Gigantic Gongs: When Size Matters
Gongs are often priced by size, and the sound they produce varies dramatically as their size increases. So it’s no surprise that gong players, and people who love the gong, can be a little obsessive with this probing question:
How big is your gong?
Most people play (and hear) gongs that are usually between 24 and 38 inches in size. But there are larger gongs. Much larger. And this is their story.
The largest commercial gong, that is one you can buy if you have enough money (for instance, $27,720), is the 80-inch Paiste Symphonic gong. The sound is even more impressive than its price tag. (pictured above)
I was fortunate enough to hear (and sit in front of) this gong among giants at the Memphis Gong Chamber. When it was gently tapped, my skin tingled all over my body like electric waves were passing over me. When it was given, four or five slightly firmer strokes, the sleeves of my shirt actually begin to move and tremble like a wind was blowing over me. I think that if it had been turned fully loose, I could have been packed up in four-quart size zip lock bags and flash frozen for long-term cryogenic storage.
At 231 pounds, the 80-inch gong is a sonic marvel but it is not the world’s largest gong, or even the largest Paiste gong.
For the annual Winter Solstice Celebration in 1989, with the Paul Winter Consort at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, Paiste produced a special 7-foot version of its planetary Sun Gong – 84 inches – and a 35-pound mallet was made to strike it.
The Sun Gong was lifted 70 feet into the air, above the heads of the other musicians, and was struck by professional percussionist and rigger-extraordinaire, Scott Sloan, who hung suspended from the 100-foot cathedral ceiling.
As impressive as a 7-foot Sun Gong can be, it is still not the largest gong. To locate the species Gong Gigantus we must look East.
The Guinness Book of World Records tells us that the largest gong in the world was actually commissioned to be produced in China by a real estate development company to be displayed at an international food festival in Shanxi Province. The gong was made of copper, weighed 1,252 pounds and measured an amazing 16 feet 9 inches in diameter.
That record looks to be broken soon. In Mandalay, production is underway for a 5-meter gong (which would exceed the Chinese gong) but it will be made of iron which is less expensive.
But the story continues. In the remote eastern-most region of Thailand is a 21-mile stretch of road called the “Gong Highway” where there are 18 gong stores and centuries-old gong makers.
The gongs are mostly made for Buddhist temples and are usually purchased, or commissioned, by wealthy patrons hoping to gain spiritual favor. One such gigantic gong is at a Buddhist temple in the city of Roi Et in the Isan region of Thailand.
These temple gongs with an ornate rosewood stand can cost upwards of $50,000. One of the gong makers told the New York Times that he has made gongs up to 20 feet wide, which would seem to break the Chinese record for the largest gong.
One such gigantic gong was made for a religious festival held at the edge of the Indonesian Ocean. When it was struck on the beach, its sound could be heard from a boat that was 12 miles (20 kilometers) out to sea!
Now that is a Big Gong.
Want to play a big gong – a 55 lb gong? You can!
Come with us on our Bali Gong Yoga Vacation – we are having a special large gong made for us in Java to use in our Gong Meditation retreat and training in Ubud, Bali this August. Plus, learn to play the Balinese gong instruments (gamelan) in a special workshop taught by local musicians just for our yoga group!
Completely cosmic, only happening once, so you really can’t wait and do it next year or next time because there isn’t one! Come be gonged in the land of the Gongs!
It’s Not Heavy – It’s My Gong
How much do gongs weight? To give you an idea of how the weight quickly increases with the size of a gong, here is a chart of approximate weights of the Paiste Symphonic Gongs:
Size (Diameter) Weight
20” – 5 lb
24” – 9 lb
28” – 14 lb
32” – 19 lb
36” – 29 lb
40” – 42 lb
50” – 79 lb
60” – 128 lb
80” – 231 lb