Perhaps no musical instrument is more evocative of China than the erhu (二胡), but its origins are in central Asia: The erhu is one of several instruments including gaohu, zhuihu and jinghu that were historically known as “huqin” (barbarian’s fiddle) or “xiqin”.
The erhu became a common accompaniment to opera in the Ming and Qing dynasties. In the early 20th Century, compositions for erhu by Hua Yanjun (1893-1950) and Liu Tianhua (1895-1932) gave the instrument a respectable solo repertoire.
In this video Liu Hong introduces the erhu and plays the classic folk tune “Running River” (江河水).
You can also watch this video on Tudou or Youtube (Video shot and edited by Jonah Kessel).
More about the erhu:
Wikipedia: Erhu, Abing (aka Hua Yanjun – famous blind erhu composer and performer)
Chinese Erhu Music: Erhu MP3s
Youtube: Performance of Running River by erhu master Min Huifeng, Musical life of composer Abing(CCTV documentary)
Philmultic: Erhu (with brief bios of erhu composers Abing and Liu Tianhua)
Danwei: A Blind Beijing Beggar and His Erhu, Chinese instruments and the creation of a national music – listen to silk- and metal-stringed erhu pieces at bottom of post