Although the ''bawu'' likely originated in the Yunnan province of southwest China, it has become a standard instrument throughout China, used in modern Chinese compositions for traditional instrument ensembles. It is typically used as a solo instrument, and is often featured in film scores; it is sometimes also heard in popular music recordings.
Although the ''bawu'' is still predominantly performed in China, it has in recent years been adopted by European composers and performers. Rohan Leach from England; Rapheal De Cock from Belgium and Herman Witkam from the Netherlands have all taken the instrument in new directions.
Guo Yue, who now resides in England, has long advocated the instrument performing it on all of his recordings.