Gaohu The gaohu is a bowed spike-lute chordophone of the Han Chinese. It is smaller and higher pitched than the erhu, and its name reflects this--‘gao’ means ‘high’ and ‘hu’ originally meant ‘barbarian,’ but now ‘fiddle’. It was introduced to Southern China from Shanghai in the 1920s and featured prominently in the Cantonese instrumental ensemble. One or a few gaohu are found in modern Chinese orchestras where they are used as a high register erhu. A carved animal head (perhaps a horse, a serpent, or a dragon) adorns the headstock that apparently carries no symbolic meaning.

The long hardwood neck of the gaohu runs through its constructed tubular wooden resonating chamber the front of which is covered by a snakeskin soundboard (affixed with glue). The backside of the resonator is open but adorned with a carved wooden screen. Near the top end of the neck are two friction tuning pegs, which are inserted through the backside of the neck. One end of each synthetic string is attached to and wrapped around a tuning peg while the other end terminates in a loop that is looped over the stub of the neck that protrudes from the bottom of the resonator.

The top end of the vibrating segment of the strings is articulated with an adjustable sliding nut (called qianjin) of nylon cord; the lower end of the vibrating segment is where the strings pass over a small wooden bridge on the soundboard. The bow is made of bamboo, its black hair held taut by the instrumentalist. The bow hair passes between the two playing strings.