Dahu - Chinese Traditional Musical Instruments

15. Dahu - Bowed String Instrument

The dahu is a large erhu, one of five types of Chinese two-string, bowed lute or hu-ch'in (see also ching-hu). Er means 'two' and hu originally meant 'barbarian' but now means 'fiddle'. The erhu is similar to the ching-hu but larger. Unlike the ching-hu, whose body and neck are made of bamboo, the body and neck of the erhu are mainly constructed of hardwood. The body is usually hexagonal or octagonal but may also be round. Like the ching-hu, one end of the resonator has a snakeskin covering, but on the erhu, the other end is usually decorated with an openwork design. The top of the neck of an erhu is often carved in a stylized dragon or bat form.

It is held and played in a manner similar to that of the ching-hu In the 18th and 19th centuries the erhu was a well-known instrument in the Peking opera and was used to accompany narrative folk songs. Its origins prior to that time are uncertain. The erhu was popularized in the 1920s by the violinist Liu Tianhua, who was trained in both Western and Chinese music. Although it is still used in traditional Chinese instrumental and theatre ensembles, it has achieved greater importance as an ensemble instrument in the modem Chinese orchestra and as a solo instrument in the recital hall.

During the 1930s larger sizes of erhu were designed for the new orchestral uses. They correspond approximately to viola, cello, and double bass. The zhonghu ('middle hu') has an alto range and is tuned a 4th or 5th below an erhu. The dahu ('large hu') has a tenor range and is tuned an octave below the erhu. The dihu ('bass hu') has a bass range and is tuned an octave below the dahu.

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