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Chinese Music
Chinese Instruments


Banhu (two string fiddle)
Ban: flat board;
Hu: barbarian fiddle
Other names include: Banghu, Banzhu

Its name comes from the wooden soundboard covering the half globular resonating coconut chamber. Of its many other names the most prominent may be banghu, referring to its historical use in the northern bangzi opera in the mid-seventeenth century. From them on it came to accompany many other regional operas and popular narratives, spreading over north, northwest and northeast China. That betrays the origin of its strong local opera styles.

Let's begin with some sample music, where you will hear the Banhu sounds not unlike a high-pitched fiddle as used in Celtic folk music.

Da Qi Ban (2.19)
A popular opera tune.



Qin Chuan Xing (12.09)
Journey to the Guanzhong Plain.

Highly recommended for serious musicians!



Qinqiang Opera theme song (5.40)

This the Banzhu version of the tune
Qinqiang Opera is an ancient local opera in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Here is the Erhu version of the same song (6.59).

Listen to the Erhu and Pipa working completely in tandem, especially at the midpoint of this track - wonderful combination of instruments! Recommended Erhu version: Quite brilliant!



Hua Bang Zi (7.29)
A typical Banhu tune popular in Hebei Province.



Huan Qing De Ri Zi (2.43)
The day to celebrate.



Shan Dong Xiao Qu (4.17)
Ditty from Shandong Province. The title literally means: small bridge in Shandong Province.

Excellent piece of Banhu music: Recommended for first time listeners!



Yue Ya Wu Geng (4.59)
Crescent before the dawn.
Another excellent piece of Banhu music



Niao Tou Lin (3.51)
Birds flying back to the forest.



Play All Above



Banhu: History and General Information
Image: BanHu
The banhu (板胡, pinyin: bǎnhú) is a Chinese traditional bowed string instrument in the huqin family of instruments. It is used primarily in northern China. Ban means a piece of wood and hu is short for huqin.

The two strings are generally tuned a fifth, or a fourth, apart; and the bow passes between the strings. Strident and bight in tone quality and characteristic of glissando, the banhu is used as a solo instrument and one of the bowed strings in the modern Chinese orchestra.

Banhu is mainly an accompanying instrument for various local operas in North China. Its construction is basically the same with Erhu, and the most noticeable difference is that Banhu uses a thick wooden board to cover the soundbox instead of snakeskin.

The timbre of the instrument is clarion and bright, which makes it hard to join other instruments for tutti. Therefore it's usually for solo, and Banhu is especially good at presenting joyful and passionate moods.

Like the more familiar erhu and gaohu, the banhu has two strings, is held vertically, and the bow hair passes in between the two strings. The banhu differs in construction from the erhu in that its soundbox is generally made from a coconut shell rather than wood, and instead of a snakeskin that is commonly used to cover the faces of huqin instruments, the banhu uses a thin wooden board.

The banhu is sometimes also called "banghu," because it is often used in bangzi opera of northern China, such as Qinqiang from Shaanxi province.

Closely Related Instruments:

The Yehu, another type of Chinese fiddle with a coconut body and wooden face, is used primarily in southern China, especially Guangdong Province.

The Dangao is from Vietnam, and was probably introduced by Cantonese settlers millennia ago as a localised version of the Yehu.

Information extracts reproduced from Wikipedia under 'Collective Commons License'

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