Name: Erhu.
Type: Chordophones > Composite > Lutes > Spiked > Huqins.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Payin: Silk.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The erhu [in Chinese: 二胡 In Pinyin: èrhú In IPA: aɻ˥˩xu˧˥] is a leading member of the huqin family of instruments. Having two strings, a vertical neck and body with a membrane. Huqins in them selves are classified as “bowed spike lutes” and are given the number 321.312.7 in Hornbostel Sachs system.  

Origins: The erhu can be traced back to proto-Mongolic instruments which first appeared in China during the Tang Dynasty. It is believed to have evolved from the xiqin [奚 琴] an instrument whose origins are the Xi people located in current North East China.

Etymology: The First Chinese character for the name of the instrument [èr 二 two].  Is believed to come from the fact the instrument has only two strings. The second character [in 胡 hú] indicates its a member of the huqin family.

The name literally means “Instrument of the Hu peoples. Suggesting the origins of the instrument may have came from North or West of China. Who is generally inhabited by nomadic peoples on the extremities of the kingdom.

Usage: The erhu remains one of the more popular instruments of the Huqin family. It is not only used by the Han Majority but many of China’s minority ethnic groups as well. In recent years exposures to wider audiences originated with the diasporas. In time the erhu has been used in genre’s outside of Chinese music, including Jazz, Pop, Experimental, Film Scores.

Repertoire: A notable composer for the erhu was Liu Tianhua [Simplified Chinese刘天华 / Traditional Chinese: 劉天華; Liú Tiānhuá; 1895–1932], a Chinese musician who also studied Western music. He composed 47 exercises and 10 solo pieces (1918–32) which were central to the development of the Erhu as a solo instrument. His works for the instrument include Yue Ye [In Chinese: 月夜; In Pinyin:  Yuè yè; Moon Night]and Zhu ying Yao hong [烛影摇红; Zhú yǐng yáo hóng, Shadows of Candles Flickering Red].

Construction: Most commercially available erhu are mass produced in factories. The three most esteemed centres of erhu manufacture are Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou. In the collectivist period after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. These factories were formed by merging what had been previously private workshops. Although most Erhu were machine-made in production lines, the highest quality instruments were handmade by specialist craftsmen.

Components Of The Erhu
Name In Chinese in Pinyin
Resonator Body 琴筒 QínTong
Membrane Skin 琴皮 / 蛇皮 Qín pí / She pí
Neck 琴杆 Qín Gan
 Ornamentation 琴頭 Qín Tou
Tuning Pegs 琴軸 Qín Zhou
Adjustable Nut 千斤 Qiān jin
Inner String 内弦 Nèi Xián
Outer String 外弦 Wai xián
Bridge 琴碼 Qín Ma
Bow Gong
Bow Stick 弓杆 Gong Gan
Bow Hair 弓毛 Gong Máo
Pad 琴墊 Qín Diàn
Base 琴托 Qín Tuō










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