Name: Erhu.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Spike > Huqins > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Tuning: D / A.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.
Specimens: 1 in collection.
Manufacturer: Original manufacturer based in Shanghai, China.
Acquisition Source: Ian MacKenzie, Singapore.

Description: The erhu [in Chinese: 二胡; pinyin: èrhú; IPA ɑɻ˥˩xu˧˥] is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument. Classified as a spike fiddle, in which it may also be called a “southern fiddle”. The erhu is played as a solo instrument, it is also played in small ensembles and large orchestras.

It is the most popular of the huqin family of traditional bowed string instruments used by various ethnic groups of China. A very versatile instrument, the erhu is used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, such as in pop, rock and jazz.

History: The erhu has its origins from an ancient instrument called the xiqin [奚 琴]. The xiqin is believed to have originated from the Xi people of Central Asia, and have come to China in the 10th century. The first Chinese character of the name of the instrument [二, èr, two].

Playing Techniques: The characteristic sound of the erhu is produced by the vibration of the python skin by bowing. The sound is transmitted from bow when coming into contact by friction from bow to string. The player stops the strings by pressing their fingertips onto the strings without the strings touching the neck. The strings are placed very close together so they can come into contact on either string to produce sound during performance.

Tuning: The inside string [nearest to player] is generally tuned to D4 and the outside string to A4, a fifth higher. The maximum range of the instrument is three and a half octaves, from D4 up to A7, before a stopping finger reaches the part of the string in contact with the bow hair. The usual playing range is about two and a half octaves.

Construction: The Erhu consists of a long vertical neck. At the top of the instrument in place of tuners, there are two large wooden tuning pegs. A small resonator, body [or sound box] is covered with python skin over the front creating the entire body. Two strings are attached from the pegs to the base, and a small loop of string [Qian Jin] placed around the neck and strings acting as a nut pulls the strings towards the skin, holding a small wooden bridge in place.

Citations: Bibliography: Stock, Jonathan. “A Historical Account of the Chinese Two-Stringed Fiddle Erhu.” Galpin Society Journal, v. 46 March 1993, p. 85-103 ; Terence M. Liu 2002 “Instruments: Erhu” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 175-178 ;  Thrasher, Alan R. 1984. “Erhu” NGDMI v.1: 717 ; 2000. Chinese Musical Instruments. Oxford: Oxford University Press ; Witzleben, J. Lawrence. 1995 ; Silk and Bamboo’ Music in Shanghai. Kent: Kent State, University Press ; Grinnell College Of Music / Erhu