Erhu – Chinese Two-Stringed Instrument
Erhu is a two stringed fiddle, which belongs to the “huqin” family. It consists of a long vertical stick-like neck, at the top of which are two large tuning pegs, and at the bottom is a small resonator body (sound box) which is covered with python skin on the front (playing) end. 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.
It started from Tang dynasty (618-907). During Song dynasty (960-1279), the instrument was introduced to China and was called “Ji Qin”. During the Dynasties of Yuan (1206-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911), the erhu underwent a great development at the time of the golden age of the local operas. It has grown rapidly in the genres of solo. Erhu now has become one of the most popular instruments in China.
As the most popular one of the huqin family, erhu is used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, such as in pop, rock, jazz, etc. It has some unusual features. First is that its characteristic sound is produced through the vibration of the python skin by bowing. Second, there is no fingerboard; the player stops the strings by pressing their fingertips onto the strings without the strings touching the neck. Third, the horse hair bow is never separated from the strings; it passes between them as opposed to over them. Lastly, although there are two strings, they are very close to each other and the player’s left hand in effect plays as if on one string.