Hmong reed pipe (qeej)

Made in Southeast Asia, 1975-1995.

The Hmong people are a marginalised minority displaced geographically from their original homeland of China. The Hmong are called Miao in China, although not all Miao people are Hmong. There are Hmong communities in China, Southeast Asia and western countries. The Hmong reed pipe (qeej) is an important cultural symbol on a material level. It is the best known of the Hmong instruments and keeps the shared tradition and cultural identity of the geographically scattered Hmong alive. Determination t...


Reed pipe (qeej), bamboo / wood / metal / plastic / string, maker unknown, Southeast Asia, [1975-1995]

A Hmong reed pipe (qeej) consisting of black plastic mouth piece and six bamboo tubes of varying lengths set into a wooden wind chest. The pipes are bound together with bands of bamboo or rattan and adhesive plastic. Black plastic tape is wrapped at regular intervals around the wind chest and the end of each pipe. A piece of string is attached below the mouth piece and at two places around the bamboo pipes. Attached to the string near the mouth piece is a small wooden toggle that can be placed into the mouth piece when the qeej is not being played. Stoppers are inserted in the lower end of five narrow pipes in yellow, black, blue, brown and cream plastic.


675 mm
72 mm


TThis reed pipe was made in Southeast Asia between 1975 and 1995.

The Hmong reed pipe (qeej) is a free-reed multiple pipe musical instrument, with the pipes played horizontally. It is a solo instrument, although drums will intermittently accompany the qeej at a funeral. Qeej pipes vary in length from just over half a metre to 1½ metres and are measured precisely. The body is carved out of wood and hollowed. The mouthpiece is generally made of copper. The ties that secure the reeds and body together are usually made out of tree bark. Sound is produced by eight copper blades inserted in the instrument. The copper blades vibrate when the player exhales or inhales, and the desired notes are produced by correct finger placement. This Hmong reed pipe is typically Hmong and differs from other reed pipes in that it has a longer mouth piece and six reeds attached to the blower.

The qeej is traditionally played at funerals, weddings and Hmong New Year celebrations. In the funeral ritual the qeej 'speaks' a language that communicates to the spirit world. There are hundreds of ritual funeral songs including: the song to be born again (thawj thiab); the song showing the way (qhuab ke); the last breath reed music (qeej tu siav); the song to help the person mount the horse for the heavenward journey (qeej tsa nees) and the song to raise the body to help it on its way to the spirit world just before burial (qeej sawv kev).

The qeej is played exclusively by men. Becoming a qeej master is time-consuming and requires excellent recall of the precise note-fingering of each of the hundreds of songs in the qeej repertoire. Even an amateur qeej player needs a fairly large repertoire of songs as a funeral can last for several days. Ritual swinging, circular and acrobatic movements can accompany the music. The Hmong people believe that the spirits of ancestors continue to influence the daily lives and welfare of descendants. The descendants offer food and observe the proper rituals to worship and remember the ancestors.


Gift of the Hmong Community Sydney, 2007
14 August, 2007

Cite this Object

Hmong reed pipe (qeej) 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 November 2017, <>
{{cite web |url= |title=Hmong reed pipe (qeej) |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Store 2 at the Museums Discovery Centre.
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