Bowed Instruments

    The bowed instruments constitute an important part of the orchestra. They were introduced to China during the Han Dynasty (202 BC to 208 AD) by the Hu people, hence the name ‘hu qin’ (‘qin’ means ‘stringed-instrument’). The huqin is a large family of instruments, which all have in common the fact that they have two strings, which are played by a bow. Three sub-families of instruments can be identified according to the different tone registers produced:

    高胡 Gaohu

    An abbreviation of ‘high register huqin’ (‘gao’ means ‘high’).The gaohu has a small body.

    二胡 Erhu

    Due to its popularity in southern China, this is also known as ‘nanhu’ (‘nan’ means ‘south’). The erhu has a deeper register than the gaohu, with a warmer timbre. This is the most famous and most popular form of huqin.

    中胡 Zhonghu

    An abbreviation of ‘middle register huqin’ (‘zhong’ means ‘middle’). The zhonghu has a deeper register than the erhu, with a larger body. Because Chinese instruments are largely in the high and middle ranges, western instruments with a deeper range – for example cello and double bass – are used in the modern Chinese music orchestra to give its sound a more rounded character.