "trashy" sound. In other genres such as jazz (which may use less hammered cymbals for a lighter and less distorted effect) the drummer may play with the tip for more of a "sizzle" sound.


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