An instrument with wire strings of graduated lengths stretched over a sound box, played by striking with two padded hammers or by plucking. The Dulcimer is a musical instrument in which wire strings, in courses of two to five per note, are stretched across a shallow, trapezoidal sound box and are sounded by light, spoon-shaped beaters, producing a vibrant, undamped, metallic sound. The dulcimer, one of the ancestors of the piano, originated in the Middle East, possibly as the Persian santir. It was known in Spain by the 12th century and by about 1800 had reached China, where it is called yangqin (“foreign zither”). Throughout Europe, the dulcimer is found as a folk instrument, for example, the Swiss Hackbrett, the Czech cimbal, and the Greek santouri. In the late 19th century, the Hungarian dulcimer, the cimbalom, developed into an elaborate, fully chromatic instrument on four legs with a pianolike damper pedal. It was scored for in the opera Háry János (1926), by the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. In the U.S. it is often called a hammered dulcimer, to differentiate it from the Appalachian dulcimer (see Zither), which is plucked.