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).
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