orig. China The erhu is a spike fiddle with two strings. It has a long neck and a round, hexagonal, octagonal or tubular body made of wood and covered with the skin of a python or other snake. Historically, the strings were made of twisted silk, but are now more often made of metal. The bow used to play the erhu is made of horsehair strung on a stick of bamboo. In performance, the erhu is held in the player's left hand and supported on the left thigh while the right hand moves the bow.
Instruments similar to the erhu have been prevalent in Chinese music since the 12th century C.E. The fiddle's fine, lyrically expressive sound has made it a popular solo instrument in small folk and classical ensembles and in contemporary Chinese orchestras. The erhu is part of a group of Chinese bowed instruments known as huqin, meaning "foreign string instrument," which suggests that this type of instrument may have been introduced to China from elsewhere.