The ruan is a short-necked fretted lute with a circular body and four strings. Plucked with a plectrum, it produces a mellow tone. Like the pipa, the ruan’s strings were traditionally made of silk, but are now typically made of steel.
This moon-shaped lute dates back to the third century C.E., its name a shortened form of Ruan Xian, who was a master of the instrument during the Six Dynasties period. Five sizes of ruans range from contrabass to soprano. They are commonly used in Chinese opera and orchestra, in ensembles or as accompaniment