Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Instrument Behind 'Er Quan Ying Yue' (or 'Moon Reflected on Second Spring')

'Er Quan Ying Yue' or 'Moon Reflected on Second Spring' as it is commonly known to non-Chinese, is a beautiful and moving piece of Erhu music.

It is written by a man called Hua Yan Jun (or blind man Ah Bing) in the 1950s. At the time when he wrote this piece of music, he was already blind. According to relatives and neighbours, Ah Bing barely earned enough everyday to feed himself by performing in the streets. Everyday when he goes back to his home in a small alley, he will play this moving but sorrowful and pitiful tune.

I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with the story of Ah Bing already. But it seems not everyone knows that 'Er Quan Ying Yue' is played using a special type of Hu called Er Quan Hu or Er Quan Qin.

My new stocks of Er Quan Hu by Wan Qi Xing just came in so I thought I'll take this opportunity to talk a little bit more about Er Quan Hu.

Er Quan Hu is actually an in between of the Erhu and Zhonghu. It has a slightly larger and longer resonator than the Erhu and the snakeskin used is also thicker than the Erhu. I've read somewhere that the height of the Er Quan Hu is slightly longer than the Erhu but the ones I have seem to have the same height as the Erhu.

Here is a picture of a Erhu, Er Quan Hu, Small Zhonghu and Big Zhonghu lined together.

The Er Quan Hu is strung with special strings called Er Quan strings and are tuned to G D (sometimes A E). They are slightly thicker than Erhu strings.

It is quite a lovely instrument actually, at least the ones that I have. It plays like a Erhu and sounds like a Zhonghu. The bass is not as deep and booming as the Zhonghu, but the notes are rounder and the higher registers are clearer. Click here for a video clip.

Well, some asked if they could achieve the same effect playing 'Er Quan Ying Yue' with a Zhonghu rather than Er Quan Hu. I made a recording playing the same thing using the small Zhonghu and the big Zhonghu. Listen for yourself here: small Zhonghu, big Zhonghu.

They sound like, well, Zhonghus playing 'Er Quan Ying Yue'.

Here is the Er Quan Hu by Wan Qi Xing that we just stocked:

Click here to purchase the Er Quan Erhu.

Oh, and here are the links to the tune 'Er Quan Ying Yue' if you haven't heard it before:
- Youtube video by Song Fei
- Audio recording by unknown artist

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