Erhu

From Academic Kids

The Erhu (二胡, Pinyin rh), commonly known in the West as the 'Chinese violin', is a two-stringed bowed instrument, capable of producing sad, mysterious, or joyful melodies. It belongs to the huqin family of Chinese instruments, together with the zhonghu, gaohu, and xihu. The erhu dates back to the 18th century. It is believed to evolve from the xiqin(奚琴), which was described as a foreign, two-stringed lute in an encyclopedic work on music called "Yue Shu" by a theorist called Chen Yang during the North Song Dynasty. It is also believed to originate from Central Asia to China in the 10th century.

The first character of the name of the instrument (二) is not derived from the fact that it has two strings (as is the common misconception), but that it is the alto, or "second" voice (after the "gaohu", the "high" voice of the family). The second character (胡) indicates that it is part of the huqin family. The name of the huqin family, in turn, indicates "barbarian" origins, showing that the instrument may have been based on Mongolian bowed instruments.

The erhu is unique in that the bow hair is never separated from the strings (which are usually made of metal); it passes between them as opposed to over them, as with western bowed string instruments.

The tip of the hardwood neck is often elaborately carved into shapes such as a bat or dragon's head. At the base of the neck there is a resonator made from python skin stretched over a hollow wooden box.

A notable composer for the erhu was Liu T'ien-hua, a Chinese musician who studied western music. Many of his works for the instrument from the 1920s are still played frequently.

See also: Music of Chinafr:erhu hu:Erhu ja:二胡 zh:二胡

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