CGTN.com says, “The erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle, which may also be called a ‘southern fiddle’ and sometimes known in the Western world as the ‘Chinese violin’ or a ‘Chinese two-stringed fiddle’. It is used as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. It is the most popular of the huqin family of traditional bowed string instruments used by various ethnic groups of China. A very versatile instrument, the erhu is used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, such as in pop, rock, jazz, etc.”
And once you recognize the sound of an erhu, it can usually be readily picked out from other musical instruments, because that sound is unique.
The history of the erhu spans more than a thousand years. The first erhu was heard during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD).
Since the traditional Chinese character for “erhu” indicates it has two strings, the erhu has probably changed little over the centuries.
The Han ethnic group makes up about 92% of the population of China, and Han folk music, in a sense, is similar to Mandarin in that it is made by sliding from higher tones to lower tones, or lower to higher, or a combination of both.
Han folk music is also similar to poetry with slow soothing tempos that express feelings that connects with the audience or whoever is playing the piece. Even the way a moment of silence is delivered changes the meaning behind the music.
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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline