ⓘ Huqin


ⓘ Huqin

Huqin is a family of bowed string instruments, more specifically, a spike fiddle popularly used in Chinese music. The instruments consist of a round, hexagonal, or octagonal sound box at the bottom with a neck attached that protrudes upwards. They also usually have two strings, and their soundboxes are typically covered with either snakeskin or thin wood. Huqin instruments usually have two tuning pegs, one peg for each string. The pegs are attached horizontally through holes drilled in the instruments neck. Most huqin have the bow hair pass in between the strings. Exceptions to having two strings and pegs include variations of huqin with three, four, and sometimes even more than five. These include the zhuihu, a three stringed huqin, the sihu, a huqin of Mongolian origin, and the sanhu, a lesser-known three-stringed variation.

The most common huqin are the erhu, which are tuned to a middle range; zhonghu, which is tuned to a lower register, and gaohu, which is tuned to a higher pitch. The lowest pitched huqins include the dahu and gehu. The highest pitched huqin is the jinghu, used in the Beijing opera. Over eighty types of huqin instruments have been documented.

Huqin instruments are believed to have come from the nomadic Hu people, who lived on the extremities of ancient Chinese kingdoms, possibly descending from an instrument called the Xiqin 奚琴, originally played by the Mongolic Xi tribe. Like the people of China, Mongolian people also have cultural and ethnic heritage of the ancient Hu nomads, and the Mongol version of the xiqin, known as the khuuchir, is testament to this shared heritage.

In the 20th century, large bass huqin such as the dihu, gehu, and diyingehu were developed for use in modern Chinese orchestras. Of these, the gehu and diyingehu would be analogous to Occidental cellos and double basses respectively, and were designed to have a timbre that would blend in with the sound of traditional huqin. These instruments generally have four strings and fingerboards, and are played in a similar manner to cellos and double basses, and are very different from the traditional huqin.

Similar instruments also feature in the music traditions of neighboring countries, such as Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.


1. List of Chinese huqin instruments

  • Jiaohu 角胡
  • Zhuihu traditional: 墜胡; simplified: 坠胡
  • Huluhu traditional: 葫蘆胡; simplified: 葫芦胡
  • Tiqin 提琴
  • Leiqin 雷琴
  • Gaohu 高胡; also called yuehu 粤胡
  • Kezaixian 壳仔弦 - two-stringed fiddle with coconut body, used in Taiwan opera
  • Xiaodihu 小低胡
  • Tuhu 土胡
  • Zhuiqin traditional: 墜琴; simplified: 坠琴
  • Datong 大筒 photo
  • Erxian 二弦
  • Hexian 和弦
  • Yehu 椰胡
  • Maguhu traditional: 馬骨胡; simplified: 马骨胡
  • Sanhu 三胡
  • Banhu 板胡
  • Daguangxian 大广弦
  • Datongxian 大筒弦 photo
  • Jing erhu 京二胡
  • Tihu 提胡
  • Sihu 四胡
  • Dadihu 大低胡
  • Zhonghu 中胡
  • Jinghu 京胡
  • Erquanqin 二泉琴; slightly larger erhu used specifically to play the melody Erquan Yingyue 二泉映月
  • Erhu 二胡; also called nanhu 南胡
  • Dihu 低胡
  • Zhongdihu 中低胡
  • Dahu 大胡
  • Diyingehu 低音革胡
  • Cizhonghu
  • Gehu 革胡
  • Laruan 拉阮
  • Dalaruan 大拉阮
  • Paqin 琶琴
  • Dapaqin 大琶琴
  • Sataer 萨它尔 Xinjiang photo
  • Matouqin 馬頭琴 Inner Mongolia
  • Aijieke 艾捷克 Xinjiang
  • Xiqin 奚琴
  • Shaoqin 韶琴 an electric erhu
  • Niutuiqin or niubatui 牛腿琴 or 牛巴腿 Guizhou photo

2. Related instruments in other Asian nations


  • Tro sau toch Cambodia
  • Tro Ou Chamhieng Cham people, Cambodia
  • Tro Cambodia
  • Tro che Cambodia
  • Tro Khmer Cambodia
  • Tro sau thom Cambodia
  • Tro u Cambodia


  • Kokyū Japan though this is actually descended from the rebab and related instruments, through South East Asia and the Ryukyu islands


  • Haegeum Korea; derived from the Xiqin
  • Sohaegeum North Korea


  • Saw bong northeast Thailand
  • Saw u Thailand
  • Saw sam sai Thailand
  • Saw duang Thailand
  • Saw peep or saw krapawng northeast Thailand
  • Saw Thailand


  • Dàn hồ Vietnam; hồ derives from Chinese hu
  • Dàn nhi or Dàn Co Vietnam
  • Dàn gao Vietnam