''Kouxian'' is the generic term for the Jew's harp, and as such is used to refer to all such instruments originating in China. In the Chinese language, however, the term is used to refer to all Jew's harps, whether from China or elsewhere.
The ''kouxian'', which likely originated in Asia, is used throughout China, and is particularly popular among non-Han living in China's . Each of these ethnic groups has its own name for the instrument in that ethnic group's own language. Such names include ''ho-hos''. ''Kouxian'' may be made from bamboo or metal, and are often used as a courting instrument.
One variety of ''kouxian'' consists of between one and five brass leaves which are plucked in front of the opened mouth, using the mouth as a resonance chamber. Each leaf produces a different pitched sound when plucked, and notes' pitches are further refined by changing the volume and shape of the oral cavity. Leaves may be plucked one at a time or many at once to produce synthesizer-like melody.