The erhu is a spike fiddle with two strings. It has a long neck and a round hexagonal, octagonal or tubular body made of wood. The face of the body is usually covered by the skin of a python or other snake. The bow used to play the erhu is made of horsehair on a stick of bamboo. In performance, the erhu is supported on the left thigh of the player and held with the left had while the right hand moves the bow. The fine, lyrically expressive sound of the erhu has lead it its use as a solo instrument in small folk and classical ensembles and in Chinese orchestras.
The erhu is part of a group of Chinese bowed instruments known as huqin, which translates to mean "foreign string instrument", suggesting that these types of instruments were introduced to China. Instruments similar to the erhu have been prevalent in Chinese music since the 12th century CE.