Name: Dihu.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Spike > Huqins > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The [in Chinese 低胡, in pinyin: dīhú] is a large bowed string instrument from China. It has a large sound box covered on one end with snakeskin. Like most other members of the huqin family of instruments, it has two strings and is held vertically. The instrument’s name derives from “dī,” meaning “low” and “hú” short for huqin.

History: The dihu family was developed for orchestral use in the 1930s as lower sounding bass members of the erhu family. The erhu being the “soprano” member and the zhonghu being the alto member to increase the pitch range of the instruments used in a Chinese orchestra an to allow music with harmony to be played.

However, by the late 20th century it had largely fallen into disuse. A part of the reason being that it is unwieldy to play. As the bow passes between the instrument’s two strings means that playing pizzicato is difficult. In Chinese orchestras the larger gehu and diyingehu or cello or double bass are favoured due in part to the accessibility of strings when the instruments are played.

The xiaodihu [小低胡] also called dahu or cizhonghu. It is pitched one octave below the erhu tuned D / A with its lowest D one whole step above the viola’s lowest C. It is the tenor member of the erhu family; the erhu being the soprano member and the zhonghu being the alto member.

The zhongdihu [中低胡] pitched one octave below the zhonghu, tuned G / D, as the middle strings of the cello. It is the bass member of the erhu family.

The dadihu [大低胡] pitched one octave below the xiaodihu and two octaves below the erhu; tuned D / A, with its lowest D one whole step above the cello’s lowest C. It is the contrabass member of the erhu family.

Dihu Tunings
Name Tuning
Xiaodihu [小低胡] D / A
Zhongdihu [中低胡] G / D
Dadihu [大低胡] D / A

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 Websites:

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