Name: Dahu.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Spike > Fiddles > Huqins > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.313.7
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The dahu [in Mandarin Chinese: 大 胡; in pinyin: dàhú] it is the largest member of the huqin family of bowed, neck bowl lutes in terms of over all size and length. The dahu has been developed in three sizes, cizhonghu  xiaodihu, zhongdihu and dadihu.  

Etymology: The name derives from the Chinese character for “large” [dà] and the word hú shortened as a suffix for the family of instruments, the huqin family.

History: The dahu was developed in the 1930s as the tenor member of the erhu family. The erhu being the soprano [high pitched] lead instrument. This was modelled from the Western orchestra although the instruments were derived from the erhu as its a member of the huqin family. In between these two huqin the Zhong Hu was developed in line with the viola as its role to accompany erhu. This allows for harmony to be played.

Playing Techniques: The bow passes between the instrument’s two strings means that playing pizzicato is difficult; thus, the larger gehu and diyingehu, laruan [or cello or double bass] are generally used in Chinese orchestras for the lower bowed string voices instead.

Construction: Sharing the same body shape as its much smaller and higher pitched erhu. The sound body is rather large in size and the front face of the instrument is covered with python skin. The main fundamental difference being this was developed as an experiment for having a ‘bass erhu’ in an orchestral role. It has two strings spaced apart from each other tuned in the interval of a fifth. Its bridge is often placed somewhat above the center of the snakeskin to avoid stretching the skin.

Citations: Bibliography: Tsui Yingfai, 16 September 1998 “The Modern Chinese Folk Orchestra – A Brief History”. In Tsao Penyeh [ed.] Tradition and Change in the Performance of Chinese Music, Part 2. Routledge. pp. 22–24. ISBN 978-9057550416 ;

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