The Erhu

The erhu is a Chinese traditional bowed stringed instrument more-or-less equivalent to the Western violin. The distinguishing feature of the members of the erhu family is that they are played with the bow-hair inserted between the strings, and examples include the banhu, zhonghu, leihu, zhuihu, jinghu and gaohu. Instruments of this family first made their appearance in the Song dynasty (A.D. 960-1279) but it is only since the 1920s that they have become widespread throughout China. Nowadays, the erhu is considered to be perhaps the instrument most representative of Chinese music. Instruments of this family are used today in the accompanying ensembles to various types of Chinese opera but their primary role is as a solo instrument of distinction for which a wide and varied repertory has been composed.

Colin Huehns and the Erhu

Since Colin has played the violin since the age of four, it seemed logical for him to combine his skill in playing bowed stringed instruments with his interest in Chinese culture and to learn to play the erhu. In 1996, he began studying the erhu at the Xi'an Music Conservatoire with the distinguished virtuoso Jin Wei, living in China and studying the erhu for three years. In 1998, he passed Grade 10 (the highest grade) on the erhu with the mark of distinction. Since his return from China in 1999, he has given lectures and solo recitals on the erhu at Leeds, Edinburgh, Oxford and Bristol Universities, Goldsmiths College (University of London) and Robinson College, Cambridge. He has also given solo erhu recitals for Xi'an Music Radio and broadcast solo for BBC Radio 3. Since 1999, he has taught erhu at the Royal Academy of Music.


The Exhibition of Chinese Bowed Instruments at the Royal Academy of Music is now closed, but the catalogue is available from Colin at the Royal Academy of music (see home page).

In addition to playing the erhu, he also plays some fifteen or so other instruments of the erhu family. He has researched widely into the history and culture surrounding the erhu and published a number of papers related to this research. As well as composing works himself for the erhu, he has commissioned a number of distinguished British composers to write for the instrument. He is also fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

Colin Huehns and Mongolian Instruments

Colin spent the summer of 1998 studying the chao'er and horsehead fiddle (both bowed stringed Mongolian traditional instruments) and the sihu (a Mongolian four-stringed version of the erhu) at the Fine Arts College in Hohhot in Inner Mongolia.


Colin likes to perform on the instruments of the erhu and horsehead fiddle families. Possible performance venues or contexts include:

* recitals

* public lectures

* functions

* visits to schools to introduce the instruments of the erhu and horsehead fiddle families.

Please contact Colin at the address on the Home Page .

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