Currently we are visiting B and family near San Francisco for Thanksgiving. We've visited the area several times, but we'd never been to Chinatown. So today we drove into the city and strolled up and down the streets for several hours. It was interesting navigating through the fresh food markets as the morning deliveries were being made, and watching all the locals grabbing up the fresh (live) fish, and all the unusual fruits and veggies.
We just happened to stroll down a sidestreet and came across "Clarion Music Center", which was filled with chinese musical instruments. I was most interested in trying out an erhu. These are sometimes called chinese violins, with a small octagonal box fitted to a 2 1/2 foot stem or neck. Two strings (tuned to A and D) are stretched between the box and tuning pegs at the top of the neck. A bow is fitted between the two strings, the top side of the bowhair plays the A string, and the underside of the bowhair plays the D string. The bow is held somewhat like a bass bow. The bowhair is normally slack and is tensioned by the player using the forefinger. The erhu is fingered with the left hand, quite similar to playing the D and A strings on a cello.
With a little encouragement by the owner, I was able to produce a couple satisfactory notes on the erhu. Enough to convince me to buy one. I'll have to rely on You-Tube and the like for lessons, but I'm reasonably confident that I can use some of my cello skills to eventually be able to play this haunting instrument.