The pipa (Chinese: 琵琶)，sometimes called the Chinese lute, is a plucked Chinese string instrument, which has a pear-shaped wooden body. It has been played for nearly two thousand years in China, and belongs to the plucked category of instruments. Several related instruments in East and Southeast Asia are derived from the pipa; these include the Japanese biwa, the Vietnamese àntbà and the Korean bipa. The Korean instrument is the only one of the three that is no longer used. Attempts to revive the instrument have failed, although examples survive in museums.
Prototypes of the pipa already existed in China in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC). At that time, there were two types of pipa. One was straight-necked, with a round sound box constructed from lacquered Paulownia wood, and two faces mounted with leather. The other was believed to be inspired by the primitive forms of zheng, konghou, and zou. It also has a straight neck, a round sound box, and also four strings, along with twelve standards of notes. This model was later developed into the instrument known today as the ruan. The modern pipa is closer to the instrument which originated in Persia/Middle-East (where it was called barbat) and was introduced into China beginning in the late Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.).