Definition and background:
Chinese instrument similar to the mandolin. The Ruan was once known as the Qin Pipa (dating to the Qin dynasty between 221-207 BC) or Yue Qin ( moon mandolin). The Ruan is now constructed as a family of Xiao Ruan ( soprano ruan), Zhong Ruan ( alto ruan), and Da Ruan ( bass ruan), a development intended to increase its range and effectiveness in the modern Chinese orchestra. A plectrum is needed in performance. Mellow in tone quality, it is often seen in ensembles, and also as a solo instrument in recent years.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary