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The modern orchestral percussion section can vary from a few standard instruments to a whole arsenal, depending on the demands of the music. Percussion instruments made their way into the orchestra relatively late, as references to European military music or, for a more exotic flavor, in imitation of the Ottoman janissary bands which terrorized Europe for centuries. The most standard percussion instruments today are the timpani, the xylophone or marimba, the snare or side drum, the cymbals and the gong or tam-tam.
The tam-tam or gong is a circular metal instrument of indefinite pitch. The most common orchestral gong is large and flat, with a shallow lip, and is suspended in a frame. It is struck with a heavy beater covered with wool or felt. Originally Chinese, it is also common in the music of south-east Asia.
Source: The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music, edited by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan Press Ltd.,  ISBN 0-333-43236-3