Happy Year of the Monkey!

Happy New Year 新年好 xīn nián hǎo  & Special Drum Making Craft

To celebrate the Lunar New Year and welcome the Year of the Monkey, I am pleased to be able to share a special monkey drum craft with you.  This fun craft is provided by world music children’s performer DARIA (www.dariamusic.com). 

Bolang Gu creft + real one


Here’s a simple music craft to make and play for Chinese Lunar New Year!

The Bolang Gu (波浪鼓;pinyin: bo lang gu) is also called a monkey drum or a pellet drum and is a small, two-sided drum with beads or pellets that bounce off both sides.  Although bolang gu are often considered children’s toys – especially at Chinese New Years celebrations – they actually date back to ceremonies held in the Song Dynasty of China and are part of religious rituals in Tibet, Mongolia, India, and Taiwan. 

Here are the supplies you need to make one drum:


  • 2 paper platesBolang gu supplies
  • 1 cardboard paper towel roll
  • stapler
  • tape
  • A bit of string or twine
  • 2 beads
  • Any materials for decoration

Decorate The Paper Plates

For decoration ideas, you can use Chinese characters or calligraphy.  You can find stickers or designs that reflect animals in the Chinese zodiac or look for Chinese New Year or related printables as part of your design.  Once your paper plates are decorated, move on to the next step.

Assemble The Drum

Place your two paper plates “back-to-back”.  Apply a few staples to hold them in place.  Compress the top part of your cardboard tube together slightly and insert about 1 to 2 inches inside the paper plates, where you want the handle to be.  Continue stapling around the plates until you reach the other side and staple right up to the handle.  This should hold it firmly in place, but you can also add decorative tape to make it even more sturdy.

Add the Pellets

Now it’s time to add the beads.  Start by making two holes on the right and left side of the drum halfway

Bolang Gu Threading the bead  (1)

up the paper plates.  Use a hole punch to make your 2 holes or have an adult help by poking the holes in the paper plates with the tip of a nail or an awl.  Knot a bead onto a small piece of string, twine or embroidery thread and tie onto each side, leaving about 2 to 3 inches of string.  The length of string allows the beads to bounce back and forth to create the signature sound of the drum.

Each Drum is Different

Will every bolang gu sound the same? Not at all!

Adjusting the length of the string will create a different sound on each drum.  Experimenting with different size or material of paper plates will change the sound as well.  Lastly, the size and type of beads will all produce different sounding drums.  This is a fun craft to do several different ways and compare the results!

Bolang Gu halfway craft

Play Your Drum

Although this instrument looks very simple, there are several different ways you can make music with it.

To get the classic monkey drum sound effect, place the handle between two hands and “rub” back and forth.  Try this slowly and try it faster to hear the difference in sound.

Hold the bolang gu in one hand and rotate your wrist to make the rattle sound.

Try either technique (above) while moving your arms like a dancer.  For instance, play by rubbing with both hands and move the drum up and down in front of you while playing it.

Play it with one hand and move that hand gracefully in circles while keeping a steady rhythm going.  Make up your own creative techniques and moves!

Play along with music and try to match the sound of the drum to the fit with the music.


World Music children’s performer DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has spent the last two decades performing in the USA and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children.  Along with national awards for her culturally diverse music, Daria’s website (www.dariamusic.com) was given a 2009 Parent’s Choice Award and offers many great resources for teachers, parents and kids of all abilities.

You can find DARIA’s music, musical crafts and e-books on her TeachersPay Teachers site:


Or at her Little Village Store


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