The jiao is a folk musical instrument originally used by ethnic minority groups in the northwest. It may have been made of the horns of oxen or goats in the earliest stage before evolving into an instrument in the shape of a curved horn made of bamboo, wood, leather and bronze etc.
The jiao was introduced into the Central Plains around the Han Dynasty, when it was widely used in drum wind music. It was shaped like a curved horn during the Han-Wei Period. According to existing pictures featuring the Han-Dynasty drum wind music scenes, the jiao at that time was a man-made instrument of a fairly large size. Of the two drum wind music-related pictorial bricks unearthed from a tomb of the Southern Dynasties in Dengxian County of Henan Province, one brick depicts a music playing scene of a quartette, with two people beating drums and another two blowing the jiao shaped like a curved horn.